Start with a vision for the role your business plays in your life.
by Rick Telberg
It's said that most small businesses don't last five years. But kudos to them; at least they tried. What concerns me are the nine in 10 small businesses that never make it past the owner-operator stage to the next level – the level in which the owner can turn the business over to someone else to operate. Tax and accounting firms may be more durable, but not by much, according to CPA Trendlines research.
Some people are born owner-operators. Some want more. Today's sermon is for those who want more.
If you want to drive your firm to the next level, there are, in fact, a few tried-and-true lessons you can't afford to ignore.
Some people will tell you failure starts with a lack of good marketing. And that may be partly true. But it really starts with a vision of the role your business plays in your life. For many, their accounting practice or career is simply a way of making a living. For others, their business represents an asset to be developed, a legacy to be passed on to another generation, or, in other words, something of lasting value – value that can survive beyond the day we decide to retire or move on.
So take this to heart:
Mistake No. 1: Working IN your business instead of ON your business. If you're micro-managing people instead of building lasting systems, go grab "Professional Services Marketing 3.0" by Bruce W. Marcus or the latest "Rosenberg MAP Survey." The best practice-builders I know spend only 50 percent to 60 percent of their time billable. Another 20 percent to 30 percent of your time should be spent on marketing activities. And the other 20 percent should be spent on everything else.
Mistake No. 2: Failing to implement systems. In any business, you must automate and optimize every possible area. Use technology to its fullest. Delegate repetitive tasks immediately. Do only what only you can do.
Mistake No. 3: Giving marketing too much credit and not enough attention. Marketing may not be the answer to everything, but nothing good is going to happen in your firm until you create and follow a business development plan. Research for the Seven Keys for Successful CPA Firm Management program shows that the highest performing forms are 15 times more likely than the lagging firms to follow a written marketing pna and they're 32 times more likely foster a firm-wide marketing culture. I'll take those odds any day.
Mistake No. 4: Forgetting to market to your current clients. I'd say 60 percent to 70 percent of your marketing budget should be directed to the people who already know you. Every month that you fail to communicate with your customers – "touch" them in some way – their propensity to do business with you drops by 10 percent. Take a cue from BizActions, the CPA firm email marketing service, and make contact with an email newsletter at least twice a week.
Mistake No. 5: Failing to test or track your sales and marketing efforts. These days, what you don't know could definitely hurt you. As a financial maven you already know: What you can measure, you can improve. And with digital marketing, there's just no excuse for not using the right tools for the job.
Mistake No. 6: Failing to follow up with prospects and clients. Everyone gets busy. But in many businesses, the average sale happens after the fifth attempt. Successful firms have a system in place that automates the process to make sure they're following up with prospects regularly. If you're not using a customer-relationship management system, like Act!, Goldmine, Salesforce.com or even Outlook, just to name a few market leaders, you can't say you're serious about service.
And for that, there's no excuse. This is, after all, a professional service business. After all the effort you've put into honing your professional skills, just take care of the business side and you'll reap the rewards.