[Double Your Firm Book] Ch.1: Increasing Workflow Efficiency and Staff Capacity
We’re going to be doing something different in the coming weeks.
We will be going through our best-selling book, Double Your Accounting Firm, which is available now on Amazon. Each week going forward, we will tackle a new chapter of the book.
You will have the opportunity to listen to each chapter on the podcast for FREE. It’s the least we could do for you being a listener to the show.
In this audiobook chapter, you will discover:
- The roles of each person in your firm
- How to increase workflow efficiency and staff capacity
- A trick to see how employees utilize their time
- Double Your Accounting Firm (an Amazon best-seller)
- Ditch time sheets and grow quickly (interview)
- Boost your firm’s profitability (interview)
- How to onboard new clients (interview)
Defining Roles in Your Firm to Maximize Workflow Efficiency:
Growth is supposed to be exciting. But have you ever found that the more you grow, the more you scramble? What about the more work falls through the cracks? Or, the more people you have to hire?
Growth is good.
But, along with growth, you need workflow efficiency and capacity control. This will save you profits and time going forward. That’s what we’re going to discuss today.
First, let’s look at workflow.
Workflow = ‘how things get done.’ When you have the right systems in place, it allows you to tackle more task. The problem in many firms I talk with is this: they play ‘telephone.’
You know the game. One person whispers a message in the ear of another, and that person then talks to the next and so on. At the end, the person last in line says the message. Normally, it’s a garbled mess.
That’s what happens to many processes in firms. Everyone is doing different things which then leads to inefficiencies and staff members not knowing what others are doing.
The first thing to do for maximum workflow efficiency is to break down roles.
Typically, owners and partners have been around the accounting industry the longest. Generally, a partner should focus on three core areas: business development, high-level, high ROI work, and team-building.
Everything not in this realm should be delegated down.
Managers are there to correctly implement the systems set up by the partners. Managers must discover the small cracks before they become bigger. Their role includes client work, onboarding clients efficiently, training the system, and team-building.
Client work should be more review and less preparation. Their main objective, contrary to popular belief, is to keep the system intact and running smoothly and not actually doing compliance and bookkeeping. ESPECIALLY not bookkeeping. Everything besides this should be delegated down.
These are the foot soldiers taking receipts and turning them into compliance. They will be the face of the firm to many clients and handle gathering data. New clients should go from the manager onboarding down to the practitioner. Their role includes client work preparation and the touchpoints with the clients.
Everything else is delegated down.
These are the people collecting and tying up the loose ends. They are the heartbeat of the office and typically know more about everything than all the other roles. The admins: handle paperwork, send out completed work to clients, scan, schedule, and answer phones.
Here are where problems erupt…
Non-admin staff starts doing non-billable work. Then, they get behind on billable work, then work is late and client is upset. Leave the admin staff to do all the tedious tasks.
It’s much better to hire more admin staff than it is to overload the administrative team and push non-billable work up the chain. That’s where inefficiency breeds.
Steps to Actually Implement a Solid Workflow:
The metrics for a successful firm are pretty well-known:
- Turnaround time from getting client documents to compliance going out the door
- The capacity of team members and utilization of that time
- Profit per client (preferably going up)
Let’s look at turnaround time.
The secret to nailing turnaround time and never being late with a client is Parkinson’s Law. I’ve talked about this before. Basically, time expands to fill the work that needs to get done. Ever notice you get all the tax returns down on April 15th? You get more efficient with a deadline. You work faster and harder. When you get a new client project, immediately, before you do anything, SET A DEADLINE before anything is scanned or input. This will immediately add urgency to your team.
Next, let’s look at capacity and utilization.
When you open up capacity on your team, it allows you to take on more clients without the stress. That’s growing revenue and profits while keeping everyone’s head on. For most firms, they write down their workflow on a Word doc and hope everyone follows it. Much like the game of telephone, over time, people start tweaking it thinking it’s better their way. Soon, everyone does it differently.
You can’t do that. Instead, gather everyone together (not just the partners) and get a 10,000-foot view of each step of the workflow process for every deliverable. The best people to talk to might your admin staff. They always know where the bottlenecks are.
Ask these questions to your team:
- How is the client experiencing our workflow?
- Where is my team stuck?
- What is the most time consuming and frustrating part of the workflow?
- Is there any part of the workflow where we can lower accounts receivable and get paid faster?
Map out each of these answers. Let everyone on the team speak and express their ideas and concerns. After talking over these points, now ask:
- What can we do to remove time?
- What processes do we need to update or clarify so the entire team has a uniform process?
- Do we need to add any additional steps?
Going hand-in-hand with capacity is utilization. Utilization adds up the time team members spend in income-producing activities. If you run your firm by the billable hour, you can see utilization based on billable vs. non-billable.
For the preferred value pricing metric, you need to look more at turnaround times of projects and all deadlines being met. To start managing time effectively, start with mapping your time for at least one week. Have everyone in your firm do this. Compare each other’s timesheets. See where the bottlenecks are in your time. Are people getting caught in similar tasks that should be shorter?
Dissect each member’s time with promises of no punishment for what you’re about to see. Uncover:
- Is there too much downtime for many team members? (a sign of needing more client work)
- Is the team working too many hours (a sign of inefficiencies)
- Are there similarities in problems they face? (a sign of problems to fix)
Once you open up capacity in your firm by utilizing team member’s time wisely, you’ll get happier clients, happier staff, and higher profits.
Quick Tools That Can Get You Back-on-Track Today:
Some tools to help get you started with workflow efficiency and utilization:
- Calendly: App integrates with your calendar and lets you send a personalized link to anyone to set up a time to talk with you. It saves back and forths with clients and prospects.
- Hively: It’s an automated feedback tool for clients. The feedback you get from clients is priceless to receive.
- Flux: an Underground hack that dims the light on your computer. This will reduce eyes from getting tired, especially when working late.
- Followup.cc: Essential for client document retrieval. It allows you to set up templates that automatically send to clients to remind them to send documents. This could save you hours.
- Temporary Site Blockers: I’ve used rescuetime.com to keep employees focused. Could help measure how much time is wasted by distractions.
WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO TO INCREASE WORKFLOW EFFICIENCY IN YOUR FIRM? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW.