When preparing for your practice succession, one aspect you should consider is the portability of your practice. How often do clients come to your office versus those that send you information electronically, or do you provide service over the phone or video call (e.g. zoom), or might you go to see them at their office?
As part of this consideration, if your practice could be relocated as part of your succession, which you are open to considering, it may increase your succession options and financial outcomes, but there are risks.
How many clients come into your office for meetings? Many practitioners recognise that visiting clients in their businesses (client's offices) more often will generate new work opportunities as clients open up more expansively about their business, financial and personal issues. Typically, as your practice grows, you might have less availability to go out and see clients. Over the last few years, many firms successfully embraced alternative strategies to engage and service their clients by adopting technology (e.g. zoom and Xero, etc.) combined with email and phone calls. This, in turn, has made it possible for more clients and accountants to work together without the need for in-person meetings. The net result of many of these elements is that fewer clients physically come into accountant's offices than, say, ten years ago.
One of the risks associated with any office relocation is that some clients decide now is the time to make a change due to the relocation. A client may move to another accountant who is their brother-in-law, or interstate clients might choose a local accountant, etc. When you relocate your practice at any time, there are risks of client leakage.
The ability to retain your clients through an office relocation will be impacted by the following:
Strong relationships: A strong relationship between you and your client can be a significant factor in retaining clients. Clients will be less likely to switch to a different accountant if they have a trusted relationship. Further, if your practice has multiple relationships with clients through various team members, this will also assist in strengthening your firm's overall relationship with your clients.
Quality of services: Clients may also choose to stay with you if they are satisfied with the quality of services provided, such as timely and accurate financial advice and support. Conversely, suppose clients don't feel they are getting the required service and attention. In that case, this will quickly weaken your relationship with them and your ability to retain clients through a potential relocation.
Communication: Effective communication before/after any relocation can also help retain clients. Keeping clients informed about a move, providing clear instructions on finding the new location and contact details and ensuring a seamless transition of services can help minimise the move's impact.
Succession: Client retention will be assisted if your office relocation is driven by a desire to provide better service and value to your clients. Your new successor adds additional resources and capabilities and offers other services to bring greater value to your clients.
In planning for your succession, it will be helpful if you start to monitor and record how you service your clients and how many clients choose to come into your office. There are many ways for professional firms to engage with and provide value to clients.