Time to grow: 3 ways to sustain growth practices in your accounting firm

The business marketplace is in a transitional period as the world emerges from a time of significant disruption: a pandemic, the Great Resignation, a rapidly changing technology landscape, and evolving client and employee expectations.

2 people sitting next to each other at a desk. The person on the left is looking at a laptop, while the person on the right is taking notes in a notebook.

Fortunately, many accounting firms appear to have risen to meet the challenge, according to the 2022 Practice Excellence Report

The report is based on Karbon’s Practice Excellence Assessment, a 20-minute online survey designed to help accounting firms compare their performance to other firms across the globe. To date, more than 1,000 firms have completed the assessment and received a scorecard measuring their proficiency across the Four Pillars of Practice Excellence (Strategy, Management, Efficiency, and Growth). 

Having survived—or even thrived—during the past couple of years, the next challenge for firms will be finding opportunities for growth in this transitional phase.

Karbon’s Chief Revenue Officer Mary Delaney recently joined Director of Customer Success (APAC), Omer Khan, to share some key insights on leveraging accounting firm growth strategies. Their conversation was part of an expert panel on building the perfect accounting firm, hosted at the inaugural Karbon X event at Lake Tahoe in 2022.

Mary offers three ways accounting firm leaders can leverage growth strategies. 

1. Delight your customers and ask for referrals

“Step one when looking at growth opportunity is to love up your clients and amaze and delight them, because they are going to be your biggest fuel for growth,” Mary says.

Once your clients are head-over-heels for your firm, consider asking them to refer you to others. Mary offers this simple script:

We’ve made additional investments (OR We’re adding new offerings OR I’ve added new people) because of clients like you. We have excess capacity right now—do you have two or three other people that you could introduce me to?

“It’s amazing how clients want to help you,” she says.

2. Identify your target client, then know how to reach them

When it comes to finding new prospects, Mary first emphasizes focusing on your ideal prospect—who is the client you can provide profitable solutions and unique value to? Targeting an ideal client profile is one of the key activities that the highest performing accounting firms are focused on in 2022.

Next, Mary recommends investing in an outside marketing partner. According to Karbon’s Practice Excellence survey, marketing is a persistent challenge for many firms, but there’s no need to rush those efforts in-house.

Finally, hire two sales development representatives (or SDRs) for your firm.

“I start with two because that means you’re not going to jump to conclusions about something working or not working, when it might be the individual,” Mary says.

These team members will be charged with setting up appointments and targeting those ideal prospects. In the beginning, you and your partners will accompany the SDRs to their initial meetings.

“They will begin to learn how to be account executives and mini yous,” Mary says.

3. Invest in frontline leadership to find sustainable balance

To ensure growth in your firm, leaders must find a balance between taking a 10,000-foot view of the business and keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the day-to-day. It’s only with both perspectives that you can understand what is working or not—whether it’s time to double down on a strategy or hit the pause button, Mary explains.

One of the best ways to achieve this balance is to empower team members at every level of the business, all the way down to the front lines. 

Begin with clarity about your mission, and then work to communicate the company values to the whole team.

“The values are critical thinking skills that the frontline leaders and frontline individuals can use to say, ‘How do I make the decision in this situation today? Tomorrow?’” she says. “Investing in that frontline leadership is really critical.”

Pathway to excellence

Cultivating growth in your accounting firm looks like:

  • Optimizing your customer experience to transform your clients into a reliable source of referrals

  • Understanding your target clients and creating pathways to reach them

  • Investing in frontline leaders to carry forward the company mission and values

Growth is critical to building a better accounting firm—it’s well worth the time and investment to do it well.