How To Grow Your Accounting Practice: 7 Tips From Expert Accountantson 21 April 2022
Any savvy leader knows that putting clients first is a key component of how to grow your accounting practice. That’s why your client relation skills—and the level of service quality you offer—matter. On both these fronts, there are things you can do to up your game.
Keep reading to learn the tips successful CPAs and other accounting experts have to offer on helping accountancies like yours reach new heights.
7 Expert Tips On How To Grow Your Accounting Practice
1. Anticipate your hiring needs.
“It goes without saying that you need to build a reliable pipeline for acquiring new clients—beyond referrals—that you can turn to as needed,” says Abir Syed, CPA, CA, and cofounder of UpCounting. “But it’s equally important to hire in anticipation of new clients instead of waiting until the demand outpaces your capacity, which can cause you to start panic-hiring.”
Syed says the hardest part of scaling an accounting firm is hiring and retaining talent. Most accountancy firms are conservative by nature, so they typically hire only after they know an accountant will be 100% occupied.
“This results in two undesirable circumstances: Firstly, the firm is overwhelmed and rushed at the time of hiring, meaning they may not always onboard the best candidate,” Syed explains. “Secondly, the firm will lose the opportunity to hire great candidates simply because it’s not carrying a full client load. Both situations can limit your growth.”
2. Ask for referrals.
While marketing is an important tactic for acquiring new clients for your accounting practice, it’s not the only way. Nathan Liao, a certified management accountant (CMA) and founder of CMA Exam Academy, says traditional word of mouth is still a valuable way to attract new clients to the firm.
“I find that word of mouth is the most effective method for growing an accountancy,” says Liao. “Encourage your clients to spread the word about you. Ask them directly for referrals. Just remember to keep anticipating and addressing their needs so they continue to sing your praises. For example, if a client's financial growth seems to be plateauing, reach out with tips and helpful advice.”
3. Seek out more business from current clients.
Levon L. Galstyan, CPA at Oak View Law Group, says if you want to know how to grow your accounting practice, keep in mind that new clients aren't the only source of new revenue. “Top accounting firms generate 25–40% of new business solely through cross-selling to existing clients.”
As a result, Galstyan recommends focusing on strengthening client relationships and promoting firm loyalty. Develop a deeper and broader relationship with clients to capitalize on cross-sell and upsell opportunities. “When you’re engaged beyond the books and understand your client's goals, challenges, fears, and opportunities, that’s when the magic happens.”
How can you better engage with clients? Galstyan says to schedule meetings regularly to further learn about your clients' businesses, fundamental problems, and industry trends. “Conduct preliminary research and make a list of topics you'd like to cover. This schedule with the client gives them time to think about their responses, which will provide greater insights and enable your relationship-building.”
4. Be responsive and accessible.
“As an accountant, it’s essential that you remain responsive and accessible,” says Sarwar Qureshi, CPA, CA, and partner at Paterson & Company. When someone reaches out with a question, assume they need the answer quickly to make a key decision. For example, the client may need certain documents to help with a loan application. Your quick response helps move that process along, which the client will appreciate. “It may sound like very simple advice, but I’ve heard too many stories of clients waiting days to get a response to their email or phone call.”
Time management in accounting is an important skill to learn. To get the most out of your workweek, check out these tips from other accountants.
5. Network with other business owners.
"I can sum up how to grow your accounting practice in one word: networking. It’s the best way to grow a service-based business like an accounting practice,” says Stephanie Ng, CPA and owner of IPasstheCPAExam.com. “Simply put, the more you interact with other business owners, the better. Besides, networking keeps you in the loop about the latest trends in accounting, and helps you maintain fresh perspectives on best practices in the industry.”
Ng notes that the best type of networking goes beyond exchanging business cards. Focus on making quality connections, not just interacting with as many people as possible. “For instance, join your local chamber of commerce or volunteer for the IRS VITA program. Alternatively, you can partner or trade services with local professionals who may refer you to other clients.”
Qureshi agrees, noting how important it is to align yourself with other professionals who also work with a similar demographic of clients. These people can be wonderful referral sources as the ideal client is common to everyone involved.
“For example, I know some great business bankers, business lawyers, financial advisors, and bookkeepers who all deal with small business owners like I do,” Qureshi explains. “If they have a client that can benefit from a good accountant, they introduce us. I do the same in return for their respective banking, law, and financial advising services. Over time, we have grown together and maintain a number of mutual clients.”
6. Embrace automation technology.
Martin Chee, CFO and cofounder of Amaka, says the best way to scale an accounting practice is by introducing automation technology. For example, data entry, reporting, forecasting, and optical character recognition (OCR) tools can all significantly cut down on time spent doing manual tasks. “Automation technology can help to eliminate bottlenecks, reduce the need to hire more staff, and enable you to work with real-time, accurate data.”
“We've worked with dozens of accounting professionals who've saved numerous hours every month just by introducing one or more software solutions,” Chee explains. “Though there's an initial investment for training and transitioning, the return on investment is exponential for a growing accounting practice.”
7. Surround yourself with high-quality people.
“When growing an accounting practice, an important consideration is surrounding yourself with quality people—that goes for both clients and employees,” says Tyler Davis, CPA at SimplifyLLC. “Be selective about who you accept as a new client and who you hire as employees to represent your firm.”
If you bring on quality clients with outstanding leadership and character, Davis says this will lead to more growth for your business. High achievers and morally strong people often surround themselves with similar people and businesses. “This concept also applies to new hires—oftentimes, hiring one great employee will attract other great employees.”
Go beyond growth tips with a tangible solution for client collaboration.
As you probably expected, most of the tips above focused on clients—not surprising given they’re the primary source of revenue for any accounting firm. But it doesn’t matter how many clients you bring in if your firm lacks efficiency—they’ll soon see the cracks in your operation and leave for another firm.
That’s why it’s critical to support your valuable client relationships with a client portal in addition to your chosen accounting solution. Typical accounting software doesn’t fully address client collaboration, which can introduce inefficiencies and strain your relationship-building.
One of the most accounting-tailored client portals your firm can implement is Glasscubes, which enables you to:
- Control the flow of information between themselves and their clients
- Gather information from clients in a timely manner and automatically chase overdue or missing items
- Ensure information is acted on quickly by replacing repetitive actions with a custom, automated workflow
Glasscubes is also security-minded: All data is protected by SSL encryption, and distributed across multiple physical locations across the UK to ensure high availability.
If you’d like a demonstration or want to see how other accountancies are using Glasscubes, learn more here.