While most accounting firms want to grow their business, time constraints, staff issues and coping with difficult clients are common barriers to growth, says Sarah Daly.
GroForth recently commissioned research on the biggest problems facing accounting firms. The purpose of the study was to understand the barriers accountants face when trying to grow their business. Our findings revealed four key pain points that will be familiar to many accountants in practice:
- Time constraints – 38%
- Finding/keeping good staff – 34%
- Finding new clients – 34%
- Working with bad/undesirable clients – 15%
This article shares details of our findings and explains how GroForth clients are successfully overcoming growth barriers with the help of our specialist back office services for accounting firms .
Time is money
Lack of time was the number one issue identified by firms who participated in our research. More than four in ten accountants (42%) said that they struggle to manage competing demands on their time and would like a better work/life balance. Time constraints are also a major barrier to business development.
So where does the time go in a busy accounting firm?
Maintaining client relationships, managing staff and running the business day-to-day tend to be the top demands on accountants’ time but they also have to stay abreast of regulatory requirements, keep skills up to date and complete their required CPD hours. That’s a lot for anyone to cope with, so it’s not surprising that many accountants struggle to make time for finding new clients, planning for growth and improving their work/life balance.
Ways to save time in an accounting firm
When it comes to saving time, streamlining administrative processes can be a real game changer. Many firms encourage clients to use accountancy software solutions like Xero and SortmyBooks. However, systems are only as good as the information available to them. If an accountant’s client does not maintain accurate records, that will inevitably lead to queries, document chasing and time consuming headaches at year-end.
In a lot of firms, chasing clients for missing information and resolving anomalies and inconsistencies don’t just increase workload — they also generate unnecessary stress and pressure for both accountants and their clients especially around filing deadlines.
Sorting out problems like this is one of the specialist services Groforth provides for accounting firms.
Other ways we help accountants free up more time include:
- finding and resolving inconsistencies,
- reconciling balance sheets,
- checking profit and loss accounts,
- ensuring fixed assets are correctly recorded,
- bank reconciliations,
- payroll support,
- issuing RCT reminders,
- generating management reports.
As well as outsourcing processes like these to a service provider like GroForth, another time-saving tip for accounting firms is to encourage clients to do more to help the accountant help them. (See our article, What you can do to help your accountant help you.)
Better self-management can also help accountants save time. Previously on this blog I explained how technology enabled me to identify my most valuable work and eliminate time-wasting activities. I use MyHours to help with my time management.
Recruiting and retaining staff
In our research, we found that attracting and retaining capable, experienced staff is another barrier to growth in around a third of the firms. Smaller firms struggle to compete with the Big 4 and some practices worry that they may not be able to generate sufficient new business to offset the cost of hiring expensive staff.
While there is no getting away from the fact that experienced accounting staff are expensive, outsourcing back office administration can be a cost-effective way to overcome recruitment and retention problems. It means you don’t have to worry about providing salaries and training and you don’t have to provide technology and office equipment for an in-house team. Often, the decision to outsource is a no-brainer but, as with anything in business, it is important to examine the business case for outsourcing before making your mind up.
Finding new clients and divorcing time-wasters
Referrals are the number one source of new business for most accountancy practices and there is no better ambassador for your firm than a satisfied client.
Aside from your existing clients, other businesses and firms are also an important referral source so finding the time to network has to be a priority — whether that’s at industry events, CPD courses, or online.
Offloading difficult clients is equally important. Managing these time-wasters often involves many unbillable hours so identifying them and planning how to terminate your engagement with them can be just as important as finding new business.
How GroForth is helping accounting firms overcome barriers to growth
The accounting firms that GroForth supports find that by optimising schedules, embracing technology, and outsourcing work where possible they can redirect the time they free up into activities like planning, networking and business development, all of which help enhance their work/life balance while also benefitting the bottom line.
If you are interested in finding out more about our services for accounting firms, please get in touch. We’d love to see if we can help you!