How has your accounting firm held up through the pandemic?
In a survey conducted by Accounting Today’s parent company, Arizent, 62% of leaders said their firm’s productivity declined with more staff working from home. Nevertheless, 82% of firms were “very” or “somewhat” likely to continue allowing employees to work remotely after the pandemic.
COVID-19 has increased safety protocols and shifted client and employee expectations. While few firms will become entirely remote, many will find themselves creating their new version of normal– whether that’s partially remote employees, rotational remote days, or less in-person staff or client meetings.
Firms that refuse to evolve will suffer a competitive disadvantage to those that adapt to the new circumstances and use them as an opportunity to optimize their practice.
With the correct infrastructure, employees working remotely can be equally or even more productive. A cloud-based practice management software is the place to start. Even better if it’s made specifically for accounting firms– like TPS Cloud Axis.
Manage Your Practice and Employees Remotely
When accounting firms come to us looking for a practice management solution, one of the biggest challenges they cite is the ability to manage employees remotely. It’s one thing to know your employees are being productive when they’re sitting a few desks away from you, but what about when everyone is working virtually?
A cloud-based accounting software allows you to track your time and billing and that of your employees from wherever you might be. Whether that’s your office, your home, or the lake house you rented for the summer with your family.
It’s not just about time and billing, either. A TPS Cloud Axis Pro or Ultimate account offers full practice management abilities.
- Employee calendar and scheduling
- Workflow management and report
- Client outreach and management
There is zero excuse for any of these things to deteriorate simply because you’re not in the office. There is also no sense in rushing back to a potentially unsafe situation when these things are manageable at home. Think about how much less anxiety you would have about getting back to the office if you knew your firm and employees were working just as efficiently at home.
Increase Employee Productivity
A good accounting software offers tools that help increase productivity and decrease the chance of human error. Employees working from home during the pandemic– many of whom are juggling kids or aging parents– will appreciate having tools that make their jobs a little easier.
Take something as simple as entering time. This should be an easy and efficient process, but depending on the tools you use (or don’t use), it could be a hassle and ultimately inaccurate.
Many firms overlook the power of a strong work code system. Having detailed work codes in place helps your employees quickly enter a detailed description that contains all information needed for processing. This can save hours of time each week and help to avoid issues down the line. Of course, a software like TPS Cloud Axis would allow you to implement such a system.
Time and billing is just one area where an accounting software will help increase employee productivity, WIP/AR Reporting, and mass client mailing are helpful tools that save a lot of cumulative time.
Be There For Your Clients
Your clients need you now more than ever. With probable loss in revenue, new regulations to navigate, Coronavirus tax relief and extended filings, this might be one of the few times clients actually want to hear from their accountant.
As a business owner, your accountant popping into your email is usually not cause for celebration (no offense). But if you’re informing them of a new policy or tax break that could help their business, their attitude will shift from reluctant to eager real quick.
A good cloud accounting software will simplify and automate keeping in touch with clients. It should maintain a detailed historical log of client industry, region, notes, contact information, and an understanding of who are the decision-makers in a company.
When an opportunity surfaces, it becomes that much easier to mass mail or email relevant clients. Imagine being a struggling general contractor or coffee shop owner and having your accountant reach out with genuinely helpful information. That is going to result in more work for your practice while providing a much needed service to your clients.
Create a Remote-Friendly Workflow
In an office setting, it’s easier to keep tabs on a process that might be less than efficient. If you’re looking for a certain file or want to know the status of a project, you can stop by your colleague’s desk and ask. It might not be the quickest or most efficient way to get the information you need, but the process has always worked well enough for your firm– when they’re all in one place.
With more staff working remotely, it’s easy for the details to slip through the cracks. Do you know where a file is, who is working on it, and how far along the work is– at all times? Probably not. Trying to track down the right person or gauge a project’s completion is an unnecessary waste of time.
A good cloud accounting software will offer workflow capabilities that mimic and improve upon your firm’s existing workflow. Each employee that touches a file can record his or her activity within TPS. Managers are able to monitor from the firm level or the employee level exactly where a file is, what work has been done, and what is left to do before billing.
Some firms use an Excel spreadsheet for Workflow, others use pen and paper, and some simply expect their employees to have that process ingrained. “After X, do Y.” This might be sufficient in a 9-to-5 office setting, but if half or most of your staff are working remotely, you are going to want an established workflow in place to help accelerate processes and reduce mistakes.
Reevaluate Your Practice Management
It’s easy for firms to grow without thinking about systems and processes. In the beginning stages of any company, thoughts are more centered on being profitable and attracting clients rather than what the most efficient way to manage everything. It’s easy to get away with when you’re small, but if you’re growing or looking to grow it’s crucial to have a planned infrastructure for how your firm manages and organizes its work.
Rather than seeing COVID as an obstacle to overcome, use it as an opportunity to reassess and optimize your practice. Maybe you can optimize your time and billing, reduce non-chargeable time, create a new workflow that saves time and reduces human error, create a new client outreach process that keeps new work coming through the door.
If all this seems like a headache, you might want to change your perspective and challenge your assumptions. Do you assume transitioning to a cloud-based software will be difficult? You might want to talk with our staff who can show you just how easy it can be.
Do you hesitate at the thought of yourself or employees having to learn a new system? TPS Cloud Axis maintains a Youtube library of 100+ video tutorials– from basic to advanced– and these videos are strategically placed throughout the software, for always-easy access.
Balance Remote Work With In-Office
Chances are, you are looking to get your firm back in the office eventually. According to the aforementioned Accounting Today survey, 65% of firms plan to keep offices/locations as is, with only 18% planning to significantly downsize space and locations going forward.
If you’re counting down the days until they return to “normal,” you might question the need for a cloud-based software. Can’t your firm just “ride out” the pandemic and return to the office when it’s over?
There are a few problematic assumptions here:
- That the pandemic will truly “end” in any time that is reasonable for your firm to stay afloat
- That there are only two options– 100% in office, or 100% remote.
The reality is, the future of work is probably a mixture of in-person and remote work. Clients and employees alike will have different expectations for safety protocols and office standards. We may head back to the office, but precautions will be taken to limit the risk of spread and the amount of people in one place.
A cloud accounting software will allow you to balance in-office work with remote work. Maybe half of your employees work from home and half come into the office, on a rotating schedule. A situation like this would both limit the amount of people in the office at once, save on cleaning expenses, and even increase employee happiness and, therefore, productivity.
With cloud-based software, employees who are on their WFH day can be just as productive as in the office. Employees can also plan their work week according to what day they will be home vs in the office. They will know that they can still access important tools at home, but save the more client-facing or collaborative tasks in the office.
Adapt and Improve
Don’t be the firm that dies (falters, withers) because you were resistant to change. You don’t need to change everything about how your firm operates. But you need to be realistic about the large-scale changes happening in the world and how that will shift your business and the expectations of your firm and your client. With a little up-front preparation, you can prepare your firm to be profitable and stable regardless of first wave or second. It can also provide lasting changes that optimize your firm long after the worst of the pandemic has passed.
To learn about transitioning your firm to a cloud software, schedule a free 15-minute call with our team or check out our pricing plans.