This is the second half of a two-part series exploring how to
compete – and win – as a mid-market firm. Previously we
outlined strategies to entice and engage top talent, who are key to
expanding your business. Now, let's discuss how to increase
Build an underdog strategy to beat the odds
One reason our revenue has grown five-fold in five years is
because we've chosen to compete in areas where we can add
measurable value and avoid areas where we cannot. This includes
avoiding most compliance-oriented work, which is largely the domain
of the larger firms, and also tends to be lowest margin and least
We develop specialty service areas where we know we can provide
value through expert advisory offerings. We also look for new,
innovative ways to serve our clients. For instance, we are the
first accounting firm in Canada, (to our knowledge) to develop our
own insurance products.
To us, financial audit isn't just an audit; it's an
opportunity to add value. This seems to work for our clients
– our recovery rates are higher than those of our
competitors, yet we retain clients year after year and continue to
grow our audit practice because of our focus on value creation.
One strategy we employ is to grow by seeking out and hiring
skilled professionals who feel they have plateaued at another firm.
We offer growth opportunities as well as training and mentoring on
how to adapt to a hard-driving, sales-oriented, entrepreneurial
culture. These programs have been successful, with many of the
senior people who join us from other firms finding that their
happiness at work has grown substantially. It does not hurt that
their income has grown as well.
We're what you might term a "challenger brand",
which has its upsides. Entrenched big-firm competitors can rely on
their name brand to speak for them. Our name isn't widely
recognized yet – particularly in some of the new markets we
aim to serve – so this combination of strategic hiring,
training and mentoring is vital for us to succeed. We punch above
our weight because we have to win on merit, not on brand.
Setting up and stepping back
A key way to help a team succeed is by staying out of their way.
One of the limitations of a traditional partnership structure is
the amount of time that the partners must spend on management
We prefer to have a management team structure, which is not
unusual among accounting firms, but our implementation is
different. Our management team is streamlined, with day-to-day
decision making left to either the managing partner or the chief
operating officer. Each of our service lines has a leader and they
are given enough latitude to run their practice area independently.
The rest of the partnership is spared involvement in the day-to-day
running of the firm, which leaves them free to do what they do best
– focus on growing the revenue and reputation of the firm as
well as offering clients valuable ideas and insights.
This streamlined management structure means we can be nimble and
move quickly on opportunities such as an acquisition, a key
potential hire or a new business opportunity.
Another uncommon aspect of our structure is that our
compensation system for the partners is 100% subjective (no
formula). It is completely based on behavior and this really is the
secret sauce to our success.
This culture isn't for everyone. Our shift from a small firm
to the 10th largest accounting firm in Canada has meant that many
of our existing staff have had to learn new skills, particularly in
sales and other aspects of business development, while many
partners have had to learn to let go of their administrative
In a time when many professions have commoditized themselves,
our focus on creating value for clients by investing in talent
first, distinguishes us from the rest of the field. Our formula has
yielded positive, quantifiable growth thus far, and we believe it
will continue to prove successful in our intensely competitive
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions or GST.
Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan Act and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions.
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