How to optimize visibility across your firm to uncover growth opportunities

As the leader of your firm, it can be challenging to ‘let go’ and trust your people and technology to deliver the service you and your clients expect.

And letting go is especially difficult when you don't have clear visibility into the day-to-day operations of your firm.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if deadlines were met, or experienced sleepless nights feeling like you don’t have control over your practice, you’re certainly not alone.

Gaining and maintaining visibility is one of the biggest barriers that prevent most accounting firms from growing successfully.

But by optimizing visibility into your firm, you’ll find opportunities to grow, increase efficiency and improve your customer service.

Gaining visibility across your firm. Are you missing opportunities?

Chances are you can quickly pinpoint a few areas in your firm where your visibility is lacking.

If not, begin by asking yourself:

Do I know how well—or not—my team functions daily?

Clarity around your team’s day-to-day operations is a good place to start.

Here are a few areas to consider:

Can you tell if your team is communicating effectively?

Communication is the most powerful tool for your accounting firm. With the dramatic change to remote work, frequent and effective communication is essential to building and maintaining a collaborative team. 

This not only includes your firm’s internal communication to ensure a hand-off isn’t delayed or deadline missed, but also the communication between your employees and your clients. 

Does your team communicate professionally? Does their style reflect your firm’s brand? Is every client receiving the same level of care and customer service? Or do you need to conduct some basic training?

Can you easily assess the quality of work your team is producing?

In order for your team to provide valuable service to your clients, they need to maintain a balanced workload. No one wins when an important deadline is missed or employees feel burned out.

Ask yourself:

  • Are individual team members keeping pace with their workload while maintaining consistency in productivity? 

  • Are they adhering to the processes your firm has established and delivering quality work that meets or exceeds client expectations?

Better yet, involve your team and ask them how they’re dealing with their workloads.

Proactively working with them to find ways to improve productivity also supports a healthier work-life balance.

Are they working well together as a team, and is your structure agile?

If a key team member is out unexpectedly, will others be able to step in to keep all work and tasks on track? Does your team work well together or are there interpersonal conflicts?

To answer these questions confidently (and implement any strategic changes), you need visibility into how your staff work as a team day-to-day.

How to gain visibility without micromanaging

You don’t want to be known as a micromanager. Instead, you’d rather be considered a coach and champion for your team. But how do you get the visibility you need without stepping on your employees’ toes?

There is no silver bullet to this—you will need a combination of tactics and tools. Here are two main ones to consider.

1. Create a coaching culture that encourages feedback

Ask your team what works well and what doesn’t—let them lift the veil so you can truly see the inner workings of your firm through their eyes.

Place value on the power of giving and receiving feedback. This will create a safe space for you and your team to consistently share insights, tips, suggestions and constructive criticism.

This way, you not only have the opportunity to gain visibility over your firm’s issues, but you’ll have the chance to address and solve them in real time with your team.

Recommended reading: How a coaching culture can transform your accounting firm

2. Use a practice management tool

Sometimes, waiting for your team to raise an issue is too late—the deadline gets missed, the team member burns out, the client churns.

To avoid this happening, you need to proactively analyze your team’s performance. And this visibility is only achieved by using an accounting practice management software with email integration, like Karbon.

You’ll gain insight into:

  • Work and project activity timelines

  • How well your team is collaborating, when and how

  • Task and subtask completion

  • Client communication

  • Internal communication

  • Workloads

  • Work forecasting

  • Potential bottlenecks

If you use Karbon, you can easily find this information through the Global Search function, allowing you to search across contacts, emails, notes and work. 

Plus, Karbon’s Email Insights does all the heavy lifting for you, with reports on work and email, including:

  • Number of open work items for each team member, and for each client

  • Number of completed work items for each team member, and for each client

  • Number of overdue work items for each team member, and for each client

  • Average email response time for each team member, and overall for your firm

  • Average email client response time

  • Popular email send and receive times per day for your firm

It’s important to harness the right tools that will enable you to truly visualize and analyze your firm’s operations. That way, you have an objective overview of what’s working and what isn't.

What you don’t know can hurt you

If your firm had a suggestion box, what would be in it? While you may uncover an interesting idea or two from your staff, you likely won’t be able to gather insights that allow you to diagnose the health of your business operations.

That’s why you need a multi-directional approach to gaining visibility across how your firm runs—starting with direct feedback from your team, and finding the right workflow management tool for your accounting firm.

It’s time to uncover areas where you’re missing the opportunities that can propel your firm’s growth.