Bring in specialists to build niche practices

An interesting article in WebCPA talks about how some small firms are building niche practices by bringing in “Champions” from the outside: Someone with an established reputation and contacts who can hit the ground running and jump-start the program in a new organization.

Going outside the firm has many advantages:

  • Target growth areas to focus marketing efforts and segment the market. Want more clients in a certain industry, or are certain industries growing in your area? Get a specialist and develop a niche practice.
  • Allow the specialist to devote 100% of their time to the niche. Let the champion do what he or she was brought in to, which is to focus on his or her specialization and become the leader in the field.
  • Allows existing partners to continue to service their client base. Maintain existing client relationships and still be able to cross-sell specialist services.
  • Avoid the lengthy process of developing internally. In some cases, you have people already in the firm that have the desire and competence to take on a specialization, but it still takes time to build experience and a client network.
  • It becomes easier to recruit other field leaders and develop further niches. Driven, bright people want to work with others who are similarly ambitious. Just look at Google.
  • Existing staff are energized by the new possibilities for their own development. Once you’ve brought someone in to kick off the program, start building from within. Allow the young people to learn from the master(s).

This type of thing has the potential to make recruiting in general easier:

“Junior members of our firm developed a sense of pride when invited to join the niche as a member of the group. It allowed them to go beyond developing only professional standards in their early years, and learn about industries. For seasoned staff, it was a vehicle for them to become famous in the firm, and provide them with something more than the traditional path to manager or partner.”

Challenges reported by the firms employing this strategy primarily deal with that of culture and personality. The outsider needs to be able to fit inside the culture of the firm, even as they push its limits.

I can attest to the fact that this strategy has the intended effect. There are groups within my firm that have champions and they have experienced strong growth and opened up opportunities for people like me. Having the option to move into several specialist groups if I decide that audit isn’t for me in the long run is a good thing.

(Via Accountants Round Up.)

Now that’s a niche

There’s a particular blog that only discusses the idea that accounting firms, and indeed all professional services firms, should “trash the timesheet” and implement “value pricing.”

The basic concept is sound: Timesheets treat the chargeable hour as the measure of the firm’s services’ value, which distorts its true value to the client and further commoditizes the work we do. Value pricing looks at our services from the client’s point of view and tries to determine what the work is worth to them, and pricing to that.

But it just occurred to me that this blog has such a small niche. It’s a firm’s blog, and they’re definitely leading the charge for value pricing for professional services, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re eventually going to run out of stuff to blog about!