Setting and managing goals to grow your business

Growing your accounting practice in 6 steps.

To grow your practice you'll require a lot of action, and you might be desperate to jump straight in and get going. But before you do, you need to map out where you want to go. If not, you risk getting distracted and it’s anyone’s guess where you’ll end up.

It’s vital that you set clear goals to act as your roadmap for where you want your business to go. These goals will keep you motivated, remind your team what their number one focus should be, and keep your firm’s big-picture motives front-of-mind.

There is a science to effective goal-setting. Drawing inspiration from how we do it at Karbon, this is how you can set and manage goals to grow your practice.

#1 Be smart with your goals

Before setting any goals, you should consider what makes an effective one. Any goals made as a business or individual must be not to leave any confusion (or room for excuses) further down the track. 

It helps to think about this using the S.M.A.R.T. method. This means every goal you make should meet these criteria:

  •  S: target a specific  area (like client satisfaction). The more detailed you can be, the better.

  •  M: make it measurable by quantifying what needs to happen for the goal to be achieved. 

  •  A: make it achievable. You can be ambitious, but still realistic.

  •  R: remain relevant by picking goals that truly matter and will make a difference to the big picture.

  •  T: give a time-frame that this must be achieved by.

#2 Define the ultimate destination

Begin looking long term with a timeline of several or more years. Think of this as the grand destination you want your practice to reach. This should be something big, which will take years of hard work to achieve.

Look at all areas of your firm and set long-term goals relating to each—consider profit, growth (in terms of staff and future expansion), client satisfaction, client retention, and social impact (how you’ll give back to the community). Think about what would need to happen for your practice to be extremely successful in your eyes.

Remember to be ambitious—you want to push yourself outside the comfort zone. These long-term goals will be a constant reminder of what you’re working towards as a practice.

#3 Break that down into regular checkpoints

With the long-term destination figured out, you need to set a roadmap that includes incremental steps that will get you there. This is where you break everything down into shorter-term goals, thinking about what you’ll need to achieve within that longer period to get there. 

You should pick immediate goals that can be accomplished by the end of a week or month, and broader intermediate goals that you want to accomplish by the end of a quarter or year.

One of your long-term goals might be to grow your practice to a team of 30 within two years. If you're currently a team of 5, this could be a pretty daunting number. But breaking this goal into smaller steps you need to meet—such as the number of clients and profit you need by this quarter—will make this seem much more achievable. 

You’ll also gain a clearer understanding of the individual actions that will need to be taken by which members of your team, and how everything will fit into the wider scheme of things.

#4 Record and communicate

You need a platform to share your firm-wide goals with the team. We eat our own dogfood and use Karbon to manage our goal-setting process and find it perfect for this process. However, you may want to improvise and use any system you already use to communicate and collaborate with your team. 

Just remember that your goals must be communicated in a place that your whole team has access to, can come back to for future reference, and contribute to. Which brings us to step five... 

#5 Get buy-in from your team

When you have clear firm-wide goals set, think about what each team member or business function needs to achieve intermediately. Or better still, get them to think about it themselves. 

Individual goals will keep each staff member on-track and reminded of how their own work contributes towards the bigger picture growing the practice.

At Karbon, we have three to five business-wide goals each quarter that relate to various aspects of our business. These goals show everyone what our main areas of focus are as a business for the coming three months. It is then up to each team member to select their own individual goals that will contribute to the achievement of these business-wide goals. 

When setting their own goals, ask your staff to think what critical tasks that they absolutely must achieve for the next quarter. These should be the tasks that if all else fails except for these, the long-term goals will remain within reach.

Once again, individual goals should be S.M.A.R.T., and they should be shared on the same platform that your firm-wide goals are set. Allowing everyone to see their team mate’s goals is perfectly OK—in fact, it’s encouraged. When everyone knows what everyone else is working on and contributing, your team culture will flourish.

#6 Always be reviewing

Don’t wait until the end of a quarter to find out that some goals were off-track from day one, you need to maintain a constant watch over your firm and individual results, and make changes to your strategy if necessary.

At Karbon, it is up to each individual to keep a close eye on their own progress towards a goal, and firm-wide progress is shared in weekly and monthly meetings. If an objective is not within reach, we can discuss changes to our strategy and constantly refine how we’ll achieve the results we’re aiming for.

At the end of an intermediate goal-setting period (in our case, each quarter) we have a business-wide meeting where everyone shares their results. This isn’t a time to humiliate those who don’t reach theirs, it’s a time to come together, learn from mistakes, celebrate joint successes, and determine what we can do better next quarter as a team. 

The goals your practice sets will set the tone for what you achieve. They will serve as a constant reminder of what you’re working towards and keep every team member moving in the same direction. Get this process right—and keep it going—and you’ll be well on your way to achieving enormous success as an accounting business. 

The Practice growth playbook provides you with a set of tools to transform your practice and double your profits in one year. Drawing on strategies employed by some of the world's most progressive firms, you'll learn how you can grow rapidly and build a sustainable firm. Download for free.