How the strongest accounting firms are built on solid strategy

Building the perfect accounting firm—one that can weather changes and grow stronger over time—requires a solid and unshakeable foundation.

That foundation will look different from one firm to the next, but it’s likely to be rooted in Strategy, one of the Four Pillars identified in Karbon’s Practice Excellence Assessment.

The Practice Excellence Assessment is a 20-minute online survey designed to help accounting firms compare their business abilities to other firms across the globe. To date, more than 1,000 firms have completed the assessment, and the 2022 Practice Excellence Report analyzes this data to generate key industry-wide insights.

The most recent analysis of firms’ proficiency scores suggests that Strategy is foundational to success at every size and stage.

At the inaugural Karbon X event, hosted at Lake Tahoe in 2022, Karbon’s Director of Customer Success (APAC) Omer Khan, hosted an expert panel on building the perfect accounting firm. Joshua Lance, Managing Director of Lance CPA Group, joined the conversation as a strategy specialist, sharing insights into developing and executing a successful strategy.

Every roadmap needs a destination

“It comes down to being intentional about what we’re doing and how we are going to do it, and then putting the structure around it,” Joshua says.

When he founded the firm in 2013, the team felt like more of a family. But as the firm grew both in size and in geographical spread, more structure became imperative.

In his role, Joshua is tasked with figuring out the firm’s future trajectory and, more importantly, how they will get there. In order to move his ideas out of his head and into a place of action, he spends time distilling his plans with his partner, the firm’s project managers, and the leadership team. Semiannual retreats offer a platform for discussing future plans with the whole team.

We’ll build out plans that are three years into the future—where we think we’re going, revenue targets we’re going to hit, and how we’re going to assess success during that time period.
Joshua Lance, Lance CPA Group

Bring employees into the conversation

Communicating plans and changes with the team is an essential part of making strategy decisions.

Not all team members may be on board with a new direction, and clearly communicating strategic shifts gives everyone an opportunity to either buy in or realize that it’s time to move on—as one employee did when Lance CPA Group made the move to a more structured firm.

More recently, Joshua and his team undertook a significant restructuring that involved removing some roles and redeveloping others.

“That meant saying goodbye to some team members as a result, which is hard to do,” he said.

These kinds of changes can leave remaining employees uneasy, wondering if they will be the next to go, which makes it all the more important to communicate to the team about what’s changing and why.

“We were assuring them that there is a plan here,” he said. 

We weren’t cutting employees because the business is failing or anything like that. But if we want to go to the next place in our journey, we have to have the right people in the right seats.
Joshua Lance, Lance CPA Group

Contextualizing big changes in terms of a three-year plan reassures the team that the leadership group is putting the firm in a good position to navigate whatever comes next.

Build in guardrails to stay on course

One of the ways that Joshua stays on track is to extend the strategic lens to decisions regarding technology.

He created and filled an Accounting Technologist role, empowering the individual to keep an eye on new software and technology opportunities, and to make sound strategic decisions while helping the firm avoid ‘shiny object syndrome’.

“If we are going to change something, why are we changing and how are we going to change it?” he said of the questions that guide his approach to new technologies. “Who’s going to champion that change within the firm, and how do we make that successful?”

Pathway to excellence

Building a strong strategic foundation for your accounting firm means:

  • Distilling a strategic direction through the leadership team to clarify the way forward

  • Communicating major changes to all employees in the context of the strategic plan

  • Staying on track by looking at new opportunities—including new technologies—through a strategic lens

With this solid base, growing firms can build toward a higher level of Practice Excellence, and leaders will be prepared to make key decisions and respond to challenges along the journey.

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