How can you expect your staff to possibly perform at their best if you have not given them a standard way to complete each task?
How can you expect consistent performance and output when there’s no formality around their day-to-day? How can you expect them to be working more and more efficiently when you have no benchmarks?
You can’t. Unless you take the time to standardize and document your processes.
On top of improving the way your firm runs as a business, standardized processes help better serve your clients, and enable you to scale and grow.
In fact, getting this right is the single best thing you can do for the long-term success of your accounting firm.
How many of your firm’s processes have been clearly defined and documented?
If your answer is none or very few, the idea of implementing standardization may seem too enormous to tackle. But the benefits clearly outweigh the time and effort required.
Here are five clear benefits that explain the transformative effects standardization can have on your accounting practice:
Save time and increase output
Provide a consistent service
Reduce errors and oversights
Understand and master your performance
The ability to save time and simultaneously increase output is the definition of efficiency. And leading accounting firms are powered by efficiency.
How efficient are your firm’s processes?
When new staff start at your firm, for example, do they have to be physically shown how to complete tasks (often multiple times)? This is a simple way standardization can boost efficiency.
Instead, when new employees can refer to a standardized and documented process, it reduces the input needed from other team members, plus they don’t need to waste time remembering each step per task.
If your firm’s processes aren’t standardized, each of your employees will come up with their own approach to tackling their tasks.
This creates inconsistency. Your team is outputting inconsistent work across inconsistent timelines. This means your clients aren’t receiving the same service, which can negatively impact your firm’s client satisfaction rating (or NPS).
But when your team is using the same standardized framework to deliver client outcomes, not only are they delivering consistently, they’re delivering the most streamlined service possible.
If your staff can’t refer to documentation that outlines the what, when, why, how and who of each task and work type, you’re leaving them vulnerable to making errors.
If everyone is working from their own process, there are bound to be gaps in workflows.
For example, when reviewing and standardizing your business tax return workflow, you may identify areas that can be automated by your workflow management tool or accounting software. Not only are you minimizing the chance of human error, but you’re increasing efficiency along the way.
When a process is standardized, anyone who views the documentation has complete visibility across everyone involved in the process.
As a firm owner or manager, that means you have visibility across who is dealing with each task, and as a member involved in shared processes, you can easily see who you’ll be working with to get a particular project over the line.
And when responsibilities are clearly accessed by everyone across your team, you increase accountability, which can boost morale and motivation.
Defining expectations shows your staff when they have mastered their skills. Everyone wants to know if they are doing a good job or not, and standardization gives staff the ability to define what doing a good job means.
Once you have broken down a process into a series of tasks, you can figure out how long each task takes and ultimately understand how long the process takes. This will provide valuable insight into your team’s capacity and how they’re currently using their time.
Are they mainly spending their time on value-adding tasks or are they tied up in admin?
After each task is complete, encourage everyone to make the habit of asking themselves "what could have been done better?"
Standardizing your firm’s processes should not be a one-time task you tick off the list and then forget about. Once you have your process documents in place, the next step is to measure their performance. By doing this, you will create a cycle of continual improvement that will support your continued business growth.
Once you understand these benefits and the steps to standardizing your processes, doing so may not seem so daunting.
Another way you can make it easier for your firm to standardize processes is by using pre-created work templates from the Karbon Template Library.
You’ll find hundreds of free work templates tailored to your region and service, sorted into common collections and workflow packs, with more added weekly. All ready to download and start using instantly.
You can customize them to suit your firm’s specific needs, and you don’t have to be a Karbon customer to reap the benefits (you can download them as .XLS spreadsheets or .PDF process maps to use however you need).
There should be no barrier between you and your ability to standardize your processes so you can run your accounting business efficiently and effectively. To kick-start your journey, explore the Karbon Template Library.