Every CPA firm has a signature strength that provides a competitive advantage and can be leveraged for growth. Often, when we ask partners to identify that strength, they are not aware of it. Let’s look at a few examples of “hidden” signature strengths.
One firm’s partners pointed to the real estate practice as the firm’s signature strength. Upon examination, we noted that 70% of the firm’s substantial growth over the previous three years had come from acquisitions that, for the most part, did not enhance the firm’s real estate practice. We concluded that the firm’s signature strength is identifying and concluding successful acquisitions and assimilating the acquired firms into the principal firm.
Another firm’s partners thought that work quality was a strength that differentiated it from the competition. While we acknowledged the quality of the firm’s work, as validated by its litigation record over the last decade, we concluded that the firm’s actual strength was the ability to plan and execute — not an easy strength to achieve in a CPA firm.
Still another firm’s partners believed that developing people was their signature strength. What we found was that the actual signature strength was diversity. The firm excelled at recruiting a diverse workforce and matching staff to clients, based on similarity of personal attributes. They indeed were great people, but what made them do so well was how they were uniquely matched to the right client counterparts. This is easy to talk about, but really hard to do.
A growth strategy that is linked to signature strength can be very powerful. This is important to keep in mind. It’s also much easier to leverage a strength than to overcome a weakness, although both can be important to success.