Lessons learned from leverage

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When I started Kuesel Consulting almost five years ago, it was just me. I did everything from paying the bills, to keeping track of my expenses to invoicing, sending out my own newsletter and managing my own technology. Of course, I also was the sole service provider to my clients, and the only salesperson for my company, too. You name it, I did it.

In time, I failed at almost every aspect of running my business. From time to time, managing the administration of my business even interfered with the client experience. I delivered a great training program once but accidentally overbilled my client. Per a contract, I coached several individuals monthly in business development, but became overwhelmed with administrative tasks and forgot to meet with them for more than two months. Another time, I didn’t bill for several months and my cash flow was in a serious situation.

Ultimately, what scared me the most was the fact that as an expert, I could deliver a fantastic result to my client, but because I failed at some administrative task, the client was disappointed.

In time, as my business grew, I (very) slowly leveraged tasks to others. Now, Adam and Jordan take care of my accounting and tax, Steve does my IT, Holly does my administrative support, Kristin does my e-newsletter, and Graham provides pictures for my e-newsletter. I wish I would have done it sooner. The honest truth is that I could have afforded it sooner and I’d probably have a larger practice today if I had “seen the light.”

But this isn’t about me—it’s about you. And it’s about leverage. Ninety-nine percent of the people I coach and train on business development struggle to find the time to be effective at business development. Why is that? They aren’t leveraging as well as they should.

Business development skills are among the rarest in public accounting today. If you have the ability to cross-serve/cross-sell and bring new clients to the firm, this skill may be more valuable than your billable hour or other non-billable work. So, why are you grinding away on audits, tax returns, or other billable work? Or, why do you sit on the technology committee? Or, why are you responsible for scheduling? Ultimately, are you failing to leverage effectively and what is it doing to your business development results?

In the seller/producer model which most of us operate, there is a better balance that many of us have yet to achieve, and early on in most of my business development coaching relationships this comes up. I ask my candidates to increase their time dedicated to business development, usually to a range of 4-8 hours per week. That time needs to come from somewhere, and each situation is slightly different.

The most common solution is to leverage some billable work down, and back away from an internal leadership role of some kind. Finally, examine any current business development time to make sure it’s productive and effective.

If you have aspirations of hitting a new revenue goal of $100,000 or more, you will need to find a way to carve out the necessary time to deploy your efforts. Better leverage often plays a role. The only question I’m left with is will you learn from my lessons, or make these same mistakes yourself?

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