17th April, 2018

The questions that keep practice owners up at night

Being a small or solo accounting practice owner certainly can be rewarding but it can also be quite lonely at times.

As a regular facilitator of a “Profitable Accounting Practice” workshop, I’m in the unique position of having an idea of what keeps practice owners up at night – because they literally ask me about potential solutions to their problems.

I open each session with a simple question to them:

What do you need?

Here’s what they typically ask about, and a few suggestions I have on how to get them more sleep at night.

How can I make more money in my practice? 

Start valuing what you do more, so that you can articulate this to your clients and start charging what you’re worth.

Too often, accountants get caught up in the process and explain this to the client rather than the outcomes provided.

Stop charging by the hour, and start charging standard fees for services.

This has a myriad of benefits including saving your precious time by not dealing with fee disputes.

If a standard fee is quoted and a client walks away, your time is freed up to provide services to clients that feel your work is worth it.

Make sure you’re monitoring your numbers at least monthly and comparing these to your budget.

How can I get paid quicker?

Quote upfront – if there’s an agreed-to fee for your work, there’s less chance a client will dispute it when the job is done. 

Worse still, usually the client will sit on it (sometimes for more than 30 days) until you decide to call them chasing payment.

That then creates pressure for the practice owner to resolve the matter quickly, and can lead to dropping the fee instead of being paid for the work fairly.

Make it easy as possible for the client to pay directly from your invoice, as many clients will pay out of hours – direct debit, EFTPOS or automated fee funding service.

How can I create more time in my practice? 

Go back to basics – figure out what exactly you want from your practice, and what you want it to look and feel like.

Work from there, overhauling everything from your mindset, your clients, your service offerings, your team and your firm culture and making sure you have the right technology           and processes to deliver efficiencies to create more time.

Enforce boundaries – then it’s time to set boundaries and rules to make sure that your time isn’t being eaten into by irrelevant matters.

How can I get my clients to embrace technology? 

Embrace it yourself first – walking the talk and demonstrating how technology works within your own practice is a powerful tool for opening up conversations with clients.


Be empathetic with your clients, because it’s a huge step for them. Manage the entire onboarding process with clear and timely communication.

Gather testimonials from other clients on how embracing technology led to great outcomes for them. Don’t be afraid to share their stories and experiences.

How can I attract and keep staff?

 Articulate your vision and culture – once you do this, you can take a look at your existing staff and see if they fit into this vision or not.

From there you can try to get them on board, or find people who do fit that culture.

Defining your culture publicly can also help attract the type of people you want when it comes to hiring.

Become an employer of choice by having great clients, doing great client work, having a great culture and using cool tech. Remuneration is only one of the considerations an applicant makes when choosing a potential employer.

Offer your staff flexible work practices, and think outside the square to keep them motivated and rewarded for their efforts.

How do improve my work/life balance? 

Refine your firm’s processes so you don’t have to work as hard. 

An important part of this is moving to task-based pricing rather than time-based pricing.

When you price for task rather than time, you’ll feel more motivation to embed tech and practices which will help you get the task done more quickly.

If you’re still charging on a time-basis, you’ll find that redundant processes become ‘baked-in’.

Learn to say ‘no’ more, and to value your time.

When you’re working hard for clients, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the work but what’s most important is the time you spend with loved ones.

Once you prioritise your personal life a little bit more and your professional life just a little bit less, you’ll start to question the value of each job you bring in.