Tackling the admin burden can be a challenge for anyone and accountancy practices are no exception.
Of course, what you want to concentrate on is winning more clients, servicing your existing clients better and ultimately building your business. That’s the interesting stuff and unfortunately, admin doesn’t usually get a look in.
This article looks at the admin burden for accountancy practices and offers tips on how you can tackle it.
Time spent on the admin burden
Did you know businesses spend 120 days of their working year on admin? Yes, that’s right, on average they spend more than a third of a year on administration tasks. So, whatever you might think of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, you have to get it right. And the quicker you complete your admin, the more time you will be able to give to gearing your practice up for growth.
The modern workplace paradox is that no matter how efficient we think we are, we are less productive than we were 20 years ago, even though there are systems in place to remove the admin burden.
But the long and short of it is if you don’t get your admin sorted quickly and efficiently, you will have less time to build your practice and boost your profitability. Here are some of the practical measures that can help you get more admin-minded.
Automate client set-up procedures
Sudipa Moore, or Sid as she is known, is the owner of growing South Manchester based practice Moore Accountancy, which she established in 2010.
On the topic of managing admin, she says: “Spend 30 minutes every morning going through emails and internally filing them into work, information to read, items to action today, etc. Then half a day every week is allocated to systems development and marketing. We are also trying to automate more of our client set up procedures and some of our general emails by using templates.”
And when asked which is the most time-consuming admin task for Sid, she says: “Chasing clients for information and following up queries. We are organised in terms of reminding them to send us information but they are not always as good at coming back to us.”
Allocate time to deal with admin
The message to allocate time for your admin is perhaps the most important. Don’t kick the admin tasks into the long grass.
Face up to your challenges, push them into the out tray and you will reap the benefits as you go through the day, as your task list becomes more interesting and rewarding. It does work. We all know what happens when you constantly avoid the tricky or boring issues. They eventually come back to bite you.
Sid allocates the start of the day to admin, which in her case is handled and sorted via her emails. She and her staff know that every morning, for 30 minutes, they will sweat the detail and set their stall out.
This is their platform for a solid day’s work and it’s a good practice to follow. Whether its sorting out the emails, doing the invoicing, paying bills, or sorting out the petty cash, use that part of the day to get those jobs crossed off the list.
Use systems to manage admin
Then comes a larger section of the day that can be devoted to, as Sid puts it, systems development and marketing. Now, if we take the former, this is where we can really save time because, if we think about it, there is enough technology and digitisation out there to manage admin problems.
Software programmes and apps are plentiful, and are great for taking the strain. If you look for productivity apps and cloud accounting software, you’ll find options that can make your life easier.
This helps with Sid’s last point, about how for accountants, as for all in the service industry, staying in touch with clients is one of the big jobs. You might, for example, have clients that have plenty of work that needs doing, but will forget to let you know about it. They might have management accounts, or other figures that you need to complete, yet you need to remind them to send them over.
You can use productivity software to remind you that on a certain day, you need to send an email, politely asking if they have that update available. You can of course create an email template as well, with your client’s name and contact details, so that as well as your being reminded, the email can be sent from your system automatically, saving you a lot of time and trouble.
Just a quick word of warning though – email templates are great but don’t make them too impersonal. Accountancy is a service industry, so don’t let your client think they are on the end of a machine system. The trick is to automate your systems but to do so in a human way.
Productivity apps are also good at letting you see the bigger picture.
You should be noting your client hours of course but how about being able to see all the time you are spending on every client, during every day, week, month and year. This is all possible with software. It allows you to see the bigger picture and lets you see where you might be wasting time and effort.
Final thoughts on the admin burden
There is no excuse not to do admin these days. It just relies on the discipline of making time and exploiting the plentiful software and apps out there that can help you. Admin may be the poorer cousin of new client gains but without it, your firm will likely become a revolving door, with clients going in one day as they go out of the other.
How is your practice dealing with the burden of admin? Let us know in the comments below.