5 ideas to help take your practice to the next level

The metrics you will select to set your company's growth will depend on your preferences. There are no fixed rules and you can grow your practice in many ways. This aspect of running a business is an opportunity to be a creative entrepreneur. Here are five pieces of advice that will put you on the right track to maximizing your practice’s growth.

1. Separate yourself from your practice
This is a very important business skill. When you separate from your company, you will gain a whole new set of functions, the team structure will evolve and your business will easily grow.

The need for separation can be well understood with the question of the owner’s vacation. Your firm doesn’t need vacations, but you will need some. Often, a business owner may take less time off than needed, not take any at all, or even just continue working while away. But at some point, for your business to grow, a functional decision regarding quality time off needs to be taken. You can, for example, designate members of your staff to lead the practice while you’re away. A business has to be able to live on its own, and the owner is the only one who has the ability to make that happen.

You will normally feel when the time is right to separate from your practice. You’ll likely reach an obvious growth ceiling. As you begin to let go of the duties you started out with, you’ll move into the role of CEO. Then, your new duties should include, but of course are not limited to:
  • Planning and strategy;
  • Developing new ways to add value;
  • Implementing growth;
  • Leading and training the team;
  • Having a strong vision for human resources;
  • Helping the team deliver outcomes; and,
  • Maintaining your practice’s vision and purpose.
2. Balance your health
Simply put: If you are healthy, your practice will be healthy.

Even though you’ve separated yourself from the practice overall, you can’t separate yourself from the success of the practice. Keeping your health in check as the owner of the practice will ensure your growth won’t become overwhelming or unsustainable.

There are six main areas of health to acknowledge as you take on more responsibility as a business leader, includin physical, social health, environmental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and mental health.

A good way to maintain a healthy balance between these elements is to identify one or two points that you are most struggling with. Once you have spotted those areas, you can use this three-step questionnaire that is particularly efficient to improve your health balance:

1. What particular issue is causing an imbalance in this aspect of my health?
2. Is this a chronic issue that requires personal action, or is it a short-term one likely to go away on its own?
3. Is it a result of my own behavior or external factors? It may also be a mix of both, but if I generated this problem, what can I do to resolve it? And if the cause is external, how can I modify my environment?

You can also talk with people you trust, whether they are family members or a life coach. They can help you answer these questions and restore equilibrium in a way you may not be able to see on your own.
3. Take smart risks
Your commitment to innovating new solutions and claiming marketplace distinction is very important, especially for a virtual practice. Risk-taking is an essential skill to have in order to grow this kind of business. If you’re smart about it, the benefits for your practice will be considerable.

A lot of entrepreneurs approach risk-taking from a gut perspective — which is OK when your business is small — but once it becomes larger, you can’t be as gut-driven.

A good way to improve your decision-making process when risk is involved is comparing risk with reward. An exercise for this is to pick a risk you’re considering taking. Then take a piece of paper, write down the possible issues on one side and the expected rewards on the other side. This exercise becomes a strategic conversation that leads to conclusions and decisions. You can then visualize the possible choices, “sleep on it,” and make a well-thought-out decision.

You can also analyze the probability of the risk, or run it by other trusted and knowledgeable people, such as your business partner. In any case, you should become the most objective possible regarding risks. By taking the right one at the right moment, you could experience very satisfying and lasting successes.
4. Focus on strategy and planning
Strategy and planning are so fundamental to growing a practice that you should consider using an entire day per week to work on it. We recommend spending a minimum of four hours per week on this. To set aside time for it, you will probably need to clear other tasks off your plate beforehand, delegate, or even hire a new team member. Strategy and planning are this important.

Also, while you transition from doing technical work to CEO duties, you may anticipate losing some profit. To mitigate this, you can adjust the firm’s pricing or propose new services to your clients.
5. Leverage your team and partners
The trajectory of your role as the owner will constantly move you away from the paid services of the practice and closer to the vision and leadership needed by a growing team and client base.

Significant growth is accomplished through team effort. You won’t be able to do it all by yourself. Leveraging your team and partners begins with you letting go of your practice, letting go of your ideals of how it should operate, and daring to embrace someone else’s ideas.

When you bring in a new partner, you both will have to find a balanced position where leadership responsibilities are shared following interests and strengths. For example, one can act as the “visionary,” and would maintain the vision, brand, future, and team care. The other would then act as the “integrator,” to vet this vision. They see to it that the vision is accomplished and care for the services and team as it is being done. Leadership roles can also temporarily switch.

Likewise, you can and probably should leverage your team. We already covered this in a previous article. You have two possibilities for your team structure: a general model or the concierge model. We encourage you to read this other article if you have not done so yet.

To summarize: With a general tax services model, the more team members you hire, the more clients you will help. Your aim is to create an efficient system. A concierge services model will provide a more personalized service with more value, but your client base will be smaller. Team structures can greatly vary across practices and you need to build one that fits your unique growth needs.

We have provided you with numerous pieces of advice that should be helpful to build, manage and grow your virtual accounting practice. They can nicely frame your entrepreneurial instinct and creativity to empower you to develop your business in a healthy and sustainable way.

Jason Schow is a product manager at the tax practice management software company Canopy. Jason Blumer is the founder of Thriveal and the chief innovative officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche.