3 Steps To Take Your Accounting Firm To The Next Level

Adi Klevit, co-founder of Business Success Consulting Group, has one job...to take your business to the next level. She does this by applying her 20 years of small-to-medium size knowledge to help you achieve maximum results. If you're at a point in your firm where you're wondering: "Okay, what's the best step forward to grow?" Adi is your go-to resource. In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Adi Klevit dive into:
  • Adi's "3 step process" to highlight to take your firm to the next level
  • When it makes sense to hire more administrative staff (it's not when you think)
  • How to determine whether you should hire more CPAs or you simply need to work on workflow


3-Step Process To Take Your Firm To the Next Level

Adi Klevit, co-founder of Business Success Consulting Group, started off as a teacher actually. After finding her love for helping small-to-medium-sized business owners grow their business, she dove headfirst into consulting. For years she learned as VP at a consulting company. Then, when she was ready, in 2011 she hung out her shingle co-founding Business Success Consulting Group. Where she really focuses on inside a business is the processes and management systems of the business. This means she's looking at every process in your business from soup-to-nuts. That's whether we're talking about: business development, tax return workflow, efficiency of staff, growing pains, etc. Normally, a client will sit down with Adi if they reach a crossroads. The client wants to grow but isn't sure the direction to take. Or, they want to scale, but aren't sure how to do it without breaking down their company. This is where we really get into the meat of helping a business grow... The first thing Adi will do with a new client's business (including for an accounting firm) is identify areas where order is needed. As a firm owner, it's easy to get complacent at the top of the chain. You might feel everything's running smoothly as the checks keep flowing into the bank account. However, if you look closer, you'll see pockets of chaos in your firm. That's not meant to scare you, but simply warn you that these 'pockets' will deepen as your firm expands. Those are the various areas to pinpoint first. Which areas of your firm cause the most problems for you and your staff?  It may take time to sit down and discuss these pieces...but if you don't complete these steps, the others are meaningless. Second, you must really 'dig' into the chaos. Why is there a problem? Is it a staffing issue, a technology issue, a workflow hangup? You may find the workflow is inefficient and thus causes delay. Or, one particular employee grinds everything to a halt and no one's really noticed. These are the "whys" that are at the heart of the final step. Third, you must establish solutions to stabilize these problem areas. You can't progress to the next level without fixing the problems you find. For many owners, this might feel uncomfortable. Bringing on new solutions could require tough discussions with staff, maybe even warnings/firings. Every firm and business will be different. Yet, Adi mentions most businesses struggle with the same type of problems.

An Accounting Firm Adi Helped Take To The Next Level

This example may strike home with you... Adi went into an accounting firm which had two solid owners. These owners were dedicated to their practice clocking 12-14 hour days. They had hired an assistant to take some heat off their backs. On top of that, they had efficient marketing systems with leads pouring in. Sounds like a dream practice, right? Well, these owners were drowning. They pleaded to Adi, "How do we service all these new clients plus our old clients without murdering ourselves?!?"  This is a fairly normal accounting firm problem, surprising as it is. Owners working themselves to the bone. Adi cracked open her 3-step process and got sleuthing. What she found was a shock to the owners. As it turned out, they themselves were a bottleneck in the firm. They, like many firm owners, hesitated to pass on work. They only trusted themselves with it, Adi worked 'round the clock with them working on implementing workflows, and more importantly, hiring new support staff. Hiring is a sticky situation, but it must be done.

Making Sure You're Only Hiring Rock-stars

These firm owners shuddered at the thought of a bad hire. It's not surprising. Poor hiring decisions lead to more costs and time flushed down the drain. The key (as we discuss in our new book, Double Your Accounting Firm) is to have everyone on the same page in terms of workflow. No knowledge should be locked away in one team member's head. This is playing with fire because if that team member leaves, the knowledge leaves as well. Part of your workflow should be documenting every step. No team member may add steps without approval and written updates to the workflow. Profitability comes from employees becoming more efficient in their daily tasks.

If You Don't Know Whether To Hire Or Increase Productivity...

The fastest way to determine whether you should set out onto recruiting a new associate or simply boosting productivity is by following Adi's 3 steps. Do a capacity analysis of your firm.  Where are there unnecessary actions? Repeats of unimportant tasks? Mistakes (especially repeated ones)?  Once you're able to flesh those out, you're able to get a crystal clear picture of the issues. One method to start with is to track time internally. We preach here at Jetpack to get off billable time and onto fixed fee/ value pricing. So, let's not get confused here. You may still run timers internally in order to track productivity. But, let's not use those hours as the first steps toward billing. Adi pushes to 85-90% billable time as max efficiency. Your firm may be different. If team members start dipping below that bar, that's when you want to look into potential administrative hires. Remember, your associates (the ones doing tax returns, etc.) are the profit center of the firm. If they aren't churning out work, you aren't getting paid. To maximize their capacity, you must keep them pumping with actual work, not admin tasks. Administrative tasks will suck profit out the window. Adi's done studies and found those who hired more admin spent more upfront (obviously) but made an ROI on the back-end. All due to getting admin tasks out of associate's (and partner's) hands.  This allows each team member to free up time to play to their strengths. Adi even mentions how a partner may be the best biz dev person in your firm. Free up their time to do more biz dev, not paperwork. One clever way to use admins is through touch points with clients. These touch points can lead to more work.
DAVID'S TIP: Have admins talk with current clients with satisfaction surveys. During these surveys, have the staff ask "What else can we offer you?" Soft sells that could lead to lucrative projects which pay the admin's salary off. Another way is simply asking for referrals. "Do you know 2-3 people who might benefit from this service we just offered you?" All it takes is a trickle of new folks to pay big dividends.
Adi recommends figuring out how many new clients you need to pay off the new staff you hired. Then, you have a goal and it never looks as hard as you think. We put on these podcasts to help you take your firm to the next level. Adi's given us many great ways to get started. If you want to reach out to Adi, email adi@bizsuccesscg.com. Related Articles:
  1. How to manage the time to set aside for outlining Accounting Firm Goals
  2. The Million Dollar Opportunity Missing From Your Accounting Firm
  3. How To Create The Perfect Accounting Firm

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