The efficient accountant: How to be one step ahead of the rest

Published · 3 min read

I suspect that you are like many of the accountants I speak with who are fed up being told that they need to do this, that or the other differently. I believe that you are the only person who is qualified to judge what you need to do to run your practice more efficiently.

There might be nothing you want to do. Or you might want to be more profitable, to free up time, to use it more wisely or simply to reduce your overheads.

Many of us are frustrated by the constant encouragement to read articles, attend seminars and to watch webinars that promise to reveal the secrets of how to grow faster, save more time, become more successful, make more profits or, simply, be more efficient.

Perhaps one place to start though is to be more selective and to stop worrying about what yet another expert says all accountants ‘MUST’ do.

You are not the same as all the other accountants out there. Yes, you can learn from what some of the better ones are doing. But in your drive to be more efficient you also need to be choosy.

To avoid getting sidetracked and to focus on what really matters to your practice. This is surely one of the cornerstones of becoming more efficient. To choose what advice you want to consider and then, if it seems appropriate, to implement it without delay.

Profitability

Many of the more profitable accountants will claim that they achieve this through improving efficiencies in the office. They delegate work that can be done by less experienced people, outsource and have plenty of documented processes that junior staff can follow.

Consistency is often a key theme too – both in the take on process for new clients, the issuance of fee quotes, the pricing of work and in your approach to late payment. You are running an accountancy practice not a charity or a lending body.

Time management

You will have seen plenty of advice that you cannot manage time, so you have to manage yourself instead.Some accountants swear by their prioritised ‘to-do’ lists and the satisfaction they get from crossing things off.

These days there are plenty of apps that can help here as well as making fuller use of the diary management facility on your computer. Other accountants just list, every evening, the top three things they must do the next day.

I’m a big fan of booking time out in the diary to prepare new talks, to write articles and to get the ‘admin’ work done. Sometimes this needs to be rescheduled to suit client commitments but at least it doesn’t get forgotten.

Another neat tip is to create a ‘Not to-do list’. This would contain those things you want to avoid sidetracking you. These days there are more distractions to tempt us than ever before. Many accountants spend too much unscheduled time on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, online forums or apps on their phones.

I find it helps to set yourself a time limit and an objective when I visit those sites. And I tend to do it more on my phone when I’m out and about rather than when I’m at my desk. Would you be more efficient if you developed similar habits?

Reducing overheads

When was the last time you checked all of your direct debit instructions and stopped those you don’t need any more? Are you still paying for software you no longer use for example? As accountants it is this sort of financial efficiency that is worth reviewing. If you hold off you may struggle to keep a straight face when talking to clients about their own finances.

And finally

One sure fire way accountants can become more efficient is to learn how to get maximum value and benefit from the built-in features of their office and accounting software. How many of us struggle with spreadsheets, formatting, printing, document and presentation templates, design related tasks and so on? Bite-sized training can be an especially efficient way to get to grips with the facilities that you will really use.

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