7 Steps to Bring Stability to Your Practice With Written Systems
Every successful accounting practice that I have studied delivers accounting services in a predictable and consistent manner, every time.
How is this possible, you ask?
Well, their policies and procedures explain exactly how and when things are done.
A “How We do It Here” manual, also called policies and procedures, gives accounting practices an organized and professional approach to all circumstances. Standardize your procedures so that everyone knows what they are and how to do them.
Without these systems in place, everything depends on you. Imagine if something happened to you, even for a short time period, the entire practice would be thrown into chaos.
Right before one of my coaching programs, during tax season a few years back, a coaching member suffered from a heart attack. He was out of commission for six weeks, with no systems in place that could have enabled someone else to keep his office operational. He not only lost a huge chunk of clients, but team members who were fed up with lack of stability. Ultimately, that affected the bottom line, his income. Once he recovered, he rejoined my coaching program, and our first order of business was to create a binder of procedures.
Documenting systems provides stability within your practice for yourself and in the services you provide for the clients.
These seven steps will help you bring order to your practice by showing you how to create systems that are effective for your practice:
1. Get Organized
Break down the sectors of your business to organize the “how-to” processes. Create procedures for every group, such as business management, finance and accounting, sales and marketing, operations (customer services), staff management, IT computer systems, safety and security.
In my practice, I have seven areas: leadership, marketing, management, money, lead generation, lead conversion and client fulfillment. There is no right or wrong way to define these categories, so do what works best for you.
Create a folder on your computer that is called “Policies and Procedures” to hold your documented processes. Also, buy some binders to help you organize your work and so that you can easily share the most updated procedures in a nicely packaged manual to your team members.
2. Identify the Events That Require a Procedure
Create a list of events that occur in your practice, from getting a new lead and receiving a bill from a vendor, to ordering office supplies and taking out the garbage. Create a rough draft list, then review to define which ones call for a procedure.
3. Start With the Most Important Ones First
Start with the ones that are most important to you — that make you money, free up your time, are currently causing poor customer services or duplication of effort among your team. Many people believe that they need to pick a group, like business management, and then create all the processes that would fit under that section. From personal experience, it is more beneficial to focus on the procedures that are costing you money or wasting time.
4. Designate the Task
If you are a sole practitioner with no help, you may be responsible for fulfilling many of the tasks. But if you have others working for you, place the responsibility on them. When you prepare to document a system, meet with the individual whom you think would be best at writing it, have a discussion on what you both think it should cover, and then send them on their way.
5. How to do the ‘How to dos’
After selecting the procedures you want to document, pull together your resources such as forms, checklists, etc. you currently use to complete the tasks. You might use customer contact sheets or scripts for answering the phone and they might be scattered all over, but make sure you have all the resources you need to create a successful procedure.
Write down step-by-step what you do, and KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Attach reference forms or checklists that are applicable to the procedures. This will help you and your team in the future to be referenced, copied or printed as needed. Once you have it typed and completed, save it in the proper digital folder and print a copy for your binder.
6. Communicate and Implement
I understand that change can be a little unsettling, but if it is communicated well, then your team will see the benefits.
There is no need to wait until all the procedures are complete to start implementing. In fact, it is often easier to implement one at a time than a bunch of changes at once. Remember to explain the procedure and encourage feedback that will get others to continue to look for better ways to get things done in the office.
7. Monitor and Modify
There is always a better way to get things done, but we rarely think about it or make the change. So, use feedback and observations to continue to look for ways to improve the newer procedures.
Lack of documented systems is the missing piece for many practitioners who feel totally overwhelmed by all the work they are doing in their practice.
Fixing this will liberate you from these daily tasks and give you more personal freedom for that thing you used to have… a life.
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Salim Omar is the author of The Million Dollar CPA Firm. He is also a successful business owner of Straight Talk CPAs, an accounting firm, and President of CPA Marketing Genius. He has a passion for helping CPAs engage in personal growth and professional development. While he is...