Ten Steps to Specialization

It may seem counter intuitive that to grow your business you need to move from having an entire market to serve as a generalist to having a more concentrated or limited area of the market to serve as a specialized firm. You will at times need to actually turn away business that is no longer a good fit for the firm in order to serve your specialty clients and this is difficult for firms that were created and have grown as a very successful general accounting firm. However taking the steps below can be a catalyst that helps you grow your firm, serve clients more deeply, create more growth opportunities for people on your team, and give you more personal satisfaction as a professional adviser.

Building Your Specialty:

  1. Analyze the current client base and group clients in terms of industries and service specialties.
  2. Match the industries to the skill set of your team. If there is a specialty that offers long term growth and you have the expertise to leverage then it becomes an easy decision. It may be that a particular specialty offers tremendous opportunity however you need to recruit the expertise to serve that market. Many industries and specialties are worth making that choice.
  3. Analyze the market (e.g. how many businesses, total market revenue, employment figures, etc..).
  4. Decide if there is enough business in that specialty to have multiple people in the firm spending a good portion of their time devoted to building this area of the practice. Ask for advice from your firm’s association members who have the specialty you are considering.
  5. Find out what other firms in your market are serving the space. Does your firm has a competitive advantage over them in terms of service, process, or experience?
  6. Be serious. Your firm may have a group of clients in a particular industry and you could have a few people on the team that do ‘some’ work in the industry but that does not mean you have a specialty or a niche practice. Getting serious about a specialty means you have a person or a few people that are spending upwards of 40-50% of their time or more devoted to working in that space.
  7. Commit the resources. Firm leaders must get on board and allow people time to build the practice. It takes support in terms of time and money to generate momentum and build a solid business around the specialty.
  8. Put a firm leader (with a passion for the practice) in place to take charge of the specialty. This person needs to be (or have the capacity/desire to grow into) a thought leader in the specialization. They accomplish this by writing articles, speaking, posting blogs, taking on leadership positions in industry groups, using social media outlets, and generally positioning themselves as the go to person for any business owner in the community that has a need for the specialty.
  9. Build a plan to grow the specialty. This should include a heavy dose of contact with existing clients to obtain additional business, find out what it is you do that they like (use their responses for marketing purposes), and always ask for referrals from them.
  10. Continually search for additional talent (internally and externally) that is a fit for the firm and your specialty.

Finally, remember when in doubt Go Deep and then Deeper with your client base and you will be rewarded with better fees, more client loyalty, and greater firm relevance long term.

Patrick Pruett
Enterprise Worldwide

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