Accounting firms that stay in motion are those that will continue to prosper.

Everyone remembers the Law of Inertia. Physics 101: An object in motion will remain in motion; an object at rest will remain at rest.

The Law of Inertia can be applied, ever so loosely, to today's accounting firms. A firm in motion is continually moving and growing. A firm at rest has failed to keep up with change and finds itself at an exceptionally slow-moving pace or a complete standstill.

It takes a lot of effort to operate a successful firm, including defining niche services, keeping current on technology and best practices, recruiting and maintaining qualified staff, and implementing dedicated marketing and branding initiatives. Successful firms are doing all of these things to maintain a leadership position and enjoy a growing client base and generous profit margins. These are the firms that have mastered the "Art of the Spin."

THE SPIN THEORY

The Art of the Spin is fairly simple in concept. Firms that are "spinning" move at a strong and steady pace - always seeking new learning opportunities to keep current. Only through ongoing learning can firms expect to remain up to date on technology innovations, integrated solutions and leading practice trends. Fortunately, there is no shortage of learning opportunities. Just consider all the channels available - trade shows, conferences, webcasts, online training, networking forums, peer-to-peer interaction, and so on.

The bottom line is that successful firms do not rest. They are in a constant state of movement, led by professionals who continually seek knowledge and then thoughtfully implement what they've learned.

A firm in full spin doesn't often stop. Once sufficient momentum is achieved, it's simply a matter of maintenance. Consider a firm that has all the pieces and parts in place:

* A fully integrated software suite that supports end-to-end digital processes.

* Software-as-a-Service-based applications that support online, around-the-clock exchange and delivery of data and documents.

* An interactive Web site that is a core marketing tool (not just a static brochure) and supports efficient client processes via portals.

* Professional marketing collateral that effectively represents the firm's brand image.

A balanced combination of these helps a firm run smoothly - like a well-oiled machine. It's simply a matter of dedicated maintenance to keep it running (or spinning) smoothly. At the heart of the spin theory are proven and tested strategies. The best of the "spinners" have adopted these strategies and made them an integral part of the firm's core philosophy. Consider each:

* Community learning. Professionals tend to be more receptive to education events that are led by one of their own. After all, who better to teach a firm about successful practices then someone engaged in the daily process? This is why peer-to-peer networking is so important. Events that are geared toward knowledge-sharing among peers are a hotbed of information exchange - including technology (what's good and what's better), best practices, and creative branding efforts. Other firms are not competition; they represent valuable resources. Smart firms are getting engaged in community learning forums - whether in the form of onsite retreats, webcasts or larger vendor conferences. Learning from within the profession is the best way to stay current and maintain full spin.

* Portals. Portals represent the premier technology to digitize workflow and offer ultimate convenience for clients. They support real-time access to client accounting software and data, and ease of information exchange. And let's not forget - clients expect this level of service. Would anyone even consider a bank that didn't offer online services? It's portal time, people ... there's no more denying the necessity of a sound portal strategy.

* Practice management. At the heart of most firms is a powerful practice management solution. With the volumes of data flowing through a firm every day, it would be impossible to keep up without a proper monitoring system in place. Best-of-breed practice management solutions act as the hub of firm operations, presenting data in organized dashboards. Dashboards can be set up at the firm, staff and client levels for at-a-glance views of current data. Brilliant!

* Branding and marketing. The image that a firm projects is critical in this referral-based profession. Present a bad image, and watch the referrals dissipate. Firms that are taking branding and marketing seriously are those that understand the importance of a consistent message - from their Web site and marketing collateral to exterior signage and superior client service. Every interaction within a firm speaks to its reputation and sets an expectation in the minds of clients. If firms want to attract a certain caliber of client, they had better project a professional brand image - and do it consistently.

Each strategy is an important spoke in the big spinning wheel. Implemented thoughtfully, these strategies will help firms reach full spin mode ... and maintain that momentum. Those firms that are doing it already have mastered the Art of the Spin.

Kristy Short, Ed.D, is president of SAS Communications 360 (www.sascommunications360.com) and a partner in RootWorks Communications (www.rootworks.com) - firms dedicated to providing PR, branding and marketing services to accountants. Reach her at kristy@rootworks.com.

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