What is a business operating system, and why does your accounting firm need one?

Without an operating system, your phone or laptop won’t work. The same goes for your accounting firm.

A business operating system (BOS) is your what, when, why and how. When your BOS is clearly defined, your firm will run like a well-oiled machine—fulfilled staff, happy clients, increased productivity and a boosted top line.

On the other hand, firms without a solid BOS spin out of control. Deadlines are missed, communication is non-existent, and it appears that entire teams are dancing to different tunes.

If your firm feels more like the latter than the former, it’s time to give your BOS (or lack thereof) the time it deserves.

What is a business operating system for accounting firms?

Your firm’s BOS is the overall term given to how your various procedures, processes and policies interact with each other to deliver on your firm’s goals.

If you could physically touch it, it would be your firm’s playbook. A new hire should be able to pick it up and gain an understanding of:

  • Your firm’s goals, mission and vision

  • Your firm’s structure

  • Company-wide expectations (internal and external)

  • All your standard operating procedures, including the tech you use, how and why

  • How communication occurs at your firm (internally and externally)

An effective BOS transcends you as your firm’s owner and your leadership team—it’s designed to enable your firm to run autonomously, without the need to rely on any given individual.

And this is why a solid BOS is critical for your firm’s ability to scale effectively.

Why is a business operating system important for your accounting firm?

If you’re working in your business, then you’re not working on your business. A clearly defined and communicated BOS will provide your team with everything they need to operate effectively, so you can focus on growing your firm, diversifying your services, or simply enjoying your family life.

On top of that, the benefits of a business operating system for accounting firms include:

  • Clarity around your firm’s what, why, and how.
    Ensures your entire team—at all levels—is on the same page about who your firm is, your vision and mission, what your goals are, and who you’re serving, to guarantee that everyone is working in-sync to represent and fulfill each of those statements.

  • Allows you to scale your firm (and grows with you).
    A robust BOS should house scalable operations to ensure smooth growth. When all processes are well-defined and developed along with the right technology, your firm will be set up for painless growth.

  • Increased consistency.
    Because your BOS details the what, when, why and how of your firm’s day-to-day operations, your team will have a set of parameters and direction to work within, meaning they’re delivering client services consistently and in-line with the BOS.

  • Increased firm efficiency.
    A BOS leaves little to the imagination, so your team doesn't need to waste time trying to remember how to perform a certain task, or where to find a particular document. Plus, the operating processes in your BOS should be the standardized and optimized way to perform them at your firm, so your team should be operating at the highest efficiency at any given time.

  • Increased customer satisfaction.
    When your team has the tools and direction to perform their job well, client satisfaction increases

  • Improved employee engagement.
    A BOS helps to better-align staff with your firm’s strategy, which increases their accountability, engagement and alignment with your firm’s vision. 

  • Reduced cost and increased profitability.
    The combination of the above benefits result in decreased client churn, increased staff retention, improved productivity and efficiency, which ultimately boosts your top line.

Don’t cut corners

A BOS is only as effective as the effort put in. If your firm’s BOS outlines everything perfectly, but only provides the high-level information regarding your standard operating procedures, you’ve only done 80% of the work, and you simply won’t reap the rewards.

For example, if your BOS outlines that every month, your retainer clients require a month-end reconciliation, but doesn’t actually outline how that happens, who is responsible and what tools are required, your team is all but left in the dark.

They now need to spend time and effort searching for those answers.

It’s only when your BOS documents all your processes that you’ll receive the full benefits of increased efficiency, scalability, accountability and consistency.

You can’t wing success

The bottom line is: you can’t expect your accounting business to grow the way you want—or as fast as you want—without thinking about and formalizing a business operating procedure.

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