Running an accountancy firm is hard. But you’re not alone. It’s particularly hard in a small firms. And it has grown harder over the past 2 years or so. Remote working has created distance between leaders and their teams; between teammates and between you, your clients and prospects.
As businesses have fought the financial challenges of the pandemic they have looked to their trusted advisors for ever more support. But who supports you, the trusted advisor, in meeting these challenges?
New working patterns will inevitably impair personal development
In small practises a disproportionate burden often falls upon the most senior people. Small firms simply do not have the resources (financial or personnel) to fill every need so it often falls upon the partners to plug the gaps.
Our teams’ workloads have also increased at a time when for many, peer support around them has diminished (or at least distanced). This increases yet further the pressure on senior leadership as they strive to bridge the gap.
A remote arm around the shoulder, or kick up the bum, cannot replicate the empathy, facial expression or nuance of tone that in-person, face to face contact offers. It may be the same message but is it received in the same way?
Communication is key and it’s important that you understand the way in which you deliver messages will have an impact on how it is received. As part of the Armadillo membership you get access to a communications style survey that will help you to break down and understand your communication style. You can read more about language and communication in this blog.
For those operating a hybrid model, can managerial input wait until the recipient is in the office? Or do we fire off an email which lacks context or tone because, well, we are very busy? Do you have the time, or your managers the skills, to recognise this?
New working patterns will inevitably impair personal development. Zoom simply cannot facilitate the immediacy of those “how do I?”, “what if?”, “what do you think”questions of colleagues; valuable questions from which we all learn. The value of management; of those who manage people (not portfolios) well, is therefore higher than ever. Now is the time to invest in it.
The ability to motivate, develop and nurture team members is not something we learn doing professional exams. It is often learned through hard experience and from those around us. That development can be accelerated with training.
This remains true even for those in senior management and leadership teams. It is never too late, or early, to learn new tricks.
For those of you who are responsible for managing people, investing in training is more important than ever. It is often said that staff do not leave firms; they leave their manager.
Our Developing Managers programme helps to develop effective management behaviours and skills to strengthen the management within your teams.
Your staff have more career choices than ever before, meaning increased pressure to retain your key people
Larger firms in central hubs that pay more and offer more varied prospects than smaller firms, but which once necessitated an unattractive commute, are suddenly in reach. Commuting greater distances only once or twice a week (or not at all) is much less a barrier to move.
And so, the pressure to retain your key people intensifies. The pressure to win more work, to meet their financial expectations increases. And often falls on the most senior people within the firm who already have much on their plate.
It is time to share that burden; to invest in your colleagues so that they can relieve some of the strain.
The pandemic has altered the way we work and win work
Your firm may not have seen the effects of the pandemic hit financial performance negatively. For many the opposite is true (in the short term at least). Many firms have seen revenues profits (my loathing of any focus on ‘GRF’ or gross billing is for another blog on another day) increase as clients need ever more support through the myriad of support packages and financial challenges of the past 2 years.
The pandemic has altered (permanently in my view) the way we work and win work; certainly, at a practical level. It may take some time for the effects of that to be seen, but they will. The way in which we cultivate relationships (with our teams, with prospects and yes, at home) has changed.
Considering what a post Covid world looks like for your firm can be overwhelming. It might even mean that you have to make some major changes to not only the way you work but the type of work you do. You might be considering a shift from compliance to more advisory based work. And then there’s the challenge of getting clients to see the value in all you offer. Understandably this could leave you feeling immense pressure.
As a leader do you have someone to lean on, to support you? You might have already explored some training options to help develop the key people in your business and to retain those who already are. Many programs out there are unattainable to small firms. Which is why we created Armadillo – to help you and your firm meet these challenges.
Armadillo can help you share the burden of winning new work by improving the business development skills of your team with our “Business Development” training programme.
Our training and development programmes are specifically designed for small & medium sized accountancy firms and their people. And yes, those that run them. You can find out more here.
The key to meeting all these challenges is having the right mindset
A unified, motivated, team, all pulling in the same direction, aiming for the same goals, willing to do that little bit more (often without being asked) is a common theme in the vast majority of successful businesses.
Armadillo members will often hear Gordon talk about the importance of mindset in life and in practice. It is vital to understand where you are now, where you want to be, to picture that and how you can get there. Gordon’s mindfulness sessions help Armadillo members do just that.
Our profession is traditionally one which focuses on end results – gross or net profit, year-end accounts, tax computations etc – the what, rather than the how. Individuals tend (wrongly) to focus on what they haven’t done – those tax returns still to be completed, the year-end accounts for which the filing deadline is rapidly approaching, rather than that which we have achieved. That can be especially so in “tax return season”.
But that can be unhealthy – for you and your team. And that is a barrier to a truly successful practice (whatever that might look like for you). Perspective is vital. As is celebrating each success along the way – however small.
I shared a tweet of a recording of an interview with athletics coach Frank Dick OBE with my eldest son over the festive break. There are many lessons here in just over 2 minutes about mindset, mentoring, and challenges that can, should, be applied in business. To your business.
Running an accountancy firm is hard. But you’re not alone. Armadillo exists to be a support system to leaders of accounting firms, so you can focus on supporting your team. If you want someone to lean on, join our community today.