Most accountants are not trained in how to run a better practice. Instead, we’re schooled in accounting theory, tax, economics, and finance.
I remember in my first job at a big six accounting firm (I’m showing my age now), they told me on my first day "forget everything you learned at university, we’re going to teach you how to do accounting properly". Again, I was not taught how to run a business.
What does being more commercial really mean? According to the Collins English Dictionary, a commercial organisation is concerned with making money or profits rather than providing a public service.
Here are my top 10 ways that accountants can be more commercial:
- Decide who you want to be. Are you traditional or modern in your thinking? Do you want to deliver value-add services to your clients or maximise your returns from compliance? Once you’ve decided who you want to be, create habits consistent with that identity.
- Create time to work on your business. Use Stephen Covey’s Achiever Matrix as your guide to eliminate wasted time and find out which tasks you can delegate. Then, use that time created to work on making a better plan using these other nine ideas. Extend this exercise to your entire team.
- Wear your Director’s hat. The purpose of a director is to maximise shareholder value. Remember this in your director meetings so you don’t waste time on minutia or operational distractions.
- Structure your business properly. Make sure that each of the 10 departments are resourced appropriately, none are neglected and that you're not wearing too many hats.
- Understand your own numbers. Agree your five most important KPIs and make a plan to improve them. KPIs like average hourly rate by service, ROI by team member, lock-up and gross margin - just DON’T use productivity as your KPI as it doesn’t drive commercial behaviour.
- Focus on what your clients need. Stop second-guessing what clients need based on what they’re asking for. Chances are very high they don’t even know that you can help them solve many of their business problems and challenges.
- Stop giving so much value away for free. Being commercial means you want to make a profit. You're not running a public service. See this article on Scope Stretch as a great starting point.
- Speak wider than the numbers. Remember that the numbers are showing you symptoms of the wider problems in your clients’ businesses. Work together (and get paid) to find the root causes of, and solutions for, these problems.
- Learn how to sell without product pushing. Selling is simply offering a solution to your client’s problems in the form of a service. Sales skills can and must be learned.
- Find and adopt best practice. Surround yourself with a community of like-minded accountants. You'll learn so much more from them than you will by working in a silo - plus you’ll have more fun. Consider joining The Gap Community.
Need more ideas? We’ve pulled together 30 practical and proven ideas for you to implement here.
There is no magic bullet; being more commercial is a skill that simply has to be learned and it will take time. Just as you spent many years learning how to be an accountant, the more time you spend learning how to be more commercial, the more successful your accounting firm will be.
"Success isn’t overnight. It’s when every day you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up."
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson