Growing your small accountancy practice is not an easy feat. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion with intense highs and deep lows — and it takes a lot of willpower and determination to carry on. And this only gets more intense as you grow, too!
Sometimes your pipeline may be sparse, your cash flow may be running low and you'll feel like you’re wading through treacle. Other times, you may be growing so fast, you struggling to keep up.
To be a successful small accountancy practice owner, you’ll need to learn to navigate these slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You need to find the resilience to bounce back from blows and the motivation to keep pushing on. How, I hear you ask? Here are five tips to keep your sanity intact, even if your firm is going through a period of rapid growth.
Put yourself first
There are always hurdles to overcome when it comes to growth, and the same is true for when you’re growing your small accountancy firm. You will experience setbacks and you will be tested, you can’t prevent this. All you can do is manage them better!
If you're to take these knock-backs in stride, you'll need to make sure that you are at your best most days. By this, we mean, you’re consistently getting enough sleep every night, you’re eating and drinking healthily (We're not talking about a better quality of red wine here!), you’re exercising regularly, and you’re taking time to relax and recharge. In short, if you’re doing all of these things, you will be in tip-top shape.
While it’s very tempting in busy periods to feel that you need to just “get through this phase” or “keep working at weekends and evenings to catch up” or “I don’t have the time to take a holiday”, this is not sustainable for the long term. Start being good to yourself and plan self-care time. If you recharge regularly every day, week, month, and year, you will be in the best shape to get back up again when and if things get tough.
Build a support network
The most successful accountancy firm owners are the ones who invest heavily in getting the right people around them. Whether this is great staff, clients, their network or family, they surround themselves with people who contribute to their growth and success (rather than hindering it). As a result, they then grow a lot quicker (and more sustainably) than other firms that don’t have this support.
Surrounding yourself with a great group of people that can help you through the tough times is an incredibly powerful and valuable tool. And these people don’t even need to be directly employed by you either. They could be friends, family members or other practice owners. They can be anyone who fills you with inspiration and energy, helping you bounce back with a fire in your belly. A problem shared really does equate to a problem halved, so spend time identifying who will be a part of your ‘support team.’
Always have a plan B and C (just in case)
The military always says, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Now, I’m not comparing growing your small accountancy firm to fighting on the frontline, but this saying is relevant to business. It essentially means that, despite doing all the right things to the best of your ability, not everything is going to work out as it should. There are so many other factors not within your control.
For example, a client goes bust or decides to sell up, a staff member quits or goes on maternity leave, a competitor sets up locally and is undercutting your prices... all these scenarios are things that may happen. You can’t control them, but you can prepare for them in the instance that they do happen.
Moral of the story? Always have a contingency plan (and potentially, a contingency plan for the contingency plan) for anything that might pop up. Imagine losing a staff member smack bang in the middle of tax season (eek!). Your future self will thank you massively if you already have a hiring and recruitment plan in place, plus your business won’t be as impacted as a result.
Work with a coach or mentor to give you a different perspective
A coach or mentor needs to be a part of your support group. Why? Because they don’t have an agenda other than to aid you in growing your small accountancy firm. While your husband, wife or partner needs to be a part of your support, they will be trying to protect you from a personal point of view. The same goes for staff too, they’ll have a different agenda when giving you advice or support.
Being the boss of your own firm can be a lonely place and this is where a coach or mentor can add real value. They can be that neutral person to talk through your fears and worries with. And they can tell you — impartially — if you're being an idiot or whether your worries are actually justified.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
Ahh... procrastination is a common friend and enemy to us all, and it usually comes around because of fear. Fear that a challenge is too big, fear that we’re not going to do a good enough job, or fear that facing this problem head-on could lead to a host of all other problems. And we just can’t deal with that right now.
We’ve all been guilty of this, of putting our fingers in our ears and yelling loudly when things start to go wrong or get tough. But, we're sure you know that this is the absolute worst thing that you can do. Not only does this potentially make the problem much worse, but it also affects your productivity and focus until you deal with that problem.
To keep your sanity intact when growing your small accountancy practice, you need to tackle problems head on as soon as possible. Starting is often the hardest part. But when you’ve rationally looked at the worst that can happen, it’s often way less of a problem than you first thought — which unlocks solutions and washes worries away.
It's time to overcome setbacks without breaking your stride. Growing your small accountancy firm is not easy, but with these five actionable tips, you can get off the emotional rollercoaster, and on to the triple C bus of clarity, confidence and certainty. (Even if your firm is going through a period of rapid growth!)