5 workflows every accounting firm must master

Your workflows are your map to efficient teamwork and consistently providing a great service to your clients. It's worth taking the time to get them right.

5 essential workflows

There is a lot involved with “getting your workflows right”. 

You need to design an efficient process where information flows smoothly between the right people in your team. Individual tasks need to be able to progress without bottlenecks and result in high-quality deliverables. You need to consider any technology that can automate or speed up steps. Everything should be documented so that it is carried out consistently every time. And you need to constantly come back to review the workflow, test it and improve it.

While the effort invested to master any workflow is almost always going to be worth it, no firm is ever going to be able to perfect every single process. Which is why you should consider where your time is best spent. What are the workflows where you will be rewarded most for improving the flow of information, speeding things up, or improving the end result?

These are the five workflows that every accounting firm should focus on getting right.

1. New client onboarding workflow 

Deliver an efficient new client onboarding workflow for a better client experience.

In this Karbon study, 86% of accounting firms surveyed identified client onboarding as a critical process to get right.

Onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients and progressing as efficiently as possible to a rhythmic working relationship. Taking too long, or inadequately serving your clients can cause them to walk away just as fast as they came to you. 

Your firm’s success in client onboarding depends largely on these three factors:

  • Length of onboarding

  • Availability of customer service

  • Clear communication of onboarding steps

Client onboarding typically takes up to six to eight weeks for an accounting firm. This is a critical period where the client has not yet reaped the rewards of using your firm’s services. Keep your clients happier by cutting onboarding time to two weeks with onboarding workflow automation.

If you can refine your process to onboard clients quicker, you will also realize revenue from them much sooner. And your monthly recurring revenue will increase.

During the onboarding process, availability is critical. Your team needs to have a process for identifying and quickly resolving new customer issues during onboarding. Utilize Karbon for visibility and quick response to any client issues. And integrate with Ignition or GoProposal to send proposals and have the correct workflows triggered automatically in Karbon the moment a client signs their agreement.

Finally, a consistent onboarding process ensures a quality client experience with your firm from the outset. By communicating key points such as the scope of work, and providing clear onboarding next steps, your clients will feel confident in your accounting firm’s ability to provide quality services to them.

Download our free best practice client onboarding template to put these lessons into action. 

2. Sales qualification process 

Reap the rewards of a proven sales qualification process workflow.

65% of accounting firms reported that sales prospecting workflows are essential to their continued success. Despite their importance, 22% of salespeople find qualifying leads is the most difficult part of their job.

The sales qualification process helps you and your team understand the likelihood that a prospect will convert into a client based on how well your accounting firm’s services match a buyer’s intent. 

Nailing down a strong sales qualification process will ensure that you are bringing in the right clients, which has the potential to reward you long into the future. This will save time and resources when it comes to chasing down leads that will never convert and will showcase professionalism and responsiveness that will carry forward into the client relationship for those leads that are qualified.

Your sales qualification process workflow should look like this:

  • Be clear: Develop a clear vision of the ideal accounting client to provide them with targeted, relevant information and focus the sales qualification process

  • Identify MQLs:  Have a way to identify Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), which are clients that have indicated interest in your services and are considered a ‘warm lead’

  • Use discovery questions:  Follow up with MQLs by asking targeted questions to discern fit and show your firm’s value for their pain points

  • Be available: Maintain contact and a high level of responsiveness during the pre-onboarding process to ensure a smooth transition from prospect to client

Learn how you can manage your sales process in Karbon.

3. Communication workflow 

Integrate a dependable communication workflow to improve responsiveness to clients and collaboration within your teams.

A clear and predictable communication workflow within your team is critical, especially if your team is remote. Maintain productivity and client responsiveness with clear and simple communication workflows that give your team members and clients the answers they need.

For many firms, communication just happens. You get a request, and you respond to it in the same way it came in. This can have massive consequences, causing work to be duplicated, missed, and set the stage for unmet expectations. This is why it’s important to have a systematic approach to communication.

A few key rules should be followed to achieve this systematic approach. The first is context. Whether you are speaking to clients or communicating internally, it’s important that communication is connected to the work being done. 

One-off emails and calls get lost in the shuffle if you have a series of silos. This means a collaborator in a project has no way to get caught up on the latest dialogue without tracking down a series of separate conversations.

Bring your communication into a singular location that revolves around tasks and projects to ensure all communication is visible and within the proper context.

The second key is to prioritize healthy communication by defining who your ideal external communicators will be. This process allows you to specialize roles, with team members focusing on client work and others focusing on communication. 

Read more about communication best practices and managing your firm’s traffic flow.

4. Advisory services workflow 

Add value for clients and revenue for your accounting firm with a strategic advisory services workflow.

Research shows that clients are increasingly looking for higher-end, advisory services. As Kathy Gregory of LivePlan explained in a Karbon webinar, while many firms already advise clients they are missing the opportunity to upsell by giving the advice for free. Know your value and create a strategic plan to add advisory services for clients.

A successful advisory services workflow follows this five-step model:

  1. Kickoff: Pitch the idea to clients who are looking for advice in areas like tax structure or who may need to decide whether or not to make a large purchase by the end of the year

  2. Plan: Let the client’s challenges and goals guide your strategy to meet their needs

  3. Model: Use the client’s historical information to discern revenue and growth planning

  4. Build: Leverage your existing client data to forecast and complete the mapping process

  5. Advise: Discuss client goals, ask about progress, and review benchmark data to be repeated during monthly meetings going forward

Every transaction between your team and your clients is person-to-person. Remember to leverage your relationship and be conversational and client-focused when proposing advisory services.

5. Compliance production workflow 

Automate your compliance production workflow for work items that the team repeats on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Work from a smart compliance production workflow for increased team efficiency in repeating tasks like payroll and quarterly tax returns. One of the ripest areas for process management improvement lies in the tasks your team works on day after day, month after month.

The best place to start is to take an internal review of the steps required to close out the financials on a monthly basis. How are documents gathered? When are reconciliations done? When does client communication occur?

Hopefully, when you ask these questions, you have the same answers from across your team. You should have a standardized process for gathering, reconciling and reporting on the data.

Then, when you agree on the current process, you can review where there may be gaps in the process. Where are you getting slowed down? Where is there a bottleneck? When you find these constraints, that’s an opportunity for improvement, either by changing the process or turning to a software solution.

Building a workflow, allows you to maximize efficiency, and then easily train a new hire on the process to hit the ground running.

With Karbon, you can turn on a repeating schedule to automate task assignments for work items like monthly tax reporting. Automating tasks cuts down on management time and improves scalability for future growth. Customize each client’s dashboard to save even more time on the nitty-gritty details that differ from client to client and amongst industries.

Create your key workflows and consistently iterate

By emphasizing your workflows, you’ll be much more scalable (and less stressed!). But it’s not a 'set and forget' process. Make sure you are consistently reviewing your workflows to make sure you are staying on track and continually improving.