There are multiple ways to grow your firm, from expanding service lines
to mergers and acquisitions. While these
are both viable strategies, it is often easy to overlook opportunities
associated with existing services and clients.
Tax planning and compliance is a great example and an area that almost
all firms currently provide services. However,
due to the increasing complexity of ever changing legislation at the Federal
and State levels plus the importance of international tax; I believe firms
often discount the opportunities.
Granted, there is a high degree of complexity and some firms may not
have the internal resources or a large enough client base to justify acquiring
the capabilities required to offer some of the more sophisticated services related
to tax credits (jobs, energy, enterprise zones, etc.) as well as cost
There is a simple management strategy that is often overlooked when it
comes to complexity and many accounting firms get caught in the trap. In order to break through the ceiling of complexity
you must first step back and simplify the approach. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate
a proven process to simplification and allow CPAs and firms to think
differently about matching opportunities with capabilities. By thinking differently, you will probably
challenge some of the existing strategies and perhaps even some of the
processes that have made you successful.
The old saying that what got you to this level of success won’t get you
to the next level is often true when dealing with increased complexity.
We are talking about the development or access to the required capabilities
necessary to leverage current and future opportunities. If you don’t have those capabilities or
access to them, your firm will miss opportunities. If you do have the capabilities, but not the
opportunities, you will generally underperform and have trouble retaining and
attracting quality talent due to the lack of growth opportunities. Internal discussions often evolve into the
chicken or the egg arguments.
Let’s take one step back from what most firms are doing today and assess
how to develop talent and capabilities based upon today’s opportunities. Most firm’s think in terms of internal
resources, especially larger firms, but this may not make the most sense
economically. Think big (10 times) and
how you can leverage this opportunity with little or no additional investment
in labor or technology!
In our profession, talent provides capabilities and the market provides
the opportunities. Talent is developed
primarily with three key components:
- Self-motivation and life-long learning
- Access to experts and experience
- Relationships with peers
This approach may be different than the rugged individual approach many
seasoned professionals are accustomed to. Today, the complexity and breadth of knowledge
requires a team approach in order to scale.
Here are some basic questions CPAs and firms should ask when evaluating
new or expanded services.
- Will this service
provide value to the client?
- Who is going to champion
- Does the champion have
the passion, time, team and budget to be successful?
- Does the firm have the
necessary capabilities or should we source with an external expert?
- Does the firm know how
to name, package, brand and price this service?
- Is there a community
of peers we can join in order to accelerate our ability to balance
capabilities with opportunities?
The tendency is to short-cut the planning and start charging hours to a
project. This often results in large
write-offs and poor client service.
Taking the time to think, plan and grow will increase the probability
and level of success.
We can speak to this approach with over 10 years of experience in
facilitating communities. We started
with The Boomer
Technology Circles and then expanded to The CIO Advantage,
The Producer Circle,
The CEO Advantage,
and The Talent Development Advantage.
This year we are starting The Specialty Tax Circle with Engineered Tax Services, Inc. This
community will focus on tax and energy credits along with cost segregation. All of these communities provide participants
with access to experts and the opportunity to develop peer relationships. In most communities we ask firms to send two
or more participants who act as a team.
This approach bridges gaps between different unique abilities.
From extensive experience, I can say the CPAs and firms that get the most
value from communities are those who contribute and provide confidence to their
peers. Learning is a two-way
street. You must be vulnerable to learn
and willing to teach. The communities
raise the level of success for all participants. Also having access to expertise outside of
their firm provides great value, even for internal experts. The exchange among expert peers results in
learning, increased confidence and improved clarity. This expertise ranges from
technical tax and accounting knowledge to:
- Marketing and sales
- HR and team building/management
In the end, it is about you. You have to be motivated and have the passion
to succeed. The participation in a
community provides access to experts and peer relationships, accelerate the
process and increase the probability of success. Those with passion succeed while those
without passion try.