Henry Cooper – To specialise or not to specialise?

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When I’m talking to people thinking of starting their own bookkeeping or accounting business, I’m often asked, “How can I be confident I’ll get enough work?”

The best way to answer this is to turn it around and ask yourself: “Why would anyone choose me?”

Becoming a specialist or an expert is a way to ensure you have a unique selling point, offering a service that helps you stand out from your competition. It could be that you offer a door to door collection service, services outside of normal office hours or you work with your clients remotely.

In addition to this you could specialise in accounts for a specific business, such as farming or maybe taxi-drivers or working for a specific sector, such as charity or micro-businesses.

So, how do you choose what to specialise in? Consider an area in which you have a particular interest, an area you have prior experience in an identified gap in the market.

What if you could go a stage further and become an expert?

This was suggested to me, many years ago, when a coach suggested I should be seen as an expert.  This concerned me somewhat as I had never considered myself capable of being an “expert” but we discussed this further and examined what an expert actually was.

We agreed it wasn’t about knowing everything, but knowing where to find the answers – to become a conduit for clients to rely on to help them find the answers to the questions they were asking.

Your ability to become an expert will rely on your engagement with the industry, keeping up to date with the latest updates and your networking skills. By engaging in tools such as social media you can also become known for your area of expertise.

So, what is the point of all of this?

It’s about raising your profile and making you a “go to” person for VAT or tax for micro-businesses or a specialist in FRS102. It’s about adding credibility to you, your business and your services.

In my case, due to my specialist knowledge of the small business start-up and compliance field, I was approached by a local university with an invitation to undertake some part-time lecturing to their business enterprise students, something which I hadn’t considered previously.

A specialism in an area that you’re passionate about means it’ll also feel a little less like work.

Henry Cooper FMAAT was AAT's 32nd President.

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