You’ve probably heard of Simon Sinek and his famous TEDx “Start with Why”. In this article, I will start with WHY, but this article really is about discovering the WHAT.
To have an ideal bookkeeping, accounting or tax practice, you need to have standardized processes with well-defined checklists. That is the only way to manage work within your practice so that the end results are consistent with the quality you desire for your customers. This idea is why most fast-food chains and franchised coffee places are successful. No matter which Burger King, Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks you go into, you can expect the same thing no matter which store you are in.
As an accounting professional, you also should develop consistency in your practice, no matter who is performing the needed task.
To get there, you need to understand WHY you do not have consistency, WHY lack of standardized processes is a problem and WHY you are unable to provide real time financial information to your clients.
Why do you lack consistency in your practice?
A lack of standardized processes is the fundamental cause of lack of consistency. You may say, “But, Joe! We do have processes!” And I would ask:
- Are they standard?
- Are they “written”?
- Is there a process for everything you do within your practice?
Standardized processes MUST have checklists, especially for all cyclical client work, as well as for onboarding and offboarding clients. And the use of those checklists must be enforced throughout the practice. What will this do for your practice?
- Lower costs around employee turnover
- Decreased errors and omissions
- Capitalization of firm knowledge
- Consistent client experience
- Consistent brand story
Why is lack of standardized processes a problem?
A practice that lacks standardized processes is inefficient. Efficient practices must have standardized processes which must leverage automation technologies. What this will do is increase profit margins and provide a competitive advantage.
Without standardized processes, the introduction of technology into your practice will be a struggle. Technology placed on top of bad processes creates even bigger problems for your firm.
When I am asked what technologies a firm should adopt, I always ask, “What is the problem you are trying to solve with the technology?” If you do not know what it is you are really trying to solve (and why you are solving it), then whatever technology that is chosen is going to be a hot mess or a miss. That reminds me of a saying I once heard. “The best navigators are not quite sure where they’re going until they get there... and then they’re still not sure.” In other words, you will always get somewhere, but you will never reach your goal if you don’t have a plan.
Why are you unable to provide real time financial information to your clients?
To maintain real time financial Information, practices must have standardized processes that include daily and weekly cycles which leverage automation technologies. From statistics I have heard and read that there are only approximately 20% of accountants and bookkeepers who actually provide real time books (which is defined as within 48 hours or less of the time transactions occur). By creating and implementing thorough standardized processes, you will create practice distinction and a pathway to advisory services.
While answering the three WHY’s above about standardizing processes, you started to see some of the WHAT you are trying to accomplish or solve. Before we get to the final list defining the WHAT of standardizing processes, here are six questions to ask yourself.
1. How can my business be set up to work productively and efficiently when ( am not there in person?
2. How can my employees be motivated to work without direct supervision?
3. How can systems be put in place so large numbers of clients can be served efficiently and consistently?
4. How can I manage my business without having to be there keeping an eye on it every hour?
5. How can I maximize the amount of time I spend developing my business?
6. How can the amount of time spent doing the things that produce revenue in my business be minimized?
Defining the WHAT: Standardizing Your Processes
To standardize and document your processes leveraging automation technology, you should:
- Define orderly processes
- Document systems & processes in a formal manner
- Deliver services in a uniform and predictable way
- Deliver services produced by a team member with less experience who is able to use checklists to produce the same quality as you
- Deliver value that consistently exceeds expectations, both internally and to customers
- Create a brand with consistency, reliability and distinction
- Manage processes that each team member can follow from start to finish
- Democratize processes and knowledge to your entire team
- Define the product, not the client
- Define the process, not the client
- Define the systems (software), not the client
- Define the services you will deliver through your systems, not the client
So please remember the recurring theme. YOU define the processes and systems and NOT the client and that the Variation of Process is Enemy #1.