How are you spending your work time?

Plan it, do it, review it.

When you’re running your own accounting firm, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that keep your business going. What’s not always so easy? Stepping back to look at the bigger picture.

That’s why it’s essential to make effective decisions that keep driving your business forward. And according to Euan Sneyd, Count Financial’s National Head of Practice Recruitment, building a strong decision-making framework is a great place to start.

Plan it

Before you can build your framework, you need a long-term vision for your business. And while you’re pondering what that vision should be, consider how the success of your firm will help you achieve your broader lifestyle goals.

“Start by thinking about yourself,” Sneyd said. “What do you and your family need your firm to be?”

Next, decide on the role you want to play in your clients’ lives. For example, will your business focus purely on traditional tax and accountancy services or do you plan to expand into areas like financial advice or business consulting?

“Once you know what you want to achieve for yourself, your business and your clients, this vision will guide your decision making,” Sneyd commented. “It all comes down to setting clear personal and professional goals. A Harvard study found that individuals who set themselves clear goals earn up to 10 times as much as those that don’t.”

Sneyd also makes a clear distinction between your overall vision for the business and your day-to-day planning. “When you have a clear long-term vision, you can then start planning the short- and medium-term initiatives that will help you achieve it,” he said.

Do it

With your goals set, it’s time to start putting your plans into action. And when it comes to implementing your decisions, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple — and be decisive.

“During the execution phase, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overcomplicating matters or considering all available options,” Sneyd said. “To get things done, you can’t waste time evaluating every last detail.”

But before you act, take a moment to think about which of your staff should be involved in the execution — and make sure everyone is clear about the role they’ll play.

Sneyd commented, “The most important factor is to create an alignment between the firm’s key stakeholders. Everyone needs to be on the same page, or else there’s a risk that things won’t go according to plan.”

Also consider any external factors that may impact your business decisions. Things to take into account include:

  • Technological advances. The fast pace of technological change is likely to impact your business decisions in a wide range of areas, from staffing requirements and professional development opportunities to marketing and workflow management — and of course, your investment in technology itself. “The average firm is using between 5 and 40 apps to deliver work and manage the business, and cloud technology is on a continuous march across the accounting profession,” said Sneyd.
  • The nature of competition. The internet knows no geographical boundaries, which means your competitor is no longer just the firm down the road. “More than ever before, clients can compare you and your competitors before choosing a service provider, so it’s important to have a strong, professional web presence,” Sneyd said. “Remember, you may now be competing with specialist firms in other cities as well.”
  • Client preferences. Now that many basic accounting tasks can be automated or completed by clients themselves, accountants need to find new ways to add value. Sneyd commented: “There are certain transactions that clients aren’t willing to pay a large price for — but this has also opened up opportunities for accountants to work with clients in areas like business coaching and consulting.”

Review it

A trial-and-error approach allows you to learn from experience — and that’s why it’s vital to include a review process in your decision-making framework. Sneyd said, “The only way to make progress is to assess your business decisions and determine what worked and what didn’t work. And if something didn’t work, what were the reasons why?”

Your review process should also feed into your regular SWOT analyses. This will ensure you can continually building on your firm’s strengths, identifying its weaknesses and taking advantage of external opportunities.

“As for threats, you need to distinguish the ones that are real obstructions to achieving your vision and those that are simply challenges to be overcome,” Sneyd said.

According to Sneyd, small firms are often in the best position to create an effective decision-making framework — and stick to it. “The smaller the business, the fewer stakeholders there are — and the easier this is to achieve,” he said.