Accounting is not for the faint of heart! We all know that working in an accounting firm can be a very busy lifestyle choice. We have all felt the pain of deadlines and crunch times. Worse, we have also felt the dread of looming deadlines.
The struggle is often that we either don’t know when (or how) to eliminate, automate, or delegate tasks. And, if we do know when (and how), the real question is how is our time best spent? In this post, we will focus specifically on business development tasks. If we can appropriately eliminate, automate, or delegate them, we can grow our firm faster, cheaper, and more reliably. And, we can usually get significantly better results in the process.
I am a firm believer that every business should focus on the 80/20 principle. In business, you will often find that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. We need to find the mission critical tasks that drive our business forwards (the 20%). Do more of those mission critical tasks, less of the others that don’t drive our business forward, and we have the secret to success.
First, a tiny little secret that you may already know. The most important “tasks” in an accounting practice are in the realm of the client experience. We want to automate the mundane tasks so that we can focus our time and energy on building authentic relationships with our clients. We will grow organically through referrals if we focus on the client experience and prioritize our client communications.
Let’s start with eliminate...
We are living in a fast changing world and there is increasing pressure to keep up. The secret to growth is to slow down and first take stock of where you are at in your business. I guarantee that you have some business development activities that are no longer serving you. If you assess the return on investment from EVERY business development activity, you can start to see items that should be eliminated. This includes any methods or tactics that do not generate a positive return (or a small return).
Generally, this might include frequent content creation, paid advertising, website updates, memberships in networking groups, etc. For the record, do your own analysis and make sure every aspect of your business development plan is contributing a sufficient return on investment to justify your expenditure of time, energy, and money.
Which activities can you eliminate to give you more time to focus on your best clients?
Next, we have automate…
There are a lot of repetitive tasks that can be automated to free up time. For example, you can use a project management tool to follow up with team members. Or, you can use Auvenir to simplify and streamline your audit process.
I should make one thing very clear - in my opinion, the goal of automation should be to free up time to focus on adding value to clients, not to replace client interaction. You can add value by seeking out other products or services that they may need. Or, you can simply spend more time talking to the client to see what they value. Either way, automation should give you more time to focus on the client experience. It should never replace client communication!
Carefully review your various workflows. I guarantee there is an element of “Same As Last Year” creeping into some of the things that you do. The SALY approach is good as a starting point. What can you automate that would make the lives of everyone working in your firm easier?
When it comes to client communication, you can use various tools to make it easier to communicate deadlines en masse. But, that should free up time for more personalized communication, not replace it. Can you automate deadline communication so that you have time to talk directly with clients about referrals?
Finally, we have delegate...
This is probably the hardest for young professionals as they develop their technical skills. Ironically, I think this is the biggest hurdle in large firms when one makes the transition from technician to manager. The skill set that makes you really good at getting work done is no longer relevant. Suddenly, you need to learn how to delegate and manage the work.
For those responsible for the successful development of your young managers, take the time to show them how to successfully delegate to their team. Give them the training and the tools that they need in order to ensure that tasks are delegated (not abdicated).
And, if you are in charge of business development, know the difference between setting the strategies and implementing the tactics. The strategy work should be done by someone with a senior skill set. The implementation of tactics should be delegated to the appropriate people on the team. And, sometimes the most appropriate person is an external service provider. Know when to send something outside of the organization and when to keep things internal.
Knowing when to eliminate, automate, and delegate any tasks in your business can have a huge impact on your business. Do not lose sight of the fact that you should be using this newly freed up time to build authentic relationships with your best clients!
We will share advanced strategies on saving time in business development by building a referral network in our webinar “How to Grow Your Practice by Leveraging Key Strategic Partnerships.”