By: Ira Rosenbloom
For CPA firm owners, a great deal of emphasis is put on the performance of the accountants, but are the owners paying enough attention to the support staff? Delegating work and leveraging resources in an accounting firm should not be restricted to the accountants—it must be a reality for the entire staff.
Setting the appropriate expectations and requirements for your administrative and support functions will produce important benefits. During busy season, your administrative team needs to perform at the top of its game – here are several ways to set that process in motion:
- Turn Priorities Into Realities: Each of the administrative leaders in your firm, whether it is the office manager, firm administrator, in-house marketing professionals, HR director, or finance managers need to have a weekly “top-five list.” These are the top five priorities that must be handled during the course of the week. Some professionals may use an open-item list or a “to do list,” but the key is getting the job done—not just writing it down. On a daily basis, distractions and interferences are routine, but by the end of the week, these interferences need to be managed. The “top-five list” should also be available for management to review, modify, and endorse.
- Sequence Activities: All major functions or activities should be scheduled and put on a calendar, just like engagements. Estimated time and time periods should be blocked out. The most common major actions include: extensions, engagement letters, billing, collections, events, tax assembly, mailings and email blasts, surveys, and staff meetings. Anticipating work flow and planning to mitigate bottlenecks, is best achieved with a full and rigid calendar.
- “One-Task-Fits-All” Must Prevail: Administrative personnel must be prepared and comfortable pitching in and performing activities that are not part of their usual routine. Answering phones, setting appointments, greeting clients, delivering packages, assembly, mailings, going to the bank, surveying clients, searching files, and reaching out to clients for information are all functions that should not be restricted to specific people in the firm. The more the administrative personnel are exposed to, the more they will understand the practice, and be better prepared to handle a particular job.
- Activate Project Management Thinking: Setting goals and attaching them to timelines are important project management steps. Personnel should look at a 30-day window for goals and maintain a template that will stipulate the problems they anticipate, the solutions they would use, the definition of success, the time anticipated or required for major actions, and any deadlines. Memorializing these management steps will improve planning, and keep your organization informed.
- Incentivize with Compensation and Benefits: Bonus systems that are computed based on measurable achievement are quite appropriate for your administrative staff. Improved turn-around time, enhanced accuracy, increased production, improved collections by elevated AR turns, increased lead flow, enhanced close rates, increased visibility, new business, decrease in costs, expanded portal utilization, and improved client responsiveness/cooperation are all valid markers to measure and generate economic incentive. These rewards can be a combination of monetary compensation and other benefits, but should be in addition to any overtime pay they receive.
When your organization operates efficiently and adhesively, there is an increased likelihood of economic and professional gratification. Keep your administrative personnel in your game plan for success, and the odds for your success will increase.
About the Author: Ira S. Rosenbloom, CPA, is the Chief Operating Executive at Optimum Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm focused on helping small and medium-sized CPA firms enhance business performance, profitability, and foster practice continuity. Ira can be reached at: [email protected] or at (973) 666-1980.