Creating the Capacity for CPAs To Offer More Valueby
Accountants are so busy with existing client work that it feels impossible to learn new skills and deliver new services. It’s important to understand that capacity does not equal time and capacity is not fixed.
One of the challenges accounting firms face in their transformation from a compliance-focused firm to an advisory and consulting firm is capacity. While we tend to think of capacity planning as giving us more time, capacity also encompasses money, resources, skills and opportunities.
The following six strategies will help your firm create the space to focus on providing more value to your clients.
1. Upskill Your Team
A common limit to our capacity is not having trained people we can delegate to. For example, partners and managers may spend time preparing consolidated tax returns or performing audit procedures instead of working on business development or training staff.
When everyone, at all levels, is working at their highest and best use, your firm will have greater capacity. Start upskilling your team to given them core success skills like:
- Consultative conversations
- Creative conflict
- Continuous improvement
- Business development
- Public speaking
- Thought leadership
- Technology – including AI awareness and education
Keep in mind, it’s not just young people who need training. More tenured people may need training as well, but they’re less likely to ask.
2. Increase Engagement
According to Gallup’s most recent employee engagement survey:
- 40 percent of employees are engaged in their work. They are loyal and psychologically committed, leading to higher productivity and retention.
- 47 percent of employees are not engaged. They may be productive, but they’re not psychologically connected to the company. They miss more workdays and are more likely to leave.
- 13 percent of employees are actively disengaged. They’re physically present but psychologically absent. They are unhappy and insist on sharing this unhappiness with others.
Challenges with engagement will cause friction and decrease productivity, which in turn limits capacity in your firm. To create capacity, identify engagement gaps and start taking steps to close them.
3. Leverage Existing Technology
The next strategy involves looking at the technologies your firm currently has and assessing how you’re currently using them. Often, during Process Consulting engagements, firms believe they need to invest in new technologies to gain certain features or functionality, but we discover the features and functionality they need are already included in their existing technology stack – they’re simply not using it.
Using your existing technology effectively will create more capacity and conserve resources. So make sure you’re staying on top of software updates. Have conversations with your solution providers to understand the latest features and have ongoing discussions with them about increasing your investment return.
4. Explore New Technologies
Provide clients with the tools to easily collaborate with your team, provide information, and perform the tasks you need them to complete.
Too often, firms focus on the technologies that will make their team more operationally effective but allow the client experience to take a back seat. Then if the firm doesn’t experience immediate time savings, they scrap the initiative.
This focus on operational efficiency is short-sighted and overlooks the fact that proving value from the client’s perspective is paramount. Look for new technologies that put your client’s needs first. Some ideas include:
- Embedded chatbots in your website that answer simple questions posed by clients and prospects or connect them to a person who can
- Technology that replaces paper organizers and allows clients to sign engagement letters, access PBC lists, and securely send documents using a mobile device
- Software that automates tax return assembly and delivery
The easier it is for clients to work with you, the greater your capacity to serve them.
5. Implement Automation
Automation provides a vast opportunity to increase capacity in your firm. The tasks being automated aren’t what clients value. Clients don’t care whether a staff member manually enters every number into a tax return or trial balance. They simply want their tax return or financial statement to be accurate. What they value is the advice and guidance you provide along with that deliverable.
Look for ways to automate routine, manual tasks that will save people time. Some ideas of tasks to automate include:
- Opening email/attachments
- Logging into web/enterprise applications
- Moving files and folders
- Copying and pasting
- Filling in forms
- Reading and writing to databases
- Scraping data from the Web
- Connecting to APIs
- Making calculations
- Extracting structured data from documents
- Collecting social media statistics
- Following if/then algorithms
6. Focus on Process Improvement
Process improvement is important. We want to look for ways to streamline processes, improve the way we’re doing work, remove steps that don’t add value and build consistency. But efficiency is a milestone, not the end game. Ultimately, your goal should be to better serve clients and add more value to the services you deliver.
If you’re just focused on efficiency, you run the risk of missing opportunities to use those efficiency gains. It’s possible to put a lot of time and money into improving your firm’s processes but still not have the right skills or a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Remember, the goal of creating capacity isn’t to do more of what you’re already doing but to provide an opportunity to learn and implement a value-added approach to client service. Take advantage of these strategies to create capacity and better serve your clients.
The original article appeared on the Boomer Consulting blog.
As a Director with Boomer Consulting Inc., Arianna helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The P3 Leadership Academy™ Academy. Internally, she blends...