Graeme believes the accounting profession can be transformed by developing deeper relationships with clients and helping them achieve both their personal and professional goals.
To keep the focus on his clients, Graeme targets three industries best suited for his model: tech, scalable trade, and service-based businesses. He also lets go of clients who aren’t looking for aggressive growth.
Forget debits and credits or just being the tax man—the future of accounting is much bigger than number crunching. According to Graeme Tennick, it’s about being a trusted advisor for your clients.
Since optimizing tech in his firm, Tennick Accountants, Graeme is free to do the work that really drives him: help businesses optimize their strategic plans for growth so they can meet their personal lifestyle goals.
“I set up our business to help people on their business journey,” Graeme explains.
“My responsibility is to give every business owner the best possible opportunity to lead the life they want to lead. That's my job role. That's what I'm passionate about.”https://twitter.com/karbonhq/status/1554214998158737413
How does he get business owners to change how they see him as an accountant? Graeme doesn’t just ask clients about their past performance—he helps them focus on what they want from their futures.
On episode 44 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, Graeme joins host and Karbon CEO, Stuart McLeod, to share how he got out of the accounting grunt work and into his current state of business nirvana. He also explains how other firms can do the same, even in the pandemic’s aftermath.
Graeme’s firm of 10 employees reached its current state thanks to some trial and error. Founded in 2012, Tennick Accountants saw decent profits in its early years before eventually hitting a point of diminishing returns.
“About four years in, I was just working harder and harder—[but] the profits were going down and down,” Graeme laments.
Around this time, Tennick Accountants was dumped by a major client with a German parent company—because no one in the firm spoke German. Though that was a simple enough reason, Graeme used the change as an opportunity to look inward. He started examining where the firm could automate processes.
From there, Graeme got what he calls “software drunk”. Much to the chagrin of his team, he implemented several new accounting software systems at once. Though chaotic, doing so ultimately helped the firm identify inefficiencies.
In March 2020, the firm saw record-breaking numbers. Then, of course, COVID happened—and new lows haunted the firm. Graeme toyed with the staffing ratios, going from a staff of 15 to 10 in 2022. By the time March 2022 rolled around, Tennick Accountants was back on top.
“We went from our worst year in March ’21 to our best year in March ’22, with a third less staff. And it was by drilling at the efficiencies of the processes, using the technology to do what it could do better. Now we have the capacity and infrastructure to keep growing,” Graeme shares.
One important factor Graeme credits for helping his firm grow from 2021 to 2022: remaining close with Tennick Accountants’ tech partners.
“We're now investing a lot of time and effort to work alongside software companies such as Karbon and Clarity to try to look and say, ‘This is what we're doing well, could we offer some feedback? Can we help you grow your software?’ Growing your software grows us as a firm, and we're really starting to get on board with things like that,” Graeme tells Stuart on the podcast.
By giving insight into how tech companies function, the partnerships have benefited the firm’s accounting side as well as its client-facing side. The team comes away with a better understanding of how to serve other businesses in the same industry.
Leveraging tech to clear Graeme’s plate means more capacity to look to the future—a future that he hopes other accountants are also moving toward. Instead of focusing on the past year’s progress with basic tax and compliance, he wants his clients to strive for more profit and growth.
“The conversations I'm having with business owners now are totally changing. Rather than chatting backward, we talk about what could happen in the future,” Graeme says of the shift in thinking.
“We are genuinely now starting to change our clients’ livelihoods.”
Those deeper conversations involve understanding what clients want most from their businesses. That could be basic profitability or even buying a luxury car or vacation home.
No matter the goal, Graeme and his associates at Tennick Accountants collaborate with clients to determine what’s financially necessary to reach them. Those discussions can be personal and emotional—two words not typically associated with the accounting profession.
“I ask questions like, ‘What would reaching that goal allow you to do? How would that make you feel? Would you like us to help you get there?’” Graeme shares.
After setting goals with his clients, Graeme takes an interdisciplinary approach to guide them forward. Sometimes that involves roping in other professionals outside of accounting, with Graeme’s firm leading the charge.
He admits that the clients have to buy into the plan, both emotionally and financially. Graeme always offers a guarantee, but to date, no client has ever been dissatisfied. On the contrary, after reaching their initial goals, many clients set newer, more ambitious ones.
Tennick Accountants is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with no intention of slowing down. Now that the company’s infrastructure, staffing, and model are well-defined, a bright future awaits.
Graeme likes to take a three-pronged approach to growth:
Learning from past generations for resilience
Examining current business practices from a holistic standpoint
Planning for the future based on these two things
Moving forward, he plans to maintain a client mix of tech, scalable trade, and service-based businesses. These three industries are primed for the relationship building Graeme values.
“I want to help build better business and personal lives. And obviously, I want to leave this world in a better place than the state it was in when I arrived,” Graeme shares of his career trajectory.
Tennick Accountants’ story is one of resilience, growth, and improvement. Now, Graeme uses his experience to bring the same principles to his clients’ businesses. And he has no plans to slow down. In business and in life, there is always room for growth, and there is always room to get better.