Part of recent research into ‘progressive practices’ led me to The Wow Company. It’s an unusual name for a firm of accountants but that’s only the start. Yesterday, I recorded a podcast with Peter Czapp, one of the firm’s three founders.
[pullshow]My podcasts are usually around the 10-15 minute mark. This one ran 32 minutes 46 seconds. It’s one you might wish to hear on the daily commute or during lunch. If you have the time then I encourage you to listen. The nub of what makes this firm progressive comes in three pieces:
- It sees the numbers as a way of articulating how a business goes forward rather than taking the traditional rear view mirror approach of many firms.
- It has reversed the traditional cost and fee structure from one where accounts production accounts for 60-70%, tax 10-20% and advisory maybe 10%. This firm spends the vast majority of its time on advisory. Compliance and accounts production are seen as necessary but capable of efficient production.
- Extensive technology adoption provides the enabling tools. It uses Xero for client accounting, VT for accounts production. It is just starting to use WorkflowMax as the basis for job management. Skype and Yammer figure in its arsenal of tools.
[pullthis]The Wow Company embodies many of the attributes I associate with a 21st century firm.[/pullthis] But what really matters is whether they’re being successful. Last week I said that the best practices I am seeing are bucking the general fee growth trend, reporting anywhere between 15% and 80% growth. For 2010-11, The Wow Company will report 15% growth. That comes in a year when it has been concentrating on bedding down new systems and rationalizing low end fees on which it can neither serve the client well nor make a sensible return on its efforts. It is quietly confident that 2011-12 will see it grow 50%. Despite the recession. How can it be successful when so many others are struggling?
- The partners are not qualified – horror of horrors. But that makes no difference because they employ qualified staff to do the needful in compliance. Instead, the partners leverage their knowledge of what it takes to manage and run a successful business. Think about this for a moment. If you believe, as I do, that compliance is a commodity business then where is the value in a qualification from the entrepreneur’s perspective? Entrepreneurs employ people who know about that ‘stuff’ so they can concentrate on the business.
- The firm is relentlessly focused on doing one thing and doing it well. Serving the small business turning over up to £2 million. Beyond that, The Wow Company believes it is OK to let clients go as they ‘graduate’ to better things. Ever heard that one before? I suspect that will change over time once the firm realizes there is even more value to be found in those larger clients.
- A focus on driving out production efficiency. The Wow Company intends to keep on investing in technology as a central part of its offering. It believes that allows it to operate remotely in most situations because systems like Xero allow it to share data directly with clients in real time. Add in Skype usage and you have a super low cost operation.
- A fresh focus on the use of social tools. Peter Czapp is adamant that services like Twitter allow it to reach out to both clients and potential clients in highly effective ways. They see these tools as effective ways to scatter marketing seeds.
All of which leads me to conclude that while I respect the views of others who think the profession can move at a more leisurely pace, those same advisors are leading their clients along the wrong road. Bottom line – you either get this ‘stuff’ or you don’t. If you do then the rewards are there. But don’t believe me, listen to the podcast.
Coming soon: Android and iPhone podcast apps