The tactics successful accounting firms implemented in 2020

If your firm is still standing today, the chances are you were, in some way, prepared for 2020—even if you didn’t know it. 

Maybe you were already 100% cloud-based. Perhaps your team already worked from home occasionally. Or maybe your clients were already used to working primarily with you online.  

At the very least, your ability to be agile and adapt to change enabled you to get your firm through 2020 unscathed.

Having said that, there is no guarantee that you’ve covered all your bases. So, what can you learn from other accounting firms that came out on top after 2020?

Here are 3 tactics successful firms are implementing and how your firm can benefit.

1. Communicate early and often

As someone who works closely with business owners (and perhaps one yourself), you have first-hand experience of the anxieties uncertain and unstable economic conditions can bring.

The key to staying calm is knowledge—understanding exactly what is happening, what the recovery and relief incentives are, and how to access them, for example. And as their advisor, your clients are looking to you to provide them with this knowledge.

But what happens when the details are not yet concrete (which became an all-too-familiar pattern in 2020)?

Jim Buffington, Advisory Services Leader at Intuit Accountants, explains that when dealing with uncertainties, any type of communication is better than no communication at all.

“The firms that communicated as much as they knew often and early had much better experiences with their clients.” — Jim Buffington, Advisory Services Leader, Intuit Accountants

Communicating as often and as clearly as possible with your clients, even with there is no solid and accurate information to share, is often enough to calm them.

And this is one of the major differences between the firms that were able to ultimately provide a better customer experience and those that were not.

2. Ask for help—and actually accept it

Despite a tumultuous year, Nayo Carter-Gray, EA and Founder of 1st Step Accounting, managed to have one of her busiest and most successful yet.

Among running her firm and being named one of the Top 100 Must-Follow Tax Twitter Accounts For 2020 by Forbes, she managed to create the Taking Your Firm Virtual Summit—a 2-day event designed to teach strategies for moving your firm to the cloud and improve your processes along the way.

A wrap sheet like this in 2020 isn’t possible without help from others.

She took note of all the things she wanted to achieve and knew she wasn’t able to do it alone.

So, she leaned on her network and made meaningful connections with people.

“Asking for help was probably the absolute biggest thing I did this year, and letting people help me.” — Nayo Carter-Gray, Founder, 1st Step Accounting

You likely know the feeling of being overwhelmed by your ambitions for your accounting firm. 

The thing is, you don’t have to do it alone.

Successful firms know how to use their networks and resources to enable their growth. 

3. It pays to be generous

An extremely complicated part of 2020 for everyone was the unknown. With the unknown, clients turned to their accountants in droves.

On top of that, clients were scrambling and panicking, which, as you would expect, meant they were constantly calling and emailing their accountants.

This level of uncertainty was unprecedented, so many firms didn’t have a business model that was built for this type of work and communication.

Firms were uncertain about what to charge for and how.

Jeremy Allen, the Founder of System Six, faced that exact issue in early-2020.

Rather than creating boundaries for his clients, he and his team decided to simply be generous. They were in constant contact (and even shared their communication with other firms), and went above and beyond to offer help to as many as they could.

“One of the big lessons we've taken away from the coronavirus this year is: just be generous. When in doubt, be generous.” — Jeremy Allen, Founder, System Six

As a result, System Six has completed about $100,000 worth of discounted work.

This might not sound like a sensible business move, but despite the discounted work, System Six still achieved 17% top-line growth in 2020.

The tactics successful accounting firms implemented in 2020 that will help propel your firm into 2021 and beyond

There is still so much to learn as you navigate the seas of a global economy being ravished by a pandemic.

But, taking a good look at the tactics your firm already implements, as well as those suggested above, will certainly help to set your course for the next 12 months and beyond.

Remember to ask yourself these 3 things:

  1. Am I communicating with my clients enough (even when there’s not much to say)?

  2. Am I leaning into my network and asking for help (and accepting it)?

  3. Could being more generous now serve me in the future?

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