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What Kind Of Firm Owner are You? (Or Will You Be?)

July 28, 2022 TaxPlanIQ Support team

Running an accounting firm is a lot like running any other business. You have to wear many hats, be able to delegate and manage effectively, and always be looking for ways to improve your bottom line.

But perhaps the most essential quality you need to possess as an accounting firm owner is the ability to adapt.

There are three levels of business ownership: technician, manager, and entrepreneur. And unless you are intentional on which level you operate, you will likely end up stuck at one level, doing all the work yourself with little to no room for growth.

So which level should you aspire to? And how do you get there? 

Let's look at each level to decide which is right for you.

Technician Level

The technician is someone who starts their own firm because they are good at what they do and they want to be their own boss. They are the type of person who likes working with their hands and controlling every aspect of the business.

They're the ones in the trenches, getting their hands dirty with the work, from tax planning, and bookkeeping, to producing everything themselves. 

These owners would instead do the work themselves because they know it will be done right. And while this attention to detail is admirable, it's not sustainable in the long run.

Technicians are usually very passionate about their work and genuinely enjoy doing it. But they can also get bogged down in the day-to-day and lose sight of the bigger picture.

The technician level is (typically) only meant for solo practitioners. However, once you start hiring staff and taking on more clients, you simply can't continue to do all the work yourself.

If you find yourself stuck at this level, it's important to take a step back and ask yourself:

  • How can I delegate some of this work to focus on other aspects of the business?
  • What processes can I put in place to make my work more efficient?
  • What can I outsource to free up my time?
  • Are there any tools or technology that can help me automate some of my work?

Manager Level

The manager is someone who has realized that they can't do it all themselves and has started to delegate some of the work. 

They just manage the work that gets done.

At this level, you are more focused on the people and processes in your business than the actual work. You're still involved in the day-to-day, but you're not as hands-on as at the technician level. As a result, you've realized that you need to start relying on others to complete the work.

Managers are usually pretty good at delegation. But they can also struggle with letting go of control and trusting their staff to do the work.

Managers can also be a little too hands-off. They may not be as involved in the day-to-day operations as they should be. And as a result, things can start to slip through the cracks.

The manager level is the sweet spot for most accounting firms. 

You're involved enough to keep things running smoothly, but you're also delegating enough to allow your staff to do their jobs. 

Entrepreneur Level

To shed off the technician or manager label, you need to start thinking and acting like an entrepreneur.

The entrepreneur is the highest level of business ownership. An entrepreneur is someone who has built a team of managers and technicians, and now their primary focus is on strategy and growth.

At this level, you are no longer involved in the business's day-to-day operations. Instead, your sole focus is on finding new growth and expansion opportunities.

The entrepreneur level is the ultimate goal for any accounting firm owner. But it’s challenging to get there—if you're stuck in the technician or manager mindset.

To reach the entrepreneur level, you need to learn to let go of the need to control everything and trust that your team can handle the business's day-to-day operations.

So which level are you currently operating? And which level do you want to be?

The answer to these questions will help you determine what kind of firm owner you want to be. For example, do you want to be a technician, a manager, or an entrepreneur?

The truth is,  there is no right or wrong answer. It depends on what you want for your business.

If you're happy being a solo practitioner and doing all the work yourself, then the technician level is probably right for you. But if you're looking to grow and expand your business, the manager or entrepreneur level is perhaps a better fit.

The important thing is that you know what level you're currently operating at and what level you want to be operating at. Once you clearly understand these two things, you can start making the necessary changes to get there.

Looking Back

When I (Jackie) started my business, I was a technician for a couple of years. But I realized that this wasn't sustainable. I was burnt out, and my business was suffering.

So I decided to start delegating some of the work and hiring staff. I hired bookkeepers and a tax preparer. As a result, I shaved almost half my work hours, and my business started to grow.

I eventually became a manager,  but I soon realized I wanted to be more than that. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So I needed to completely step away from production to pursue my true dreams of starting a SaaS company and helping others build their businesses.

A tough decision for me to make because I loved being in the trenches and working with clients. But I knew that if I wanted to take my business to the next level, I needed to let go and trust my staff to do their job.

To get there, I needed help. First, I needed to hire a tax manager to handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Then, I needed to get someone to do the oversight, review work, and manage staff. 

This was a big step for me, but it was necessary if I wanted to achieve my goals. With coaching and the right team in place, I could finally step away from my business and pursue my dreams.

Coaching is the key to success at the entrepreneur level. You need someone who can help you see the big picture and hold you accountable for your goals.

If you're stuck at the technician or manager level,  I encourage you to seek a business coach. A coach can help you create a plan to get to the next level. They can help you delegate effectively and hire the right staff.

You'll also need to set boundaries and actively pre-qualify your clients. Many accounting firm owners struggle with this step, but it's essential if you want to be an entrepreneur.

Remember, the goal is to eventually reach a point where you're not working IN your business but ON your business.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to think about the long-term vision for your business. What do you want your business to look like in 5 years? 10 years? You need to have a clear plan for growth and expansion. Then, you need to make changes to get there.

You also need to be a leader who inspires and motivates others. To build a successful team, you need to be someone people want to follow. Finally, you need to be authentic and transparent. People need to feel they can trust you and that you have their best interests at heart.

And finally, you need to be OK with making mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable when you're running a business. But how you learn and grow from those mistakes will determine your success.

So ask yourself, what kind of firm owner do you want to be? If you're not happy with where you're at, make a plan to get to the next level. And if you need help, don't be afraid to seek a coach or mentor.

The Bottom Line

There's no one right way to run a firm. The important thing is that you know what level you're currently operating at and what level you want to be operating at.

If you're stuck at the technician or manager level, seek a business coach, or mastermind group, who can help you delegate effectively and hire the right staff. And if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to have a clear plan for growth and expansion. Finally, you need to be willing to make the necessary changes to get there.

Most importantly, you need to be a leader who inspires and motivates others. If you can be that kind of leader, you'll be well on building a successful team and business.

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