As regular readers know, automation is one of our favorite topics. But what about taking it to the next level? Can you automate a consulting business?
The guest for this podcast is Jan Haugo, the founder and CEO of Jan Haugo and Associates. She is a tech-savvy accounting and bookkeeping professional who helps firms really think about how to enhance their processes. She shows firms how they can strategically leverage their technologies to maximize their efficiency and productivity.
- Jan’s Auditing Approach
- Case and Point
- A Consultant’s Tip
- MacGyver of Apps: False Integration
- Zapier as a Solution
- 5 Zapier Automations You Can’t Live Without
- How To Build a Better Workflow for Your Accounting Practice
- How to Grow 1500% By Automating Your Firm
Jan’s Auditing Approach: Three Pivotal Areas
Jan’s firm has been assisting businesses since 2000, so she has ample experience in offering effective solutions to business processes. When asked about how she begins her work in auditing businesses, she said, “We always start with the end in mind, and then we start working backward.”
According to Jan, the roots of many problems exist alongside data, files, and information in your business. Sometimes these roots include people who actively work with the information, like someone mishandling a case. Other times it’s actually the technology that is used to handle the information that causes inefficiencies and pain points to businesses.
By identifying the technologies a business is using, Jan is able to also find a paper trail or manual processes that often take a lot of time to complete. Thus by working backward, we get a clear picture of the three pivotal areas that substantiate the audit:
- The People
- The Technology
- The Paper or Manual Processes That a Business Uses
For many of us listening and reading, this can seem pretty abstract. So that we understand, Jan offered a clear and real example.
A Short Case Study
Jan recalls how a business owner had approached her. The owner thought that their processes were wasting a lot of time. It seemed as though the bookwork was generally inefficient, and there was a lack of visibility into the work. This lack of transparency created difficulty in detecting the root of the problem. However, there were several other symptoms of the firm’s problems.
The business owner’s main symptom was that he was simply not receiving his receivables in a timely manner. His pain point was that his accounts receivable was at the highest it had ever been and people weren't paying because they were getting late billing. This ended up causing a lot of dissatisfaction with his clients. Imagine coming to a client with 3 months of billing at once: this could cause harm to a firm’s reputation.
Jan explained how the business owner had implemented new software for handling billing, but there was one caveat: the software was sorely inefficient for the needs of the business. The business owner didn’t expect the technology to be a problem. In fact, the business owner genuinely thought that it was working well.
However, the real-time experiences of people handling the billing tasks proved otherwise. In reality, employees were having to work around the technology being used, taking up to 18 hours just to send out invoices to clients. Clearly this was also causing burn out for the employees. This was one of the factors causing the lack of visibility in the work.
By sitting down and talking to the business owner, Jan’s business added in several key pieces of tech and removed about four key pieces of their tech-stack they had been using that weren't well integrated into their processes.
After the audit, Jan and her team were able to decrease the time it took to complete billing from 18 hours to less than 2. That’s 9x’ing time in a business!
A Consultant’s Tip
Though it’s great to find the solution to a business owner’s problems, it is equally important to act in their best interest. This is especially the case when speaking to their employees. A careful balance must be struck: on one hand, information must be taken for the audit to solve a problem the business owner identifies. On the other hand, our reputation is also on the line, so care must be taken when presenting solutions.
Jan explains that when talking to the team members, it is important to give great visibility: be clear about how your presented solution will improve their work experience. Ultimately, you don't want to leave and have employees angry at the owner for something that was implemented.
MacGyver of Apps: False Integration
When asked about which apps she prefers the most, Jan stated that she doesn’t really have a set of go-to applications or pieces of technology. “I’m pretty agnostic,” she said. There are amazing pieces of technology everywhere, but there is a time and place for everything, and not every situation calls for the cheapest or most advanced application.
There are some people who believe that because they are stockpiling different pieces of technology, they are well integrated into their processes. In a way, this is similar to fixing a car with duct tape and chopsticks. Care, nuance, and consideration of business needs and situational purposes must be taken when integrating technologies. For example, in the case study, the business needed software or an app with certain billing date functions.
You have to pick the right toolkit that works for the culture of the company. Furthermore, for whatever tech-stack or application , you also need discipline and dedication in using it, and the discipline is almost completely detached from whether the tool is successful or not.
Zapier as a Solution
From time to time, businesses face problems that don’t seem to have a ready solution available to enhance their processes. Jan mentions that one of the tools that helps her find solutions is Zapier. Given the versatility of Zapier to connecting various apps, Jan’s choice makes perfect sense. Zapier usually acts as a bridge for technology that doesn’t seem to integrate as well as you would expect.
But Jan also notes something rather unique about Zapier. Technology is always changing, but even if the tools you use with Zapier changes, the information still remains. Furthermore, Zapier offers more optionality, so if one of the tools you’ve integrated changes in 10 years, there will be fewer change management costs because you would simply cut off one Zapier connection.