Trends Driving Small Firm Growth

Middleton WesleyThat does it take for a small firm to be on the path to growth? It takes vision and the willingness to do things differently. If you want different results, you can’t rely on the status quo. You should question the tried and true and create a new path. Firms experiencing the most growth are running their businesses in a different way. They are finding areas for focus that provide a competitive advantage. And they all put the client at the center of what they do, ensuring needs are met and they are helping them succeed. The following details the ways firms are driving growth from their own perspective.

Intentionally Establish Your Culture

Firms that are able to do things differently have a culture that supports growth at their core. MiddletonRaines+Zapata (MRZ) set out from its inception to think outside the box, even looking outside the industry for best practices.

“Growth starts with culture,” said Wesley Middleton, managing partner. “It has to be intentional.”

Culture has helped the firm grow from one office four and half years ago to four offices today. Known for energy, responsiveness and providing innovative solutions, MRZ is a place people want to work.

“Transparency is at the core of our business model. It’s how we build trust,” Middleton said. “Not only is innovation encouraged, but it is okay for someone to fail. That’s how they learn to do things better.”

Firm success also stems from:

• Investing in marketing and business development.

• Embracing digital marketing.

• Making client relationship managers the center of the client service model.

• Allowing partners to be great CPAs and not sales people.

• Trusting everyone to excel at what they are good at.

• Encouraging staff to become true advisors.

• Listening to what the client needs and delivering it.

By having a culture that puts the client first, plays upon individual strengths and focuses on the importance of the marketing and business development process, MRZ has created a winning business model.

Narrow Your Focus

High growth firms are twice as likely to be specialists according to Lee Frederiksen of Hinge Marketing. These firms experience 13.1% growth compared to 6.6% growth seen by generalist firms.

Family friendly and tech savvy firm Bohlmann Accounting Group wanted to build a firm that was “not your father’s CPA firm,” said Stehli Krause, office manager.

Bohlmann has a laser focus – specializing in international tax. Their staff is culturally diverse and representative of the industry they serve.

“Staff members are encouraged to promote our services in their home countries,” Krause said. Their focus is on serving the client and bringing services to them that help them manage their lives.”

The firm has uncovered a need for bookkeeping services in the international space, but they feel like they have just scratched the surface. They will continue to keep close to clients to discover other needs. This specialized focus is why the firm is up 21% over last year. Specialties level the playing field, allowing small firms to compete with larger ones, even on an international scale.

Package Services Clients Need

Rather than have a client come to you and tell you what they want to buy, try packaging and selling them what you know they need.

New Vision CPA Group takes this novel approach to selling services and keeps things simple. Every client starts with the Small Business Accounting & Tax Package which includes year-round advisory services. The firm specializes in working with small businesses, and they know what they offer and what they don’t.

“We meet with all clients four times a year, and they love it” said Jody Padar, CEO and principal, and author of The Radical CPA: New Rules for the Future- Ready Firm.

Through a customer-centric focus, Padar utilizes cloud solutions and social media to attract customers. She then provides value through a unique experience that is spelled out in her packages. As a result, the firm grew by 30% last year.

Don’t Skip the Strategy

If you want to have leverage when it comes to growing your firm, you have to start with a good strategy. But what should you include in your strategy? There is no uniform answer to that question, as there are many factors to consider. However, Frederiksen details the top four marketing plays that lead to growth:

1. Partnership marketing. Collaborate with another firm or organization to expand your reach.

2. Webinars and speaking engagements. Conduct these to promote thought leadership and get recognized.

3. Phone marketing. Conversations can provide additional information that leads to engagement.

4. Blogging and articles. Used to drive business to you.

As you look to grow your own firm, start by embracing change. Look at your culture to ensure it encourages innovation and spurs new ideas. Consider what you are doing differently from your competitors. This could be an industry and or service focus or packaging of your services. Move away from being a generalist and experience higher growth. Most importantly, have a plan. Don’t leave growth to chance.

Lauren Clemmer is the executive director of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM).

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