In speaking with hundreds, if not thousands, of accountants and bookkeepers these past couple of years, there are a few things that stand out. Most are feeling stretched and almost at their limit, nearly everyone wants to add “advisory services” to their firm but can’t seem to free up the time to roll them out properly, and everyone wants to have better control of their workdays so they can also have a richer personal life.
While these things were true in 2019, it was the events of 2020 and 2021 that made us all pause and think about our lives (both work and home) using different considerations. It is now evident that we need calm and order, and we need to create systems that feed, rather than drain, our energy and productivity levels. When we do this it's easier to achieve success in both our business and personal lives.
But how do you go about doing this?
There are three key things you can do now, to set your firm up for success in the years ahead, and the good news is that they are pretty easy to implement.
Number 1: Understand how you spend your time now
You can’t create change until you understand what is currently happening in your firm. The best way to do this is to track your time rigorously for one week. At the end of the week, total up the amount of time you spent in each of the following categories:
1. Doing actual client work: This includes the time you spend on billable work. Don’t include time spent gathering documents (see item 2). Instead, track the actual productive work done (i.e., what you can actually charge for).
2. Gathering client information and documents: This includes time spent chasing clients for documents, searching for documents, combing through endless email strings, asking co-workers, etc.
3. Answering emails, texts and calls from clients and co-workers: Do not include spam or marketing emails in this bucket of time. You’ll track that separately.
4. Troubleshooting your tech: Include tasks such as fixing bank feeds that keep breaking, helping clients to use your portal, etc. Anything related to tech not working goes into this category.
5. Marketing and growing your practice: This includes time spent responding to prospective new client inquiries, networking, writing blogs, sending out marketing emails, creating videos, etc.
6. Improving your skills: This includes time spent learning new technology, attending CPE webinars, or reading educational blog posts like this in The Woodard Report.
7. HR administration: Include tasks such as mentoring staff, hiring, processing EE Payroll, etc. (if applicable).
8. Everything else: As you add time spent on other areas, make a list of the specific tasks that go into this catchall, but don’t forget dealing with spam, marketing emails, investigating phishing emails, time spent on social media, etc.
If you are like most firms ~40% of your time is spent on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th buckets of time.
We’ll come back to this but for now, imagine what your day would feel like if those three “time-vampire” buckets were significantly reduced?
Number 2: Shift your mindset and explore what is possible
Armed with your weekly time report, you now have key data you can use to reallocate how you spend your time. And in order to do that, you need to think differently about your time.
Your goal is to increase the amount of time you spend in the value-add areas of your practice (like doing the actual client billable work, marketing your firm, and taking care of your employees) and to minimize the non-value add buckets.
The best mindset shifts occur when you combine data (how you are spending your time now?), with a plan (what kind of day do you want to have?), then add emotion (how would that feel?).
It's worth spending a little time on this 2nd step.
Rank how you want to spend your time and then add how each one makes you feel. Assign a revenue amount as well. For example:
Take that 40% of wasted time (time buckets 2, 3 and 4 from the first exercise above) and reallocate that time
- 20% to billable work
- 10% to marketing your practice
- 10% to taking care of and mentoring your employees (so they do better work as well) -
What impact would that have on your bottom line?
What impact would that have on your sanity and sense of calmness?
Number 3: Make a plan to improve your practice (& your life) in 2022 by reallocating that time
The best journeys start with a PLAN. If you’ve gone through the first 2 steps outlined above, you know how you are spending your time NOW, and you know how you WANT to spend your time. You also have tangible financial and personal outcomes to sweeten the pot. You now have a journey ahead of you to get from the present situation to your ideal situation.
The best news here is that there is lots of help available!
If you are like most firms, and your totals for buckets 2, 3 and 4 of wasted time meet or exceed the average 40% level, you’ll be pleased to discover that the right technology can help you claw back that time. And the equally good news is that your plan doesn’t have to involve changing your accounting or tax software!
Clients respond when you make it EASY for them. Look for a solution like Liscio that allows clients to see your requests easily and respond quickly using their mobile phones. You will essentially be giving your clients and staff a powerful “accountant app” that centralizes all client communications, texts, documents, e-signatures, tasks, notes, etc. into one place. Because it's all in one application, staff don’t waste time looking in multiple places for information pertaining to their client work and every staff member is always in the loop about each client they work on. Confusion disappears, collaboration increases, and everyone can move faster.
If bank feeds breaking all the time means you have to spend time troubleshooting, there are modern banking and payment solutions like Relay that significantly help reduce that wasted time and have other time-saving benefits too.
Apps like SmartVault can significantly streamline your firm’s digital file storage solutions as well. With integrations with all the major tax packages and deep integration with Liscio, SmartVault is a secure, cloud-based document management and storage solution built for the unique security, compliance, and workflow needs of busy practitioners.
Now put it all together!
1. Create your ideal day.
2. Investigate the technology solutions like Liscio, Relay, and SmartVault that will form the basis of your awesome 2022 practice improvement plan to reallocate time wasted in time-vampires to the work you want to do.
3. Schedule a demo.
4. Set a timeline to roll them out (in most cases a few days to one week is needed).
5. Enjoy the benefits of having more time to do the things that MATTER because you took the time NOW to replace non-value add tasks with modern productivity tools that make all the difference.
The most successful firms are in their client’s pockets and have become a seamless part of their day. The firm moves faster, provides better client service and quicker response times, and clients are delighted with how easy it is. That’s Client Experience 2.0 and at Liscio, we know a lot about helping accountants and bookkeepers become a seamless and welcome part of their clients’ day.
If you would like to see how Liscio can help you take back your workday, delight your clients and help staff get more done in the process, please book a personalized demo here.