What do you want to achieve professionally in 2021? Do you want to grow your firm? Increase profit? Improve the effectiveness of your team and enjoy a better work-life balance?
Heading into a new year is an ideal opportunity to take a brief step back from the day-to-day of running your accounting firm. It is easy to get stuck in a habit of focusing only on what’s right in front of you, particularly if you are growing firm and forced to take on many of the roles that keep the wheels spinning.
But taking a step back and looking at the big picture is essential for your long-term success. There is no better time than now to reassess where you are and map out a strategy to create the firm you want.
Before going to deep into 2021 planning, the best place to start is by looking back at 2020. Ask yourself: What went right? What went wrong?
Did you achieve your objectives for the year? Why or why not?
As you think about the past year, you can also think about the current state of the firm as a whole. The goal of the plan is to move your firm from where it is now to where you want it to be.
Look for current areas of discomfort. This could be financially, if you feel the firm would benefit from great profit margins. Or it might be personal. If you feel you are working too many hours to keep the firm moving, next year’s plan can focus on strategies that will take some pressure off.
Think of your strategic planning like using GPS. Before you can start mapping to the destination, you need to define where you are. The first step in getting where you want to go is taking an honest assessment of where things stand today.
As a growth-minded accounting firm, you are probably planning to build on the success you have already achieved. As you design your plan, you can create an annual goal to make a dramatic improvement in at least one key area of the firm.
With the long-term destination figured out, you need to identify a roadmap that includes the steps to get there. Many firms are starting to implement OKRs in order to break yearly goals down into shorter-term objectives and key results (OKRs).
Your objectives are the goals that tell you where to go. And each objective has a few key results to achieve in order to make sure you are on track.
Some rules for OKR Success
Set them annually and quarterly
Don’t have too many: Five objectives and four key results for each is a maximum per quarter, and three objectives is ideal.
Make them challenging: You should expect to hit 80% of your targets
A key result must have a number: This way you can objectively say whether you’ve achieved it or not
Here are some areas of the firm you can start to improve with an intentional annual strategy.
Moving into a new year is a perfect opportunity to assess the relationship you have with your clients. An effective way for accounting firms to grow is by word-of-mouth referrals. By providing an excellent experience to clients, it’s not only beneficial for the clients, but also a growth strategy.
Business owners today are increasingly looking at compliance as a commodity. For accountants to provide a great experience, they need to provide insights for their clients. The more your firm can help clients look forward and better understand their business, the more you’ll stand out from the competition.
Thriving accounting firms are able to play to the unique strengths of their team. Too often, accountants can create silos of communication and lose the power of collaboration.
As a leader, you can create time for professional development and collaborative tools to improve the team culture.
If your 2021 goals include planning for growth, you’ll need a way to bring in quality leads. Before thinking too much about leads, the first step is thinking about who the right clients are.
Defining your ideal client is a helpful way to increase profits. By specializing your services to suit a specific type of client, you’ll have an easier time getting clients because you’ll be speaking their language. On top of that, you’ll be able to add greater value, by providing meaningful advice catered to their industry.
Once you’ve defined the ideal client, you can model how profitable each client is. Then you can project for the year how many of your ideal client you’d need to achieve your goals.
Once you have a vision of client growth for the year, you can break down your marketing and sales activities into quarterly and monthly tasks.
As you make plans for the upcoming year, it’s important to consider your own personal growth. A big part of building a healthy organization is ensuring you are getting the proper benefit and enjoyment from the work.
If there are travel plans, financial goals or hobbies you want to prioritize in the coming year, build them into your annual model.
You can approach your personal development the same way as your business’ development. Think about where you are now and what you’d like to change. Think about where you want to be 12 months from now, and what would have to change to get there.