I received an email from a practitioner in the Northwest today that I found interesting. It was simply the question, “how would you suggest a CPA grow his practice?” I found this question interesting because, from my perspective, it is so broad in its vagueness that it expresses a profound uncertainty. An uncertainty many practitioners express to us on a regular basis.
My response contained two questions that every practitioner should consider:
- Are you contemplating organic growth? This is internal growth through practice development processes one client at a time.
- Are you contemplating acquisition or merger growth? This is growth through the purchase of a practice or a merger with another firm.
These are not exclusive avenues and every practitioner should put significant focus on practice development systems and processes for long term success. An acquisition will give you a boost, but without new client development you are going to see decline unless you acquire again…and again…and again. By the way, this is an option that many practitioners find to be acceptable and in some cases it has been very successful.
In response to this email, I also offered my overview of three key elements of any successful practice development plan:
- Client Experience. How do your clients experience your business? From taking calls or returning them to visiting your office, what is the client experience? What is the level and quality of service provided? I list this first, because it can and should be addressed first. If systems and process are not developed to make the client experience both satisfying and consistent, you will be wasting your money with the next two elements.
- Lead Generation. How will you find new prospective clients? Develop a strong referral network (client experience is the basis of this approach), telemarketing, direct mail, advertising, etc. What are the avenues and components you use or need to develop to generate leads?
- Lead Conversion. In my experience, I have always found generating leads to be relatively easy. It is qualifying and then converting the leads to clients that require the most effort and focus. Do you have a process to engage a lead and convert it to a client? How do you interact with a prospect, present your service and ask for the business? In my conversations during the past seven years I have been surprised how often a practitioner does not have a process and just “wings” the initial meeting.
Each one of these requires thoughtful planning, development of systems and processes, and diligent execution if your organic growth efforts are to be successful.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experience with your own growth efforts and will post more on this during the next few months.