Why Process Matters to the Success of Your Accounting Firm
Posted Laura Redmond
Anyone who has been providing client services for a while has processes that they follow. But there is a difference between haphazard processes that have grown organically, and processes that are intentional, well-considered, and documented. The difference between the former and the latter is the difference between having a firm that is merely surviving, and one that is thriving.
When your firm has documented processes in place, training new staff is streamlined. There is a shorter training cycle when you provide a source of answers. Furthermore, it reduces interruptions by new hires or other team members for help, or from having to muddle through at a slower pace trying to remember what they’ve learned but not yet mastered. Documented processes also facilitate cross-training, allowing team members to fill in where they are needed. Having multiple people capable of providing the same service following the same process is the essence of scalability.
When you pay attention to your processes, you are able to create a service menu that is repeatable. You place yourself in charge of your firm, announcing “This is how we do things here!” Documenting process puts you in a position to deliver your client services in the manner that makes the most sense for the firm, while still providing a quality product to the client. If you are not proactive in clearly defining the process for your service offerings, you risk defaulting to a process defined by each client—a situation that is neither scalable nor repeatable.
Proactively defining your process is the first step in the sales process. You must know exactly what services your offer, how you perform the work, who will do it, and what tools they will use. This allows you to clearly communicate to a prospect exactly what they are purchasing, and it also gives you the right information for proper pricing of your services. Clearly communicating your service offering at the outset of a client relationship is key to preventing heartache down the road.
Documented processes also provide clear direction and transparency for your team when they are performing work for the client. They know exactly what to do for each client and how to do it. It is clear that if a service is not described, it is probably not in the scope of work.
Ambiguity leads to scope creep. This is especially important if you are charging clients a fixed amount; if you fix your fees, you must control the scope of the engagement and your costs.
Clearly defined processes will help you make sure that you have the right resources in the right place. You’ll be able to ensure that your staff has access to the tools and information they need when they are performing the work: access to client documents, client data, client logins, or software tools. You’ll also have visibility into what resources you need—staff time, additional tools, or training.
Process improvement is about improving your services and increasing efficiency. If you want to improve your firm’s efficiency and profitability, you need to start with an accurate picture of how your firm delivers its services now. You can then look at your processes and deliberately and purposefully make changes aimed at improvement. Documentation will ensure that your improvements will be repeated across your team, maximizing efficiency gains.
Creating a firm that is scalable and ready for growth is not an easy task, and unfortunately nobody is going to do this part for you. As the firm owner, mapping out exactly what you do and how you do it is a proactive approach to success.