Defining your business's why

Recently at a conference where I was speaking, I asked a room full of accounting firm owners if they had a written vision or mission statement. Fewer than 20 of the 200+ accountants raised their hands.

Later I spoke to some of those who hadn’t raised their hand. Many said that they hadn't thought about defining their mission statement because they were an accounting firm. In their mind, this was their mission—to be an accounting firm. Yet being an accounting firm is the industry we are in, not our mission. Being an accounting firm is not your "why".

When I asked a few more questions, the same responses kept coming up to describe what they loved about their work—helping others make sense of the numbers, helping a business grow and prosper, and helping a client get a larger tax refund, owe less tax and keep more of what they earned. Now we were getting somewhere!

The discipline of physically writing why you do what you do, the types of customers you do it for, and your goal of what you want for your firm is imperative to the survival of your practice. Doing this provides several key benefits:

  • It helps you to say yes to the right clients and no to the wrong ones. When you know who your target market it is, you can focus your team, marketing and expertise.

  • It helps your team know that you have a higher purpose. You especially need this when hiring millennials.

  • It reminds you that you are a small business owner, just like your clients. You may not struggle in understanding your finances, but your client may not struggle in sales or marketing. We can all learn from each other and grow.

  • It provides unity of mission which can rally the team, improve communication and create cohesiveness.

We are in a time of change in our industry, and many firms have never done more than say "I am an accounting firm." This has caused them to keep relying on antiquated processes that don't allow them to focus on the clients’ changing needs and demands.

If your goal is to serve your clients, you have to know what they want and need. This requires you to shift your thinking from how you have always done things to where your clients, technology and industry will be in the next five to ten years.

So spend some time on your business. What do you want it to look like in 5 years? 10 years? If you are planning to sell it—who is your perfect buyer? What will they be looking for in your practice? Will they see a vision and mission they can get behind and run with when you pass the baton? If you aren't planning to sell, what kind of practice do you want to be leading? What types of clients do you want to serve? What services will you offer?

For all the advising you do, now is the time to focus on you for a bit. Join me at Karbon Academy as we dive deep into your firm’s strategy, and let's create a mission you and your team, and maybe a future buyer one day, will be proud to rally around!

Carla Caldwell, founder of Caldwell Consulting & Training, strategically guides accounting teams to become a modern practice. To continue this mission, she has joined the faculty at Karbon Academy.

To fill the accounting industry’s gap in education, Karbon is launching Karbon Academy. Combining proven theory with practical examples and group coaching, you’ll be taught in your four tracks (strategy, management, efficiency and growth) by the best practitioners and lecturers from around the world in an MBA-like curriculum that has specifically been built for accountants.

Join us this August to take your accounting practice to the next level. Learn more and enroll at karbonhq.com/academy

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