Sustainable growth in small and medium practices (SMPS)
Small and Medium Practices (SMPs) play a big role in the provision of accountancy services, and their roles cannot be overlooked. Particularly, they provide business support to small – and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as large entities, who, for some reason, do not seek the services of big audit firms and second-tier practices. In Uganda and many developing countries, SMEs constitute the overwhelming number in private sector enterprises. This is also true for developed economies. SMPs are therefore key advisers to SMEs and other entities. SMPs, therefore, play a great role in building capacity and support in the areas of audit and assurance services, statutory compliance services e.g. tax and NSSF, investment guidance among others.
However, despite the seemingly large client base, SMPs sometimes grapple with growth, let alone survival. With growing competition, Practitioners have to be strategic and set themselves apart (create their unique brand) as a way of competing in the industry so as to survive and ensure steady growth.
How to ensure systematic growth for SMPs
- Value the human capital
Practitioners must understand that the biggest resources for an SMP is human capital. All work undertaken by the practice is done by people. Therefore, it is imperative to value your staff because, without them, there is no work, and eventually no firm. There is a need to recognize good efforts and give credit where it is due. Partners should try as much as possible to remunerate staff well, within the firm means. There is a need to create a conducive working environment for staff where they feel free to express themselves, especially the millennials. When staff feel valued, they’re more likely to go above and beyond for the firm and take responsibility for their work. Some staff has ‘named’ themselves after the assignments they undertake and it is fun to see staff happily taking responsibility and credit for work.
Also, Partners should not create gaps between themselves and the staff. When employers disregard the opportunity to connect with their team and show staff they are valued, they lose a secret weapon in building a dedicated team. Celebrate the achievements of your staff, for example when they excel in professional examinations, recognize them. Staff is the biggest asset and they make or break a practice.
- Build a team
Survival of an SMP lies in the ability by Partners to create a strong team to deliver client results. At Dativa and Associates, we believe in teamwork. This is the premise upon which we have built a performance model that we continue to see developing to our expectations but most of all to the expectations of our clients. There is a need by SMPs to shape the attitudes of team members to positively impact on customer service delivery to leave the client with no other option than to become an ‘apostle’ of the firm. Developing a quality service culture goes a long way to ensure a solid client base and growth of an SMP. Build and maintain a great company culture; a good place to work and great staff will catapult the firm to grow.
- Deliver to client satisfaction
Serving the 21st Century customer requires building a strong brand. Practitioners need to take time to know their clients and deliver good service. There is a need to perform and surpass client expectations. When an audit firm offers good service, the client cannot forget her. This will result in referrals that can expand the client base. Even after the contract period ends, such clients will remain loyal and can invite the firm again for work after the rotation period has ended.
Unlike many outfits out there, at Dativa and Associates, we do not take cascade clients in grades to offer customized service. To us, clients are the reason we exist so we offer them unbiased service and the team is cultured to do just that. Our teams nurture existing clients and are always on the lookout for new opportunities. Apart from general Terms of Reference for audit, we go an extra mile to Transfer Knowledge to our clients where necessary. Quality work cannot be overemphasized. SMPs must deliver quality to clients in order to grow.
- Hire talent
SMPs should ensure due care when recruiting staff because hiring the wrong employee can potentially ruin a business. Talented people want to work with other talented people. Hiring through media may not necessarily give you the best talent because some people have very good papers but hardly deliver to expectations. One can opt to go to universities offering business courses and request for excellent graduates. Headhunting and referrals can also yield good results. Hiring talented staff will ensure quality work for the SMP, client satisfaction which is a precursor to growth.
- Ensure good leadership
True leaders lead others to lead and empower their staff to deliver value to clients. SMPs should embrace good leadership and inspire the team to contribute to the building of the firm and ultimately growth. ‘Leadership is a process of influencing the activities of an organized group of people in efforts towards goal setting and goal achievement’ (Ralf Stogdill).
By Nabimanya Dativa