There’s a lot of talk these days about the need for a new public accounting business model. In fact, we’re spending a lot of time ourselves driving change to many fundamental business model elements including pushing for not-to-exceed pricing, unlimited paid time off and uber-flexibility, and turning over the reins to younger leaders earlier. And that’s just a tiny sampling of the changes we believe firms can – and should -- make.

But while we’re driving change, we’re also encouraging our clients to define and protect their “business model deal-breakers” – those non-negotiables that must survive any other changes they make. So, what are your firm’s business model deal-breakers?

This will vary by practice, but some that we believe will make every firm’s short list include:

  • Profitability – the firm must be profitable and, in most years, must yield a net income per partner (NIPP) that is no less than the prior year, and ideally more. If the new business model changes you’re driving impact NIPP adversely, it is unlikely that they will get or sustain much support.
  • Client relationships – your team members must strive to develop deep and lasting relationships with clients. While those relationships are a must-have, the means your firm uses to develop them – whether through in-person meetings, telephone calls, video conferencing, social media or other vehicles – isn’t as important as the effort your people make to truly know and care about your clients as individuals and entities.
  • Excellent client service – your firm must deliver excellent client service, as judged through the eyes of your clients. In addition, you should produce a steady stream of referenceable, satisfied clients. If the changes you’d like to make will impact overall client satisfaction in a negative way – rethink them!
  • Quality – your firm must produce deliverables that meet quality, technical and accuracy standards within the profession. Whatever your suggested business model change, it must enhance – not detract from – your overall service quality.
  • Core values – the firm’s people, policies and programs must adhere to and reflect your overall core values as defined by your leadership team. As you’re planning changes to your business model, consider whether the changes will illustrate your firm’s commitment to your values, or fly in the face of the behavioral attributes you hold dear. Going against your stated values is definitely a deal-breaker.
  • Teamwork – your professional services firm maximizes value delivered to clients and leverage when you collaborate and play well as a team. When business model changes are proposed, ask yourself if those changes enhance or diminish your firm’s commitment to teamwork.

Once you define and discuss your firm’s business model deal breakers, you’ll be in a better position to evaluate future proposed business model changes based on their impact – positively or negatively – to your firm’s non-negotiable elements. Those driving business model change will also have some guardrails to guide their change proposals – things they must address and protect to effectively implement their change.

In addition, those who may resist the considerable changes up for discussion in public accounting will read your deal-breakers list and realize that there aren’t that many truly sacred cows in your firm. Comforted by your commitment to protect these non-negotiables, your resisters may be more open to change knowing that the all-important deal-breakers will remain intact.

So, what are your firm’s non-negotiables? How do they compare to our list of six? Please share your thoughts with us and our readers!