Wishing for an Assistant?

By Alexandra DeFelice
 
Managing a small accounting practice – or any small business – has its ups and downs.
 
Sure, you can select your colleagues, your clients, your phone and computer equipment, collateral, and even your holidays. But that also leaves you in charge of HR, IT, and marketing on top of serving – and finding – your clients.
 
And unless you've spent your free time playing with computers and reading human resource manuals, you likely aren't an expert in all of these things.
 
When I talk to sole practitioners or owners of small firms, this is often their complaint. Too much to do and not enough people in house to do it.
 
Those who've managed to at least reduce their headaches are outsourcing. We can devote an entire separate article to the benefits (and risks/cautions) involved with outsourcing your core work, but for the purpose of this article, think about the things you do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis that you would prefer someone else do if only you could hire more help.
 
Here are just a few examples:
 
Talking Points
Here are a few simple ways to lighten your workload so you can focus on making money and building your firm:
  • Outsource some of your work.
  • Hire a "virtual" receptionist for mundane tasks.
  • Use the services of a website developer to ensure your site is dynamic and up-to-date.
  • Hire someone to take care of computer problems when they arise.
  • Allow yourself let go of work that someone else could do – at a cheaper rate!
Wishing for an assistant. Sure you can answer your own calls and e-mails and schedule your own meetings. You don't need to pay for someone to work full-time to do that. You can hire a virtual receptionist to handle a cornucopia of secretarial tasks for you, from simply scanning your calls to avoid telemarketers, to researching potential clients, or sending you some notes on updates about a current client you're about to visit. Some charge by the task, some offer packages, and much of the work can be done remotely so you don't even need to provide them with a desk or free coffee.
 
Maintaining your website. I bet you think your website is fine. It lists your services and has your phone number, e-mail, address, and maybe even a bio and photo. But when is the last time you updated your website? Do you have a press release on it from five months ago? Do you have any press releases or news on your site? Your website is your virtual front door, and if it looks like you just threw something together, it reflects badly on you. There are several firms that cater specifically to creating content for CPA firms.
 
Fixing your computer. Stop bribing your college son with promises of hot food and keys to the car to come home and remedy your sick laptop. Several IT consultants are available to remotely log in to your computer (with your permission, of course) and diagnose your issues. Those consultants also will give you friendly reminders that your laptops aren't meant to be running eighteen hours a day if you want them to run at an optimal pace, and that you should think about changing your password from "password" to something a little bit more secure.
 
None of these ideas are earth shattering. Most of them could be found through a simple Google search (just make sure you check referrals before agreeing to any services). But every little bit you let go will free you up to focus on other things. Not necessarily more important things, but the things that are at the center of your business.
 
The problem often lies with letting go of these responsibilities. You know you can do it, so why spend the money to let someone else do it?
 
Because (a) your time likely costs a lot more than theirs, and (b) when you allow other people to help you run your daily business, it allows you to work on improving and growing your business.
 
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About the author
Alexandra DeFelice is senior manager of communication and program development for Moore Stephens North America, and a regional member of Moore Stephens International, a network of more than 360 accounting and consulting firms with nearly 650 offices in almost 100 countries. Alexandra can be reached at adefelice@msnainc.org.

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