Accounting is one of those industries where it’s very easy for outdated ideas to stay around longer than they should. Of course, part of that is due to the profession’s age – accounting has been around in some form or another for over 5,000 years, when early farmers in Mesopotamia used clay tablets to keep track of crops and livestock.
As you might imagine, the accounting industry has seen lots of changes since ancient times. And while we doubt anyone is still using reeds and clay to track their clients’ books, we run across many firms that do still use outdated methods for accounting work.
These tactics may work for now, but outdated processes are inefficient and will likely cause a bottleneck at your firm before long – especially if you want to grow. If you’re looking to bring modern methods to your accounting practice, check out the four tips below:
Get rid of meetings (or at least cut down drastically)
It’s one of the most common complaints heard in the modern era of information work: “This meeting could have been an email!” Almost everyone has had this thought run through their minds, likely during a gathering that doesn’t add much new information and simply recaps what’s happened so far.
Thanks to the prevalence of business technology like asynchronous chat tools, there’s no reason to schedule lots of consistent meetings just to keep your team updated. We know some of the traditional accountants out there might recoil at the idea of having no meetings at all – if this sounds like you, start small by cutting down the number of meetings you have to see how it goes.
Document and revisit all your processes
We mentioned how many accountants use outdated processes simply because it’s the way they’ve always done it. There's another common belief that goes along with this one – not writing down anything to describe how processes work or which specific steps should be involved. We find that the same people who feel like they should do things the way they always have are usually also the same folks who don’t like documenting the processes in their accounting firm!
Writing down (or typing up) each step of all the processes in your firm may seem excessively time-consuming or unnecessary, but remember: it’s for the benefit of others, not you. Even if you are a seasoned accountant who knows instinctively how to handle the most important processes in your firm, not everyone hired will fit into this mold! By documenting your processes, you’ll make it much easier for everyone at your firm to stay on the same page, even if they don’t have many years of experience.
Think about what you can remove
Many accountants – and entrepreneurs in general – get fixated on the idea of adding “more.” Another new piece of furniture or gadget for the office will improve productivity. Adding another service to the business will increase revenue. Hiring another team member will make things easier for everyone else.
None of these decisions are inherently wrong, but we’ve found that a lot of firm owners would be better served considering the things they shouldn’t be doing. Are there services you offer that are rarely used, or outdated steps in your operations that are no longer necessary? If you devote some time to thinking about it, you’ll probably be able to come up with a few areas where you can trim the fat.
A heavy reliance on paper documents is one of those old-school methods we mentioned in the intro. While lots of accounting firms have fully embraced the paperless revolution, we’ve seen others who are hesitant to go away from the physical documents they’ve used for years or even decades.
But with all that we know today about the efficiency improvements your firm stands to gain from going paperless, there’s simply no reason to depend on having paper documents – especially if they’re client-facing. Even if you only use paper documents for certain areas of your business and are almost completely paperless, 2024 should be the year when you finally let go and switch to a fully digital system. It may seem tough before you do it, but once the transition is complete, your firm will settle into the new system relatively quickly.
What to know about cutting-edge accounting firm operations in 2024
We could write a whole series of articles on how firms should modernize every area of their operations – these four are just the tip of the iceberg. And remember, if you’re worried about these new methods disturbing your operations, there’s no rule that says you have to incorporate every single one right away. Take your time and bring change about gradually if you’d like, but make sure you’re always looking to modernize elements of your accounting firm for 2024 and beyond.
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