Greetings from South Dakota. The RV is resting just outside of Rapid City where Amy is holding down the fort while I attend and speak at the NACVA conference in Las Vegas. Please stop and say hello if you see me walking the halls!
Our last conversation discussed how the BVFLS niches might be losing their luster among the Top 100 accounting firms. Relax. There is nothing wrong with the industry … apparently the Top 100 firms are not expanding into the BVFLS niches as rapidly as they were in this past. This might create opportunities for the smaller firms and solo practitioners who make up the lion share of our profession.
On to this week. I’ve been spreading the gospel about BVFLS practice development since 2013. Five years (10,000 hours) into it, I finally developed my own framework that can be used to close the gap between the practice you have and the practice you want. Let me know if this model resonates and helps with your practice development efforts. Did I miss anything important?
And if you’re new to the blog, welcome aboard. This is what we do!
One thing I found last week: Never pack, do laundry, or drag a bag through the airport again. For you road warriors out there, there is this is pretty cool – though not inexpensive – service.
“DUFL stores your clothing in your personal DUFL closet, and allows you to virtually pack by selecting your clothing items from within the app. Once you’ve scheduled your trip, you’ll travel bag free, and your freshly cleaned and neatly packed clothing will meet you at your specified destination. When you’re ready to head home, schedule a pick up from the hotel and we’ll clean your clothes and have them waiting in your virtual closet ready for your next trip!”
People I talk to all seem to have slightly different ideas about practice development. Here is one definition from a Forbes.com article that I like:
Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.
A good definition … especially at the level of a large firm. But how do you execute on it? How do you excel at it? How do you turn the practice you have into the practice you want?
Four Pillars of BVFLS Practice DevelopmentTM
Fundamental premise of this framework
To turn the practice you have into the practice you want, I consider something you might be overlooking:
Understanding your audience of leads, prospects, clients, and referral sources … what, exactly, they are going through … and how to be in front of them when they need you and are ready to buy. Because it’s not about you … it’s about them.
I am not big on preaching theory, but rather explaining how theory gets put into practice. I do that by teaching not only what I know, but also what I do. I, and other successful BVFLS colleagues I know, work these four pillars.
I am going to start with the gap in my framework because once you understand what creates the gap you will understand how the pillars close the gap.
The gap between the practice you have and the practice you want is … authority.
Authority is your competitive advantage. It stems from:
- Having specialized knowledge AND advancing your unique perspective of it.
- Being known for that expertise AND getting recognized for it.
Think of Damodaran, Fannon, Grabowski, Hitcher, Mercer, Pratt, Trugman and other titans in our profession. They have authority.
How did they get it? Two ways:
- They created the space for their authority to exist by specializing.
- They used a combination of tactics to communicate their authority.
The 4 pillars
#1 – Marketing is where you show up. You never know when a buyer of your professional services will need you. Thus, you need to be present in the various channels where your audience engages – in person and online. That means speaking and writing … perhaps even doing videos or podcasts. And you can’t show up when you have the time – marketing that works is done consistently and persistently.
#2 – Messaging is what makes you different. You work in a crowded marketplace of professionals. Why should your audience pick you? Standing out has little to do with being “right” or “good” or following the rules. It has much more to do with getting noticed and building a lasting, memorable reputation by accentuating what’s different about you. And it isn’t enough to say you’re different; you have to be different.
#3 – Positioning is who you serve. You can’t be everything to everyone – it would be exhausting. You must serve one specific audience (or two). Go narrow and deep on a practice area or industry niche that you enjoy working in. Be so damn good at it that people can’t ignore you. Eventually, it will sink in that you can do what you say you can do – successfully – because you are the expert.
#4 – Business Model is how you generate revenue. While 1:1 client service is certainly the cornerstone of our practices, it is not the holy grail because it does not scale. Financially successful entrepreneurs don’t sell their time. Rather they create, package, and sell their intellectual property – things like apps books, models, newsletters, templates, toolkits, and webinars – in a 1:many environment.
Together, the four pillars will make your audience aware of you. The pillars will help your audience understand what you do and why you are different from your competition. The pillars will get your audience over the twin hurdles of respecting your expertise and trusting that you have their best interests in mind.
So that when someone in your audience FINALLY has an interest in what you do … AND they have the ability to buy from you … AND they are ready to engage you … well, there you are in all your glory. Because my framework ultimately answers your buyer’s most important question: What do I get by hiring you?
In real life
At the end of the day, you want your practice to work for you. You want your practice to provide the time, money, and freedom so that you can create the experiences that matter most to you and your family. Practice development – my framework – is the means, not the goal.
Turn your considerable valuation skills inward towards your own practice. As a valuation specialist, how would you assess your practice along the lines of my framework? What shortcomings do you see in your clients’ business models that you don’t recognize in your own?
Reading that can help
How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services – Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher.
– If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.
– If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.
– If you like my blog, please recommend it to a colleague.
– If you want to get a sense of how well your practice is working for you, get a Practice Self Assessment.