You left employment and went out on your own to give yourself more freedom to choose how you do business. To choose how you would develop your practice; to choose the kind of future you wanted to have, and choose how your business would fit in and accommodate you. If you’re reading this it’s very likely that you need to focus on employee development and upskilling your team to really feel the freedom you started out for.
You may wish to simply make more profits or to work less hours; probably both. You may wish to exit the business within a certain timeframe or to develop people within your business to take it off your hands one day. Or you may want to develop your teams so that you can work only part-time; or to develop your firm to the point where it is largely autonomous and can effectively provide an annuity income into your (early!) retirement.
You’re probably excellent at identifying the barriers to freedom when it comes to your clients businesses
Whatever your aims, whatever choices you would like to be available to you in the future, there will be challenges. Barriers in your way. You are probably excellent at identifying those challenges for your clients. And at offering solutions. But it can be harder to identify those challenges and see the way forward when you are involved in your business; day in, day out. It is all consuming.
We have walked in your shoes, in firms large and (very) small. Gordon still runs his own small practice having previously modernised and sold one which he took over from his father.
One of the biggest challenges to getting your business to where you want it to be can be the very people you work with.
Do they share the same drive and vision as you? Do they have the behaviors or skills necessary to take some of the burden off your shoulders?
My own experience of building and managing teams was a successful, indeed happy, one. “We” had a great team. We understood the individuals that made up the collective and that each was motivated by different ambitions. We understood the choices they wanted to make for their own careers and all pulled in the same direction. The odd mistake in recruitment was dealt with quickly. Apples weren’t allowed to rot.
But that can be difficult without the financial muscle to attract the very best people, or indeed to invest in high quality training and coaching. Time, or the lack of it, can be a debilitating factor.
It can feel easier to do something yourself than to sit with someone and spend time making sure they can do it for you
We all fall victim to this mindset – “If I do it myself, I know it will be done fast and done right”. But even though it might be easier as a short term solution, you’re probably feeling the difficulty of skipping the training in the long term. You find you’re having to do more and more tasks yourself and ultimately finding the business is too dependent on you.
That difficulty is heightened in the current remote working environment. The natural osmosis of experience, knowledge, skills and confidence is disrupted by distance. It can be a vicious circle.
Plugging this training gap is at the heart of everything we do at the Armadillo Academy. We developed the Academy to give your teams the skills, tools and mindset necessary to help you create more freedom for the business and personal goals you set out to achieve.
Ultimately, the aim is to help your teams to help you. And to give you, and them, choices in the future.
In order to help your team help you, work needs to be done in the areas of mindset, tools, training and confidence
Mindset – develop the right mindset and instill it in your team
Albert Einstein supposedly famously said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results”.
Whether it was Einstein who said it or not, it rings true. Many accountancy firm owners are getting stuck in the same cycle of struggle.
Being in this constant cycle leaves you feeling stressed, and that stress will impact the way you make decisions.
Owners under stress don’t think clearly and don’t perform well
We see it in our clients and I’m sure you’ve seen it in your teams too. Happy people make better decisions.
Peak performance in our industry requires a calm mind. A deadline might motivate us and get us moving but the work itself requires a calm mind. A calm mind leads to better judgement and better outcomes.
Your body’s response to stress is to move the blood supply away from the thinking brain to the extremities and put you in fight or flight mode. Those are the two responses to a perceived threat. You can’t think straight when your body is telling you to act fast and fight the perceived threat first, and think later.
You need to keep yourself motivated and looking forward in order to take the team along with you. But how do you do that? You visualise and picture what it is you want to achieve and then you take action.
The 3 mandates of a great leader:
- See it as it is, but not worse than it is
- Picture it better than it is
- Take massive action to make it the way you see it in that picture
When you encounter a roadblock, think back to these three mandates.The belief in the potential drives the action and gets the results, which then feeds the belief more.
You need a clear mind and clear objectives (and so does your team)
As an owner of an accountancy firm you want to lead, motivate and inspire others. But if you’re getting bogged down in the day-to-day work it becomes impossible to help your team develop more than just the technical skills they need to do the job.
If you’re not helping your team develop more than just the technical skills you’re probably not inspiring them to do or be better.
- If they don’t know the score or the game plan how can you expect them to give it their all?
- If the game goes into overtime do they clock out at 5 or do they stay?
You want your team to be invested in building relationships and winning work, just as much as you want them to know the ins and outs of inheritance tax. Employee development and upskilling your team is key. This is where having the right tools and training (beyond the technical) comes in.
Tools – use compliance services to build trust in advisory work
Compliance isn’t dead, but it might be killing your growth. Compliance can work well as the beginning of the funnel to build trust with your clients and move them into higher value advisory work.
Studies have shown that a business owner with written goals and accountability will achieve 78% more than those without.
Getting those compliance-only clients to think about their goals and start picturing where they could go is key to getting the mix right and winning better work.
Moving into advisory is about upserving, not upselling
It’s not about selling, but about taking the time to understand your client’s needs.
If we are helping them understand the decisions they’re making or not making in the business (and the impact of those decisions) in real time, we can help them do more, and achieve more. But we need to help them fill in the gaps in their knowledge, rather than simply saying “if you do X, Y will happen”. Show them how to fill the gaps themself – guide them rather than just telling them what’s possible.
You may have tried advisory in the past and found some resistance to fees. Clients may not understand the value or just begrudge spending the extra money. But some small or start up businesses (the people who arguably need it most) see the value but simply can’t afford the fees to have the highest level of team members deliver the bespoke service.
You have to meet your clients where they’re at and deliver a service that’s valuable, affordable and profitable for the firm.
Empower the team to take on more responsibility by bringing them with you
When you’re delivering an advisory service for a client, take the team with you and equip them with the tools to deliver it too. That way, the higher level work won’t fall on the partners all the time.
But be mindful that having the tools is GREAT, but if you don’t have the right systems in place to help the team use the tools effectively it’s not going to be a success. Which brings us to training.
Training – Create managers by providing training in the behaviours and skills needed to build relationships
Investing in training your team is so important, and has a huge potential to improve your business. But our industry puts a lot of focus on technical training and very little on behaviours or soft skills. Often you’re either labelled a “technical person” or a “people person” but actually, with the right training in the soft skills, anyone on the team has the potential to build client relationships and win work.
We expect our teams to just develop the right skills, personal impact and conversational ability. Fundamentally we can spend a huge amount of time and money taking a graduate straight from school or university and training them up quickly on technical ability. We send them on all the institute courses and have them sit all the right exams.
But often firm owners assume their team will pick up the behaviours and skills necessary to help them develop relationships. Just like the technical stuff, you can’t take graduates straight out of university and expect them to be business advisors. You will need to give them proper training and bridge the gap. Investing in employee development and upskilling the team around you.
In the Armadillo Academy, we provide four key training programmes to help you provide your team with the training they need to improve their relationship building and communication skills, and become the managers you want them to be.
- Fast futures
- Business development
- Developing managers
- Pathway to partner
For more information on what’s included in these programmes, explore our developing people page.
Confidence – build confidence in your team so they can step up and relieve some of the pressure from you
Equipping your team with the right mindset, tools and training will go a long way to building confidence in them as individuals. You want them to feel confident enough to go out and win work, almost making you redundant. That way, you can focus on leading them, rather than on doing or winning the work yourself.
What are the behaviors of confident people?
- They believe in themselves
- Are not afraid to try things
- Feel empowered
- Know their subject and are well trained
Though some of your team may seem outwardly confident, most of us are in need of external confirmation – and it’s a sliding scale. One individual will need more or less confirmation than another. But the more confident your team gets, the more they will refer to their own internal frame of reference – they’ll know if something is right or wrong.
Mastering employee development and upskilling your team will give you more freedom of choice
We want you to have the choice to build and design your practice and life the way you want it to be. True wealth isn’t just about money – there’s much more to it than that. It’s about freedom, family, choices.
The goal will be different for every owner at different stages in their journey – whether it’s allowing yourself the freedom to work when and how you choose, or building up to sell for retirement. Whatever it is, you will need to make yourself more redundant in the business, which relies on investing in upskilling the team around you.
Apply leverage, empower your team and let them have input on the object of the game. That way, they will enjoy what they’re doing – and you can too!