You need to think of your accounting firm as a McDonald's store

Stuart McLeodCEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

Love them or hate them. Whatever you think of McDonald’s, you can’t deny that they epitomize efficiency, consistency, and success.

The fast-food behemoth didn’t become one of the world’s most valuable brands by accident. Their approach to quality standards, process and role specialization is matched by few.

You simply cannot make a Big Mac for $3.99 without first designing one of the most efficient and effective systems in the world.

How relevant is this to your accounting firm? Very.

Here are five lessons you can take from McDonald’s.

Get the raw ingredients right

Every McDonald’s burger includes some key ingredients. The same goes for what your firm is serving. It’s just that instead of burger patties, pickles, cheese and buns, it’s receipts, general ledgers, paperwork and processes.

McDonald's know what they need to run each day. Yes, sometimes they may fall short when there is a rush. But overall, they always have the essentials required to get the orders out quickly.

You need to have your raw ingredients—those things you need most—upfront and ready for use too. Receipts, general ledgers, paperwork, client records and processes are your accounting firm's raw ingredients. 

These items need to be organized and readily accessible by everyone on your team to enable them to serve your clients efficiently. 

Turn your standard operating procedures into fast food

When you bite into a Big Mac, you bite into one of the most successful standard operating procedures (SOP) in business history.

In the formative years of McDonald’s, the McDonald brothers demonstrated a ruthless drive for efficiency through their pursuit to deliver orders in under 30 seconds. To achieve this, they created an entire concept that still works today—achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. 

When a Big Mac is made, everything is optimized to deliver it to the customer as quickly as possible, while keeping it hot and fresh. 

You need to think about your accounting firm’s critical SOPs in the same way as McDonald’s think about Big Macs.

The key to efficient processes is to have as few loops and steps as possible, with each step adding as much value as possible. During your process design, think about how you can bundle processes, automation, and self-service.

Make sure you document your systems as you grow. As you build new processes, things get confusing—so have everything streamlined as you go to save time. This gives you solutions for any obstacles that come up, and allows others to follow the correct way of doing things.

Finally, think about what tools might be needed to create and serve a meal in 30 seconds. When this is your objective, it’s unlikely basic kitchen tools will suffice. The same works for your firm’s processes. So don’t forget to budget for tools and training required to enable your team to serve your clients efficiently.

Specialized roles

There’s someone to handle the grill. Someone on the deep fryers. Someone to toast the buns. Someone to assemble the burger with an exact number of pickles. Someone else at the wrapping station.

Everyone at McDonald’s has a very specific role. They have a very clear task and don’t need to worry about anything else. 

While you probably don’t want to get quite as granular as burger assembling requires, your accounting firm can still benefit from specialized functions with the right people responsible for tasks that are suited to them. For your firm, that might mean a client onboarding specialist, account executives, implementation advisor and business development manager.

In fact, McDonald’s has Hamburger University,  which caters to franchisees who can then teach their employees what they learned. This systematic approach is possible in your accounting firm when everyone knows their roles and what you expect. As Ray Kroc, who is credited for making McDonald’s what it is, said, “you’re only as good as the people you hire.”

Supersize your improvement

The McDonald brothers developed a revolutionary food preparation system called the Speedee Service System. The system aimed to continually improve the processes that enabled them to make a tasty burger in less than 60 seconds. 

And that strive for constant improvement is still in effect today. In 2019 they invested heavily in tech to improve customer functionality, customer targeting, and even AI tools to improve speech recognition and automated voice assisting through their drive-thrus.

You need to adopt the same mindset and constantly be improving every aspect of your accounting firm. Look for trending ideas and inspiration. Try new things and be innovative. If you're not willing to take a risk, you won't find that big idea that propels your business forward. 

Take calculated risks. Act boldly and thoughtfully. Be an agile company.
Ray Kroc, US businessman and the first McDonald’s franchisee 

Be ready to shake up your menu

Despite being a multibillion-dollar business, McDonald’s leaders know they need to keep evolving to remain at the top.

Take the pandemic as an example. One of the fastest sectors to bounce back has been the fast-food industry. McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski shared how they accomplished this, by allowing consumers to take charge of their entire experience. Using digital means, McDonald’s provided a seamless experience for their customers to pick a location, place an order, arrive, and receive the order via contactless pick-up.

The accounting firms that we saw adapt quickest to COVID-19 and its related challenges showed a similar level of entrepreneurial spirit and adaptability. For example, Australian firm, Oyster Hub, added 42% additional revenue at the beginning of the pandemic.

Use other successes to build your own

Whether you run a McDonald's franchise or an accounting firm, many of the same philosophies ring true.

If you get your firm as organized as McDonald’s and the machinery in the right place at the right time, you can succeed. After all, the difference between an excellent accountant and a great accountant is margin and greater perceived value.

Stuart McLeod
CEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

Stuart started his first business 11 years ago and has had many successful ventures, including Paycycle, founded in 2009, which he sold to Xero in 2011. He then built the global Xero Payroll team that delivers payroll software across the US, AU, UK and NZ markets. Stuart is now paving the way for smarter tools to improve how knowledge workers collaborate with their colleagues and look after their clients.

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