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Over the years we've spoken to hundreds (literally!) of accountants and bookkeepers and a significant number of them have a self imposed constraint i.e. something they've decided will hold them back but they're OK with that...

...for the mentors, coaches and vendors out there pushing the growth mantra, this is anathema but it speaks volumes about why there's such a large number of small accounting and bookkeeping businesses in the UK.

My self-imposed constraint

It's office space. But let me explain...

...I own my office building. Some years ago, I redeveloped the whole building to modernise the office space (it's all open plan and chic now!) and converted the upper floors into flats to rent out. Since then, my practice has grown and there's more than a few times that I have come up against lack of space. But I have steadfastly refused to move nor acquire more space.

There are some important considerations in my decision but they're personal:

  • I'm comfortable financially
  • The rental income gives me a safety net
  • I'm getting older and want more time for myself
  • I sleep very well at night!

That doesn't mean I haven't grown my business, I've just chose to grow it in a way that respects my constraint. In fact, my growth strategy almost sounds like a shop - I'm looking to maximise my earnings, per square foot of space I own.

Like most practices, growth means focusing on margins and/or capacity. Taking my constraint into account, I've successfully done the following:

  • Increased client retention by building my own cloud based practice management system onkho
  • Increased my capacity by embracing the cloud for bookkeeping and other cloud technologies so that I can employ remote workers
  • Increased my margins by charging more for a better quality service

That's worked for me and today I've increased my take home pay without increasing my office space.

Other self-imposed constraints I've seen

Here's a few I've heard from other accountants and bookkeepers in the course of speaking to them about onkho:

  • I don't want the hassle of employing staff
  • I don't want to move out of my home office
  • I want to keep an outdoor lifestyle so I only offer a remote service
  • I'm comfortable financially

The common thread is that many of us (including me) are actually making lifestyle choices rather than calculated business decisions. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. In fact when I look at how aware my millennial children are of work/life balance issues, I think it's good and proper!

In the face of the pervasive growth mantra in the media, I'm holding steadfast.

Do you have a self-imposed constraint? How have you made it work?

Susan Rahman

Susan is a chartered accountant in practice who in the pursuit of her 99% client retention rate (of which she is very proud!) ended up building onkho as well. Her firm KWSR & Co serves over 300 clients across London and the South East. In addition to product development, Sue pushes her "delight clients" mantra across the onkho business. There's a reason why we call it the Success Team and not the Support Team!

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