Things are changing at a fast pace for professional service firms with the advent of artificial intelligence and other technologies that shift the roles of accountants, consultants, architects, and other professions. Preparing for this future requires businesses to develop a sustainable growth strategy that carefully balances development and risk management.
1. Build on a solid foundation
Start by conducting an assessment of your current practices and customer satisfaction rate. You can't develop a sustainable growth strategy before optimizing your current practices:
- Could you improve your client satisfaction and retention rate?
- Refine your lead generation strategy and the methods used to nurture leads.
- Review goals and performances within your team, update best practices, and think about offering more training or incentives if needed.
2. Market penetration
Did you know that for top CPA firms, between 25 and 40 percent of new business comes from cross-selling? Market penetration is a low-risk growth strategy that consists in offering more services to existing clients.
The main obstacle you will encounter is the need to educate clients regarding the value of these additional services, and you might have to convince some clients to switch from a different service provider.
3. Look for new markets
You can expand your reach geographically or extend your services to a different client profile. There is a real potential for sustainable growth in the long term if you can identify markets with low competition.
The downside of looking for new markets is that this strategy requires a significant investment of time and resources, and you need to be careful not to neglect your existing client base. A partnership might make sense if you can find another firm that will give you access to new distribution channels, for instance through referrals.
4. Offer more services
You know your audience better than anyone else. Are there additional pain points that you could help these clients address by widening the range of services you offer? You can offer more services by adding new talent to your team, working with partners, or by offering training to current team members. Investing in technologies such as AI and analytics could help you offer more advanced services, whether by providing deeper insights to your clients or through giving you more free time to work for them.
Be careful not to offer too many services without being able to deliver the level of expertise that clients expect. Specializing in a few different services with a high-demand is the key to sustainable growth.
Implementing your growth strategy
Your sustainable growth strategy shouldn't be overly complicated. Don't spend too much time and resources on identifying areas for potential growth and focus on implementing your strategy instead.
You do need to spend time on assessing risks and costs, but the majority of your efforts should be geared toward implementing strategies that generate measurable revenues. Set some goals for your growth strategy, schedule regular reviews, and make a few changes if needed.
Even though organic growth is by far the most common approach for professional service firms, mergers and acquisitions could be an alternative worth exploring. They entail more risks and a larger initial investment, but merging with another professional service firm would give you access to a new market, broaden the range of services you offer, and turn you into a force your competitors need to reckon with.