The successful practice does not need the Australian accounting firm owner to be present in the office, and should not need the owner to be contributing to the bottom line.
Allow me to explain by way of the evolution of the accounting firm.
In the first quadrant, an accountant gains experience through working for another accounting firm as an employee. This is part 1.
In the second quadrant, the accountant sets up their own firm, as a sole practitioner, or with a couple of admin support staff/bookkeepers etc. Most, if not all, of the work is done by the accountant.
In the third quadrant, where most accountants eventually arrive, is they are partner/director/owner/creator (titles vary, but the job doesn’t) of a firm and they are significantly involved in the generation of income in the firm. They will have several accountants and bookkeepers, and perhaps 1 or 2 other partners, but the income of the firm depends on their participation and presence.
In many instances, the only way the income of the third quadrant firm can increase is through unusually large numbers of hours to be done by the owners. This is indicative of inherent problems in the firm that have been built during the transition from quadrant two to quadrant three. For instance, lack of training systems, lack of job allocation systems. It’s normally a firm that can’t easily expand, as the owners (or key individuals) are working flat out to keep the firm going.
This brings us to Quadrant Four, which must be the main goal of every accounting firm owner. For an accounting firm owner to reach Quadrant 4, they must be directly involved in nothing in the firm. Not only is this the compliance work, consulting work or any other client facing work, but also the IT, admin, systems work. Their absence should not impact revenue or operations in any way.
In fact, the physical absence of the partner encourages others in the accounting firm to develop their own skills and take responsibility for their own actions (and successes). Attracting and retaining skilled staff should be based on the premise they can contribute to and develop within the practice. Put more simply, the quadrant 4 accounting firm has been built, so the partner can step back and look at industry trends, new service opportunities, or new tools (such as AI and automation).