At this time of year, many practice leaders are turning their attention to season readiness in earnest. One of the prime considerations is capacity. With the talent war raging, it isn’t easy to find new staff. Yet demand for your services is HIGH. Firm leaders will need to look inwards to create capacity.
The good news is that you probably have more available hours than you think! It all hinges on looking at things a bit differently than last year and optimizing for speed at every possible opportunity.
We’ve assembled three proven strategies to help you free up capacity using your existing staff. The best part is that they don’t cost a lot to implement and taken together can lead to even more benefits beyond the challenge(s) they initially solve.
The first two strategies focus on gaining a clear understanding of where your staff is spending their time and then optimizing both within and outside of each client engagement. The last strategy involves tipping the scales in favor of your best clients.
Strategy 1: Optimize for speed within each accounting engagement
One of the first places to look for hidden capacity is within your engagements. Understanding how you spend your time with each engagement allows you to identify places where your processes are slowing you down.
To optimize for speed, gather your team and flow out every single step in a typical client engagement. For each step, assign a "Time to Complete'' (in minutes) as well as the person doing each step. Look for bottlenecks and areas that could be automated - especially for repetitive or time-consuming tasks.
Firm leaders can also use this exercise to reassign "who" is doing each stage of the work. It might make sense to offload that part of the job to a more junior person in order to create leverage for your more senior staff's time.
Note: it’s not enough to simply make the actual accounting, tax, or bookkeeping work faster! Because your important client work can only begin once all documents are in hand, it's important to ALSO solve for the admin tasks your staff is doing.
Strategy 2: Slash the admin work leading up to each engagement
Per AccountingWeb in May 2021, accountants and bookkeepers spend ~40% of their time requesting, gathering, and searching for client documents and information needed to complete the actual work. This means that on average, 2 days of each week is gone BEFORE the important client work can actually begin. Practices that solve this problem find that significant capacity can be freed up.
It turns out that it matters where, when and how you ask your clients for documents and information. The secret is to make it drop-dead easy for clients to interact digitally with your firm. The traditional “Email + a Link to a Portal” approach is not easy for clients to deal with on the go. They can’t use their mobile phones to quickly answer you or scan and send their documents. You know this because you have to repeatedly request/chase/badger clients to send you what you need, and when they do send things to you, they often use creative and insecure methods.
Firms who make it as easy, fast and secure for their clients to send documents and respond to questions from the firm as the banks have made it for us to deposit a check using their mobile app will have a significant edge in terms of staff productivity. Using an "app in their pocket" like Liscio is a great choice because clients love using a mobile app and staff love that clients respond quickly with everything coming into one organized and collaborative space. With documents coming in quickly, your team will spend less time chasing and have more time to do the important client work instead.
Liscio helps thousands of accountants and bookkeepers delight clients and free up staff to do more work. Because Liscio is so easy for clients to use, they send things FAST. To see how Liscio can help your firm, book your personalized demo here.
Strategy 3: Trim your “C” and “D” Clients
Coaches and practice growth experts regularly recommend that you identify your ideal client profile. Joe Woodard has even detailed exactly how to build a practice with ONLY ideal clients. Not only will you have a practice that you love but you will also have even more capacity!
In order to free up time for your best clients, you need to take a big deep breath and dump the duds. You know who they are. These are the clients who send their documents late, throw you curveballs, take up your time with endless “quick questions” and then have the gall to complain about your pricing and/or pay you late.
How different would your practice feel if your team could focus their precious time and energy on the great clients who bring you the most revenue and treat you and your staff as you deserve to be treated? Beyond making staff happy and freeing up time, the wonderful thing is that by trimming the deadwood in your client list, you open space for better clients to fill the roster! So take a look at your client list now, and sever the relationships that just aren’t worth it anymore.
You’ve got this!!