By Paul Weber, Society of Professional Accountants Limited, Director

The coronavirus pandemic has totally changed the way we live. Daily lives have been disrupted, ‘furlough’ has become a widely understood term, retirement plans have been expedited, and working habits have evolved.

For the vast majority of employees, working from home has become an essential part of any new job advertisement, while others are seeking to change direction completely or perhaps start their own business. 

That’s no different in accountancy. 

If you want to start your own practice in the next year or two, have you thought about what work should you be putting in now to pave the way for success?

Opportunities to interact with like-minded professionals at the conferences and events that usually take place this year have mainly been lost due to ongoing industry concerns about the spread of COVID-19. 

So how should you be spending the time to ensure your new accountancy practice gets off to a flying start in the near future?

Building your personal brand

Prior to lockdown towards the end of March, I used to pass around a dozen accountancy practices along the way. 

Obviously, you can spot the bigger firms a mile off but there’s not a lot that sets the smaller practices apart from the competition on this patch of east London. You could say the same about most high streets around the UK.

The bigger firms have bolder brands. Not just in the form of huge banners outside larger offices, but through visual identity and tone of voice that can help portray a positive image of a practice. 

Thinking about those factors at this early stage, especially how you want people to perceive your firm, might be time well spent as it could help your business stand out from the competition. 

Identifying your point of difference

A lot of accountants tell me they are “professional, approachable and modern”, but most accountants worth their salt in 2020 have those qualities. Clients wouldn’t go with you otherwise. 

Think about your ideal clients. Who do you want to work with in two years’ time, and how can you attract them to your new accountancy practice ahead of someone else?

Craft an authentic point of difference. For example, if you excel or enjoy handling tax affairs for expats or contractors, build your brand around that. Alternatively, your firm could stand out on price, demographics or quality. 

Most traditional accounting firms prefer to be a jack of all trades, rather than a master of one, but having genuine, clear intent might help to set you apart from your rivals and attract those ideal clients. 

Making connections

We all know people usually make connections face-to-face, but that’s more difficult than ever in the current climate and the virus looks like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

Nobody ever did their prospects any harm by utilising their LinkedIn profiles or other social media platforms, like Twitter. You could link to blog posts you’ve written or videos you’ve filmed to let expertise do the talking.

This will help raise your profile while probably earning the plaudits from partners in your existing firm, especially if your social media activity helps generate new leads. 

Get involved with SPA for ongoing insight you can use with your clients by contacting myself at paul.weber@spa.org.uk