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New Year’s 'Dissolutions' for Accounting Firms

Tim Sines
Posted by Tim Sines on Feb 13, 2024 9:15:00 AM

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like roughly a quarter of all Americans, you’ve probably already forgotten about what you promised to do on December 31. Over 40% of people who make resolutions for the new year don’t keep them for more than a month. 

There’s a lot of science about habits, decision-making, and willpower that do a great job of explaining why it’s so hard for most of us to keep our New Year’s resolutions. One of the common refrains you’ll hear from experts in this field is that it’s easier to start a new habit by breaking an old one. For example, someone trying to start a regular exercise routine may want to begin by getting rid of their regular habit of sitting on the couch binging TV shows. 

This approach is sometimes called a “reverse resolution” or a “New Year’s Dissolution.” It’s been covered by everyone from biohackers like Tim Ferriss to mainstream media outlets like CNN. The core idea is that we can likely gain just as much (if not more) positive impact from quitting a harmful habit as we would from creating a new habit. 

The concept applies from a business perspective, too. Most accounting firms we speak with feel too overwhelmed to work on implementing entirely new systems but wouldn’t mind dropping a few difficult parts of their day. If you’re looking to cut down on negative professional habits in the new year, here’s our suggested list of places to start:

1. Keeping files in your email

We’ve heard it many times from prospects and clients: “I don’t have a single system in place to manage all my documents, but everything’s in my inbox! I can find things whenever I need.” It sounds good in theory, and depending on the size of your firm and the scope of your typical client engagements, you might even be able to make it work. 

But even people who are hesitant to move away from crude email file storage would admit it’s not the most efficient way to store and access files. There are too many better options for file storage, including some accounting practice management software suites that come with built-in file-sharing capabilities. If you’re still querying your inbox history to find important files, resolve to take a more efficient route this year.

2. Chasing clients for signatures and forms

As accountants, our work is done for the benefit of our clients. We submit forms and correspond with regulatory bodies on behalf of our clients. This means that we sometimes need our clients to sign or acknowledge documents before we can proceed to further steps in the project. Many clients don’t cause any problems during this phase, but most accountants have had experience working with people who may not be the most responsive. Often, these are the kinds of clients who have to deal with the most responsibility in their professional roles. And while they may have a good reason for taking some extra time to respond, that doesn’t make it any less of a strain on your firm. 

Instead of trying to get a hold of clients late in the process, make this the year you set up a system that provides them with plenty of advance notice about key deadlines and requirements. With the right tools, you can create a cadence of notifications that gives them staggered reminders to provide their accounting firm with everything needed to get the job done.

3. Making expense accounting a stressful one-off process

Every accounting firm has to deal with some kind of expense reports. For certain types of firms – those that dispatch team members on-site to client offices, for example – employee expenses may happen in significant amounts each week and month. We talk to lots of firms that handle expense accounting by putting it off as long as possible, which makes it into a bigger task that takes longer than it should. These kinds of looming, unpleasant tasks usually come with plenty of mental stress. 

Instead of putting it off until you can’t anymore, start using technology this year to ease the burden of expense accounting. The latest accounting practice management software will let you create and update expense reports in real-time, including automated calculations of monthly and weekly expenses.

4. Trying to minimize all hiring costs

We have nothing against accounting firms looking to save money. But there are certain places where your investments have an exponential positive impact across the business. Hiring is one of those areas – even if you do a lot of things wrong at your firm, hiring the right people can help you compensate for a lot of other problems. 

That’s why we suggest being strategic about hiring areas where you may decide to put more resources. Instead of scrimping everywhere, consider making this the year you invest more in your hiring process through benefits or training. You don’t need to devote five or six figures to this effort – it could be something as simple as offering a training course or certification for your team or providing extra mentoring for junior-level hires.

5. Continuing to make do with old tools and technology

Finally, whether it’s hardware, software, or even something as simple as your office furniture, resolve to upgrade your tools and technology to help you get work done more efficiently in your accounting firm. You don’t have to spend a fortune on updating every single item in your office, but even a small upgrade in a single area can improve performance and work satisfaction. 

Accounting practice management software that helps streamline all the different parts of your operation is one of the best ways to upgrade your firm in a way that benefits everyone – including your current and future clients.

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Topics: Practice Management


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