...solve thorny business challenges in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea


Why risk the health of your accountancy firm by measuring the wrong things?

If your firm lost major money for three months, one after the other, you’d be stressed.

You’d be stressed enough to do something about it.

Making a loss prompts a strong emotional reaction.

And a strong enough emotional reaction results in corrective action, as it should.

So a key measure in your firm – a financial loss – gets you to do something to improve your business results – reduce costs or improve sales.

But shouldn’t you be taking timely action to prevent the losses in the first place?


Use client-focused, healthy heartfelt measures and you’ll be prompted to take action sooner.

Take action sooner and you’ll avoid problems leading to losses in your firm.

Start with 4 helping hands here or read on for the full Bitesize Business Breakthrough.

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Like most business owners or managing partners you are familiar with KPIs – Key Performance Indicators.


Most accountancy firm owners and managing partners measure what they think is right rather than measure what matters most.

We know accountants love to track and measure – let’s make sure you track and measure the right things in your firm

Use smarter KPIs…

In 1994 Continental Airlines was failing miserably.

In the previous decade it had filed for bankruptcy twice.

But then Gordon Bethune took over.

Bethune simply got every employee focused on just three KPIs. Together they delivered a remarkable comeback.

Continental became one of the most profitable airlines in the sky in the late 1990s.

In 1994 they had a complex set of measures for their business, mostly focused on cost reduction.

So Bethune theatrically burned the employee manual in their car park.

The rules had changed.

The game changed because Bethune changed the KPIs. He dumped most measures and got every employee focused on three KPIs:

  • Less lost luggage
  • Fewer complaints  
  • More on-time arrival 

Notice how these three company KPIs matter to the airline’s customers.

Profits soared because they focused on KPIs that made a dramatic difference to their customers.

Here's the proven solution for you...

Measure what matters to your clients and the health of your accountancy firm will be safe and sound. As long as your new KPIs drive action...

Bethune managed to get all Continental employees taking regular action to improve their three customer-focused KPIs.

  • Less lost luggage - a quality KPI
  • Fewer complaints - customer satisfaction KPI 
  • More 'on-time' arrival - customer satisfaction KPI 

What are your firm's equivalent to Bethune’s three customer-focused KPIs?

Critical question…

What happens to your business results when you start to measure the numbers that matter most to your clients?

Worthwhile answer…

You start to predict the future success of your firm.

If and when you track, measure and, most importantly, act on KPIs that matter to your
customers, you stack the odds in favour of your success.

Just like Continental Airlines did.

They went from worst to first in their industry – what could you achieve?

STOP thinking your existing KPIs are good enough. It suggests you’re stuck in the old way of managing your performance.

START measuring what matters most to your client. Then take regular action to improve these new style KPIs.

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Canary-like KPIs…

You’ll know why miners used to take canaries down the mine with them?

To predict their future survival!

Should a canary stop singing and fall off their little perch, the miners knew the air quality was dangerous.

But here’s what matters most about this…

Just 6 minutes! Or 13 if they were lucky…

The emergency breathing-masks the miners used had between six and thirteen minutes of air.

So when a canary fell off its perch, miners were fast to put on their breathing masks. 

Then they legged it, they got out of there fast!

Here’s the rub. It’s one thing to have a great health predictor - a canary – or a KPI - it’s another to take action, and take action fast.

You want your firm to succeed…

So start measuring what matters to your clients and your ‘Key Performance
’ become ‘Key Predictive Indicators’. 

Your KPIs become your business canary!

Act fast when these ‘Key Predictive Indicators’ change and your survival is more than likely.

Better still, take action because of what your ‘Key Predictive Indicators’ tell you and your business success is more likely.

Simplicity seals the deal

Continental Airlines started with a long complex set of KPIs.

Then Bethune simplified this to three easy-to-understand, customer-focused KPIs.

When you work out a handful of KPIs that work for your clients, you too can dramatically improve the results of your firm.


Research by the software company Exact suggests that businesses with a business plan are consistently more profitable (70%) than those without a business plan (52%).

Get it all on one page…

Long and complex or short and simple?

Business plans often feel like a waste of time to business owners.

Especially when the resulting business plan ends up gathering dust in a drawer somewhere!

But what about a short, simple business plan on one page?

One page focused on a handful of client-facing KPIs like Bethune and Continental Airlines.

One page of KPIs you refer to often because it predicts your firm's future success and steers the actions you take.

One page of KPIs you can share with your people so you’re all taking action to improve your results.

And imagine what your clients would think if you were to help them do the same?

4 helping hands for you…

It’s easy to accept the status-quo and continue to measure what you’ve always measured in your firm.

Why not put these 4 things to work so you can improve your KPIs and improve the actions you take and improve your results too:


Get your team involved
and discuss what KPIs
matter most to your


Identify a handful of KPIs you think will do the job for you


Set these KPIs up as a
business one-page plan


Refer to your one page
of KPIs regularly to drive the right action in your firm

Click here to read this whole Bitesize Business Breakthrough 


“Business is more complex than reducing what we do to handful of numbers.”

It is all too easy to be tempted to focus on accounting numbers.

And yet, not one of the three Continental Airlines KPIs would show up in a set of accounts! 

This is the point of this business breakthrough.

It’s like Ron Baker says in his masterful book on KPIs:

“…ultimately the success of any business is a result of loyal customers who return.”

“It’s almost impossible to get our people to take KPIs seriously.”

You could argue it was easier to get buy-in to new KPIs at Continental Airlines because they’d nearly gone bust twice, so
fear played a role.

You could also argue having a new CEO helped too.

However the logic, simplicity and common sense of the three KPIs used – less lost luggage, fewer customer complaints,
more on-time arrivals – helped everyone focus...

“…help pilots, flight crews, baggage handlers, or food service caterers fulfil the goals and objectives of the airline on an hour by hour timeline.”  Ron Baker - 'Measure what matters to customers'

Involve your team in a discussion about Key Predictive Indicators – the numbers that matter to your clients – and you’ll
stand a good chance of getting their support.

Like Michael Basch (co-founder of FedEx) suggests:


“People don’t mind change. They mind being changed.”

Michael Basch (co-founder FedEx)

“Some things are hard to measure. Wouldn’t we be better off measuring the easier stuff?”

Yes it is difficult to get an exact measure of client satisfaction.

And it is easy to get the exact cost of for example fuel consumption or chargeable time.

But as Ron Baker suggests: 


“Exact measurements of the wrong
things can drive out good judgements of the right things.”

Ron Baker - Measure What Matters To Customers

If you like the idea of greater certainty over the future business success of your firm, then you’ll be willing to do the work of measuring the ‘less exact’ client-focused KPIs.


“How do I know this will work for me and my firm?”

Until you test these new-style client-focused KPIs (Key Predictive Indicators) in your firm you won’t know.

You can keep your existing measures but have a look at how your decision-making and actions taken change when you and your people use client-focused KPIs

Your 'Make It Happen' checklist:

Here’s how you create a Business One Page Plan of Key Predictive Indicators for your firm:


Get clear on the goals for your firm

Continental Airlines goal was to climb away from being the worst ranked airline in 1994 and avoid bankruptcy.

Their goals changed as they made progress but they used clear SMART goals.

Find out how you can create SMART goals for your firm in the support tools at the end of this report.


Work out, with your people, your client-facing predictors

What’s your equivalent of Less Lost Luggage? A quality KPI, perhaps it's the number of file review points?

What’s your equivalent of On Time Arrival? A speed of delivery KPI, how about file completion time from your clients' year end date?

And what about a customer care KPI? How about the number of client calls every week?

And you might opt for tracking an overall client satisfaction KPI.

For more guidance on these please see the Business Bitesize support tools at the end of this report


Work out your sales and marketing predictors

The growth of your firms means you must generate enquiries from new prospective clients (marketing).

What are your best marketing KPIs? Number of referral conversations with clients?

You must also convert these enquiries to paying clients (sales). Which KPIs show you how well your firm does this?


Work out your cost and cash predictors

You are likely to have one, two or three costs that dominate the money you spend to run your firm.

It could be salaries or staff turnover. It could be fuel or other raw materials. It could be capital investment costs.

What are yours? Profit per job, per client?

And because cash is king in every firm you’ll want to know every day, every week or every month how well your cash collection is working. 

What KPIs show you this? How about the value of fees on monthly direct debit? Or cash collections this week?


Add in your key financials

You know these already but it makes sense to show these on your business one page plan too.

But it’s good to have confirmation on the hard facts about the three numbers that tell you how well you did historically – turnover, cash in bank and profitability.


Track your KPIs every month (at least) and take action to improve them

Predictive Measurement is not enough. Take action to improve your numbers.

Click here to read this whole Bitesize Business Breakthrough 

Want to know more?


Click the link below and you'll find a selection of practical support tools to help you create Key Predictor Indicators to drive future success in your accountancy firm.

Measure What Matters To Customers

Ronald J. Baker

If you need further convincing about the power of measuring what matters to your clients, check out Ron Baker’s power-packed book.
It’s well worth your attention if you are committed to growing your firm. And as a numbers expert this has got to be a book in every accountant's arsenal.


This report is shared by

Paul Shrimpling
Paul Shrimpling, Managing Director


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