Workflows are at the heart of any firm—automating them is crucial.
Automating your meeting scheduling will drastically improve your sanity.
Automating your client onboarding will unify the process across your firm and save you precious time.
Running a firm is often like being a firefighter. You respond to alarms and put out fires as they happen, and do your best to prevent them. When it comes to automation, it is similar in that you are trying to solve issues as they come up.
This is often the natural course of things in the life of a firm owner. But with everything that comes up, between client issues or those within the firm, it’s difficult to know which fire to put out first or which needs the most attention to at least get under control.
The end result is often a patchwork of apps that don’t necessarily ‘talk’ to one another.
Sometimes, and more often than not, the result is inactivity and failure to adopt technology that could help with the most vexing tasks—all for the simple reason of not knowing what to automate first.
As such, based on my myriad conversations with firm leaders and practitioners of all kinds around this very issue, I’ve come up with a list of three key tasks that you can focus on automating even before next busy season.
Some would argue that workflows, which are often deeply intimate and individualized processes, are at the heart of any firm. It is a wonder why many attempts to have these processes automated have been challenging. But it’s so important that you do.
Every firm needs to not only be on top of what all of its processes are, but have a sense of what work is being done and what needs the most attention. Whether you focus exclusively on tax, or a combination of tax and bookkeeping, what you do, who is doing it, and how it’s being done are all crucial to a firm’s overall functions.
It is for this fact alone that with the many tasks a firm must perform on a regular basis (not only during busy season), finding the right tools to automate your firm’s workflow is essential. Even having even some or most of these processes automated is far more efficient than the manual ones you may be used to.
The best place to start automating your workflows is by choosing an accounting practice management software platform with robust workflow automation capabilities.
2. Meeting scheduling
While workflow may be a vexing beast to tame, equally frustrating can be all of the meeting and client requests that you receive throughout the year. Most pronounced, and let’s face it, down right annoying, are those that happen inevitably at the busiest times.
Staying on top of such requests can seem like a full-time job. Accountants aren’t always the best at turning down work, potential or otherwise, so invariably you take the meeting or the call. Losing track can happen, but keeping it all organized between a variety of manual and electronic means can be a bit of a nightmare.
Once again, the best solution to the deluge of meeting requests comes in the form of automation. When you find a scheduling tool to use as your source of truth for all of the above, you will find more of that control (and sanity?) that you are looking for.
A lot of accountants are familiar with, and may even use Calendly, but there are also others that can do more or even have AI included, such as Clara, Motion, SimplyMeet.me, Doodle, Arrangr, HoneyBook and others. These tools can truly make a difference in organizing your day, your week, and so on.
It’s a great idea to ask around and find out what your accountant peers are using. Try not to delay this, because your work life will be drastically improved and sanity restored.
3. Client onboarding
Some firms have client onboarding as a component of their overall workflow. But in my conversations, I find that more often than not, the process of taking on new clients varies firm-to-firm and, more importantly, is not automated.
The result, as with many of the other firm functions mentioned above, is frustration or at the very least, a time-consuming and collectively inefficient process.
Having a system in place whereby the client onboarding process is not only spelled out on a shared platform, but where key components are automated (i.e. the automatic request and collection of client data via your client portal or survey form like SurveyMonkey), means you’re saving time and creating a unified process across your firm.
The client onboarding process is an ideal workflow to templatize, perfect for use in your practice management system.
While I chose to list three tasks or processes that can benefit from automation, there are far more that tools today can help with.
Still confused at which move to make first?
Take the time before the end of this year and look at your biggest blockers in how your business functions and see what is available to do the job electronically. This may sound basic, but this entire process does not have to be any more complicated than you make it.