Workflow is an abstract and critical element of running a firm.
We often hear questions around client workflows, job workflows, team workflows. These questions range from onboarding new hires, new clients, to existing client engagements, to even workflows around implementing a new piece of technology.
For today’s purposes, we’re focusing on the primary workflow… and that focus in on completing a recurring job or project for a client.
After working with thousands of accountants, interview dozens of top thought leaders, as well as consulting with process consultants at companies like IBM, we’ve identified a few core mistakes most owners make with their workflow.
Kitchen Sink Problem
Imagine having to clean a few dishes a day (and that’s all the time you have). Then one day you have a massive dinner, and now you no longer have a clean sink (after all, you only do a few dishes at a time).
The mess is never resolved, because you only keep cleaning the “top” of the dish pile, instead of digging into the underlying problem.
We see this happen consistently with firms that keep piling (or adding) new ‘tasks’ (i.e. dishes) on top of an already messy workflow. Instead, wipe the slate clean!
1. Bring your team into a room
2. Map out the mistakes (list more rather than less) that occur with a process you feel is broken or can be improved
3. Ask your team where they feel bottlenecks occur (either through lack of client response, lack of collaboration, or information)
List them out, remove as much as you can, then begin reviewing what can be added or optimized.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain
Lights Out Client Problem
The second mistakes have nothing to do with internal workflow, but instead the client’s external experience.
After you receive your paperwork (or required digital information), what happens to the client relationship?
Does the client know when the relationship will be done?
Or who answers questions?
Are follow-up meetings or calls scheduled to review the work and make suggestions on how they can be improved?
The quickest way to solve this issue is to talk to your clients and ask them these questions.
Is there any part of the engagement where you might have had questions but hesitated to reach out?
Imagine an ideal scenario: How would you like to see _____________ (bookkeeping,taxes,etc) function or work? Is there anything that would make your day easier?
Are there parts of your business (or life) where the finances don’t seem to make sense?
Is there data that you wish you had?
Focused Only on the Work Problem
Finally this idea might be counterintuitive, too many owners focus only on the work that needs to be done instead of realizing that the client relationship is entirely weaved throughout the process.
Because of this idea, many firms miss an opportunity to build out referrals, reviews or up-sells or collect payments in a timely manner.
A few points to consider:
• Can you empower your team to help collect payments?
• Can you include areas in the workflow to collect testimonials, reviews, or ask for referrals?
• Are there parts of the workflow where it makes sense to highlight other service offerings?
We recommend taking one section (or even one question) at a time. Do not try to update everything about your workflow. Instead, pick one section and start from there.