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“Spring Cleaning” Your Bookkeeping Firm’s Processes

Tim Sines
Posted by Tim Sines on May 6, 2024 11:17:05 AM

Bookkeepers and accounting professionals probably associate the spring season most with taxes. But for people in other fields, cleaning and decluttering are common practices when leaves start growing again and the temperatures begin to rise.

While bookkeepers may be too busy with tax season to take on extra tasks cleaning their homes or offices, there’s still plenty of opportunity for “spring cleaning” in one sense: Organizing and improving the processes your bookkeeping firm uses in your day-to-day operations.

If you’re interested in cleaning up your firm’s processes in any part of the organization, we’ve gathered a few helpful concepts to use as a starting point. As always, you should adapt these ideas to your own firm’s needs and use them in the way that makes the most sense for your current setup.

Evaluate your processes to identify the biggest bottlenecks

Before you start tweaking your standard processes, it’s worth spending some time looking at which ones may need the most improvement. Think about it like cleaning a house: It wouldn’t make sense to spend a lot of time organizing rooms you already clean often—like the kitchen—but you also may not want to invest significant time and energy cleaning up a space you don’t often use, like a hall closet.

Ideally, you should find processes within your bookkeeping firm that are important for day-to-day success but may not be evaluated very often. This can include areas like:

  • Employee time and billing tracking
  • Expense reports
  • Data collection and visualization
  • Collecting and documenting client payments
  • Onboarding a new client for a specific kind of project

Don’t just talk to people involved with the processes or try to figure out whether they’re working on their own. Connect each process with a certain kind of metric or performance indicator so that you can quantitatively determine if it’s improving.

Have a bias toward removal

We talk to lots of bookkeeping firms—and people in general—who feel like they need to add something to their workflows to make it better. A new software tool, an add-on for their email inbox, or a sales sequence will make their current processes run even more smoothly, they reason.

A common term for this situation is “shiny object syndrome,” named for how young children and some animals are easily distracted by the newest, flashiest thing around them.

In reality, the best way to improve almost every process in your organization is to remove complexity. Instead of thinking about what new things or steps you can include in a process, try to find things that can be removed. Do you need multiple people involved with the approval processes, or can you reduce the number? Instead of going into three different software platforms to write up and record client communication, can you do it in just one or two?

Don’t make process improvement a closed loop

If you’re in a leadership role and want to improve your firm’s day-to-day operations, it’s important to get at least some input from the people who work on the task frequently. You’re the one ultimately making the decision, but it’s unwise to not even consider the input of your team. If you value their skills and knowledge enough to hire them to the firm, you should consider their opinion on the processes they are experienced with.

It may be helpful to manage this part of the process improvement with specific survey questions. For example, if you’re evaluating how you report and process employee expenses, you might send an email survey to your internal accounting team to get their views on the current expense process.

Above all, aim to consolidate whenever possible

When it comes to cleaning and organizing a physical space, we value furniture and equipment that can be used for multiple purposes; think about a stylish coffee table that looks great in your living room while also serving as a place for drinks or snacks. Maybe it also has a built-in storage drawer for miscellaneous items and accessories.

Multi-function tools are just as valuable in the bookkeeping software space. It’s easy to waste time and energy installing, maintaining, and using several different kinds of systems across the various processes you handle for both clients and internal operations.

As you go about auditing your firm’s processes, consider how you use your current software stack. Instead of moving from platform to platform as you complete the various tasks required for your bookkeeping, consider the benefits you might stand to gain from handling all those activities with a singular accounting practice management software suite. This kind of platform can go a long way in tidying up your processes for things like payroll management, client communication, reporting, and more.

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Topics: Practice Management


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