The 4 Stages of building a firm

You need a flexible tool that can grow with you from one person, to an integrated team of hundreds.

Stage 1: The Sole Proprietor

It starts off simple enough; you’ve learned a skill that people will pay for, and now you just need to put the time in and collect your money. The first job, then your first invoice, and it quickly leads to more jobs, more time, and more invoices. And before you know it, you’re managing multiple jobs, different project deadlines, expenses, and lots of invoices. Soon you need to track your financial information to give to a book-keeper so you can eventually file your year-end

You might be tempted to use a spreadsheet, a database or even an accounting system, but before you do, check out GroupThinq. It was thoughtfully designed for small-business owners to help manage every aspect of their growing company, including timesheets, project budgets, invoices, bills, and expenses; all in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. You can easily add your book-keeper too so they have everything they need for your year-end. 

As you move into the next stage of growth, you will be thankful you chose a simple project accounting platform designed for small-business owners rather than a corporate accounting platform designed for accountants.  

Stage 2: The Small Business

As you your skills become more and more in demand, you’ll need to hire staff to meet new deadlines. This is a complex and highly stressful stage of your business. It’s important that you clearly communicate how much time is allocated to your project so that you and your staff don’t spend more money (salaries) than you have coming in as income. Time is literally money in consulting. Staff need to know how much ‘time’ is left in the budget, every day, as they work… or the revenue coming in will not keep pace with the salaries going out. 

GroupThinq shows everyone how much time is left in each phase of the project, right in their timesheets as they work. You and your team will know, in real-time, if the hours spent start to exceed your projected budget, and by how much. Owners can start to see trends in projects which will help them on the next project. Everyone becomes accountable for time and budgets.

All the while, more invoices are going out, costs are going up, and it becomes important to track payment due dates (receivables). Chances are, you weren’t formally trained to run a business, but with a simple business intelligence platform like GroupThinq, it all gets easy…. fast. 

Stage 3: The Medium Sized Practice

As you race past 5, then 10 and eventually 20 employees, the business gets infinitely more complex, and you need to put business-systems in place to monitor money coming in, money going out, where people’s time is being spent, and how to manage the growing accounting needs and demands. Most business owners get lulled into thinking that an ‘accounting system’ will help them grow, but in fact, an accounting system doesn’t provide a robust enough picture to explain project-level accounting. Accounting systems work at the scale of a company, not at the scale of a project and they are designed for accountants, not for small business owners. They can’t tell you which projects are over or under budget, which teams are making or losing money or who is billable or not billable every week. For that, you need a real-time project accounting application which is used by everyone in the company.

GroupThinq is far more robust than an accounting system, and it is far easier to use since it was designed for everyone to use; not just a professional accountant. GroupThinq provides instant feedback about problems or successes in the business, to the people that need to know. GroupThinq is an embedded tool your team uses every day as they work. 

In this stage of growth, job complexities also grow so it becomes necessary partner with other firms to undertake projects. Now you need to manage invoices from partner firms (bills) using purchase orders (PO’s), and track when your invoices are being paid so you can pay your sub-consultants. All this adds another layer of complexity that must be managed as the company continues to grow. You most definitely need a shared project accounting application like GroupThinq at this stage of the business.  

Stage 4: The Large, Multi-Office Consulting Practice

After 30-50 people, you start thinking about branching into other regional offices, growing using the lessons learned in your medium sized business. Now you need a tool that can work in different offices, under multiple different divisions, with much more complex permissions and approval mechanisms. Daily data needs to feed back to a central accounting department within the company. Division managers need to monitor the success and challenges within their own divisions. More complex hierarchies are formed in the organization to manage the complexity of jobs, teams, clients and deliverables. People need to work remotely.

At this stage of growth, a robust project accounting application is needed to coordinate staff timesheets, expense reports, purchase orders, scope changes, manage bills and payments, and provide robust reporting in realtime to track the progress of individuals, teams, divisions, managers, offices and the company as a whole. GroupThinq has been finely honed to address all the demands of a growing large consulting practice. 

Though it was only a few short years ago when you started as a sole proprietor, you will be thankful you chose a robust project accounting application like GroupThinq in the early days to help you grow from 1 person to multiple offices in many different nations. Congratulations on making smart choices in the early days.  

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business intelligence that makes you a smarter business owner.

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