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How to grow a modern, scalable accounting firm in 2022

Ryan Lazanis, CPA, Future Firm | February/March 2022 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated January 27, 2022

It’s hard to remember a time when there was more disruption to the economy and workforce than there has been in the past two years — and the CPA profession has not been immune to this change.

In many ways, the profession began changing long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. In the past, business would be won solely through a local network, based on your firm’s reputation and word of mouth.

The internet and onset of cloud accounting firms changed the game for how clients are acquired and how work is delivered. This has been driven by changing customer expectations. Many clients are seeking different or more expansive services than they did 20 years ago.

Similarly, with increasing reliance on technology, there has also been changes in the recruitment and retention of employees. Like clients, employee expectations are changing as they continue to seek opportunities that offer more flexibility and autonomy.

While change can create challenges, it can also open the door to more opportunities. Here are seven tactics to help you stay competitive and grow a modern, scalable CPA firm in 2022 and beyond.

Cloud-based in everything you do

Taking your firm online gives you more flexibility compared to a typical brick and mortar firm, while also helping you prepare your firm for the future. By taking your firm online, you may be able to reap the following benefits:
  • A better quality of life for you and your team by providing everyone with more flexible work arrangements.
  • A service experience for your clients that better matches the expectations or interests of business owners in the digital age.
  • The ability to cast a wider net and to attract better quality employee candidates due to being able to recruit beyond your narrow geographical radius.
As the whole world has been forced to move online the past two years due to COVID-19, use this as an opportunity to continue moving in that direction.

Streamlined workflows and process automation

Competitive firms in 2022 and beyond will need to have processes throughout the organization that are streamlined and automated.

Some firms have turned their businesses into finely tuned machines. They’ve accomplished this by mapping out optimal processes in every area of their firm and supported these processes through cloud technology and apps. Others have done this by transitioning from Excel tracking to adopting the latest practice management software, such as Teamwork, Karbon, Xero Practice or Asana. These new tools can provide the software support that is needed to develop a modern, scalable firm.

Customer experience centric

I like to make the comparison between the taxi industry and Uber.

The taxi industry provides a good service, while Uber provides a good experience. Companies like Uber have mapped the entire customer journey from A–Z in an attempt to make each interaction as convenient, transparent and pleasurable as possible.

In fact, a recent study by Xero, which polled millennial business owners, indicated that 39% of respondents said they chose their accounting firm because it was “enjoyable to work with,” as the top-ranking reason in the study.

Accounting firms should clue into the fact that people today are seeking an easy, seamless experience with every service they offer.

Productized services bundled into a subscription

A professional services business can only be scaled through some level of uniformity and standardization, which is why productizing your services into a subscription model becomes incredibly important.

Many firms sell whatever services they can to whoever will take them. This means that they’re stuck doing a thousand different things a thousand different ways. The implication is that there’s no standardization and, therefore, no possible way to scale.

A productized offering will instead focus on the firm’s very best services, including your advisory or CAS services, bundle them into a repeatable offering and price the offering on a fixed monthly basis. Because you’re focused on a core offering, you can train your entire team to offer this “product” in the same way every time.

Additionally, a subscription model allows you to “set it and forget it” when it comes to invoicing and billing. Many firm owners get lost when it comes to fixed pricing their offering. If that’s you, you can check out my guide to pricing accounting services.

Create content to win business online

Your firm can only go so far with networking meetings and referrals. Today, everyone shops for everything online, including accounting! And, in my opinion, content marketing is the best form of online marketing for a CPA firm.

On my end, I grew my firm almost entirely by blogging. I realized that if you provide your ideal customers with information that they value and content that helps them solve their problems, they’ll get in touch with you for help on other matters.

This is why content marketing is so huge right now. Whether it be through a blog, podcast or YouTube, CPAs like you have a lot of valuable information to give. By providing helpful information, you are helping to foster a relationship with the reader or viewer, whether you know it or not.

Improved work-life balance

Let’s face it, working in the accounting industry has had a terrible wrap when it comes to achieving a balanced lifestyle. We’ve all heard (and some have lived) the horror stories of crazy hours and awful busy seasons in public practice.

In fact, the results of a Deloitte survey indicate that almost 50% of millennials and Generation Z report being stressed out all or most of the time. The result? The Great Resignation, where people are quitting their jobs in droves like never before.

We must work to create a better balance and recognize the importance of mental health, not just for the sake of ourselves and our team, but for our business as well. We cannot grow our firm if we’re not adequately filling the open accounting jobs.

Better capacity planning, implementing flexible work arrangements — like work from anywhere policies — and providing mental well-being policies can go a long way to improving work-life balance in your firm.

A roadmap for your firm

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, create a roadmap for your firm.

When firms are in the midst of busy season, or dealing with constantly changing tax laws, strategic planning is often one of the first tasks that can fall by the wayside. When push comes to shove, most firms do not have a roadmap that outlines the trajectory of where they are to where they’d like to be one, five or 10 years into the future.

However, creating a clear and detailed plan for growth is a key ingredient when it comes to modernizing or growing your firm.

Ryan Lazanis, CPA, CA founded Xen Accounting, a 100% cloud-based accounting firm, in 2013. Following its acquisition in 2018, Ryan started Future Firm, which provides education, community and coaching to help accountants quickly grow a scalable, systematic firm of their own. Ryan currently educates more than 5,000 firm leaders globally via his free weekly newsletter and coaches hundreds of successful accounting firms through his Future Firm Accelerate online coaching membership. You may reach Ryan at ryan@futurefirm.co.