Setting goals allows you to create a path towards growing your accounting firm. Without goals, you may not know exactly what you’re trying to achieve. You may find your company is unfocused and doesn’t have a set direction.
If you recently purchased an accounting firm, you need to set goals to help you increase your customer base and revenue. These goals can help guide your firm throughout the year and keep you on track as you work towards a vision.
Before we look at what goals you might want to set, it’s important that you learn how to create realistic goals that can help your company move forward. After that, we’ll look at some of the goals you might set for your accounting firm in 2020 and beyond.
What Makes a Good Goal?
There’s more to creating a goal than simply writing down something you want to achieve. Every goal you have needs a number of different characteristics in order to help you grow your company. A successful goal needs to include all of the following:
- It needs to be specific. “Increase your customer base by 25%” is specific. “Grow the company” is not because that can be interpreted in several different ways.
- It should be measurable. “Increase profits by $150,000” is measurable. “Increase profits” by itself is too vague since you could say that making one dollar more than the previous year is an increase in profits.
- It must be realistic. If your goal is to increase your customer base by 80%, is that actually possible? Your goals should challenge you, but they also need to be something you can realistically achieve. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
- They have to be relevant. Your goals need to relate to your firm, its mission, and your overall plans. While you may achieve unrelated goals, you may find that you haven’t really moved your firm forward.
- Have deadlines. All of your goals need to have deadlines or at least set dates for evaluating them. If you have the goal of growing your customer base by 25% over the next year, that goal should be evaluated in 365 days. If you don’t have evaluation dates, you’ll never really know if you’re achieving your goals.
Example of a good goal for an accounting firm: “Increase the existing customer base by 25% within the next 12 months.” This is specific, measurable, realistic, relevant to the firm, and has a specific period of time in which it should be achieved.
If you have goals that are missing any one of these components, you may not be able to tell when you’ve achieved that goal or if you even can achieve it.
Also remember that not all of your goals are going to be on the same level. You may have some large goals that you need to break down into smaller sub-goals in order to implement them more easily.
This is especially true for goals that affect the entire firm. Each department in the firm that plays a part in achieving this large goal will need their own, smaller goals to achieve. You may also have some goals that you prioritize above the others. Prioritizing can help you organize your goals, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed.
Create, Refine, or Redefine Your Mission
What is your new firm’s mission statement? If it doesn’t have one, you need to create one. A mission statement is the foundation of any company. It outlines the firm’s purpose and its big-picture goals. A mission statement is usually only one paragraph, and it doesn’t have to be as concrete as your goals. All of your goals, though, should feed into the mission statement.
If you have a goal that doesn’t seem to be in line with your mission, you may need to reconsider that goal or may decide it’s time to redefine your mission.
Once you’ve created a mission statement or redefined the mission of the firm you’ve just acquired, you may want to make “evaluate and redefine, if necessary, the mission statement annually” a new goal.
By doing so, you can ensure that your mission is always relevant and is still true to the company. If you find that it isn’t, you either need to set the goal of redefining it within a certain amount of time or begin realigning your company with the mission.
One of the most common types of goals is related to the growth of the firm. Growth can be measured in a number of ways depending on where you want the firm to go.
- Revenue growth can come from expanding your services or adding more clients.
- Client growth could come from increasing your client pool with marketing or referrals.
- Employee growth may come from hiring more personnel, changing your hiring requirements, and providing more training opportunities.
Growth could also expand your firm to new markets and new types of customers. Take a look at where the firm has gone and imagine where you want it to be in the future. Look at the competition and what other firms have done, and then set your personal goals of how you want the firm to grow this year.
The goals could be to increase revenue by a certain percentage or hit a certain dollar amount in sales. It could be to add a certain number of customers or employees. Whatever your growth goal, be sure to keep it specific and develop a plan to help you reach it.
Also remember to make it measurable. You always need to have a way to determine if you have reached your growth goals.
The number of clients is important for most firms, but what matters even more are your relationships with those clients. Setting a goal to improve client relationships means emphasizing those personal connections and really getting to know each client.
This can be especially important if you just purchased an accounting firm and want to get to know your client base.
Setting goals with client relationships can be difficult because there isn’t a clear and immediate way to measure these goals. However, there are some things you can do to create measurable goals and improve your client relationships.
For example, one goal for improving client relationships could be to reach out to each client a certain number of times throughout the year, to offer a new type of relationship-building service, or to improve your customer satisfaction survey scores. For this last goal, you may need to create a customer satisfaction survey if you don’t have one.
Also be sure to determine what kind of improvement you want to see. Do you want your survey scores to increase by a percentage, or do you have a specific number goal in mind? For example, on a scale of one to ten, you might decide your goal is to get all sevens or above.
You may need to create some guidelines for employees or work closely with employees who have received low scores in the past in order to reach this goal.
This is one example of how a goal can drive your processes since you may need to create remedial directions for these low-scoring employees or for all employees.
Diversify Your Offerings
You may also want to make goals related to the services you offer. This is one way of growing your business. In fact, these goals could be a sub-goal for your goal of growing the firm.
It can also help with your customer satisfaction if a number of customers have been asking for a specific new service. These goals may be some of your first for your newly purchased firm, especially if you have already identified areas that could be improved or integrated into the firm to make it more profitable.
Diversifying can also lead into the next type of goal: employee development. You may need to provide additional training or even hire more employees to assist with meeting these diversification goals.
Your employees are a vital part of your accounting firm. Think of a goal you can set to either grow or develop your employees. Growth goals could be to add a certain number of employees, especially to teams that are stretched thin and could use another person.
You can also set a goal to offer regular training or certification programs to employees to keep their skills sharp or to improve the employee experience by re-evaluating the perks and benefits.
Employee development goals can cover a wide variety of areas but should be focused on meeting the most pressing concerns for your employees. Again, this is another area where it may be difficult at first to think of a way to measure a goal.
You also have to be careful about setting realistic measurable goals in regards to training or certification options. You want your employees to seek out training on their own. If you push, they may not enjoy the experience or engage the material as enthusiastically as they would if they independently sought out the training.
This may result in hitting the number you want, but you may see employee satisfaction actually decreases.
Modern accounting firms leverage new technology to improve efficiency and offer great service. Take a look at your company’s current technology programs and set a goal of what can be improved in the coming year.
You might set a goal to update the internal software used by all employees or to re-vamp your website to better serve customers. You might want to add new technology elements like a chatbot or some kind of automation.
Technology goals can also include things like training all employees on a new program.
Technology can often be one of the tools you use to accomplish other goals, so always look to see where a technology goal and another goal dovetail.
For example, if your goal is to improve employee efficiency, there may be a new software tool that can automate some processes for you. Accomplishing the goal of implementing this software and training all employees on it will accomplish your efficiency goal, too.
Remember that each goal doesn’t exist in a void. Goals that are related to each other should be prioritized so those that support other goals are worked on first.
Look around your firm to see what can be improved to increase efficiency. Just because things have always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how they should stay.
A goal for improving processes could be to evaluate and re-design a certain aspect of the company, such as client on-boarding or billing.
It could also be to increase the number of invoices you send each month or the number of clients contacted per week to measure increased efficiency.
Do be careful when setting process goals that you’re not making changes simply to make changes. Even though a process has been used for years doesn’t mean it’s not the optimum way of doing something.
Take the time to study the process, get employee input, and consider the alternatives before you make changes.
Miss a Goal?
After reading about the different types of goals, you may already have some ideas about the goals for your new accounting firm.
However, before you start writing them down and putting them into action, it is important to understand what it means to miss a goal. Don’t think of missing a goal as failure. Instead, consider these missed goals as opportunities to learn.
Don’t just mark the goal as unmet and move on. Look at why you didn’t reach it. In some cases, yes, you may see that you didn’t implement the right methods or allocate the right resources to meeting that goal.
However, that may not always be true. In the case of 2020, many businesses have likely had their goals negatively impacted. Many would have met their goals had business continued as normal.
Always look at why you missed a goal, how you can meet that goal if you choose to set it again, and what you can learn.
One thing you may learn early on is that the goals you’ve been setting were off in some way, and that in itself is an important lesson.
Remember that your goals aren’t set in stone. You can adjust them if you need to. However, don’t get into the habit of changing your goals just because it looks like you won’t meet them. That’s not always helpful.
Only change a goal if it looks like you’re going to easily meet it so you will have something to challenge yourself with or if it’s clear that circumstances beyond your control are going to make that goal impossible.
If you change one goal, you may also need to re-evaluate others. It’s possible some of the related goals will now be irrelevant.
Start Setting Goals Today
The ideas above can set your accounting firm on the track for success by helping you determine what goals you should strive to meet. Each firm is different, of course, and should have goals unique to it.
Take time to look at where your firm is now and imagine where it can be in the future, then set your goals accordingly.