Why Recurring Fees Could Kill Your Practice

Businessman sleeping with a giant dollar bill for a blanketFight the complacency trap.

By Martin Bissett
Business Development On a Budget

As you know, the traditional accounting firm model is firmly based on the reality of recurring fees that come in from clients every year. We can rely on these and forecast accurately how much revenue they bring in which hopefully covers overheads and direct expenses of the business.

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This is a good thing, right? Well, maybe not as much as you think.

That’s because having those recurring fees you can count on makes it seem less critical to go out and win new work. It’s a safety net that takes away from the hunger for new work, and that hunger is a vital element of success in selling professional services. We need to want to impress, to demonstrate our value, to help people, to understand how we can assist and support them in their businesses.

Have you ever joined a gym? If so, you probably had a specific goal in mind as to how you wanted to improve your fitness, so you went to the gym several days every single week and worked hard. But what happened when you achieved your first goal? Now that you simply wanted to maintain a certain level of fitness, didn’t your attendance drop off dramatically?

That’s what often happens when accounting firms rely on recurring fees the hunger for winning new business drops off, and there’s no impetus to go out and work for it.

It may seem counterintuitive to think of regular income as a challenge, but it is a challenge to the process of going out and proactively winning new business. How do you focus on this when you already have enough money coming in to at least keep you in business?

The best way is to take the focus away from the need to make money, and put it on the desire to help business owners achieve their goals. Whether your prospective client’s aspirations are personal or professional, focus on those aspirations and soon you’ll be getting a buzz of satisfaction from bringing your technical and business expertise to helping your clients have the success they want.

If you are doing this work just for the money, then the fact that you have recurring fees will create the malaise that afflicts many so-called “successful” accounting firms whose recurring fees are enough to pay the bills. Firms who gain the advantage are those who change their approach to one of helping businesses. Will that be you?

Business Development Tasks

  1. Identify where your career as leader of a professional services firm gives you the most satisfaction.
  2. Identify three things you can do to increase the time you spend in your most enjoyable professional pursuits.
  3. Schedule specific, non-interruptible time in your diary to switch your focus from only money, to how you can be of service to your clients.