You’ve got the employees, skills, and clients in place to run a great accounting practice. But even the best team fails to operate at its fullest potential if the right systems aren’t in place. Efficiency plays a crucial role in any successful business, and your practice is no exception. Take a look at these eight components of a well-managed accounting firm. How many of them are present in your practice?
1. Cloud-based practice management software
Cloud-based practice management software is the first step to a modern, well-managed accounting firm. It will help you run your practice more efficiently and better meet the needs of your clients. In fact, 90% of accountants agree that offering digital services will set them apart over the next five years.
One significant benefit of joining the cloud is that documents and information needed for casework will be available to anyone on your team, anytime, anywhere with an internet connection. This allows for collaboration and promotes productivity. Plus, your clients are used to having cloud-based services at their fingertips via their smartphones, so when that convenience is extended to working with their accounting professional, they’ll have a less painful, more seamless customer experience.
2. Consolidated software
The added efficiency software offers is neutralized when you’re spending a bunch of time sifting through open tabs and switching between different softwares for each task. Use an all-in-one software solution to its fullest potential and you’ll end up offloading other software programs that aren’t providing as much value. Why pay for five software systems if you can find the needed functionality in one place?
3. Engagement letters
To improve client relationships, start each case with an engagement letter. Engagement letters serve as legally binding contracts between you and your clients. They outline expectations to help prevent misunderstandings. If there are discrepancies between you and your client about what your services entail, you can refer to the engagement letter. Why is this so important? Well, clear communication and expectations lead to happy clients—and who doesn’t want happy clients.
To make the process of sending engagement letters more efficient, you can use an engagement letter template that requires little revision from case to case, or a letter generator.
4. Client portals
Client portals are the cornerstone of efficiency and client transparency. Instead of the back-and-forth of calling and emailing clients, client portals allow you to communicate and send files electronically. You can keep in contact with clients without interrupting your workflow.
In addition to the convenience of collaborating at the click of a button, clients will love that they can see the progress being made in their case. Unlike the Domino's Pizza Tracker, client portals allow accountants to provide real time updates in a client’s case. Because misunderstandings in financial services can leave clients feeling swindled or misled, anything you can do to be as transparent as possible will have positive outcomes.
5. Optimized Workflow
Once you’re working on a client’s case, keeping an efficient workflow is imperative for staying productive and making deadlines. There are tons of specific tips for improving workflow, but it really only comes down to two basic principles: plan your days/weeks and prioritize your tasks.
Plan your day, week, or even month. Tasks to be accomplished should be thought about and aimed for—winging your day doesn’t have a place in a professional environment where clients and team members depend on you.
Prioritize your tasks and learn to say “no” to the clients and tasks that don’t take priority. This is not to say you should be off-putting to a client, but rather that you should learn to turn down certain client requests that are not practical or possible for your workload or their case.
6. Automated Follow-up
Following up with potential and current clients is crucial for building strong relationships. Actively managing clients is much better practice than passively waiting for clients to come to you. But you may not always have the time in your day for follow-up, especially when you have other more pressing tasks. Or you simply may forget to do it. The solution is to automate it.
Some CRM softwares will allow you to bulk schedule follow-up. All you’ll have to do is choose when you want a client to receive a reminder or email and the software will send it for you. Automation can play a crucial role in tightening up procedural tasks in an accounting firm.
7. Strategic Pricing
The way you price your services should fit the needs of your practice. Just because hourly billing is common in the accounting industry doesn’t mean it’s the best pricing model for you. There are alternative methods such as subscription-based pricing, or value-based pricing.
No matter which way you choose to price your services, it should be a conscious decision. When pricing is strategic, you’ll be able to better manage your cash flow, as well as have less misunderstanding between you and your clients when the time for invoicing rolls around. The right pricing structure can make a huge difference in your bottom line without changing how much you work.
8. Online Billing
Speaking of increasing cash flow, if you want to get paid in a more timely manner and minimize accounts receivable (because you know the pain of not getting paid for the work you do all too well) you should use online billing and invoicing. If clients are able to pay you instantly online through their client portal, they’ll be less likely to put it off. Your clients may not have time to run to your office or mail you a check, but they certainly can find time to pay you from their computer or phone. Say goodbye to hassling clients for payment.
How are you using these best practices to boost efficiency at your firm? Let us know in the comments below.
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