(Note – this is part 2 of a 3-part series looking at the 3 most common weaknesses I’ve found practices have after doing hundreds of strategic plans in the last 7+ years with practices all over the world. You can check out part 1 here)
It was February 2016…
Jeff was the sole-partner of an accountancy practice in London turning over close to £1.6M.
He was profitable (43% net-profit at the time), growing well and had built a loyal and motivated team.
Successful by anybody’s account.
But there was a problem…
Jeff wanted out.
He had other business interests that he wanted to pursue and countries still to tick off his bucket list, and yet he couldn’t.
Why? Because the practice was completely reliant on him being there.
He was stuck, and he needed help.
Fast-forward to October 2018…
Jeff’s practice is still growing. From our last conversation they’d hit the £2M mark and were moving towards the £2.5M milestone.
His team has grown, and his profitability is still sitting above the 40% mark.
But the most important thing?
The practice is no longer completely reliant on Jeff.
In fact, he now only works 1-2 days a week max in his practice.
What does he do with the rest of his time?
When he’s not out of the country ticking off countries on his list, he’s now pursuing his other business interests and playing real life monopoly.
So how did we do it?
How did we reduce the reliance on Jeff so much to the point that he could cut his working week down by 4 days?
In its simplest form, here are the 4 steps that you need to take.
1. It starts with a decision
There is a mountain to climb in front of you…
It’s going to take a lot of hard work and probably isn’t going to be all roses along the way.
Just know that others (like Jeff) have already climbed this mountain so it is entirely possible.
But before you start, you have to make a decision.
A decision to commit 100% to making it happen. Because if you’re not 100% committed, you’re your chances of success are much less.
Ask yourself – what impact will it have on your life if your practice continues to be completely reliant on you?
I asked that exact question to a practice owner recently and her response was that if she didn’t reduce the reliance of her on her practice right now, then she wouldn’t be in a position to start a family.
She’d recently got married and wanted nothing more than to start a family with her new husband, but her current 6-day week, 8am-7pm most days was stopping her from doing this.
Incredibly sad – but that’s often the reality of the situation. If you’re practice is reliant on you, your freedom is limited.
What’s the impact on your life if you don’t change things?
2. Identify what tasks and responsibilities you can delegate, stop or automate
Let’s start with the low hanging fruit…
Most of the time, practice owners have a number of tasks and responsibilities that they could quite easily stop doing all together, delegate or automate in some way.
This could be things like:
- Creating letters of engagement/proposals
- Dealing with client correspondence
- Tracking and measuring practice KPI’s
- Your own practice bookkeeping/accounts
- Checking emails (see this article for reducing time in your inbox)
If you have somebody in your team that these low-level tasks can be delegated to then do it.
3. Start delegating clients to team members
Being a slightly larger practice, Jeff already had a head start on this one. He had 2 managers in place already, each responsible for a small portfolio of clients.
But there was still too much reliance on him…
He was still responsible for over 50% of the practices client base and needed to bring this down dramatically if he was to cut down the time he spent in the practice.
So, here’s a high-level overview of the process that we went through:
- Identify clients that you want to delegate
- Identify the team member(s) they will be delegated to
- Introduce these clients to the responsible team member (ideally face to face to build initial rapport but depends on client) and let the client know that because you’re becoming busy as the business grows, in order to keep customer service levels up this team member will be their first port of call going forwards.
- At first, most clients won’t stick to this and will still try to call/email you. That’s fine, if they email simply forward the email to the responsible team member (CC them in) and let them know that they will take care of it. Same for phone calls, have the team member return the call. Over time they will learn to go through them first.
- Try to complete this handover in a 12-month period – it has to be a gradual process rather than a sudden thing.
One thing to bear in mind is that throughout this process, you need to carefully manage the clients’ expectations and also their satisfaction levels with the service they’re receiving.
It’s worth noting that the above process is easier for bigger practices with team members in place who are at the right level to take this responsibility. If you still only have a small team (let’s say 4 or 5 people) you might not have the capacity or the capital to invest in hiring these people right now, but there are other things you can do.
Even by shifting the relationship slightly so that you are no longer the first port of call (but are still ultimately responsible for the client right now) should start to save you a fair amount of time in the long run.
4. Train your team in consultative selling
One of the main things that makes a practice so reliant on the owner/partners is that they are usually the only people responsible for bringing in new business.
If you’re not there, no new business is won.
So, if you were to reduce the time you spend working in the business (assuming you weren’t going to use this spare time to purely go out and win new business) then your practices growth would stall or possibly even decline.
“Consultative sales is a selling method in which the salesperson spends time with the customer to understand the problem the customer is trying to solve and then recommends a solution that will specifically address that problem”
By training your entire client facing team in consultative selling and providing them with a sales tool that allows them to signup prospects easily and upsell them different services (e.g. GoProposal) you can reduce the reliance on you to win new business fairly easily.
Finally figuring out marketing…
Keep your eyes peeled for the final part of this 3-part series where I’ll be addressing why many practices lack a marketing strategy, and the exact steps you can take to get your marketing fired up in no time.