Leveraging technology tools in your firm

By Roy Keely
 
Leverage and accounting firms go hand in hand. This statement is one that most partners intimately understand, as it's their paychecks that are dramatically impacted, positively or negatively, by the firm getting the leverage equation right. While many of us grasp the staff leverage concept, we rarely understand how to properly leverage other aspects of our business effectively. That being said, the chief tool in each of our offices is technology.
 
Before we delve deeper, consider the following two definitions:
·         Tool: The use of nonlife to enhance life (e.g., spear, rock, pencil, computer).
·         Organizational leverage:The streamlining of operations to increase effectiveness.
 
These are very simple definitions that, if properly understood in the context of your firm, can make a world of difference, not only with year-end earnings but year-end enjoyment as well – the "YEEs," if you will.
 
Gaining leverage: Where's the best place to start?
In other words, "What's the lowest hanging fruit when attempting to gain organizational leverage?" I find that the two biggest areas for improvement are internal collaboration and client interaction.
 
Internal collaboration

In 2011, meetings don't equal collaboration, thus many organizations are left scratching their heads when attempting to make sense of organizational effectiveness. Siloed information can go a long way with a sole practitioner but does very little good in a multipartner leverage model. What steps can your firm take to head in the right direction? Following are some tools that can help:

 
Tool 1: Internal social media (the new Intranet)
By deploying an internal social media site, an organization can enjoy a living, breathing place where it can stay up to date on all aspects of the "organism" (client wins and issues, firm news, tax updates, etc.). At Xcentric, we used to have a management meeting every Monday for one and a half hours, going around the room addressing different departmental issues. That was before we implemented Talk (our name for the internal social media tool we use). Now, two years later, we meet for one and a half hours once a month. On top of that, 90 percent of the time the meeting doesn't even last that long. Why? Because all major and minor issues are discussed on the Web. Even better, it's all documented, searchable, and never stale. The skeptic would be right to ask, "What about the time you spend using the tool?" I won't argue that it's another place to log in and another site to check and update; however, if implemented correctly, it's a no-brainer as far as we're concerned. Learn more about internal media sites and why they're beneficial.
 
Who provides these tools?
 
Tool 2: The Cloud
By moving to the cloud, firms can enjoy the leverage that comes from employees working effectively and securely from any location. Today's culture is going mobile, and most accounting firms are entering this new reality kicking and screaming. Many partners think that if they have smartphones it means their firm is mobile, but this far from it. Here's a litmus test for whether your firm is truly mobile: If your office burned down, would it impact your business? The answer is an obvious yes, but would your business be crippled? Many accounting firms write disaster recovery plans to mend this gap; however, as soon as transparency enters the conversation, a firm would be completely crippled if its physical location were destroyed. If this is the case for your firm, you aren't yet mobile.
 
Who provides these tools?
Xcentric (yours truly)
 
Client interaction
"No news is good news" is no longer the maxim of the day. When new business poured in, you weren't all that concerned with how often, well, or uniquely you communicated with your client base. But now, in 2011, the wind has largely been sucked out of the net-new revenue category, and client retention is the top priority of most firms. Luckily, tools have matured over the last three years and are ready to be utilized by your firm. Here are a few:
 
Tool 1: Portals
People have come to expect twenty-four-hour service, but not necessarily via personal interaction. They want information at their fingertips, and now there's a way to provide it without working until midnight and answering e-mails all hours of the day. As long as you maintain a personal touch, becoming more of a self-service firm will allow you to grow deeper and more dependent relationships.
 
Who provides these tools?
 
Tool 2: Content
Every time you help one client, it's possible to help one hundred more. I'm not talking about nuanced billable work, I'm talking about the questions individuals and businesses ask regarding their finances and getting them in order. You're the trusted voice in this matter, and, if you answer the questions of one client, chances are you can turn that answer into an article, blog, or content that can be leveraged via your Web site, the news media, twitter, etc. Making content available and using it as a tool to deepen client relationships and informing potential clients of your knowledge only makes sense. Read another post I wrote that explains how you can leverage your blog.
 
Who provides these tools?
YOU! If you haven't already done so, it's time to start learning how to develop content.
 
Tool 3: Customer relationship management systems (CRMs)
It's painful when the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. This is one of the reasons CRMs exist and why they'll eventually find their way into your organization. As communication continues to get more fragmented and frequent, keeping tabs on both the client and internal resources will only become more important. Using an Excel document to keep tabs on business development efforts, marketing campaigns, client cross-selling, and referral initiatives is like using a hammer and nails to build a skyscraper. Having the proper tool in place to enhance your efforts is crucial.
 
Who provides these tools?
 
Roy Keely is Director of Marketing at Xcentric, which specializes in cloud computing and IT consulting for CPA firms. Keely graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in marketing and has extensive experience in marketing, branding, and sales. He can be reached at 678-297-0066 ext. 525 or info@xcentric.com. To learn more about Xcentric, go to www.xcentric.com or follow them at www.xcentric.com/blog and www.twitter.com/xcentric.

Already a member? log in here.

Editor's Choice