Finding the courage to take action

In 2017, Harriet set up her own accountancy practice, having been passed over for partner once too often in the larger, male dominated company that she had worked in for the last 15 years.

She set up her business with two family members who, whilst not accountants themselves, were competent and well meaning and able to manage a lot of the office issues whilst Harriet focussed on clients and client work.

In order to get up and going as quickly as possible, Harriet’s strategy was to focus on gaining clients through price, promptly undercutting anyone and everyone.

On the one hand, the strategy worked however, it also resulted in the natural consequences that come with a price led approach.

Lots of clients, lots of work – not enough money.

On top of all that, she now recognises that she hadn’t given her team the resources and the  systems that she should have done, meaning that she became the sole focus of everything that happened within the practice.

That added an additional bundle of stress and harassment to the mix.

Last year, Harriet came on board with AVN as a trial member.  To start with, progress seemed slow as she was now trying to implement new practices and get to grips with new tools whilst juggling all the existing work load.

The two key areas to focus on in the first few months were around increasing prices to improve cashflow and getting the team to work better so that Harriet could free some time up to work on the business.

Completing a time diary for a week quickly highlighted areas where she could use the team to free up some time.  We then looked at a suitable framework to conduct a conversation with the team to improve communication and align visions.

However, it became clear that most of the issues lay not with the team or the clients, but with Harriet herself, who had issues around relinquishing control and getting comfortable about charging higher fees.  On top of that, she found it hard to recognise her own accomplishments, so I was frequently having to remind her of the progress she had actually made.

About 6 months into her membership, she came onto the AVN Masterclass.  That was a close run thing as she had filled her calendar up and was going to cancel, but I convinced her that it would be a valuable use of her time and she agreed to come.

Attending Masterclass became a significant turning point in her progress.  As well as helping her see what could be achieved, it really drove home the importance of finding direction and taking action.

Energised by what she’d taken on board she returned to the office with renewed vigour.

It has to be noted that, initially, it did actually create some divisions in the team.  However, as Harriet had gone through life trying to avoid conflict as much as possible, this demonstrated that she was finally taking control of her practice – and her life.  Eventually the team fell into line.

I’m not going to say that miracles happened over night, but progress has been steady.

The team dynamics have now changed so that one of the team members, who is much more comfortable around the area of sales and charging higher fees, will be taking the lead on new client meetings.  The AVN tools actually make this very easy as many of them, especially the pricing tool, are systematic and therefore can be used by anyone.

As a result, turnover has now improved to such a point where they have been able to take on a new qualified accountant, who will significantly free up time for Harriet.

Naturally, there is still a lot to do.  Introducing and improving the practice systems is the next major project which will reap huge dividends over time.  However, with improved cashflow, an improved team and more time to be able to make changes, Harriet is now feeling like she is actually running a business, rather than have a business run her.

Joining AVN gave her the tools to be able to do it and attending Masterclass changed her mindset so that she could make it happen.