The scale of eBay’s success is self-evident.

(Can you believe I refused to take a punt on eBay shares back in 2002 despite some serious hint dropping by the head of the New York Stock Exchange who I was sharing a course with!? No worse than the record company exec who turned down the Beatles I guess!)

So, eBay reportedly have 9 principles on which their success is based.

Here they are for your consideration with my thoughts on how they might apply to your accountancy firm…

1. Know your user

– Categorise your clients (clear criteria that segment your clients into Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc) and use these categories to dictate your work-flow, your priorities, and your customer care programmes.

2. Keep the main thing the main thing

– Beware of being side-tracked by the next bright shiny object. Your core business pays the bills, pays your people and is responsible for your personal earnings too. Give it 80% of your attention and time.

3. Keep it simple

– Complexity confuses people. It confuses your people, it also confuses your clients. Plain English. Plain speaking. Crystal clear benefits of what you do will stand you in good stead.

4. Don’t make the user work

– Imagine trying to suck a milkshake up a straw that’s partly blocked! It’s hard enough with a clear straw. So, it is in business – you need to allow your clients and prospects the cleanest, easiest, quickest way of doing business with you – remove all blockages.

– If your competition insists on putting hurdles up for clients to jump over you’ll win every time if you have removed them and your clients can sprint to your door unencumbered.

5. Be consistent

– Inconsistency of customer care or speed of delivery or quality of final accounts packs tells a story about your firm. It tells your clients that you have not got your act together. This does not inspire confidence in a so-called trusted advisor.

– Systems should be a fundamental part of your customer care AND your technical accounts work.

6. Provide a well-lit path

– A bit like point 4. This is a pointer to using pointers. Direct your clients to what to do next, make it obvious what is needed so that you can do a great job for them.

7. Optimise for the 80%

– Whatever you do, make sure your firm is remarkable at looking after the 20% of clients that provide you with 80% of your profits.

– Never ever let the 20% of clients that generate 80% of the hassle and grief side-track you from those that are both profitable and enjoyable to work with.

– Become world-class at providing the 20% of services that generate 80% of your profits. The world’s fastest. The world’s most useful. The world’s best value for money.

8. Make it personal

– Accountants have a tendency to want to focus on the technical work of accountancy. This is necessary but not at the expense of the personal relationship. If anything, the personal relationship is MORE IMPORTANT than the technical work you do.

– Whatever you do, do not be seen to provide a mass-produced service to your biggest and best clients. Make it personal.

9. Help should be helpful, but not necessary

– Design your services and processes so that you minimise the need for clients to ask for help. For example, if clients are regularly ringing in to enquire about the filing of their company tax return or the status of their P11D’s then you should improve your communications to remove these calls – become pro-active rather than reactive – make these calls ‘not necessary’.

Not surprisingly there is no rocket science here.

You are aware of eBay’s phenomenal success, so you could do worse than build your firm’s strategy around these 9 principles. eBay might not be an accountancy firm but these principles seem well suited to improving the focus, the management and the results of most of the accountancy firms that I have worked with.

Read here ​how the 80/20 principle can work for you and help you start looking for 80/20 wins to unlock greater results in your firm.