How are you handling your CPA firm management? Sounds technical, right? “CPA firm management.” 

But it’s really a fancy way of saying how your business (in the accounting industry) operates. We all know there’s always room for improvement, and for some, that improvement is more pressing than others.

There are three main areas when we’re talking about “management,” and they’re:

  • Processes: The specific ways, steps, and tasks that make up everything you do.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Who does what within your accounting firm.
  • Leadership: How you see, coordinate, and run your business.

Signs Your Firm May Need Some Practice Management

If you have a bit of a breakdown in one of the three areas mentioned above, you’ll notice some things. Try to be a bit stoic when reviewing these potential warning signs. 

Why? There are days you and the team are on fire. Other days, you may think the only thing on fire is the dumpster.

Ok, hopefully not that dramatic, but you get the idea. It’s important to review your firm’s processes objectively. Here are our three warning signs.

1. Deliverables Seem to Be a Bit Out of Hand

Again, this isn’t (necessarily) reflected by clients emailing to ask why their cash flow statement hasn’t come yet. That would be closer to the “bad” end of the good/bad scale.

But, do you notice any of the following: 

  • Incomplete reports (e.g. missing key items)
  • Having to follow-up with the team to find out where a certain item/project stands
  • Not getting the deliverable out at the same time each month/quarter

These are all tell-tale signs of a deliverable problem, and a key indicator your firm management may need some attention.

2. Capacity is Thin and the Team is Getting Burnt Out

Growth is fantastic. That said, it brings its fair share of opportunities (aka potential problems). One of the most common, we’ve heard from accounting firm owners is the balance between growth, team capacity, and hiring new CPAs/accountants.

On one hand, you really want to hire capable people who fit into your company’s culture and are excited to help clients succeed. After all, everyone wants to avoid toxic coworkers.

And on the other hand, you don’t want your current capable, experienced, and excited team members to get burnt out with too much work.

Key question: How do you clearly know when it’s time to begin the hiring process?

Answer; understand your capacity. Jumping the gun here, since we give solutions a bit further down. But a key component of a well-run firm are those with a clear idea of capacity. 

Jetpack Workflow’s newest feature is the ability to see capacity within your company. As you gain clients and input their tasks into our workflow system, you’ll see exactly how much more you can take on. 

If you’re getting close, it’s time to start recruiting the right people.

3. It’s Hard to See Exactly Where Your Firm Stands

As you’ve grown, has it become more and more difficult to see the “big picture,” in terms of project management?

Early on, it was easy to know where everything was, and to keep everyone moving through the work. A quick glance at a couple of spreadsheets, maybe a 5-min stop by so and so’s desk, and everything felt under control.

Now, all the posty notes in the world can’t seem to keep you on task, and you feel like you don’t really know how work is flowing through your firm.

Seeing the macro view of your company is one of the most prominent signs you need a firm management makeover. 

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3 Solutions to Improve CPA Firm Management

Now, we’re taking a turn toward the positive. Documenting processes, getting everyone on the same page, and delivering consistent results to clients (on time). 

Here are three broad steps to take, starting today.

1. Lay Out ALL of Your Processes

This one’s going to take some time. BUT… It doesn’t have to be done in a day, or even a week. 

What do we mean by “lay out” your processes? 

First, there are two types of processes; internal and external. Internal processes are things like:

  • How you find and close new clients (i.e. marketing, sales processes)
  • Hiring/onboarding new team members
  • How you hold the team accountable (role transitions, promotions, terminations)

External processes are essentially all of your services and the specific tasks associated with each. We suggest beginning with the most-performed services in your firm. 

Things like:

  • Month-end close process
  • Tax filing
  • Payroll

Pareto taught us that around 80% of our output comes from about 20% of input. So, it’s not an exact science, but a few of your services probably make up the bulk of what your team does, day in and day out.

Here’s what to do: Lay out every single task associated with your most common services. After your biggest, keep going until everything your firm does (internal and external) is documented.

Further reading: We’ve written about designing your workflow extensively here and here.

2. Evaluate Roles of Your Team (and Yourself)

Seeing what your firm does (in the form of laid-out processes) gives you a great opportunity to evaluate who does what within your organization. Chances are, some are doing more than others. And there’s a bigger chance you’re doing things you probably shouldn’t. 

For instance, if too much runs through you (final approvals, all client communication, etc.) it causes a bottleneck in your business.

With your process tasks in hand and an honest look at who’s doing what, you will be surprised at the number of insights attained. The good thing about you seeing these issues?

You’ll begin forming a plan to better manage your CPAs and accountants. 

3. Use a CPA Office Management Software

Ok, this one is a biggy. Why? Because using a workflow software gives you the ability to objectively solve all of the firm management problems we’ve covered. 

Here’s how:

  • You know those processes? All of them can live in a quality workflow software, making it a hub for everything your business does (and all tasks associated with them).
  • The team? Assign all tasks individually and see who’s completing what. You can also see who’s having trouble, sending help their way.
  • Seeing the big picture? With the right platform, you’ll be able to understand the status of every project. Then, drill down into the specifics and see what’s not done and why. 

Processes Made Easier with Workflow Software

The workflow, or practice management software is the key that unlocks a smooth-running accounting firm (when implemented correctly).

But which solution do you choose? 

We took the time and counted nearly a dozen different solutions for accounting firm owners, like yourself. Then, we put our findings into one massive buying guide. Inside, you’ll find: 

  • The most important things to look at, when considering a solution
  • Resources to find customer reviews on your top picks
  • Detailed comparison review of every single practice management tool

Interested? You can download the buyer’s guide right here.

See Jetpack Worflow In Action

Get under the hood of Jetpack Workflow’s accounting workflow and project management platform. See some of the top features and how it helps your firm standardize, automate, and track client work more efficiently.