I’ve always been a fan of the actor James Franco. But until recently, I never realized how efficient he is. According to a New York Times Online article about James Franco that I read last week, James co-hosted the Oscars in Hollywood on Sunday night, and was in class Monday morning at Yale University, 3000 miles away, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. I started to think about how I could be more like James, and use my time more efficiently, and, per usual, my thoughts drifted to how this might apply to accountants. Suddenly, it hit me. An effective Web site will make you more like James Franco!
As an accountant, much of your life revolves around time. You must keep track of your billable hours, make sure your employees are keeping track of their billable hours, and make sure you are spending enough time with family and friends to maintain a healthy work-life balance. With everything else you have going on, the last thing you should be worried about is wasting time working on your Web site. In fact, your Web site should actually save you time, especially during tax season, while you are furiously completing tax returns for your clients.
First and foremost, modern accounting Web sites should have some version of a client portal system. That is to say, your clients should have the ability to send you files through the Web site securely. E-mail is not secure because it is not encrypted. If a hacker were to intercept the message on its route to you, he would have more than enough information available to steal your client’s identity. Besides the security issues, portals offer convenience to you and your colleagues. Rather than having to search through your e-mail for all of the various documents you need, all of your client’s pertinent files are stored in one secure place.
Second, you should be able to communicate with your clients through your Web site. More and more people are beginning to see your Web site as an extension of your business. While you might think your clients and potential clients will get in touch with you via e-mail or phone, I’ve heard from several accountants that their clients use the “Contact” page of the Web site for routine communications. Make sure the contact form on your Web site is forwarding to your e-mail address, or you have some way to read the messages coming in through your Web site. There is nothing worse than having to do redundant work because you missed an important note from a client! In addition, many Web site providers offer a client newsletter system that sends newsletters out to your clients on behalf of your firm. You can choose to use the prewritten content offered by the site provider or customize your own newsletter. With the newsletter system, you can update all your clients at once about tax due dates or other important updates. This will save you time because you can avoid e-mailing every client individually and answering the same questions multiple times.
Finally, offer your clients the ability to pay your fee through the Web site. Some people may prefer to be paid by check to avoid credit card processing fees, but I’m sure you have nightmares about delinquent clients you’ve had in the past. If your Web site offers your clients the ability to pay with a credit card, you will not be waiting for the check that is supposedly in the mail. Make sure your Web site is saving, not costing you time. Your Web site should be able to organize and securely store your clients’ files, allow for effective communication, and last (but not least) allow your clients to pay the fees you deserve for your hard work.
If your Web site allows your clients the ability to securely share files, effectively communicate with you and your employees, and pay the fees they owe you, you will find that your business is operating with increased efficiency. As a result, you will have more time, like James Franco does, to do the things that interest you. It’s up to you whether that means you have more time to spend with your family, practice your hobbies, take on more clients, or pursue a Ph.D. in English at Yale. One thing your efficient Web site won’t do is make you look more like James Franco, but we’re working on that!
About the Author:
Chad Brubaker, Emochila president and CEO, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked as a developer for several Web-based companies and as an Internet security consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Clients included Daimler Chrysler, American Airlines, WellPoint Networks, Unocal, and Transora.