All too often, I meet accounting practice owners who don’t believe that they are able to compete with the big firms. What they fail to consider, however, is that even the Big Four have their drawbacks. In reality, there are many ways in which small firms can outshine their larger counterparts. Let’s take a look at how you can compete with big firms as a small accounting practice.
We all know the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was bigger, but David thought differently and acted differently. He was agile, and that’s why he won.
As a small accounting practice, you are far more agile than the big firms.
By their very nature, big firms are stiff and slow. Think of a big firm like a big ship. Moving the rudder is clunky. Getting the ship to change course is a slow, painstaking process and involves a tremendous amount of hard work. It takes a long time to change course.
As a smaller firm, you’re more akin to a speedy little motorboat. You can pivot in an instant. You have a small number of team members so buy-in is quicker, and you serve fewer clients, which makes communication easier, too. On top of this, your clients trust you more, too – but we’ll talk more about that later on.
Small firms can also be far more agile in terms of marketing. When big firms want to make a change to their message or branding, it has to go up and down the chain multiple times. You, on the other hand, are agile and have the ability to make changes very quickly.
Organisational agility is hugely valuable in times of crisis. A small practice has lower overheads, and therefore it’s much easier to dial them down. When you switch software providers, you only have to get a few employees up to date. The Big Four, on the other hand, have to organise thousands of training workshops all over the world for their countless employees. Similarly, it’s easy to reduce office space for a small firm, but that’s definitely not the case for large firms with their shiny, 8000-capacity offices in the center of London.
Think about what we’ve been through in the past eighteen months. Think about covid-19, the US election and Brexit, and how much they changed the circumstances in which we do business. Think about all of the things that continue to change on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Organisational agility is a true superpower, and as a small accounting practice, you are able to harness this very effectively.
A Personal Brand
As a small firm, you can build a more personal brand. The big firms have their corporate colours and messages, but they do not build relationships. They sell based on name alone. You, on the other hand, get clients by building relationships and selling your specific expertise and acumen.
When you create a strong personal brand, you are able to establish a connection with your audience. As a small accounting practice, you are able to get super specific with your marketing message and make your ideal clients feel seen and understood. You can position yourself as the one who will go the extra mile to solve their problems, and this is how you will earn their business.
Yes, you read that correctly – as a smaller accounting firm, you enjoy greater profits.
You may be thinking “what? The big firms are worth billions!” and yes, it’s true: they do turn over a very large amount of money. However, their costs are also astronomical. As a small accounting practice, you may not be able to charge as much as the big firms but your overheads won’t come close to theirs, either.
The big firms are monster businesses, with thousands of staff and clients. They’re slow and clunky to operate, and their profit margins aren’t as large as they might lead you to believe.
A small firm is easier to manage with fewer overheads, healthier profit margins and far stronger client relationships. When you run a small firm, you should not fall into the trap of thinking that your size makes you inferior to the Big Four. Small practices bring so much value to the table. They are more agile, more lucrative and far less stressful to run. This is how you will obtain the freedom lifestyle that you’ve always dreamed of. You need to appreciate the value of your small practice and then communicate it to your clients as you build strong working relationships with them.
A big firm is a faster horse. A small practice is a motorcar. Which one would you rather drive?