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How Accountants Can Look at Their Work With Fresh Eyes


When the New Year rolls around, we make changes for our health and peace of mind. But we should also take a look at our work with fresh eyes.

Jan 23rd 2020
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Reassessing the health of our practices and how we work should be as important as taking stock in ourselves and our personal lives. Here are three ways accountants can to start to review and make the right changes this year:

1. Scrutinize Your Accounting Files

I’m talking about the electronic data and systems within your general ledger, not paper file folders. Some of my Xero client files are nearly seven years old. That’s seven years of transactions, contacts, bank-feed changes and software updates.

I noticed the other day that some of my bank rules weren’t working because of changes in the bank’s data formatting. The rules were built on the “Payee” field, but the bank’s updates meant that the identifiable information was now posting in the “Reference” field.

I created new rules, and a few days later, reviewed the entire list of bank rules. Not only did I delete the rules that failed because of the interface changes, I also found many rules for vendors the client was no longer using.

Another place in an accounting file that deserves some attention is in your Contacts. For example, I have found that in Xero, the Reference data from the bank, which can include unique transaction details, often becomes the Contact. This means that the same vendor may have dozens of contacts. Using the merge feature to combine Contacts can help to clean up the file.

2. Peek At Processes

As accountants, we are creatures of habit. Something that works well enough for us, is… well enough. We want to check tasks from our list and move to the next thing, but in that rush, we may be ignoring opportunities for efficiency. The New Year is a great time to look at each client’s processes from a 30,000-foot view, taking in the whole picture rather than a micro focus on a specific task.

I was recently on a coaching call with a firm owner in Texas and she was sharing with me the processes that she was beginning to document for each client. On her screen I noticed that she was paying a consultant by logging into the bank twice a month and creating an electronic check that would be mailed to him.

On the line above, the payroll process documentation told me that she was using a provider that also would pay contractors directly, so I asked her why she was not using the payroll provider for this contractor’s bills. Her response was that she had begun using the bank check before they needed payroll, so she continued to do it the same way and had never considered consolidating the two processes, although it made lots of sense. She certainly would have come to the same realization had she stopped to consider processes for this client, but it took a fresh set of eyes to see something so clearly from a macro level.

3. Examine Your Tech

I am often asked about the best software for a certain function of the accounting cycle and my answer is always “it depends.” Why? Because, by definition, cloud software changes constantly. The same power that enables incremental product updates also gives developers the freedom to add new features.

We have seen, especially in the last two years, multiple apps crossing out of their lanes and into another with regards to functionality. Apps that were built as payment processors are now offering financing in the way of branded credit cards. Software that was created to streamline payroll are now leaning into human resources. Add pricing changes to the pile and it gets even more complex.

What this means for firm owners is that the app that may have been the best fit when a client came onboard might not be the best fit anymore. By taking a deliberate look at the client’s requirements and comparing to current offerings, you may save time, money or both.

So, I challenge you to in the final days of January to scrutinize, peek and examine and start with an easy New Year’s resolution win!

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