Foot on the Brake

Are you driving your business with a foot on the brake?
October 12, 2016 Scott Charlton

How growth can stall in professional practice and what to do about it


Many firms are subconsciously resigned to their current level of revenue because taking on more clients would plunge their back office into chaos. This article provides remedies which will open up new possibilities for growth.


From the privileged position of invited guest, I’ve been witness to a recurring scenario in professional practices, where growth is minimal and there is a pervading sense of struggle. I liken this to driving down the highway with a foot firmly on the brake. Worse, firms experiencing such malaise don’t recognise this is happening, with the result that it becomes a permanent inhibitor.

Getting nowhere fast

In such situations there is tacit acceptance that the front line professionals will not expend themselves pursuing new opportunities. They know that any work they bring back can’t get done in an acceptable time frame. As a result, lost opportunities abound and revenue growth stops.

Symptoms of excessive braking

Any of these six symptoms could indicate excessive braking is the cause of stalled revenue in your firm –

  • Paper, paper, paper everywhere – it’s on desks and conference tables, lurking in filing cabinets and stacked up in files around the floor of partners’ offices.
  • Frontline advisers are bored, frustrated and out of sorts. High performance machines need to be kept engaged. Quite simply, there are fewer complaints when they have lots of interesting new assignments!
  • Assistants struggle to interpret what’s required because they’ve been inadequately briefed and file notes aren’t good enough.
  • Meeting deadlines is a constant challenge, taking its toll on good people.
  • There’s a fear, real and perceived, of commitments getting missed.
  • Rather than implement long term solutions, problems get worked around. I’ve seen planners’ statements of advice being produced out of Word instead of Xplan and business projections created by accountants in Excel because no one’s had time to master the cash flow budget software.

The good news is that diagnosis is the first step to resolution.


Releasing the inhibitors

The firms we work with ease off the brakes through a combination of factors –

  1. Strong leadership. An earnest resolve to rectify the situation is followed by an implementation plan.
  2. Responsibility. Our Firm of the Future organisation chart includes provision for a Factory Manager – someone whose role is to optimise performance in your engine room.
  3. Meetings with purpose. An overlay of concise team member interactions provides focus in relevant areas and maintains a healthy sense of urgency.
  4. Dedicated pursuit of efficiencies, large and small. Structural efficiency typically includes ensuring sufficient support for the revenue producers, astute allocation of working “on the business” time and standardising processes. Simple efficiency often includes clearing out wheelie bins full of “stuff”; installing two screens on every desk and having assistants sitting in meetings.
  5. Utilisation of core software. Greater utilisation of the Firm’s central software application pays big dividends. The path to mastery will likely include appointing a champion (preferably with a back-up); attending training courses; engaging a consultant to blast through barriers; participating in user groups and field trips to colleagues’ offices to learn best practice.
  6. Single source of truth. Collection of data and correspondence in one place, for both clients and prospects.


Professional practices need the stimulation of new and challenging client engagements. They create a buzz in the office, require fresh thinking and generate a sense of momentum. Taking action on back office inefficiencies is the key to opening up new possibilities for growth, profit and excitement in your Firm.



Scott Charlton is a director of Slipstream Coaching, a company dedicated to assisting financial practitioners achieve their potential. A long term business coach to both accountants and financial planners, Scott is also the author of three books regarding professionals in practice. Scott can be contacted via phone 0409 870 330 or email