Most people don’t associate administrative processes with fundamental business elements – in fact, it’s usually the opposite! But an outside-the-box approach to administrative work can be a huge boon to your firm, just like other key elements of business including winning new clients or hiring a new skilled team member.
As you get started evaluating your firm’s administrative prowess, it’s just as important to avoid mistakes as it is to do things your own way. As the old saying goes: “You have to know the rules before you can break them.”
Below are four of the most common mistakes we see made by accounting firms and some basic steps to correct them:
1. Having a manual process for everything
Creating templates, logging hours, sending invoices and account statements – these are all rote activities that most accounting firms handle many times a week. But if your firm requires manual effort for all of these items, you’re cutting into valuable employee hours that could be devoted to activities more closely tied to generating revenue. It may not seem like a lot to have someone spend five minutes sending an invoice here, or ten minutes logging hours there. Over time, however, these seemingly minor tasks add up into a major drain on work hours.
2. Not streamlining access management
Determining which members of your team can view, edit and create the files you use to complete your accounting work is one of the most important concerns for any modern firm. This is especially true in the information technology era, when so much of the work we do is digital. Many of the forms, statements and agreements your firm works with every day are now stored on computers or cloud servers. Digital workflows can be highly beneficial to productivity and transitioning to and from different tasks, but they can pose a big security risk if not handled properly.
Because access management is so sensitive, many accounting firms have long, drawn-out processes that require different forms and steps by each party involved. For example, the person requesting access may need to complete a questionnaire, which then needs to be approved by an IT security manager or executive at the company. If you aren’t using technology to speed up this process, it will impede a lot of progress over the long run.
3. Difficult storage and sharing practices
As an accounting firm, you have a set of systems and storage methods for all kinds of accounting documents and assets. That may be fine for your internal team, but problems start to arise when you have to incorporate clients into the workflow. You can’t expect your clients to have the same amount of organization and discipline when it comes to managing their financial records – that’s likely a big reason they retained you in the first place!
It’s critical to make it easy for your clients to deal with the records and documents you need them to provide, especially if they aren’t from a tech-native generation. A common example of a bad system for storing and transmitting files is doing everything exclusively through email. While email messages can be okay as reminders or supplemental messages, expecting clients to dig through their email inbox and find a specific document for their accounting needs isn’t realistic for every account you work with.
4. Not connecting administrative work to broader client goals
With all the different day-to-day actions to get done in an accounting firm, it can be easy to get caught up in a “clock-in, clock-out” kind of work perspective where you simply strive to keep things moving along smoothly each day, without any focus on the bigger picture. But for accounting firms – or any client services company – the best level of service is one that builds towards a broader goal or situation. Even if that broader goal is simply to prevent the client’s internal team from taking on accounting tasks, as each day passes, there should be a sense of progress. Many firms handle these kinds of big-picture goals via monthly or quarterly client meetings, or by generating reports with this kind of data.
Conclusion: automation is key for administrative accounting firm tasks
Even without accounting for the high volume of data and records created by clients, accounting firms today have lots of different administrative tasks to manage. From logging employee hours and expenses to generating monthly reports on overhead and revenue, administrative work is important – but it’s also some of the most monotonous and simple. Creative use of resources available to handle this kind of work will directly correlate to business success.
If you aren’t taking advantage of the administrative automation provided by a comprehensive accounting practice management software suite, you’re not letting your team work as effectively as possible. Not only does automation free up hours for your employees, it also reduces mistakes and makes client relationships easier, letting you devote more focus to key initiatives that will help achieve business goals.