How to Bring Order to the Chaos in Your Small Accounting Firm

Business, Practice Management, Technology, Staff, Accounting

Between COVID-19, regulatory and tax changes and other adjustments, the last three years have been full of upheaval, keeping small accounting firms busier than ever. At the same time, technology has continued to advance, even if firms haven’t had the time to take advantage of it.

If your firm is like many others, you’re likely long overdue for a technology and business process makeover. Now is the time to make it happen, because there will only continue to be more challenges for you and your clients down the road. The key is knowing where to start.

To help you figure that out, Brian Tankersley recently released a paper entitled Bringing Order to the Chaos in Your Small Firm, which includes valuable tips for how to position your firm for success going forward. The following is a summary of just a few of them.

A road map for success

Whether your partners are overly involved in low-level client work, you’re using paper or outdated systems or you’re lacking the accounting technology that will allow your employees to succeed, there are a number of telltale signs that your firm might need a change, and Tankersley’s paper outlines several of them.

Once you recognize that you need to change, it’s important that you understand your firm’s culture and your current and future client service offerings before you start implementing that change. Today’s challenges are making it easier for many firms to sell CAS and other value-added advisory services, but those offerings require your firm to have the right tech stack.

You should pay particular attention to apps and tools that facilitate the current state of doing business, which includes navigating pandemic relief programs and accommodating remote work, among other issues. Many tools exist today to make your firm more effective at handling these new realities, including pre-accounting apps, CRM applications, data extraction tools, expert systems and managed service providers. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for building the right tech stack, so your firm should be creating a long-term road map for how you want your technology makeover to look in order to meet your needs and the needs of your clients.

The importance of metrics

The next step after understanding how your firm operates is knowing what activities and results to measure to make sure you’re succeeding. You can collect that information from various sources, including real-time data from workflow management tools and the “digital exhaust” of data produced by your chosen technology solutions.

Understanding your KPIs and becoming a data-driven firm will likely require changing your workflows, customizing and automating your tracking systems and documenting your processes and end-user training. Some of the performance indicators you might want to consider tracking include:

  • Client satisfaction
  • Billing and cash collections
  • Employee satisfaction
  • The status of client requests
  • Staff scheduling and capacity
  • Engagement and client due dates
  • Budget analysis
  • Overdue invoices
  • Work in process status
  • Average overtime hours

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it gives you a sense of the things you need to periodically review and monitor to ensure that your performance is in line with your firm’s goals.

Consultants can be helpful in getting started with the right monitoring and tracking tools, but you’ll also want at least one internal sponsor and champion that is focused on making the tools a success. Peer networking and benchmarking surveys can also help the cause.

Going forward

Success with your road map and tools requires understanding not just the benefits, but also the expense and effort that will be required. Analyzing the bigger picture will help you successfully move from planning to implementation. How your firm ultimately measures and achieves success will depend on your unique needs, but the important part is to begin the journey today.

To get started, download Bringing Order to the Chaos in Your Small Firm now.

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