To realize their true potential, CPA firms must take themselves off of autopilot

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What’s holding your accounting firm back? Chances are it’s not your marketing, your business model or your methods holding your CPA firm captive — it’s your mindset. The single greatest factor determining your firm’s success and satisfaction is your mindset.

Recently, 1st Global conducted a webcast with esteemed financial advisory coach and consultant Stephanie Bogan to help participants unlock the potential of their businesses. She showed audience members how to start with the right mindset and define success in a new, more meaningful way.

“To be successful, companies need to look beyond what is possible to what is relevant to consumers,” Bogan said. “It is a fine line to walk, particularly when so many new and innovative companies and technologies have failed.”

Recent 1st Global research found that there is a significant opportunity for CPA firms to grow their businesses by offering financial advice. Consumers want to use CPAs in this capacity based on the trusted relationships that already exist, particularly in light of tax law changes. Yet many firms struggle with how best to incorporate financial planning and advisory services into their existing business models. Further, many affluent families don’t understand that these services can be combined under one roof.

According to Bogan, who splits her time between coaching financial professionals and spending time with her family in Costa Rica, the limitations keeping CPA firms from reaching new levels of success, whether it is obstacles to offering wealth management or something else, apply to every area of their business and life.

“Understanding what is holding you back starts with revisiting why you started the firm in the first place,” she said. “Was it because you wanted to work on your own terms? Do work you love? Work with people you enjoy? Experience the financial success you desire? Live a life of freedom, happiness and contribution?”

With 80 to 90 percent of thoughts happening unconsciously, she noted how business owners take in and filter information behind a curtain, as well as how they respond. Bogan offers 7 Mindsets of Success that aim to help CPA firms take themselves off of autopilot, reconnect with what they love and reach their unique definition of success.

1. Worth

CPAs must first understand their worth and the value they add.

“Often CPAs compromise their standards when faced with challenges, such as discounting fees, which can result in millions of lost income over time,” Bogan said. “Limitless CPAs and financial advisors know their worth and act with it front and center, and design their practice to not only serve clients, but themselves.”

2. Clarity and Focus

Being clear on where a CPA firm wants to go is critical to charting the course to get there. Bogan noted that too often, business owners are inclined to chase shiny things, but focus is an essential ingredient in success. There are many paths CPA firms can take to achieve greater success, including adding a financial planning advisory practice through wealth management, a merger, the launch of a new division, or a making a new hire.

“There [are] a lot of different ways to execute on that business model, but the real question is whether it’s part of your firm’s mission and vision for what you want to do,” Bogan said. “And, can you put it on the path and pursue it with a focus that will help you be even more successful?”

3. Value

CPAs often struggle the most with communicating confidence.

“Knowing the value of the work you do is essential to achieving success,” said Bogan.

The important thing for CPAs to remember is that Americans, in large numbers, are seeking their specific advice. Our “Investors, CPAs and Tax-Focused Investment Advice” study found that 66 percent of clients want tax knowledge in their financial advisor relationship, and 47 percent of clients think of CPAs first when it comes to this work.

“Your clients are way ahead of you. The biggest issue accountants face in delivering financial advice is the shift in role and feeling intellectually awkward,” she said. “It’s not as hard and scary as it seems. Ask yourself, if you’re interested in it, what’s holding you back. How do you get over [the] value hump? Many don’t have a sense of this value and it's limiting.”

4. Time

According to Bogan, nobody actually suffers from a lack of time; it’s just their perception. Knowing how to make the most of your time is the great equalizer.

“We’re grossly inefficient,” she said. “CPAs really need to understand how they are using their time and how to do it in a way that creates energy, produces revenue and delegates the rest to people, process, [and] platforms.”

She added that no matter how lucrative your tax practice is, advice is more lucrative, and the amount of value you can add to a client’s life is extraordinary.

5. Leverage

As business owners, the goal should be to put in less and get more out. But too often business owners are unwilling to delegate.

“CPAs often feel that nobody can 'do it as well as I can,' or feel that they need to bring a personal solution to the problem,” Bogan said.

She added that not being leveraged correctly doesn’t yield results. Even with a 10-person team, most are underutilized and hugely inefficient. Firms need to make sure they are using people, processes and platforms to maximize leverage, which can create a magnifying effect to accelerate success.

6. Relationships

Relationships are a key contributor to success and happiness at work.

“Compromising staff on quality, capability and fit undermines profitability” Bogan said.

In turn, this creates a work environment that is stressful, difficult and complex. Further, clients can be difficult if they don’t follow advice or aren’t a personality fit. CPAs should make sure they work with people who make their job enjoyable.

7. Money

Having a positive money mindset is key. Those who have a limiting mindset around money, Bogan noted, don’t want to invest, don’t compensate their team well and don’t know how to charge for value.

“CPAs who approach money with an abundance mindset fare better than those of scarcity,” said Bogan. “Money isn’t the point of success, but appreciate your right to enjoy the financial success you desire.”

According to Bogan, the brain hates change, and to achieve success CPAs must overcome this challenge. She noted that facing a change stimulates the same part of the brain that is activated in a high-stress, fight-or-flight situation, such as standing in front of a hungry tiger.

“The voices in our head are limiting beliefs saying we don’t need to take any risks. Everything is just fine. We have food, water and shelter,” she said. “But the change is not a hungry tiger. Give it a thoughtful process so it can answer from a place of what is [really] happening, and see the opportunity,” she said in closing.

That’s the message I think all accounting and finance professionals can take to heart: What’s the mindset you need to carry for your clients and your business to tell them where they need to go?

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