If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you frequently get the urge to change the way you do things and replace them with new systems and fresh ideas. After all, spring is the time for new beginnings, and your accounting firm operations could probably use a bit of a refresh.
As you well know, your operations are the crucial activities of your business, from sales and accounting to marketing and customer service. It’s important for all parts of your operations to balance and support each other. Keep reading to learn how to optimize your accounting firm operations and boost your bottom line.
1. Cross Train and Educate Staff
One of the advantages of running a small company is the ability to make employees feel the success of the company is their success as well. To keep them invested in your company, it’s a good idea to train your employees to do each other’s jobs (or at least elements of each other’s jobs). This also helps optimize your accounting firm operations, especially during hectic seasons. Cross training enables you to get by without hiring new employees, gives your current staff new skills, and makes it easier for people to take vacations or fill in when someone is out sick. Most employees jump at the chance to learn new skills because they know it makes them more valuable.
Another way to optimize your operations is to improve your knowledge by taking classes either in person or online. Most local colleges offer a variety of business classes that can benefit you or your staff. These could be specifically about accounting practices or focus on other areas, such as marketing or customer service. Not everyone has to attend: Consider assigning a few classes to a staff member and then have that person share what they learn with the rest of the staff. Don’t forget about online courses that offer flexibility, plus the support of an instructor, or webinars that allow staff to learn whenever they have the time.
2. Add Services by Partnering Up
By adding new services to your offerings, you not only expand your market, but also add value to your business. To add new services with as little manpower and expense as possible, find partners and build relationships with complementary businesses so both of you benefit. For example, if a good portion of your clients own businesses, partnering with another B2B service makes it easy for clients to get more done in one place.
CorpNet has two different partner options for accounting firms to offer business formation and compliance services to your accounting customers. One is by becoming a referral partner, which simply means you earn a commission on each referral. The other, becoming an CorpNet Reseller, adds more value to your company by taking the middleman out of the equation. Your company offers business formation and compliance services as part of your business; CorpNet acts as your silent partner, fulfilling the services behind the scenes while you reap the rewards.
Can you think of other services or products you may want to add to your business to optimize your operations? Search online and you’ll find offers for partnerships such as becoming a QuickBooks reseller or providing investment advice through Ameriprise’s Professional Alliance Program.
3. Create an Operations Manual
When you created your business plan, you probably didn’t write an operations manual for day-to-day processes and procedures, but it’s never too late. A written manual is crucial to optimizing your accounting firm operations and preparing your business for growth. The manual should describe clearly and in detail how the business runs, so that any employee or manager could handle operations if you weren’t around.
According to SCORE, your manual should include:
- Organizational chart
- Job descriptions and duties
- Employee contact information
- HR policies and procedures
- Sales policies and procedures
- Marketing and advertising policies and procedures
- Customer service policies and procedures
- Financial policies and procedures
- Purchasing policies and procedures
- Safety policies and procedures
- IT policies and procedures
- Daily operations policies and procedures (opening for business, closing, ordering supplies, etc.)
- Templates (for email, forms, ads, etc.)
Involve your staff in developing and reviewing the manual to ensure it provides solutions to daily problems and answers to common questions. Tie operations to company goals so employees know the impact each process has on the bottom line.
4. Fine Tune Customer Service
Having a clear customer service policy is another way to optimize your accounting firm operations. By clarifying the level of service you expect from your employees, you’ll cut down on time spent solving problems, and increase customer satisfaction. Customer service is a measurable operational activity since you have the opportunity to discover what your client really think via complaints to your customer service team or from bad reviews from unhappy customers.
Every step in the customer service process, such as greeting, wait time, or going the extra mile with coffee and cookies offered in the lobby is a measurable operations function. Think of your employees as quality control for your business. Each person represents your business and in turn is responsible for letting you know what processes are working and what needs improvement. Hold regular staff meetings to talk about ways to improve customer service and brainstorm new ways to keep clients content.
5. Make Office Improvements
You can optimize operations for increased productivity with a few simple changes:
- It might sound counterproductive to initiate an open-door policy, but being accessible to your staff shows you’re open to comments, questions and opinions. It also makes employees feel they’re a valuable part of the team. If you can’t keep an all-day open door policy, set certain hours when you’ll be accessible.
- If your office has no natural light, consider finding a new office space. According to a study from Cornell University, workers in daylit office environments reported an 84 percent drop in eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision, all of which can detract from productivity. In addition, offices with more natural light reported a 10 percent decrease in drowsiness. If you can’t get natural light, install indirect lighting that distributes light equally upward and downward and reflects light off the ceiling and other surfaces to avoid glare.
- Painting your office walls a different color can improve operations and productivity. Most research shows green boosts creativity and blue increases productivity. But some researchers say hue intensity also plays a part in mood alteration. Color psychologist Angela Wright recommends using blue for accounting offices to reduce stress and stimulate the mind, but add splashes of orange to add some energy and emotion.
By making changes in these five areas, you’ll have your accounting practice ready for spring and be able to face the post-tax-time season newly energized.