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When saying "no" can help you grow

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March 17, 2014

I often talk with people at CPA firms who ask me the number one thing they can do to grow their business. My answer: be strategic or intentional about what you do. CPA firms or practice leaders often engage in activities without knowing why. I counsel them that growing your business requires intentional, strategic activity, which requires learning how to say no.

Getting to “no” is easier said than done. In some cases, we say yes because we feel we have to do something to “keep up with the Joneses” or because we think we have to keep adding activity. You should say no when:

•    It doesn’t strategically align with your business objectives. When determining whether something strategically aligns, you should be able to confidently answer a few basic questions: Does this support one of our strategies? If so, how? Finally, what would be the impact of not investing or doing this one thing? If your first answer is no, then your answer is no. If you don’t know, then you should consider researching this further.

•    It will dilute the impact of something else you are doing. By that I mean, if you have limited resources (like we all do) you can only do a handful of those things effectively. If you commit to doing something big like, say, a survey for your industry group and then take on another big initiative at the same time, you may not be able to do either effectively. Mostly this is a resource capacity issue. While this could be a very good and strategic thing for you to do, the more appropriate answer may be no, not know.

When you say no to something, this actually allows you to better focus on what you have said yes to already, and will drive the most impact for growing you firm.

Now, don’t read this as an excuse to not do anything. Growth still requires effort, but it’s the quality of those efforts that will deliver the most impact for your business.

Based on the size of your CPA firm and the maturity of your marketing and sales function, what may be right for the regional accounting firm down the street might not be right for your mom-and-pop shop. As you grow, so too will your capacity—which may allow you to take on doing more strategic things that will help you grow your business.

Let’s be honest—saying “no” just feels good sometimes. Even more importantly, it helps you reaffirm your business strategy.

Sarah Johnson of Inovautus Consulting is an accounting marketing growth advisor. Connect with Sarah to learn more at 773-208-7170, sjohnson@inovautus.com, or www.linkedin.com/in/sjjohnson

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