Opportunities, Staff Care and Retention Strategies

I recently started consulting with a 6-partner firm who invited me to help them with their business and strategic planning.

The firm is profitable – in fact very. They have come through the Covid journey having lost clients and staff through the Great Resignation. 

Where to start?

I believe that every consulting engagement should start with diagnosis. There are some highly effective diagnostic tools. I developed a diagnostic toolkit that I use with accountancy firms where there are 2 to 10 partners that takes a 360 degree look at EVERY aspect of firm management. For more information do please email me – mark@marklloydbottom.com. For larger firms I use a purpose created survey that enables online completion and automatic report driven analysis. 

So, in the particular case of this firm, what were the outcomes? 

Opportunities for service development. One partner had developed an expertise in corporate finance. While the firm is probably not big enough to command instructions from high value companies this partner’s success in the US$5-10m marketplace was significant. He told me one instance of when he had received three bids for a company in the US$9-$12m range. The preferred bidder was in fact the lowest. Through his skills and experience he was able to negotiate the lowest bidder up thus earning $3m for his client and a further significant fee for the firm.

BUT, this service was not evidenced on the firm’s website or in any Press Releases.

Key Points: I will not expand further except to draw some key questions:

  • What is your non-compliance expertise?
  • What expertise do you have that you can leverage?
  • What service opportunities are you missing out on?
  • Are any of your partners hiding their light under their bushel?
  • What opportunities are there for cross serving between firm owners?
  • Are there services on your website that are prominent displayed but rendering little traction or revenue?
  • Are your value services prominent?
  • Does your website in client case studies?
  • Does your website include testimonials?

Key action: Is it time to refresh your website? Improve your SEO?  – If you think we can help, our website design specialist has over 20 years in building leading edge websites for accountants. Contact – hello@rebeccaholdstock.co.uk


Some of the firm owners and senior staff highlighted burn out. Challenging Tax Seasons through Covid and seemingly busy season now seems to have no beginning or end. It’s always busy season! 

Some key extracts relating to staff:

  • The firm had no formal Sabbatical policy entitlement.
  • The firm had no unpaid leave policy
  • The firm had a use it or lose it approach to annual holiday
  • The firm was considered to not be in touch with holiday allowances

I leave you to consider whether any of the above are true of your firm. Maybe areas to consider that will improve team member happiness and longevity in your office

Some of the other staff areas that were highlighted:

1 Poor hiring policies in that some consider the firm are hiring today those that were needed yesterday. That is an understandable observation. Here in the UK and I know in the US, South Africa and Australia there have been reports of the hundreds of thousands, and in the case of the US millions that have not returned to the workplace. Now, with WFH having taken a firm root in the workplace people are working for employers in geographic areas they would not previously have considered. Prior to Covid there was already a shortage of talent – and the accountancy profession, with its deadlines and perhaps [for some] a perceived lack of a flexible and exciting career, is not everyone’s first choice for employment or career development

2 We are not great at selecting and hiring the right staff. What interview processes do you have and are they working? Some firms use staff engagement surveys even before the one-on-one interview. During the height of Covid new staff were being interviewed online.

Interrogating, if I may use that word is good for the prospective employee, good for the firm and good for their team members. 

3 We are giving staff work assignments without proper introduction or training.  I hear this all the time. Last week I was consulting with a client and having listened to the partners I recommended that they take some of their staff out for a coffee and an informal ‘getting to know you better’ and ‘what makes you tick’ meeting. The reality is that ALL your assets go home at night. Today, more than ever before we must do everything to care and develop staff. I have always said that staff are in fact volunteers – they can hand their notice in and move on at any time. 

Key further point: Which reminds me of one further point here and it is to do all you can to ensure that your staff contracts/written statement of employment particulars include a non-compete policy. Here in the UK these can be a challenge to enforce. Managers have left and started their own firms raiding their former employer’s client list since time immemorial. But at least have something in place that a lawyer has said that is as robust as it can be.

Some staff were burned out

  • This includes firm owners. Cure? Maybe holiday or at least time out – is there a difference? Spring Health surveyed 1,136 adult workers and reported that, “(76%) are experiencing burnout symptoms—with a worrying percentage reporting complete burnout (9%). Worker burnout symptoms include exhaustion, reduced work performance, and feeling negative, cynical, or detached from work.” 

Again, this is a really insightful survey – the link is above – please read directly from their website.


The UK Government reports that in January 2022 36% of adults reported working from home for at least one in the last 7 days. With global inflation rates on the increase and fuel costs spiralling there is increased interest in WFH. This survey also highlights the benefit in reduced personal expenditure – with personal costs increasing WFH has some significant financial benefits. The report highlights that, “Half of homeworkers (50%) reported spending less on fuel and parking for commuting, and two fifths (40%) reported spending less on commuting using public transport.”

With southern hemisphere countries currently in winter there is surely a greater attraction to WIO (working in office) where the employer pays the heating costs.

You may not be UK based but this report is insightful and highlights what seems to be a permanent change in staff behaviour. Do firm owners wish to have their staff back at work? Of course, the majority do. 

Key Points – Does your WFH policy need a review? Do you feel that this has helped you retain your talent? Or, has your policy contributed to staff exits?


My client, a successful firm is determined to stay on the front foot, keep ahead of the game, build non-compliance revenues and do everything possible to deliver client value. 

The Managing Partner told me, “All the partners are committed to staying positive, respond to the challenges we all face every day. Managing our own business has never been as important as it is today. If we don’t stay on the front foot, we run the risk of losing clients and our team. We have worked far too hard to see losses which could be avoided by being proactive, communicating well and being prepared to make changes which previously we have considered and rejected. 

I believe the future is very bright and I am determined to do everything I can to lead and keep everyone on board. I know we will lose some of our older partners and that is why we are 100% committed to training, equipping and motivating our upcoming seniors and managers. I have at least three managers who will make partner in the next three years.” 

Key Point: My observation is that this team is marketplace savvy, firm internal matters aware, motivated to go forward and not stand still. Above all they recognise that change does not happen overnight, that mistakes will be made, that not everyone will agree but team dynamics and great leadership will carry the team along what they perceive to be a tough but captivating future.