The Accountancy Age survey of 100 firms makes grim reading. Most of
the firms where 2009 figures are available show greatly reduced growth and many
have suffered a decline in revenue.
If, as some suggest, we are in a ‘double-dip’ recession, we can look forward
to a continued price war, downsizing and dismal figures to come throughout the
The profession is not immune from the problems besetting the rest of the
economy and we see different firms responding in different ways. Those that will
weather the storm best are those who:
1. Have invested (and are investing) in a balanced business with strong
expertise and a strong reputation, in counter-cyclical areas.
2. Have taken a cold hard look at what they deliver to clients, and how they
deliver it, and have stripped out all the ‘nice to haves’ that are just not
3. Have developed the capability, confidence and strength of their staff to
handle client demands to reduce fees. It is impossible for one firm to buck the
market, consistent success in getting the best deal adds up to more work at the
4. Have focused real effort, imagination and resources on keeping key clients
5. Have avoided the temptation to panic. A desperation to win work to
maintain fee income can lead to counter-productive behaviour. Attempting to
hurry a client’s decision or any other approach that is not client-centred,
consultative and carried out at the client’s pace, is more likely to destroy the
chances of success than make the situation better. Obvious perhaps but we are
seeing a lot of desperate accountants and other professionals in the market.
6. Are maintaining co-operation between business units and avoiding a
blinkered focus on the bottom line, to the detriment of opportunities for the
7. Are doing more of the right stuff to keep and win clients. More people at
all levels of the firm are investing time in the most productive actions and
have the ability to make the most of these efforts.
Accountancy firms are usually late in and late out of a recession. It would
appear they are in now, but the above seven steps will enable the best firms to
climb their way out of the recession more quickly and less painfully than the
Paul Denvir is a partner at professional services
advisers Pace Partners
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