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The Top 4 Workflows to Evaluate at Year-End

Tim Sines
Posted by Tim Sines on Dec 27, 2023 2:59:17 PM

The end of the year is a time when most firms wind down and get ready for the holiday season. We definitely recommend taking some downtime to recharge and get ready for next year, but if you want to really set up your firm for success in 2024, it’s a great time to evaluate your existing processes to see what went well and what went wrong over the last 12 months. 

Typically, this happens by looking at the relevant workflows across several key areas of your firm. The problem is most accounting firms have a significant number of processes for a variety of areas, from basic things like ordering new supplies for the office to more important processes like closing out a client engagement. 

With all of these different activities and steps to analyze, it can be easy to get lost in the evaluation process or focus your efforts on the wrong thing. We’ve discovered that looking into the 4 processes mentioned below will typically provide the most return on investment for the time you spend trying to see how things went this past year.

Sales outreach and prospecting

The specific amount of time you spend reviewing and adjusting your process for accounting firm sales outreach and prospecting depends greatly on where you’re at with your sales. If things are going well and you’ve been steadily growing, or you’ve already spent a lot of time making sales a focus throughout the year – as many businesses rightfully should – you may not need to spend a ton of time examining this part of your business. 

However, we’ve frequently seen situations where sales efforts and campaigns are on autopilot, with the firm relying mostly on repeat business and referrals instead of implementing a consistent, repeatable sales process. And while this may work for some firms some of the time, if you want to grow the business in terms of revenue or expenses, not having a strong sales and prospecting process will eventually hinder your progress.

Team management and planning

This is another broad category that can vary depending on the size of your firm and the nature of your role. Owners of accounting firms with fewer than 10 or 15 people may also function as the direct reports for most members of the team. On the other hand, a larger accounting business might have more layers between individual contributors and company ownership. 

At the end of the year, there’s a good chance that you won’t have as many management-related processes happening. That means it’s a great time to reassess the way you handle important team management concepts such as: 

  • How team members are assigned to projects
  • Communication expectations for remote workers
  • Recurring meetings and check-ins
  • Relationships with direct supervisors

It’s often easiest to start these kinds of assessments by looking at situations where your existing processes failed, and working backwards to figure out what happened. For example, was there a time when some team members were missing critical messages being sent by colleagues? If so, remote work communication practices are probably something you should investigate at your firm.

Client communication

Internal communication is important, but the way you communicate with your clients is integral to the survival of your business: if you can’t properly express the value of your services or show that you are able to effectively render them, you won’t be able to attract any clients. Perhaps you have a natural gift for the early-stage sales and prospecting steps, but aren’t that great at keeping clients in the loop once they agree to do business. 

Some key metrics to consider in this area include average response time to client inquiries, the number of internal messages sent about a specific account, and the amount of times deadlines or milestones are missed due to not having information from a client. You might also want to consider what happens when a client request comes in – some firms use a shared inbox system that allows someone else to cover for a teammate if necessary.

Project prioritization and deadline management

At larger accounting firms with hundreds of employees and offices in different locations, there are typically set processes in place that spell out how things should be prioritized, both internally on a specific project and across the larger company. 

But at smaller (and even some mid-size) firms, these processes aren’t always outlined specifically. For example, who is responsible for making sure a specific client account stays on track to meet all deadlines? Is that the same person who is responsible for communicating updates to the client themselves? And what happens if there’s a change in resource allocation that requires some of the team to switch to a different project temporarily? 

Every firm will answer these questions in a slightly different way. The most important point is that you have a documented method to handle project management across the business and for specific client needs.

The best tool for improving accounting firm workflow management

If you’re spending time looking at all the different workflows and processes you use currently but find that they feel a bit disconnected or scattered, you’re not alone. Lots of accounting firms use many different software tools for different workflows, leading to a confusing tech stack that slows down the team. 

Instead of scattershot workflows stored across a number of different software tools, your firm should look into a single cohesive platform that can meet all workflow requirements. By implementing a powerful accounting practice management software suite, you’ll get more out of the time you invest in improving workflows, so your team can ultimately function at a higher level.

Topics: Practice Management


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