Tax season may be officially behind us, but you’re still probably feeling the stiff neck caused by the weight of the workload on your shoulders. Now is the time to explore ways you can improve and innovate your firm—and lighten your accounting load before it gets busy again next year.
Each CPA firm is unique, and what you need may be very different from a firm of a different size and shape, but we’re going over the top ways you can alleviate your workload and preserve your sanity come next spring.
- Bigger isn’t Always Better
You need to get stronger before you can get bigger; biting off more than you can chew too soon may lead to tons of unsatisfied customers and no return business—versus a handful of very happy ones who will not only return, but spread your company name word of mouth. If your structure is too weak to support your growth, the whole organization can collapse. Before you start your next marketing campaign, make sure you have a solid business plan in place first.
- Identify Your Core Processes
To develop your business plan and structure, you should identify what your firm’s core processes are. What are the primary services your tax business offers? Which processes support those services? Which have the biggest impact on your firm? Asking these key questions can prevent you from going down the rabbit hole, attempting to trim the fat everywhere instead of focusing on where it’s needed most. Make your improvement efforts more efficient and put energy into tackling top-priority processes first, instead of spreading your attention thinly across the entire business scope.
- Find Room for Improvement
Once you identify your core processes, chart how they currently operate, including:
- The number of firm members involved in the workflow
- How many times you touch the client within the process
- The map between steps
Your flow chart will help you whittle down your processes and the most important steps therein. Look for areas that are most inefficient, require the most resources, or take the most amount of times to complete. Then, brainstorm solutions and locate any technological needs. For example, if you notice that you enter the same data at two different times, is it possible to integrate systems and sync this information automatically? Can OCR (optimal character recognition) scanners be used to save the time involved in reading hand-written receipts? Collaborate with your firm’s team members to see if your staff notices any weaknesses that you weren’t aware of.
- Take Advantage of New Technology
In addition to new software and developments in OCR, accounting firms are taking advantage of a number of new technologies to lighten their load. If you’re still running on local installations, it’s time to convert to cloud-based computing systems; they’re faster and make it much easier to access your clients’ files anywhere at any time. Find mobile accounting solutions that allow you to conduct your business on the go, reply to emails on the road, and upload files in real time in order to prevent a mountain pile of work to attend to when you get into the office.
- Record Metrics
Once you begin implementing changes, it’s imperative that you track your metrics. Measure how long a task takes from end-to-end, how long various components of a process take, and what it costs in terms of time and money. This may seem tedious, but you won’t know if something is working without concrete data to compare.
- Find Your Leaders
Is there strain within your staff that could be causing kinks in the system? Tension, stress, and departmental disjunction can contribute a huge portion to inefficiency and force everyone to work harder to accomplish a job. Use leadership analytics, such as the Kolbe Indexes, to measure a person’s instinctive method of operation and identify ways they will be most productive. Based on your findings, you might find that a restructuring is in order. You also may see leaders emerge, and should consider granting them more responsibility to order to alleviate some of your own duties.
Once you consider refinement as growth and make your in-house processes efficient as possible, you can begin taking on new clients and offering new services. If you modernize your practice and hire the right help, you might not even feel the growing pains of increased business.