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Tax & AccountingAugust 28, 2023

Use SMART Goals to Help Your Practice Achieve Success

Each public accounting firm and tax practice has a unique definition of success. Some prioritize their profit margin, accepting clients who support higher margins. Others may focus on quantity, while others may focus on specializing and establishing themselves as the subject matter experts in a particular type of work. Before your leadership team sets strategic goals, its important to identify what success means for your firm or practice.

Once you’ve identified what success means to your firm, align your strategic goals to help achieve success. And when you are setting these goals, make sure to keep them SMART:

  • Specific – state what you’ll do with action words
  • Measurable – provide a way to evaluate, using metrics or data targets
  • Attainable – ensure that the goal is within your scope and is possible to accomplish
  • Relevant – the goal should make sense and improves the business in some way
  • Timely – state when the goal will be accomplished, and be specific on the date or time frame.

Let's take, for example, a goal shared by 96% of all accounting firms (according to a survey done by Accounting Today for Wolters Kluwer in 2021): grow the business. It may be the top priority for most firms, but without more definition, it's nothing more than an idea. Applying the SMART framework turns that idea into an actionable plan. So, if your broad goal is to grow your business, how do you make it a SMART goal? 

Let's look at an example of how to turn a broad goal - "grow the business" - into a SMART goal.

Be Specific

When making your goal specific, ensure that you specify five W’s - who is included, what you want to accomplish, which resources or limits are involved, where it is located, and why this goal is important.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring new business clients.

Ensure It’s Measurable

When a goal is measurable, you know the answers to a couple of key How’s – how many, how much, how you’ll know when the goal is accomplished, and how you will know that the goal is a success.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring eight new business clients.

Make it Attainable

The key How’s continue with ensuring that your goals are attainable. When making your goals attainable, you’ve determined how the goal can be accomplished and how realistic the goal is based on other constraints.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring eight new business clients through a paid social media campaign and a client referral program.

Keep it Relevant

Now is the time to make sure that the goals matter to your practice or firm and aligns with other strategic goals the leadership team identified earlier in this process. However, sometimes making sure goals are relevant can sometimes be a struggle.

Rather than trying to answer a question when you’re making sure your goal is relevant, make sure that your goal can say “yes” to the following questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
    Yes – with our current profit margins, growing the business by adding new clients will increase revenue.
  • Is this the right time?
    Yes – social media advertising during tax season will help potential clients find us, and a client referral program will help us reach new clients after we have filed returns for our current clientele.
  • Does this match other efforts and needs?
    Yes – this goal does not conflict with other business priorities or undermine other projects.
  • Is this applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
    Yes – paid social advertising falls within our annual budget and our services are needed.

Make it Timely

Every goal needs a deadline to focus on and a target end date to drive progress. The timely part of your goal should answer When the goal should be completed and what can be done in the short, medium, and long term.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring eight new business clients in the next year (two per quarter) through a paid social media campaign and a client referral program.


Remember, the broad goal was to grow the business.

The SMART goal is to acquire two new business clients every quarter for a total of eight new business clients in the next year by asking current clients for referrals and launching a paid social media campaign. Bringing on new business clients will allow the business to grow, increase revenue, and support our strategic goals of increasing the percentage of business clients.

Now you don’t just have a goal, you have a plan!

Start Getting SMART

Whether your firm’s definition of success is to become known as the subject matter expert for a particular industry or consistently add clients every year, building your goals as SMART goals will help you achieve them.

 Whatever your goal may be, starting a new challenge is daunting. The SMART framework is a powerful tool to improve your odds of succeeding because it better defines your goals and lay out steps to achieve them. And for many firms -- particularly smaller firms -- that's the most challenging part of growing; understanding what your next step should be.

To help you find the fastest route to success, we've assembled a small firm growth guide: Build Your Ideal Small Firm Tech Stack. Download your copy to see how cloud technology can make your new SMART goals more attainable! 

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Hillarie Diaz, Author for Tax & Accounting

As a content creator for Wolters Kluwer’s Professional Market, Hillarie focuses on a wide range of accounting and finance technology space topics. As an accountant who enjoys writing, she brings over a decade of accounting experience to her writing.

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