The second item is this: Efficiency is never "one and done." It's a malleable, continuous effort that mirrors your firm and its evolution. It must be revisited and revised on a regular basis to stay relevant.
When efficiency, purpose, and execution converge, you have the perfect plan for effective operations. Technology, in turn, amplifies efficiency by converting blueprints into living processes.
For example, consider standardization. Taking a uniform approach to a service cuts back on the time and costs needed to complete tasks while offering a broader array of technical conveniences for clients such as automation and mobility. Firms can create a higher, even more attentive level of service and save a client time, thus forging stronger bonds.
The moral of this story: When you marry efficiency, vision, purpose, and technology, you position your firm for success.
First, target the technologies you need to support efficiency.
Take a strategic approach to technology. Don't fall into the "technology status quo." Keep up to date with the latest technology and evaluate how it can support your strategy for growth. Consider how this technology might create a uniform approach to processes and how that ultimately helps your clients.
Next, cultivate efficiency across the firm.
Develop a culture focused on efficiency. Tie the idea to a concept everyone has a stake in: finding better, quicker, and more consistent ways to improve the client experience. Encourage and incentivize staff members to identify areas of internal improvement. Create manuals, workflows and training opportunities so it's easier to onboard new clients and show immediate results.
Measure progress by setting goals around improving tasks such as time to close. You can also create a modular approach to services. If one person is out sick, can another temporarily step in for a day or two to cover his or her duties?
Leverage efficiency into leadership.
Now that you've amplified interest in technologies and practices that support efficiency, you end up with more time and a higher capacity with the same number of resources. As an added bonus, the technology you've adopted to support efficiencies (think digital bill payments, integrations, automatic audit trails, etc.) give you accurate and real-time financial data.
How you leverage these advantages depends on your firm's vision and plan. You can target new geographies or marketing endeavors or specialize in specific industries or types of clients. You can leverage real-time and historical financial information from your clients into controllership and advisory services. With steps such as this, you can transform transactional relationships into ones based on financial leadership, advice, and trust.
Finally, always use efficiencies to strengthen client service.
Business owners never seem to have enough time. You become a hero when you take your knowledge of efficient processes and technologies to your client and say, "I can streamline your accounting so that you have more time for your business."
One example of this idea in motion is bill payments. It has to happen for businesses. But it's normally a time-consuming, paper-laden task for businesses. When you introduce your knowledge combined with technologies such as digital bill payment, automated workflows, and mobility, your client sees this burdensome task diminish into a few taps on their mobile phone each month.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It's important to revisit your efficiency initiatives regularly to ensure they stay efficient. Ask for client feedback and suggestions. Re-evaluate hiring criteria to make sure you are adding new staff with the skills and experience your firm needs as it evolves. Encourage staff members to get certified in solutions so they can apply the full potential of technologies to the practice. Integrate accounting systems and apps so that information is automatically synced and you don't fall back into inefficient processes such as double data entry.
Each efficiency you cultivate is a win-win. Your firm runs like a race car, maximizing its resources and potential. In return, you extend new conveniences and an enhanced level of service to foster stronger relationships with your clients.