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Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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Many of us who coach do it because we’ve made and learned from a ridiculous number of mistakes. We can guide others to quick success because we’ve seen the terrain, know the potential pitfalls, and can help newbies step nimbly around them.

 

I run a successful CPA practice today, but that’s after decades of trial and error. Today I derive the most satisfaction from helping other CPAs transform their practices as I did. After twenty years of coaching, I’ve identified five mistakes CPA practitioners commonly make, but they apply to any industry.

Being a Technician Instead of an Entrepreneur

Years ago I read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. In it, Gerber describes three roles in every business: the technician, the manager, and the entrepreneur. In a CPA practice, a technician typically does the nuts-and-bolts work like preparing tax returns. The entrepreneur, however, is the visionary. It’s the entrepreneur’s job to imagine and execute growth strategies.

I’ve met a lot of struggling CPA practice owners who got stuck in the technician role. They filled the hours doing the work of the practice, as opposed to working on the practice.

Practitioners must learn to delegate technician-level work and focus on the bigger picture, such as defining target clientele and key marketing messages, and experimenting with and tracking marketing methods to find what works.

Following the Crowd

I see it all the time: CPA practitioners taking their clues from the practice down the street.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on what our industry is doing, but when we begin to look just like everyone else, we fade into the background. Truly big winners understand the importance of standing out.

For CPA practices in particular, specialization is a smart way to break away from a crowd of generalists. Find a niche or two and become and expert in serving your specific target clientele. Well-defined expertise also opens a door to a broad range of marketing possibilities, such as authorship, blogging, podcast hosting, speaking opportunities and more, all in the service of your ideal prospect.

Specialists, by the way, can also charge higher fees than generalists.

Hiring for Skills

More than anything else, the CPAs I coach complain that they can’t find good people to hire. But good people are out there – driven, loyal, hard-working people. What’s the trick to finding them? Skills can be taught; personality cannot. Stop hiring for skills and start hiring for personality.

How? One way is to establish a list of your firm’s core values. What’s important to you? Mutual respect? Open communications? Community service? Ongoing feedback?

More than anything else, the CPAs I coach complain that they can’t find good people to hire. Click To Tweet

A set of core values can be a great guideline when interviewing prospective employees. Hold them up to your core values and ask yourself if they “fit”.

Failing to Act on New Learning

Over the years, for every practitioner I met who didn’t understand the value of learning (motivation, inspiration, innovation), I met at least one “learning junkie” who let pages of enthusiastically scrawled notes from books, podcasts, and conferences sit in a filing cabinet. Merely absorbing information can have some value, but to reap the benefits, we need to do something with it.

I created what I call the Rule of 72. When I learn something new, I give myself 72 hours to take action towards applying what I’ve learned. The size of the step isn’t important; what matters is that I act promptly.

Failing to Document Systems

What if several of your key employees walked out tomorrow? Would you be in a bind?

In any business, there are ways of doing things, and these ways should be documented, step-by-step. Insist that your team members create how-to documents for every task they perform. It makes it easier for someone else to jump into a person’s shoes and do their job on short notice. This can be a life saver when an employee has an unforeseen absence, and it allows you to cross-train team members more easily.

Now that you’ve learned something from my mistakes and those of my coaching clients, I hope you’ll take my advice and act on what resonates with you in 72 hours – or less!

Salim Omar has spent the last 20 years uncovering the keys to success of any CPA firm.

He's used his financial expertise and his own struggles in the early years of starting and growing his CPA firm as a springboard for understanding the success principles that create accounting firms that are profitable, respected and fun for their employees.

Watch Salim's newest video by Clicking Here

 


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