PracticeAccounting FirmsAdviser: Put your client on the conveyor belt

Adviser: Put your client on the conveyor belt

Doubtless few partners in accountancy practices would be very flattered if their firm was compared to an industrial unit. But the fact remains that the majority of general practitioner work is process led.

If your attitude towards it is to treat it like a factory production line, then the results will not only be speedier and more efficient, but also a great deal more profitable.

Accounts preparation to audit (corporate), accounts preparation, personal tax, payroll and management accounts are all areas of work that would benefit from being given the production-line treatment.

Unfortunately, the traditional organisation of an accountancy practice – each partner with his own portfolio, manager and either dedicated staff or access to a pool of staff – does not make for effective work processing.

Company directors and senior executives are seldom found operating the machinery on the factory floor and the situation in accountancy firms should be no different – delegation is the key.

In the first place, think about what you’re trying to achieve. It’s likely to be a combination of better fees, greater efficiency on individual jobs, faster workflow, better recoveries and higher profits. It’s about delivering a better service to clients through speed and efficiency, ensuring that partners and staff are doing the right work at the correct level. Overall, the objective is a smarter and more efficient practice.

None of this is difficult, but it does demand that everyone involved knows precisely what is expected of them and follows the procedures agreed for every job. Controlling the workflow is vital and this means the firm should be in charge, not the client.

Clients should be encouraged to produce their records at the firm’s convenience rather than their own, and all records should be complete before starting work. Firms with problem clients who seem incapable of delivering their records on time need to consider strategies that will encourage them to be more punctual – even doubling the fee if needed.

Maintaining a constant flow of work into the practice means that assignments can be planned in advance more effectively, but it is in the allocation and supervision of work that the production line really comes into its own.

The first task is to ensure that the right level of staff is handling the work at every stage. Internal deadlines should be set for every stage of the assignment and a system of checks and balances put into place to ensure these deadlines are achieved.

On completion of each assignment, if relevant, a meeting should be arranged with the client as soon as possible to approve the work, and the invoice submitted immediately thereafter.

The entire process should be tightly controlled, with work planned between one and three months in advance, with weekly meetings to monitor progress and results. The mantra for everyone involved in the factory process should be: ‘Get it in, turn it round, get it out.’

  • Send in your questions for our adviser panel of experts on matters relating to small practices by emailing adviser@accountancyage.com.

Related Articles

Where is your next client coming from?

Accounting Firms Where is your next client coming from?

20h James Noble, Propero Partners
Specialist VAT service provider joins MHA

Accounting Firms Specialist VAT service provider joins MHA

1d Austin Clark, Reporter
Grant Thornton expands financial services regulatory team

Accounting Firms Grant Thornton expands financial services regulatory team

1w Austin Clark, Reporter
Top 50+50: Revenue rises spark rankings shake-up

Accounting Firms Top 50+50: Revenue rises spark rankings shake-up

2w Emma Smith, Managing Editor
BDO strengthens Bristol team with new audit partner

Accounting Firms BDO strengthens Bristol team with new audit partner

2w Austin Clark, Reporter
FRC closes investigation into PwC over Barclays compliance

Accounting Firms FRC closes investigation into PwC over Barclays compliance

2w Alia Shoaib, Reporter
Top 50+50: Firms fall short on diversity

Accounting Firms Top 50+50: Firms fall short on diversity

2w Alia Shoaib, Reporter
Top 50+50: Big Four hold steady, shake-up outside Top 20

Accounting Firms Top 50+50: Big Four hold steady, shake-up outside Top 20

2w Emma Smith, Managing Editor