Even if you have great employees, skills, experience, and clients, your accounting firm may still have difficulties operating at maximum potential if you don’t have the right tools and processes in place. These will enable you to be efficient with your resources and get the best from your team.
In an effort to help you ensure your firm is operating at maximum efficiency, I’m sharing seven simple and easy to implement recommendations.
As we move into 2021, most accounting professionals understand that cloud-based software is an essential element of a modern, well-managed firm. Why cloud software as opposed to traditional desktop software? There are lots of reasons, but I’ll mention just two of the most important.
The first is access: the ability to access information and communicate anytime, anywhere, from any device, creates enormous convenience and efficiency.
The second is client experience. Your clients are using modern consumer software all day every day—things like Google Maps, Mint, and FitBit. Asking them to go from these modern, intuitive applications to clunky, outdated, non-cloud software results in a frustrating experience for your clients.
You lose a great deal of the efficiency gains from software when you stitch together a whole host of independent software solutions. Where possible, I recommend finding a one-stop-shop that will spare you the pain of integration and redundancy, as well as the extra time and cost.
Client portals make client communications efficient and transparent. Instead of the traditional back-and-forth of calling and emailing and even using snail mail, with a client portal you can send files electronically and have a clear vision of each client’s case status. This way you can keep in contact with your clients from anywhere, at any time without interrupting your workflow – and so can they.
In addition to the convenience of collaborating at the click of a button, clients love that they can watch the progress being made on their case. Good client portals are also much more secure than email and other tools.
An efficient workflow is critical for staying productive and hitting deadlines. There are many specific tips for improving workflow, but it really comes down to two basic principles:
- Planning days / weeks
- Prioritizing tasks
You should plan your day, week, or even month. This way, each task is placed in a comprehensive organizational system with a clear timeline.
You should also prioritize tasks and learn to say “no” to client requests that don’t take priority. This doesn’t mean you should be off-putting to a client, but it is important to turn down certain client requests that are not practical or doable for your workload or their case.
Following up with potential and current clients is crucial for building strong relationships and a good way to retain clients. Taking an active approach with your clients will yield much better results than passively waiting for them to come to you. This takes time and effort, and automation will help you manage both of those.
Some accounting practice management software allows you to bulk schedule follow-up. All you’ll have to do is choose when you want to schedule a reminder or email and the software will send it for you at the chosen time.
The way you price your services should fit your firm’s particular needs. Hourly billing is one of the most common forms of charging a client in the accounting industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right pricing model for you.
No matter which way you decide to price your services, it should be a deliberate, strategic decision. The right pricing structure can make a huge difference in your firm’s bottom line without changing how much you work.
Everyone likes to get paid—the faster the better. Online billing and invoicing can help you accomplish this. Your clients are much more likely to pay you, and pay you quickly, when you take all the inconvenience out of the process for them. Paying you via an online system, where their payment details are already stored, is much easier than coming to your office or mailing a check. This also makes it easier for you to see who has and hasn’t paid you, and to easily send reminders to them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is needed to build a well-managed accounting firm, but it is a good place to start if you’re looking to improve what processes you already have in place. If you get the foundation set up with the right functional habits, business goals will be much easier to reach.