Posted by & filed under Growing Your Firm Podcast, Growth, Team Management, Workflow Excellence.

We’ve all heard the advice to work smarter and not just harder to achieve success efficiently. The key to maximizing profits isn’t always putting in longer hours or growing a larger team. Those things may work, but they can only go so far before you have to turn to another way.

Susan Wilson, Dave’s guest for this week, talks about how she and her partner managed to shift from hard to smart. Her firm has managed to do more work and get more money, all while downsizing their team and working fewer hours, not more.

How is that possible, you may ask? You can listen to the conversation yourself below, or read at the bottom for a few key lessons Susan shared about working smarter instead of harder to grow your firm.

Key points from Dave and Susan’s chat:

  • How Susan and her partner, Rochelle, started working together
  • What new clients their firm has started taking on lately
  • How Susan’s team accomplishes more with a smaller team and better workflows

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Work Smarter, Not Harder. Work Leaner, Not Longer.

Would you believe that Susan’s firm is making 50% more in profits this year, all while having a smaller team and working fewer hours than last year? Here are four tips Susan shared with us in our interview that can help your firm achieve a similar shift from hard work to smart work.

Form the Right Team

Large teams are not always the best teams. A team can get pretty small and still accomplish HUGE amounts of work if each member is a good fit with everyone else.

Susan is blessed in this area by having an excellent business partner. How did Susan know they’d be a good fit? First of all, because mutual friends all said they should be working together! Sometimes those close to us can see more about our personality than we can.

Susan also notes that she and Rochelle have similar philosophies toward running a business. This helped them to mesh their different skill sets into something stronger than they could achieve alone.

The lesson? Find the right partners, and you’ll have an easier time working closely, and efficiently, together to maximize profits. Look for people who have the same business goals and have skills that fill the gaps in your weak areas.

Have a Strong Plan

A key to working smarter is to know exactly what you’re working towards. You can do a lot of hard work that doesn’t get anywhere. A vision makes you efficient.

In the case of Susan and Rochelle, they have a plan to exit their company. So many of the decisions they make are designed to move them toward the plan.

When you have an end goal and a plan to get there, your firm won’t waste time making decisions that cause you to wander from that path.

Use the Right Tools

There are a host of tools out there for businesses and accounting firms. A quick google search will land you thousands of hits. Go to a networking event, and you’ll find hundreds of software companies and consulting businesses offering to help you reach that next level.

Of course, to be lean and smart with your time and resources, a big key is to choose the tools that are the best fit for your company. Not all tools are created equal, and some will be better for your size and goals than others.

Susan says her firm uses tools like Jetpack Workflow and Practice Ignition to work better and smarter. But technology will only take you so far. In addition to software tools, they also used another unique resource: a business coach.

Their coach helped them to work better together and become the lean, mean, accounting machine they are today. Finding the right coach, which they did through a service called Sphere, was key for them to overcome limitations that can’t be solved through technology.

Organize Your Workflow

Finally, a subject dear to our hearts. Susan told us that standardizing and improving their workflow has been essential to their working smarter and leaner.

In previous years, she and Rochelle would do things off the tops of their heads instead of following a tested, written process. They’d keep records in email (the worst place imaginable), and their disorganization meant they had to constantly stop work because something was missing.

As part of their shift to smart work, they wrote things down and created a standardized workflow. For instance, when helping clients with taxes Susan has a checklist she uses to preview and organize the paperwork clients send in. This way, if something is out of place or missing, she can get that information ahead of time.

Then, when Rochelle is ready to do those taxes, she can work much faster, knowing everything is there. Rochelle doesn’t have to stop work and ask for missing files or reports.

By going through this process, Susan helps Rochelle stay efficient. Together, by following a proven workflow, they do much more than they could have imagined before.

The lesson for us? Get organized! Start writing down your processes and how long they take. Give proper time to preparing for a task so that, when you do jump in and start the work, you’ll have everything you need to work smarter and leaner. As your lists grow in complexity, consider using a tool like Jetpack Workflow to make it easy to create, share, and complete workflows with your team.

All in all, Susan and Rochelle are doing something many firm owners of partners only dream of. They are working fewer hours but bringing in more profit. Their team is smaller this year than last, and yet they are accomplishing more. How? But being organized, working well together, and using the right tools.

RELATED LINKS:

  1. Automate Your Accounting Firm to 1500% Growth with Heather Pranitis
  2. How to Build a Team that Fuels Firm Growth: The Sandra Wiley Interview
  3. [Double Your Firm Book] Ch. 3 Driving Growth in Your Firm

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