When you run an accounting company, efficiency can help keep you profitable and healthy. Whether you’re a one-person show or manage a team, there are probably areas of your business that could benefit from more efficient operations. By evaluating your current practice, you can find ways to reduce waste, improve employee morale, and streamline your workflow. At the end of the day, increasing your efficiency might be easier than you think.
Digitize Your Files
Are you using a hard-copy filing system? If so, you have an exciting opportunity to quickly boost efficiency by going digital. Accounting firms generate a lot of paper. By digitizing your files, you can free up office space and save on storage fees. The Canadian Revenue Association (CRA) accepts electronic records, so it’s easy to stay compliant. You can back up digital records in multiple offsite locations, which means you don’t need to worry as much about damage from fires or floods. Plus, with the wide range of available encryption and data security technologies, your files might actually be more secure in digital form.
Going digital also helps increase your efficiency. You never need to search through drawers to find a document. If you use a cloud system, you and your team can access the documents instantly from anywhere.
Digitizing your files is relatively straightforward, whether you have one filing cabinet to convert or an entire storage unit. Simply scan all of the records you need to keep, making sure that every part is legible. Then, you can organize the files into folders for each client, project, and year. That way, they’re easy to find. Clear, consistent file names can also make your life easier. Before you get rid of the paper copies, it’s a good idea to create one or two offsite backups of your electronic records. You might copy the files onto a storage drive and keep them at home in a fireproof safe, and create a second backup on a Canada-based cloud storage site. Be sure to check with the CRA before destroying paper copies. The rules may require you to keep certain documents in paper form. With a team of employees and interns, you can complete the process in a few days or a week.
Help Employees Maintain Their Skills
While your workers probably naturally pick up new skills on the job, it’s still a good idea to provide formal training and education — especially when it comes to the latest accounting practices and technologies. A professional educator can help your workers learn to work more efficiently by utilizing these tools.
When you invest in employees, you prove that you value them as professionals. This creates a more supportive, welcoming workplace. Why is that important? When your employees’ morale is high, they’re less likely to leave. That means you experience fewer workflow interruptions and spend less money on hiring and onboarding. What’s more, happy employees tend to be more motivated and dedicated to the work at hand.
Worried about costs? Sending your employees to training sessions or part-time classes may have tax benefits for your business. If the subject is relevant to the worker’s job duties, you might be able to claim the cost of the class as a business expense.
Increasing Efficiency With Standard Accounting Workflows
In an accounting firm, you often have many different people performing the same types of tasks. If your employees start putting their own spin on things, it can lead to inefficiencies. How can you fix the problem? Try creating a standardized workflow document that tells your staff the best way to complete common tasks. That way, each person can work efficiently and get the task done correctly on the first try.
To start creating a workflow document, you might try documenting your own process as you perform a task. Then, show the document to your best managers and ask for feedback. Together, you can make tweaks and come up with a focused, efficient process.
Once you’re happy with the workflow, it’s time to turn it over to your employees. Share it with the staff, and encourage them to ask questions and offer suggestions for improvement. Your ground-level workers may have valuable tricks or insights that can increase efficiency in your workflow. Once the document is final, keep it in a shared folder so everyone can reference it quickly. You can use standardized workflows for everything from increasing efficiency in meetings to streamlining tax preparation.
Increase Your Efficiency With Flexible Schedules
Accounting can be a demanding profession for your employees, especially during tax time. As an employer, you can help them find balance and increase work efficiency by making room for flexibility. You might try a compressed work week, where employees work four 10-hour days rather than the traditional five eight-hour days.
Compressed work weeks may help improve efficiency in your accounting firm in two ways. Since your employees stay at the office later, you can accommodate clients who are too busy to come in during normal business hours. You can make the most of this benefit by staggering your employees’ shifts. That way, workers don’t always have to stay late, and there are always a few people available to work with your clients’ busy schedules.
A compressed week also benefits your employees. With three days off, they can spend more time with their families and enjoy a longer, more relaxing break. Since one of those days off is a week day, it gives them a chance to run personal errands, schedule doctor’s appointments, or kick back while the kids are in school. After a long break, your employees are more likely to come back to work feeling happier and more focused.
Not ready for a compressed week? You could try a shortened day, where employees work for six hours instead of eight. After all, as an accountant, you’re probably well aware that eight hours of work doesn’t necessarily mean eight hours of productivity. Plus, preliminary research suggests that having employees work for shorter stretches can actually increase productivity.
Alternatively, you might allow staff members to work from home one or two days a week. With cloud computing programs like QuickBooks Online, your employees can access everything they need without coming into the office. That way, you stay productive, and your employees can find the work-life balance that keeps them at their most efficient at work.
When you want to improve efficiency in your accounting business, it’s a good idea to start with your existing processes and practices. Increasing efficiency might be as simple as creating a standardized workflow. It might also take an unexpected form, like rescheduling employee work weeks or paying for continuing education classes. By keeping tabs on your firm’s efficiency and making changes as needed, you can stay ahead of the curve. Need more help? QuickBooks Online Accountant helps you manage projects, tasks and clients together. Sign up for free.