Imagine that all you did in your practice was the technical work. You did the taxes, the accounting and the basic management but you never participated in building  relationships with your existing clients and their staff. The result would be a static practice. When we neglect or avoid building relationships with our clients and their staff, we minimize the amount of referrals coming in. It can be uncomfortable at first to learn new relationship-building skills. As leaders and professionals part of our job is to become comfortable being uncomfortable until we acquire new habits. By not taking the initiative to build relationships outside of the practice, we are eliminating the ability to bring in future prospects.

As accountants, we know how to apply formulas. What many of us don’t know is that expanding our accounting practice requires a formula too. There are many skills necessary to have an efficient practice. Part of an efficient practice is to position it for growth. The formula below speaks to that.

(TA+CRS+PA) x AD = Success

This is technical ability plus client relationship skills, plus persuasive ability. Take the sum of these and multiply it by what I refer to as the leverage factor, your achievement drive, and that will equal success…provided your variables have high values, of course.

Let me further define this equation. Technical Ability (TA) is having the competency to carry out the processes, skills and knowledge, the necessary regulations and the policies. It also means knowing how to come to the conclusions that give you a complete work product.

Client Relationship Skills (CRS) are also a set of competencies formulated into a process, a defined process that we can hold as a future lesson for us. CRS is the ability to focus on the people we serve, our clients: both internal and external clients. Years ago, people would establish professional service firms and have the technical competency to be a specialist.

With only that TA, their company would grow to be a small or possibly mid-sized operation, simply to be stifled at some point with the realization that more was needed from the leaders and managers for the business to continue expanding. Today, if people, specifically owners and managers like you, do not develop CRS skills their firm will not push through the typical barriers to expansion, namely customer confidence and trust.

It is through CRS that we make the human connections that allow a potential client’s intuitive trust to kick in. Can you see how it is imperative to not only have technical ability, but also client relationship skills as well?

Persuasive Ability gets other people to follow our lead, to believe in our ideas. Realize though, that what this boils down to is how you influence others through your written and oral communication.

We finally sum all of these, and multiply them by our leverage factor, which is AD, or your achievement drive. What do you think achievement drive is all about? The first three variables are objective, they are defined processes. A person could lack in these traits, yet if they are cognizant of that shortcoming, they could learn each of them. AD is subjective to your desire. It determines how well and how high you can achieve success in anything in life.

While these four skills are necessary the achievement drive is the key because it contains that initiative. I call this your desire and motivation. It’s what makes you to want to get up in the morning and be excited about servicing you clients. I also say that every accountant has technical ability. That’s what drew us to the business in the first place. We have the ability to play with numbers, policies, regulations etc. The stretch for us as accountants is managing our client relationship skills so that we build some level of attraction to the work we do.

An equation that involves learning how to develop trust in potential clients isn’t easy, but it is possible! Defined ways of asking questions, researching and staying in touch, when integrated into the work day, eventually develop new business. The key to successfully expanding the small accounting firm is to take each piece apart, make it your own and weave it into business operations until your customer relationship skills are just as valuable to your net worth as your technical ability.

How do I know this? Like any good practitioner, I tested my equation inside and out and built three accounting and consulting practices from the ground up. Even during an economic repression, you can expand your business if you can ignite trust in others and then fulfill on that trust with skill and integrity.

Ed Robinson is the dean of the Rainmaker Marketing Institute and he provides and business development and practice growth strategies for professional service firms. ( Ed can be reached at, or (832) 569-5138.

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