Slight edge thinking can deliver exceptional rewards for accountants

Slight Edge is the philosophy that small actions performed consistently over a period of time lead to improvements in results.

It’s a bit like two butchers on the high street, they look similar, but one is rich and driving a swish motor and the other isn’t and doesn’t. If you peel away the layers, you will see the one goes the extra mile and looks for marginal improvements to offer better value, and that eventually equates to huge success.

Sport often leads the way

Sport is a classic example. When Dave Brailsford became head of British Cycling in 2002, he took a team that had won one gold medal in its history to an avalanche of gold medals at subsequent Olympic Games.

He gambled that if the team improved each element by one per cent, they would achieve an exponential increase in performance. He was right.

In Formula One slight edges can deliver huge rewards. A slight modification to a wing or chassis can shave hundredths of seconds off a lap time as can a quick tyre change, making the difference between top of the podium and the back of the pack worth millions of pounds.

It also became apparent when Eddie Howe became manager of my team, Newcastle United, last November when they looked like relegation candidates. He took a similar, step-by-step approach.

Improvements are almost immediate

Just after being appointed, he flew up very early in the morning to his training ground with his team and immediately got to work turning things around. Through careful planning and finding those slight edges of improvement, it allowed the team to have a strong finish to the season.

He was able to look at planning and team management, while his support team concentrated on areas like nutrition, fitness and the wellbeing of the players and some of the more mundane matters involved with running the club. The improvement was almost immediate.

That slight edge also applies to business where planning is key. Accountants are always talking about lack of staff, but if they could sit down and start planning and discuss where they want to be in a year or even five years, those changes could have a significant impact.

Using the butcher shop analogy for two similar accountants, Business A and Business B. Why is one doing better?

Warm welcome a great first impression

Dig down and you can see simple things with Business A, like the smart exterior of the building, the cleanliness inside and the warm welcome with a cuppa from friendly staff, can make a great impression on potential clients.

Other small things that build could be the professional look with computers with smart screensavers, stationery with professional letterheads and well-presented, knowledgeable staff.

All build the client’s confidence for when you start discussing what services you can provide in detail and what they will cost.

That professional service is clearly not being offered by Business B so Business A has the edge and Business B is in danger of losing business to competitors like Business A.

So accountants in that position really need to take time to stand back and take a self-critical look at what they are doing, or get someone you trust to take an objective view.

Presenting an air of professionalism

It may have been decades since a rebrand or a building makeover to freshen the place up, or adapting your appearance for different customers who may expect a certain look. Not everyone needs a shirt and tie or smart suit, but smart casual can also exude an air of professionalism.

These are incremental changes that can get you to where you want to be.

Many accountants, when asked when they last had planning or strategy meetings, say they are too busy, but they really ought to stand back and reassess where they are.

Accountancy bosses are too highly skilled to be spending time with more mundane aspects of the job and locked away working on the likes of payroll or self-assessment files. If they are working harder than their staff, then something is wrong.

They should delegate and take a more strategic view of the business and accept the kind of support outsourcing can offer.

Standing still is not an option

GI has the people to do that and allows accountants to concentrate on propelling the business forward. By taking away some of the basic accountancy workload, it allows firms time to think and plan to achieve greater success.

The cost of outsourcing is more than compensated by the rewards of happy clients who are happy to spend more for advice and help with complex planning, as well as recommending their accountants to other firms.

Returning to the Eddie Howe story. He’s a bit like the senior accountant, while GI is like his support team dealing with the more day to matters, adding more than a slight edge to the success of the business.

Standing still is not really an option because more dynamic forward-thinking accountants will snatch business away.

For a chat about what we offer we will be in London on 8 June for the Digital Accountancy Show 22. Come and talk to us or contact our UK-based team of account managers today to find out how we can help your firm.

Share here
Posted in Thought Leadership.