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Accountancy practice branding - making a name or gaining a reputation ?

The world is full of people eager to make a name for themselves and the same rings true of accountancy firms, but for slightly different motives.

Let me begin this blog by opening with a joke to focus your mind.

I always enjoy  telling the story about the 3 graduate candidates for a job with a prestigious accountancy firm in a small town. It's a great ice breaker at events when I speak.

The 1st timid candidate responds to the question fired at her by the white haired founding partner -  "what is 2 + 2"  ,with a deadpan "4" .

She is given short shrift and sent on her way but tells the other 2 candidates  sitting nervously in reception what occurred.

Number 2 strides in confidently and when asked the same question quickly responds "22" and is unceremoniously dismissed.

He trudges out and tells the remaining candidate what transpired.

With less than a second to think she walks in confidently and faces the question. She leans over the desk and looks the grizzled old man in the eyes and calmly responds "what do you want the answer to be?"

The young woman leaves his room as the newest hire to work directly under him.

True partner material.

Hackneyed perhaps, but in this day of rapid change and uncertainty sweeping our august profession perhaps you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself what kind of accountant you really ought to be to survive out there – what sort of name you want to make for yourself in the profession, which means what your firm will be known for or what it will be seen to stand for.

Your firm’s brand, in short.

Everybody knows of a fellow accountant, or indeed any professional, who is well known in their local business community or even beyond,  so that when people ask their friends to recommend a firm of accountants the same partnership is usually mentioned, almost rolling off the tongue automatically.

The destination of first choice.

Often fellow professionals within the same discipline wonder how that particular firm got to where they are and how they can apply that same magic touch to their own firm. It's almost as "magical" as being on page 1 of Google ! but it’s certainly as lucrative.

Not only does it bring in business – it brings in sticky business , clients who stay.

And not just clients who stay – clients who recommend.

The cycle repeats itself – nice isn’t it?

It is important to understand that when you ask a business owner,  and that’s what accountants are, about making a name for themselves or creating a brand , there are usually 2 answers proffered, but they are entirely different with very different results.

Many respond that  a firm with a memorable name which is certainly useful and fairly easy to conjour up, is what ticks the box. Think for example of names like "Andy's Accounting" , "Bev the Bookkeeper" and such like. Certainly snappy and does what it says on the tin. But it's only a name, however cool or catchy it may be and it will almost certainly serve you well, but ill it really cut the mustard and propel you into the space that you really want to occupy?

Others respond that it is to gain a reputation, not simply "make a name" as per the first possibility, but truly MAKING a name. Reputations are hard won and jealously guarded with constant hard work and perpetual  striving to stay on top of the fast changing world around us.

Just think of the last time you had a pressing and potentially complex query that was beyond your ability to handle yourself. I'll wager that you instinctively knew which professional to call. Everybody knows that with a such and such a problem they speak to ABC & Co. No other firm gets a look in.

Why is this so?

Simply because that firm has made a point of focusing on a single topic or field of expertise in which to excel.

It could be that a group of people with a combined expertise spanning 100 years or more of expert experience have joined up together to create a partnership with critical mass and a readymade list of clients. Perhaps a single person with a narrow but deep focus has taken the decision to concentrate on what they know best and where they can make the most money , ignoring anything peripheral that does not impact on their core expertise. In the short term it can be risky but usually in the longer term it can be extremely lucrative as individuals and fellow professionals seek you out to resolve their knottiest problems.

In an ever complex business and regulatory world specialists have never has so good.

It's hard work, make no mistake.

It is much harder than formulating a memorable name, which in essence is a one-off event that can last for decades. It involves keeping up to speed with developments in your chosen field, more than just basic CPD, but bucketloads of constant writing, blogging and networking on and off line. It's more than a 9 to 5 job!

There's nothing wrong with making a name just  don't get it confused with gaining a reputation.



About the author Norman

I’m Norman Younger BA(Hons) FCCA MCIArb and on this blog I’m going to share over 20 years of professional and business experience at the sharp end of small business in the UK, one of the world’s most enterprising nations. As a professionally qualified accountant I have experience advising start up micro enterprises and multi million pound turnover firms. During this time I have owned several business and gained valuable insight into all aspects of the day to day operations covering everything from staffing to marketing. I established and am currently a working trustee of a charity that helps people find sustainable employment and supports entrepreneurs in getting their feet on the business ladder and climbing higher.

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