Emphasizing efficiency is an important part of maintaining a profitable, healthy accounting business. Regardless of the size of your firm, or how long you’ve been in business, it’s likely there are areas where your accounting efficiency can be improved. Make time to evaluate your current practices and look for ways to cut back on slack, improve employee morale, and streamline your workflow. You may find that increasing your efficiency is easier than you thought.
As of 2018, more and more business are getting work done digitally with software, websites, and internal communication platforms. Digitizing your files not only saves you space, but actually helps create a more secure record-keeping system, and allows you and your employees instant access to important documents and paperwork.
The process of digitizing is basically the same regardless of how much paperwork you have to get through. Consider dedicating a team of employees, and a day or two, to the process. Start by locating and organizing all the documents you want to convert, and then get to scanning. After that, you need to figure out where to store the new digital files. Make sure you back up your files, either in cloud storage or on a local server, and create a digital file tree that has a clear, logical flow. Follow consistent naming conventions for each digital file that you scan.
Digitized files cut down on paper usage and are easy to access from a computer anywhere in the office. Remember to retain hard copies of relevant tax-related documents; the Canada Revenue Agency still requires paper in the event of an audit.
Maintaining Employee Skills
A company is only as smart as its employees. While employees frequently learn new skills on the job, sometimes there’s just no substitute for formal training and education. One of the easiest ways to maintain an efficient, competitive workforce is to ensure your employees are educated in the latest accounting practices and technologies.
Look into the tax implications of sending employees to training sessions or part-time classes. Post-secondary classes or skills workshops often count as tax-deductible expenses, as long as the educational materials are relevant to an employee’s job. Continuing education increases an employee’s value to you, because that employee then has an up-to-date and immediately relevant skill set. Besides the value to the company, showing your employees you’re invested in their futures fosters a more supportive and welcoming workplace. Satisfied employees are, in turn, more invested in the company and are better equipped to do the job you need them to do.
Developing an Efficient Workflow
It’s all too easy to lose efficiency when you’re running a firm with many different people performing the same tasks. To avoid this, try creating a workflow document to ensure all your employees understand the best way to perform a given task.
Document your own work process as you perform a task, make necessary tweaks or changes, and create an accessible document that details your process. Having such a document in place gives everyone an easy point of reference when efficiency is paramount.
Make creating a streamlined workflow a collaborative process; encourage employee communication through a platform like Slack or a Google Hangout, and find out how everyone else tends to complete a certain task. Ask questions and offer suggestions for improvement, and allow everyone (within reason) to have input on a finalized workflow document.
Creating Options for Flexibility
With cloud computing, scalable software, and more complex client needs, the accounting industry is ripe for an increase in workforce flexibility. Get on the inside track by looking for potential ways to add flexibility to your employees’ schedules. Some companies have experimented with a so-called compressed work week. Usually this means that employees work for 10 hours a day, four days per week, rather than eight hours a day for five days, though other arrangements are possible.
Compressed work weeks may help improve efficiency in your accounting firm in two ways. One is that employees are on site later, allowing you to accommodate clients who are too busy to utilize your services during a conventional work week. Staggering employee shifts so you always have at least a few staff members available means you can create a business that supports your clients’ busy schedules.
Second, many employees find a three-day weekend more beneficial than the traditional two-day arrangement. Employees can spend more time with their families, or get more personal errands done on the weekends, leading to better morale and focus while on the job.
Other companies simply use shortened work weeks, such as having employees work for only six hours a day instead of eight. Depending on the needs of your firm and your clients, such an arrangement may or may not be possible. As an accountant, you’re probably well aware that eight hours of work doesn’t necessarily mean eight hours of productivity. Preliminary research suggests that having employees work for shorter stretches can actually increase productivity.
To improve efficiency in your firm, start by taking a close look at your existing processes and practices. Improving efficiency might mean streamlining your work process, or it might take an unexpected form, like rescheduling employee work weeks or funding classes. Evaluate your firm’s efficiency on a regular basis to stay ahead of the curve.