[IMGCAP(1)]If you look up the word success in the dictionary you may be surprised to see how many few words actually make up the definition of success: “the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.”

In this definition there were eight relatively simple words that described success. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple to grow revenues in accounting firms?

We all know there is a great deal that goes into being successful .Unfortunately, there is really no one path that one can follow to achieve success. While two people from the same business may have the same “roadmap” (such as a business plan or marketing plan) to become successful, each of them will take their own little detour to hopefully bring them to their destination.

Between firms there will always be the discrepancies of size, talent, technology, location, style, skill sets, approach, vision, management, marketing and other components that make up accounting firms and their competitive advantages. While these components represent the firm as a whole, individually we have our own competitive advantages.

A competitive advantage addresses more than the CPA that follows your name on your business card or on your firm’s Web site. There are competitive advantages that each of us has inside ourselves that we execute differently than our fellow CPAs. These competitive advantages that we individually have can and will shorten up the playing field when going against other firms. If we execute them well.

Here are some thoughts that have been expressed to me over the years by successful people from various industries on what helped them to become successful. Is it one thought or approach that they all have in common? Nope. But they did say they look at success as two pieces to a puzzle. First is the actual product or service they are selling, which may be very similar to their competitor’s product or service. Secondly it is their own effort, approach or style, and what they do to position themselves to others which will be different than what their competitors do. Hence your personal competitive advantage.

• OHIO: Not the potential swing state in the November election, but meaning Only Handle It Once. How many times have you said I will do this (call, letter, contact, other action) tomorrow? Only to push it off again to the next day. Most likely something less than pleasurable to do. But do it to move on.

• BHWY: Be Honest With Yourself. In business development some might try to push that envelope a bit too much to close a sale knowing it will put additional pressure on your colleagues back at the office. You may think it will be all right, but in reality it may become a capacity issue for others.

• Get More: Stop whining and figure out how to get more...of anything. Successful folks will have this fall under the category of a positive attitude. “Stop whining” is the key here, they say. Whining loves company, so close the door to whining. It spreads too quickly in organizations.

• Be Thankful: Thankful that you get up each day and that you can be in a position to contribute.

• Plant Seeds: You need to constantly plant seeds of opportunities for the future each and every day. Cultivate them often as the harvest will come down the road.

• Say It, Do It: If you say something to a client, prospect, referral source or colleague, follow up and do it. No matter how small you think it might be and that you can do it “later,” to the other person, it could be a big deal and he or she could be waiting on you to complete your promise.

• Be Helpful to Others: How you treat and help others when there is no direct benefit for you (at that time), speaks volumes about your character. Also known as developing a reputation. A very good one at that.

• Fun: Even with our current U.S. economic conditions, world issues and personal tribulations, successful people will say to try to have fun and enjoy what you do. If you dread going to work, you are not having any fun. At least try to address one issue that is weighing you down so you can clear it up to give yourself more freedom of movement and, yes, to have a little fun at this thing called work.

So as the chef said to the lobster prior to submerging him into a pot of water on the stove, “It all boils down to you.” While we are not facing a boiling pot of water, we are facing the need to create a competitive advantage for ourselves in the markets that we serve. It takes time to do so, but we can drive down the road of success when we develop our own competitive advantage.

Nicholas D. Keseric Jr. is the director of practice growth with Mulcahy, Pauritsch, Salvador & Co, a Chicago-area middle-market CPA firm, and a partner with MPS Capital Advisors-Mergers & Acquisitions.