I was never one to enjoy reading much and hadn’t picked up a book in years prior to starting my business in 2013. But I knew that if I was to succeed in business, then I would need to get insight into the minds of others. One way that I achieved this was through reading up on topics that I felt were important for the success of a modern accounting firm.
If you’re looking to modernize your firm and stay current, here’s my opinion on the 5 best books for accounting firms looking to stay ahead of the curve. They touch on topics that include pricing, modern business models, customer service, team culture and practice management.
Let’s just lead with this one right off the bat. Ron Baker is a bit of a legend in the sphere of modern accounting thought. He’s been talking about trashing timesheets and eliminating the billable hour since you were in diapers (OK, maybe not you, but perhaps me). This in and of itself is a radical thought process. The accounting profession has literally been built around the billable hour and here comes someone whose mission is to tear that model down completely.
This also happens to single-handedly be the most important book I read in business and was instrumental in my firm implementing value pricing as a pricing model very early on and not subscribing to timesheets (you can read more about how my firm has operated for 5 years without timesheets here).
Ron Baker’s book on Implementing Value Pricing is really about teaching you how to wrap your head around the concept of value pricing (not easy, since we have been trained for years to equate our time to our value) and how to implement this model in your firm. Truthfully, I did have to read the book several times and each time you learn something new. While there is some theory in the book, it’s really there to teach you how, in a practical way, to implement pricing according to your value and how to eliminate hourly billing from your practices. No doubt, this is one of the best books for accounting firms looking to modernize their model.
Building your business into a subscription model is what every business on the planet is trying to do these days. And if you’re an accounting firm, you should too. Nothing beats a predictable, recurring revenue stream. CEO of Zuora, Tien Tzuo, put out a book recently entitled, “Subscribed” (also a nice compliment to Ron Baker’s book), which talks about how you can turn your business into a subscription model with predictable revenues.
It’s a nice, easy-going read (I actually read this during my last vacation!) that gives many examples of businesses that have gone through the transition themselves and gives some practical steps of how you can do the same. It’s an interesting book, even if your business is already based on a subscription model as it can help you think about new products and services that you can offer to bundle into a subscription plan.
Interested in turning your firm into a subscription model or looking to gain new subscription ideas? This is clearly one of the best books for accounting firms looking to do so!
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
If you haven’t heard this line before, then you must be living under a rock. Yes, this is a pretty hyped up book that came out almost 10 years ago now, but Simon Sinek’s, “Start With Why” is still a goodie and I think very applicable to today’s economy. Not only is this one of the best books for accounting firms looking to stay current, but this is one of the most classic books in business in general.
This book helps you understand why your “why” is so important and how to find it. Your “why” is your purpose. Why does your accounting firm exist in the first place? You have to dig down deep, understand your purpose and then essentially market it.
People want to buy from companies that they can connect with. Your customers aren’t just buying a tax return from you. They’re buying from you because of some other reason deeper than that, you just happen to provide tax services. Maybe it’s because your purpose is to eliminate the pain in their accounting and they connect with that. Or maybe your purpose is to simplify the numbers for non-financially savvy entrepreneurs. The services that you provide are literally just a subset of your purpose. These customers connect with the purpose itself, not the subset of it, and that’s what results in a customer signing up to your firm.
Likewise, and maybe even more importantly, your employees are buying into something as well. They are also buying into your firm’s purpose. This is exceptionally important if you want to be attracting & retaining millennials and Gen Z to your firm since more than ever before, these generations practically require that they connect well with the company’s purpose in order to join and stay at a company.
In an increasingly commoditized market, it’s important for you to separate yourself from the pack. One of the ways to do so is to have a purpose so strong that customers and the team alike can connect with it. This book helps you do that and because of that, I can recommend this as one of the best books for accounting firms looking to connect better with your customers and team.
This is probably the best customer service oriented book that I have ever read. Seeing as how accounting firms provide a service to their customers, it’s critical that your firm adopts a modern customer-service oriented culture. A lot of firms think that they are providing a high-quality customer service, but in reality, they aren’t. Many are approaching customer service like they are still in the 80’s or 90’s. Customer service is more than just being able to speak professionally with your clients. Modern-day customer service is about providing clients with a service experience in every aspect of their interaction with your firm.
In Delivering Happiness, the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, runs down how his company wants each and every interaction with their company to be a “WOW” moment. Think about that. Every interaction with Zappos, needs to be spectacular. How can we apply that concept to accounting firms? The book talks about how to create a culture around customer service. Everyone in the company basically needs to be customer-service oriented. I like the book because it approaches customer service in a way that makes sense for 2018; light, informal, though professional all the way through.
At our firm, we have adopted some of the practices mentioned in Tony’s book and it has been invaluable. Given the importance of customer experience in today’s market, I’m happy to add this to the list of best books for accounting firms that want to implement a modern customer-service approach.
Our firm has recently adopted a more distributed way of working. We are no longer centralized in one office anymore. We used to be, but now, no longer. Is it all thanks to this book? No, not really. We actually had a very natural way of moving the team to a more remote setup. It kind of just happened on its own. We were certainly not uncomfortable with the concept of working remotely and having most of the team work from home full time. But many of you in your accounting firm may actually be hesitant of this notion. Remote by Fried & Hanson is a book to help you get comfortable with this concept. It will explain what’s important to make remote working possible and how to make it work for you and your team.
And an important concept it is in this day and age. Millennials and Gen Z are actively seeking jobs that allow them to work remotely, when they want, where they want. So if you’re running a firm, you better get comfortable with this concept and fast.
Bonus book: Getting Things Done by David Allen
Where would I be today without the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology from David Allen? I couldn’t even tell you… Above I said that Ron’s book was the most important book I had read for the firm as a whole, but I would have to say that reading GTD was the best book that I had read personally. This book is for any partner, firm owner or super busy person at an accounting firm with lots on their plate.
We all know that things can get quite hectic in an accounting firm. Lots of tasks, lots of deadlines, lots of projects. All this stuff floating around can lead to confusion and stuff up your thinking. David Allen’s GTD methodology is there to help you do away with the all the clutter, in an organized, methodological fashion.
Is this a stimulating read? Not really. But after implementing his methods, I can honestly say that this is a skill that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. I have a ton of tasks, ideas, projects and notes, but they are all organized in a way that allows me to easily find what I need and in a way that allows me to know what needs to be done next.
Whenever I see someone on the team starting to gain more and more responsibility and I can tell that they may lack a personal organizational system, this is the book that I always recommend and as such, is one of the best books for accounting firms and those in firm that have a lot on their plate.
I hope you were able to get some value from this post on the best books for accounting firms looking to modernize. For more resources that can help you in running your modern accounting firm, please subscribe to my newsletter.