In this podcast, our guest is Arianna Campbell, the director of Boomer Consulting. She provides direction and guidance for multiple phases of a firm’s business, focusing primarily on Lean Six Sigma consulting, facilitation, and internal continuous improvement projects. Arianna’s name has popped up all over the ecosystem, and I am confident that she will provide invaluable information to help you tackle challenges as you scale your firm.
- About Boomer Consulting
- The Optimum Time to Focus on Processes
- Five Areas Critical for Firm Success
- 9 Categories of Waste
We’ve previously had podcasts with representatives from Boomer Consulting, including Gary Boomer. Boomer Consulting works exclusively with CPA firms and aids communities through consulting and training. The consulting firm emphasizes the five areas critical to firm success: technology, talent, leadership, growth, and process. Arianna specifically helps firms discover how they can make their processes more effective.
Arianna particularly notices that processes break down once a firm has 20 full-time employees. A significant part of this breakdown comes from an antiquated model of how work should be done, which after considering the technological pace and demands of businesses, requires change and adaptation. Arianna says that businesses track information differently these days. There are now more people involved, each with their own unique way to resolve challenges. As a result, there are inconsistencies, variations, and errors.
Several other Growing Your Firm guests, including Susan Wilson, have offered priceless advice on how to strategically scale your firm.
The Optimum Time to Focus on Processes
Arianna notes that what's most important is to have a strategic plan at an organizational level that focuses on the five main areas: technology, talent, leadership, process, and growth. This will help you to identify where there is an overlap among different areas. As a result, it is optimum to poise your firm for process analysis early on. Firms may also consider integrating these critical five areas with meetings.
For those who are looking for a concrete time of the year, Arianna advises businesses to debrief after deadlines in the spring and then again after deadlines in the fall. The key here is to make sure you're taking lessons learned from each season and figure out what can be changed or done better.
Another initiator for analyzing processes includes the time when you’re looking at unknown technology or looking at how to better leverage and use your existing technology. You must look at processes if you intend on revamping your technologies effectively. Pairing old ineffective processes with new technology simply won’t work.
The 9 Categories of Waste
When it comes down to really focusing on process issues, Arianna encourages firms to evaluate their processes through the lens of the 9 Categories of Waste. The 9 categories of waste as a Lean Six Sigma tool helps to identify where the greatest opportunities lay. The 9 categories of waste can be remembered through the acronym: D.O.W.N.T.I.M.E +A.
Defects are any errors or mistakes that are happening within your process. This may include transposed numbers or data that is entered incorrectly. Defects are the mistakes you will havein the process due to the human element. We want to reduce defects as much as possible.
Doing more work than necessary is overproduction. It could be physically picking up the work and putting it down. It could also happen through your technology. Overproduction happens when you're making some progress on some work, and then you recognize that you don't have enough resources to finish. This can strain client or work relationships since you will have to contact them again.
Waiting is pretty straightforward. It is any time spent in between touches, whether this is internal or external waiting. One of the biggest issues with waiting is that it creates or recreates a learning curve. For example, if you've had three weeks since you've last looked at a project because you've been waiting for information, then you may have to re-research and start over again to remember where you were. To solve this, track where your projects are effective. Tracking progress can help with documentation and reduce the re-learning curve. Resolving wait time may also reduce overproduction.
Looking at our resources and getting the right people doing the right work is the central focus for reducing non-utilized talent waste. That can be a combination of training and up-scaling. It's also about looking at our technology and considering technology to be one of our team members.
Transportation is the movement of paper files. There is now a move to be paperless, and this issue can be especially problematic when there are fewer than 20 full-time employees. There are several added inefficiencies that come from moving around hard copies of paper, including issues of confidentiality.
Make sure to keep your inventory turning. For many CPAs, your inventory is the business projects or assignments that you are completing. Make sure that these projects are turning over in a timely manner.
Scavenger hunts for information can be due to hardcopy paper piles you have because of the transportation. It can also be an electronic scavenger hunt for information, whether through databases, email, inboxes, or poorly named files and binder structure.
Excess processing involves doing more work than the client values or is willing to pay for. For example, custom cover letters are a good example. Many firms spend a lot of time creating them for clients, and while it’s something that we business owners value, the client might place more value in a phone conversation. Focus on the services and projects that serve your clients best, and reduce time spent on what they don’t value as much.
Quoting Henry Ford, Arianna reminded us that, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.” There are places where you could start, or the steps that you can take, but the bottom line is that your ability and mindset will dictate how successful you are and how far you can go.
BONUS: Arianna’s Favorite Two Categories
Arianna’s favorite category is actually a tie between two:
- Excess Processing, and
Both categories involve making improvements to not only the process, but also to yourself and to your mindset.
We covered a lot of information! If you would like to learn more, listen to the full episode on the podcast. You can reach out to Arianna at www.boomer.com.