This week, I dive into something that most of us are not very good at – Planning.
It truly is the underestimated lever we have in our firm
But first –
I am a self-help junkie. If you’re reading this, you may be as well.
I’ve easily read 150 books in the last ten years. From “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” by Gary Provost to “Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.
What is apparent is that I have read a lot.
What is unclear is whether the change I’ve been looking for has occurred.
My misconception is that I must be getting better because I consume so much varied information.
The truth is change only occurrs when I’ve taken action.
Recently, I told a client that taking action to generate a new $5 is worth more than consuming a $100,000 idea. That comment blew his mind and mine.
We’ll never generate that $100,000 if we don’t ever get on the path, starting with that first $5.
If you intend to know, then keep reading.
If you intend to change, then stop reading and start doing.
Accounting firm business models are some of the best in the service provider world. If we deliver a high level of service at the right price, we can keep the same high-margin clients forever.
Unfortunately, I see firms that can’t tap into the value or growth that PE firms see. They leave value on the table because they’re simply not planning for it.
Before we go deeper, here is my quick definition of value as seen by a PE firm:
The recurring profit left in the firm after the principals pay themselves.
The three barriers to growth I’ll get into today are:
- Time as Leverage
- Uniform Building Blocks
- Plans vs. Planning
1. Time as Leverage
Anything of value takes time to develop.
Whether it’s a pro athlete, musician or accountant.
It takes time to:
- Define and develop a niche
- Position your firm in the market
- Create service delivery processes
Contrary to what the ‘I made my first million before I was 20 years old‘ crowd may say, time is crucial to maximizing your growth plans.
Focus + Consistency + Time = Success.
When you know you need to hire two new team members, implement a new practice management system and build out your marketing system, overwhelm sets in pretty darn quickly.
Plotting those steps on a timeline allows you to actively leverage time within your plan.
Benefits of a controlled timeline include:
- Strategic Control
- Clearer Perspective
- Tempered Expectations
- Easier Trajectory redirection
Some firms hurry to increase revenue at the expense of increasing value.
The passing of time can either induce anxiety or be your leverage for confidence and strategy.
2. Uniform Building Blocks
In 2015, my wife and I purchased a bungalow in an up-and-coming community. It was an excellent location investment.
We learned from a long-time neighbor that the original owner built the house in the 60s. He was a handyman and used leftover scraps from jobs to build the house.
We soon discovered it was a bit of frankenhouse – built with irregular materials and methods.
We discovered the basement was insulated with ill-fitting corkboard strips.
The main beam holding up the house was a patchwork of 2x10s and 2x12s. Under today’s building codes, that beam would have been a hard NO.
The house was an investment, not our forever home, so we accepted the weird nuances. We could handle the inefficient misshaped closets, cabinet spaces, and tiny kitchen.
He built much of the house on the fly with random materials. I’m trying not to insult the owner because I know he was being resourceful, given the circumstances.
However, his approach resulted in a less valuable house.
Some firms are built the same way. I know my firm was.
I accepted all ‘available’ clients. I used various ‘building blocks’ to grow my firm. It was all random and inefficient. I never really planned to maximize my value.
Uniform building blocks are similar niche clients with the same problems.
If you don’t actively seek those clients, your growth will be inconsistent and impossible to plan for.
Accepting all clients may be easier and cheaper, but it will create a less valuable firm.
3. Plans vs. Planning
Here’s my buddy’s shirt. He’s an MMA fighter and a tad scary at times.
Plans can be super sexy. 25% growth in 2024. Say it aloud. It sounds so good. Did you feel the dopamine hit?
Unfortunately, the plan alone is useless.
You might be saying, ‘Hey Mark, we’re different. We also create quarterly and monthly plans. Smaller goals help us achieve the big ones.’
I fully agree – breaking larger goals down is essential.
But how often do you review those monthly goals?
Looking at monthly goals once a month is just about as useless as looking at annual goals once a year.
That’s where planning comes in.
First of all, planning is hard. It’s boring as heck.
- You have to rework approaches.
- You have to accept feedback.
- You have to scrape your ideas.
- You have to check your ego.
- You have to do nonbillable work.
There are ample excuses not to do more growth planning.
There are fires to fight and client work to complete. And you’re already doing work allocation and operational planning every week.
However, if you want to hit a monthly growth goal, bi-weekly planning is a must. It’s easy to skip a week or two of planning and then get to month end with no results.
- If you’re running a paid ad campaign and the algorithm has engaged (usually within a week), you (or your team) should review the results every other day. During the planning, you assess the messaging, audience, and funnel operations.
- If your team is using a new app, bi-weekly check-ins are needed to ensure your team is not spinning their wheels. During the planning, you assess adoption and if additional training is needed.
Impactful growth comes from creating and executing plans to do things you’ve never done before. However, those plans will always inevitably be flawed. There will always be unknown variables.
If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:
Success from a plan only comes from the consistent review and reworking of that plan.
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. – President Dwight Eisenhower.
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