How you manage and complete work sits at the heart of running a successful, scalable, freedom-driven firm, yet few know how to do it well.
Many firms struggle to understand how to improve workflow in order to create their dream firm. After working with thousands of firm owners, we’ve found that these three, simple workflow “tweaks” can reduce the pain of the client chase and set alignment across your team.
1. Ask for Your Client’s Preferred Communication Method
If you find yourself struggling to get clients to respond, one of our firm owners recommended asking the clients their preferred form of communication. They typically gave them three options - email, call or text. As the owner, you can add as few or as many as you want. I recommend the fewer the better.
When you offer the client this choice, you should also reinforce the notion that based on their preference selection, you expect them to respond in a timely manner (i.e. ideally same business day). Remind them that this ensures they will not be penalized for missing a deadline, and have accurate information sooner about their project.
Implementation: Pick three forms of communication (call, email, text) and connect with your clients on their preferred method. Update your client management system with their response so the entire team knows how to communicate with them.
2. Add a QA Step in Collection of Materials
If you or your team are constantly struggling to complete work consistently on time, one of the main culprits might actually be starting work too early.
Too often we begin engagements only to find out that we’re missing critical information to complete it. So, we are forced to stop working, contact the client, and then wait for the information to be sent or updated.
This waiting period can add up to a huge amount of waste and lost profits. Additionally, your staff is constantly switching context between jobs and when the client gives them the complete information, they have to spend time retracing their steps.
Even if all of their work is documented inside of a system, this still takes a long time. The time lost exponentially increases if your staff is not consistently documenting their work or it’s in multiple systems.
Implementation: Inform the client that you will be unable to complete work until all materials are successfully submitted. You can use the online forms or survey tools, tax organizers, physical binders and secure mailing … anything that helps the client submit information easier and faster.
3. Set Weekly Goals With Your Team
The final element to increasing output is to get on the same page with your staff. Hold Monday afternoon sync meetings where you review the expected work a staff member should complete within the week.
This gets all parties in alignment with the expected client work for the week. It is also an ideal time for staff to surface concerns about completing their work or share unforeseen barriers that would bottleneck their productivity.
How to Implement
Chances are you’ve tried to implement workflow changes and they fell short of expectations. If that sounds familiar, here are some simple ground rules for rolling out these changes:
1. Pick ONE change to adopt in the next 90 days.
2. Gather the team and inform them of the change. Ask for upfront any concerns they may have with this change. This is recommended so that are heard, acknowledged, thus increasing team buy-in.
3. After reviewing concerns, announce the workflow tweak along with a FAQ addressing the major concerns raised during the meeting.
4. Pick a small percentage (less than 10 percentage) of clients to roll this out to for at least one month.
5. Set a calendar invite to review the progress of the change with the team at day 45 and day 90.
6. Review the positives and address any concerns as they come up.
7. Recap the impact of the change and start planning your next one!
Things to watch out for:
1. The change will not be 100 percent “perfect” on day 1. You might need to iterate based on your firm structure, type of clients, or team size (hence the check-in points are critical).
2. Not everyone will love the change, but it’s important for them to understand why you’re making this change, how it helps the client and how it helps firm growth. If they still block the change, this might be a good time to address the concern one-on-one and understand the underlying factors for their resistance to change. You may have a cultural problem and need to phase out the team member/s.
3. Do not prematurely end the change or hesitate to introduce it in the first place. Nothing is easy and all changes take time to understand the impact. Stick to the 90-day plan to ensure you’ve tested out the change successfully.
With that, pick your top change and start implementing. I can guarantee that reaching your firm growth goals requires a positive improvement to your firm and I look forward to hearing the results!
About David Cristello
David Cristello is the Founder & CEO of Jetpack Workflow, an accounting workflow software that serves accountants in 18+ countries.