We have all had that moment of dread. The phone rings, and it’s a client asking for a status update, but you’re not sure when (or if) you received their documents, when the project is due, or who on your team is responsible for your deliverables. With many different clients, keeping track of each of them is a feat of mental gymnastics.
Luckily, there are solutions available to standardize your workflows and avoid moments of panic. One of the most impactful ways to make your team more efficient (and help you keep everyone on track) is to templatize tasks that repeat over and over. Bookkeeping is one of those tasks.
Even if you have a wide range of clients in many different industries, the process you follow to keep their accounts up-to-date is likely similar. By applying a workflow template to this scope of work, you’ll get the following benefits:
- No matter who on your team is doing the work, there’s a higher quality assurance for the finished product.
- You save time when you don’t have to answer questions and repeat training on process and procedures.
- You can automate certain aspects of the workflow.
Beyond just bookkeeping, templates can simplify tracking of all your recurring projects, from tax audits to financial health assessments.
Jetpack has made it easy to get started with workflows by giving you 32 workflow templates here for free. This package includes bookkeeping, tax engagements, audits, and financial statement compilation checklist templates that will help you standardize your projects in no time.
By implementing standardized project procedures, your team will clearly understand the expectations, timelines, and budgets.
A well-made workflow template doesn’t need to be a budget buster, and once implemented, can preserve resources for your firm, helping you scale to the next level of growth.
Hospitals have implemented checklists to achieve better surgical outcomes. Pilots use checklists to ensure that all safety precautions have been done. While accounting doesn’t involve life or death situations, standardized workflows can lead to better outcomes in the financial industry as well.
As accountants and bookkeepers, we know that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Once you find a process that works for you and your team, codifying it as a workflow ensures consistency and quality. It will also help your team members understand the project goals, budgets, and timelines.
Juggling multiple client demands is tough, and projects rarely line up nicely one by one and wait their turn. The life of an account is full of deadlines whether the deadlines are set by clients or the IRS. Using workflows ensures that you track projects each step of the way. It makes it easier to update clients on deliverables and get a sense of the current capacity of your team.
The big firms have set procedures in place, and small businesses can compete by setting up similar procedures using accounting workflows for each project.
Starting with a workflow template allows you to build on prior successful project outcomes by following the same steps and procedures. It’s important to keep in mind that the project templates need not be overly complicated. Simple workflow templates ensure that your team will continue to use them.
There are several steps to consider when setting up an initial workflow. The first step is to properly categorize the project type. Having several predefined accounting workflows available to you means that you don’t have to create new checklists for each project.
Having onboarding checklists for new clients means that you won’t forget to grab some crucial piece of information during the onboarding process, whether that’s the accountant’s access to their books or a date of birth necessary for a tax return.
Oftentimes new clients need to be set up in several systems including your billing system, tax program, or payroll processor. Each of these steps should be included in your workflow.
New client checklists allow you to appear more put together and professional as you have ready-made emails, checklists, and procedures available to get your new clients set up efficiently.
Though bookkeeping itself is a fairly straightforward process - entering information into an accounting system - a bookkeeping engagement is a more complicated set of steps.
Gathering the necessary information from clients is often a multistep process and may take several emails or phone calls. Once the information is gathered, it then must be entered into the accounting system. There may need to be additional contact with clients to clarify entries or obtain additional information.
There are several critical monthly bookkeeping steps including reconciliation of all accounts, running financial reports, and sending them to the client promptly. The work needs to be reviewed and billed after each project is done. By assigning each of these tasks to a team member, you will know that they have been completed and by whom.
If your project includes interim financial statements for the clients, you may want to set up a separate workflow template for the financial statements or have a second bookkeeping workflow that includes the additional journal entries necessary to create financial statements regularly.
Payroll and bookkeeping often go hand-in-hand and can both reap similar benefits from solid project plans.
Payroll workflows should include the steps needed to complete the process along with critical information such as where to send the paychecks, who to inform about any pending payroll withdrawals, and who is responsible for paying the payroll taxes.
Each payroll workflow should include the payroll frequency (such as whether it’s a monthly or bi-weekly payroll process) and note the frequency that tax payments are due.
Having standardized payroll workflows ensures that anyone can fill in if a coworker is absent or unavailable to complete an assignment. Because of the critical timing of payroll processing, this can allow you to better serve your clients and minimize disruption to your business.
While monitoring financial outcomes is often the goal of bookkeeping engagements, the output often flows through to the tax preparer.
Though every client is unique, a lot of the work that goes into a tax return is repetitive and can be tracked through a standard workflow. Each tax return workflow should start with a single person being assigned to monitor the progress of the return.
The project manager should be tasked with setting the budget for the project, estimating completion time, and ensuring that the project is making progress. As the project progresses, the workflow should be updated with time spent on the project, the status of any missing documentation, and due dates for each step in the project.
Tax season is tough enough without having to wonder what’s next on your project or wondering if your team is making progress. Tax return workflows allow you to check in on projects without having to interrupt your team.
Having standard bookkeeping procedures in place means that if your clients’ books are ever audited, you will have the proper documentation available. In the event of any question about the accounting, you will be able to verify who worked on the project and direct any relevant questions their way.
Auditors have their own set of workflows that remain fairly standard between audits. Jetpack Workflow’s free templates include two samples of auditor workflows. Even if you are not an auditor, understanding how your bookkeeping work will be reviewed by an auditor can help you prepare to meet their quality work standards.
Ultimately, the best workflow template to use is the one that you and your team will stick to.
Whether you are a traditional paper-based accounting firm or have moved your practice into the cloud, workflow templates can be used in either environment. There are manual options, like tracking projects through local spreadsheets or an online tool like Google Docs, but these systems leave a lot of room for things to fall through the cracks.
Having a standardized workflow system like Jetpack Workflow means:
- All your checklists are organized in one place
- To-do lists are prioritized so you and your team reduce errors and never miss deadlines
- Easily keep track of what everyone on your team is working on
Start a 14-day free trial today to see why over 6,000 accountants and bookkeepers use Jetpack Workflow as their practice management and automation system.
A complete workflow template library is only one of the great benefits of using Jetpack Workflow - you’ll increase efficiencies when you can leverage capacity management planning and see where your team is spending the most time and where you need to expand your staffing.
And if you’re setting up a monthly bookkeeping process and building your first complete checklist, make sure you check out this template too.