For professional services industries, the security of an hourly rate can turn into a trap. Efficiency is just as important for the professions as it is anywhere. If your accounting firm doesn’t have a reputation for turning work over at a good pace, your competitors will surely overtake you.

Turnaround times can almost always be improved by studying the firm’s time management. Setting out what makes up each aspect of the day, and assessing exactly what needs to happen and what can be disposed of, can slice hours off each project. The result is a happier set of clients and an improvement in reputation.

  1. Analyse your current procedures

    Most accounting firms are highly aware of their client turnover rate, but very few stop to take the time to analyse what contributes to that rate. Lead times should be examined as well as the specific set of tasks that go into the work on each client’s accounts. Simply taking account of these tasks can reduce the amount of time it takes to complete them.

  2. Cut out unhelpful steps

    An analysis of your firm’s procedures will invariably turn up some steps that simply don’t help the process. Cut them out.

    It’s important to note that having standard procedures can actually contribute to bad time management. Partners and administrative staff need to have the freedom to cut out unhelpful steps in individual cases.

  3. Study past projects

    Not every accounting firm has standard procedures, and individual staff members often have their own way of dealing with clients. Conducting a study of recent past projects can help uncover steps that will improve your efficiency and therefore your turnaround times.

  4. Have an error management system

    Errors eat up time. It’s true that they are an anomaly for most firms, meaning that a reasonable excuse can be presented to the waiting client, but errors are still something to be avoided. Studying and measuring errors can help in the creation of failsafe procedures, cutting them out in future.

  5. Create a communication machine

    Much of the slack in turnaround times comes from inefficient communication between the departments of an accounting firm. Reception takes time to pass on messages to individual accountants, who then take time to send invoices to customer accounts, who then take extra time to talk to clients. Communication within an accounting firm needs to be efficient, so invest time in getting your teams talking to each other.