Large Firms vs Small Firms

Reversion to Mediocrity

Or The Law of Averages.

Or Reversion to the mean.

Stunningly to casual observers, statistically, mathematically & realistically, the larger a tax firm is, the shoddier their performance. The smaller a firm is, the more likely they will outperform the larger firm.

But that doesn’t automatically make a small firm better than a larger firm. It depends on the average competence of their staff. In fact, I’d expect, generally speaking, large firms will generally outperform smaller firms. But that’s 100% due to their in-house processes, or operating manuals, and their insistence on operating according too those manuals & operating procedures. But that’s 100% due to my disappointment with the Lack of genuine competence among private practitioners. CPA profession.

Most people believe it’s just the opposite; that you can expect better results from larger firms than smaller firms. But that’s not the case.

Here’s the deal, the more people you have, the more difficult it is to hire top notch people. Eventually, 100% of the time, as your staff grows, your average performance will begin slipping as the talent you hire becomes less & less talented … It’s impossible to staff a large firm without that occurring.

But at Ellis we realized that earlier on, and we had some disappointing experiences that drove the point home. Now we keep our key staff we rely on, we keep it at a dozen or less. All of them are very bright people. That’s our culture. If they’re not bright, they’ll leave.

So we can keep our performance high when larger firms can’t.

A typical firm begins to grow because the owners are bright and outperform most competition. As the firm begins to grow, at first they just let it grow. But, after a few embarrassments, they begin limiting what staff can do. Eventually, they build operating procedure manuals which limit staff even more. Staff gets constrained but the owners sleep can sleep at night. They used to be known for their performance; now they’re known for being big.

The have reverted to mediocrity, just as statistics tell they will.

The lesson is, don’t be so eager to have a large, sophisticated tax & accounting firm. Look for a small to medium firm. Their performance is better.

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