Practice Makes Perfect for AccountingWEB

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

This autumn the CPAA sponsored the Practice Growth Award at AccountingWEB’s highly successful Practice Excellence Awards. Here, we look at the awards in more detail and talk to John Stokdyk, Editor-in-Chief at AccountingWEB about the programme and the insights that have been gained over the years from the array of fascinating and inspiring businesses that have taken part.

 

As the name suggests, the Practice Excellence Awards seek to find the cream of the crop, the talented firms that are excelling in their field. Short-listing applicants and choosing winners is as much about celebrating achievements as it is about showcasing their stories for the benefit of the wider professional community.

The story starts five years ago, when the team at AccountingWEBlaunched the Practice Excellence Award programme. It has since grown beyond expectations and John Stokdyk believes the success is due to the calibre of the firms that enter. “Our philosophy from the start has been that we want the best firms entering so that we can share the secrets of their success with our members to encourage best practice and inspire change.”

Dubbed the ‘Practice Excellence effect’, the AccountingWEB team has seen successful contenders doing similar things and sharing similar mindsets. John says. “It’s amazing to see these firms in action; they never stand still, nor stop improving and innovating. They are real pioneers. And while they are all unique, we’ve realised they share some common ground.”

Putting customer satisfaction at the heart of business is a key attribute that the leading firms display. John adds, “It feels obvious to even say it, but accounting remains a service profession where word of mouth is pre-eminent and customer satisfaction impacts the bottom line. The businesses that put customers front and centre are the ones growing in line with their clients.”

“The impact of the cloud is hard to miss. It was fairly prevalent when we started the Practice Excellence Awards and now it is the norm. It is no coincidence that many of the best firms we encounter were early adopters of cloud computing and accounting. There have always been ambitious and innovative firms, but the cloud has acted as a catalyst.”  John cites the benefits of the cloud as enabling businesses to be more efficient, collaborative and intimately connected to their clients.

The firms at the top of the pile are breaking new ground and developing specialist niches. John comments, “The practices we see emerging or leading are trying new things. For instance they might focus on the ideal clients, tailor processes to these clients, then market and scale up to reach wider groups. It’s a tactic Lamont Pridmore has implemented with great success, using seminars and market research to develop specialist services and a distinctive niche. We’re also seeing structured referral management and events as areas successful firms are driving ahead.”

Being assertive and transparent in pricing is another trend the AccountingWEB team has witnessed. “Where pricing was once opaque, practices are increasingly offering a menu of options and fixed packages that are very clearly priced. Accountants have learned how to sell! By providing clarity about services, they can also market ‘extras’, which gives the opportunity to upsell. The best firms take the mystery out of pricing, to the benefit of them and their clients.”

John concludes that the future of the Practice Excellence Awards programme looks rosy, thanks to the quality of those applying. “Standards as a whole are increasing; we see this with the entries every year. It’s always interesting to see what the best firms are focusing on and how they are evolving. Our feeling at AccountingWEB is that you don’t have to be cutting edge – not all businesses can be – but experiment, see if it works, and learn from the excellent businesses out there in the profession.”

Learning from the ‘excellent businesses’ is something the team at AccountingWEB wants to bring to the fore in next year’s awards, which promises to be even bigger and better than the 2015 edition. John is keen to focus on the components of innovation, pick out key themes, identify new trends, talk to the winners, and share all of this more extensively with the AccountingWEB community. It will be a master class in excellence and one not to be missed.