Practice barrier #1: acquiring & retaining the best staff

Far and away, the #1 barrier hindering accounting firms from growing is staff. The vast majority of accountants we surveyed told us this is something their firm struggles with constantly.

Comments ranged from “poor quality staff”, to “lack of enthusiasm” all the way to “inability to retain the good ones” and “attitude of the existing staff focusing too much on compliance only”. Partners and managers might have a clear idea on how to deliver value to their clients, but not so much on how to extract that value from their team.

Your firm’s quality of customer service, work outcomes, ability to adapt to change, and ability to overcome each of the #10barriers, are all heavily dependent on the people in your practice. A solid team of outstanding staff is essential if your practice is to function and grow.

How does it impact you?

Finding and keeping the right staff is one of the biggest challenges in any business. Recruitment is a costly and time-consuming process—when done right it can lead to exceptional gains in productivity, profit and growth. If done wrong, it will have the opposite effect.

On a personal level, having a great team around you will make your time at work all the more enjoyable. Those you work with play a big part in motivating and pushing you, and if everyone is performing in their own roll, your firm’s workload will be evenly shared.

What can you do about it?

Get the job ad right
Any job ad will get you resumes. But a great job ad will attract quality applications from worthy candidates, cutting down on administration time and saving your firm money.

The recruitment game is becoming increasingly competitive in the accounting industry. The power is shifting toward candidates, with some firms struggling to compete for talent with the practices that are perceived as young and modern. So it’s more vital than ever that you get candidates excited about working for your firm.

To catch the attention of the candidate, emphasize the benefits of the role—mention any growth opportunities, training they will receive, and any other perks. If you’re stuck, ask your current staff what they like most about working at your firm.

Many job ads lean too much on the technical aspects and applicant requirements. These are important to ensure you actually get qualified people applying, but you need to think about it from the point of view of who you want to attract. What will make them excited about working for you?

Hire for attitude, train for skill
A shockingly low percentage of new hires succeed in their new position—19% to be precise. What might come as a surprise is that poor technical skills are not the primary factor in these new hires failing.

The most important attribute to look for in any new candidate is a great attitude. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to existing skills. Just don’t make it your main focus when assessing how suitable they might be for your team.

Exactly what constitutes the “right attitude” for your firm will depend on your own culture, and it may take a bit of consideration. Try looking at your best-performing employees and define the personality traits they have and how they approach challenging tasks. Identify the three most important components of your firm’s culture—things that you are not willing to compromise on.

You must always remember that it is a lot easier to upgrade someone’s skill set than change their attitude. With this in mind, your hire fail rate will drop and you will build a passionate and engaged team that will help your firm to grow.

Become an expert on millennials
There’s a lot of chatter on millennials in this industry—they’re the new breed of accountants, who in a few short years will become the largest generation in the workforce. If your firm is planning on sticking around beyond this decade, you can’t avoid the fact that millennials are your future.

So you need to become an expert on this generation and think of them from the point of view of your firm. Consider their traits and what unique attributes they can bring to your team. How do they think differently to other generations and what do they look for in a place to work? Then you must work on transforming your practice into the place that the very best millennial accountants will want to work at.

If you are struggling to grow your firm, we challenge you to implement at least one of these ideas. If you do, we’d love to hear the progress and result. You can also reach out so one of our advisors can help you out.

Also, if your firm has implemented any other strategies to acquire and retain great talent, we’d love to hear from you.


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