Think Differently About Non-Billable Time

Sep 2nd 2010
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There is so much information out there on different products, services and technology that will make you and your client more efficient and profitable. But how do you ever become more profitable and efficient, if you never take the time to figure out how these products, services and technology will help you in your practice?

For example, since 2009, in the QuickBooks Accountant version, there was a tool created by Intuit for Accountants called Client Data Review. No matter where I demonstrate this for Accountants, everyone thinks it is the neatest thing they ever saw. The concept of Client Data Review (CDR) is to find errors that the client made in their QuickBooks file and speed up your process in fixing those errors. Many of the tools are automated so that QuickBooks will actually suggest or make it a lot easier to make the fix. It can save hours of time of manual work cleaning up a clients file. Some of the tasks that it has, to name a few, is to correct beginning balances when a QuickBooks file is provided to you at the end of the year, batch reclassify transactions that were coded to the wrong account or class, apply manual checks written to open bills so expenses are not double-counted and the Open Bills Report is accurate and so on and so on…
So, I ask everyone when I am finished demonstrating this – would you use this – they all exclaim yes! Then a few months later I follow-up – did you use it? Less hands go up…so I ask Why? They say, I didn’t have time to look at it. It all comes back to the same thing– there were no non-billable hours allocated so that they could review their process and see how they could implement it into their engagements. So, here is a tool that has been reported by Intuit, based on customer surveys, to save up to 4 hours on a QuickBooks clean-up engagement. Not only does that make you more profitable, you can find ways to cut some of your fee because of it and make the client happy as well! 
Just for example, if you save even 2 hours per client on average – that you were either writing off before or could charge the same amount you charged before and do it in less time – and had, let’s say, 50 clients – that would save you 100 hours conservatively. If you charged around $100/hr for that work or was writing that revenue off – you just found $10,000 of profitability! You decide how you want to use that time – take on more clients, achieve better profitability, split the difference with the client or not write off time. 
In this same example, If you allocated 8 hours for you or one of your staff to review how to use this tool and provide a process to the rest of your team on implementing it on your engagements and you paid that staff person an effective rate of $25/hour, the cost to you is $200. So the ROI on this Non-Billable time is 50x what you spent. Now, of course – I cannot guarantee those results – however – isn’t it worth it to try it???
If you took a part all of the things that you do internally in your practice and structure non-billable time to review other ways to make your engagements more efficient – wouldn’t the ROI be worth it? That way you are not continuing to work too long on clients that you are not making money on or writing off time because a process is inefficient. In this day and age, clients are looking for Accountants that are forward thinking and finding ways to reduce their fees but still provide value and a high level of service. Assessing tools, technology and services that can help make you more efficient on annual basis is really worth the investment. A little non-billable time can go a long way!
So, is now the time to think about Non-billable time differently for the future of your practice?

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