10 ways to make your digital practice work
Dawn Goddard CA shares her top advice for digital accountancy practices – from cloud based accounting to workflow management.
Being digital has enabled me to run a growing practice from my home, and allowed my small team to work remotely. As a result, I maintain a flexible lifestyle, with minimal commuting and lower office costs.
Any small practice can achieve the same if the majority of clients and systems are cloud based. Here are the top 10 tips from my own experience to make digital work for your accountancy business.
1. Get your clients onto cloud book-keeping
Cloud book-keeping will save both you and your clients significant processing time. Real time, accurate, integrated financial information, which both you and your client can access, will enable you to react quickly to support your clients, and help you proactively give them advice and support when it is needed, rather than when it’s too late.
2. Choose your suppliers carefully
There are several excellent trusted cloud based accounting systems available. Invest in quality to get the most benefit. Suppliers should offer easy to access support to both your practice and to your clients. I have attracted many new clients through the free advertising on my provider’s website. When potential clients are already bought into cloud based accounting system and are looking for an accountant, then this is often the first place they look, so best for your practice to be there to be found.
While, my preferred supplier is FreeAgent, the key is to understand what the client needs from their cloud accounting software and tailor their solution around this. Being familiar in more than one system can provide options to your clients.
3. Early buy-in from clients
Provide up front training to your clients on how to get the best out of their cloud based accounting. I find this works best through a WebEx call where I can share my screen with the client and give them the tour of their new system.
Good training and user guides will enable early client buy in, encourage clients to manage as much as possible of their own processing and reduce errors and calls for help at a later stage. It also makes your clients feel more financially empowered and much more likely to stay with your practice.
4. Find good IT Support
Engage good local IT support, who can advise and manage your IT requirements, and help you adapt to growth. The security of your clients’ data, and the way you share it with them and your team, is a critical consideration.
5. Run your practice from the cloud
A trusted cloud server, or for the very small practice, Office 365 or Dropbox, will enable you and your team to access files from any location and eliminate the risk of having more than one version of the same document. Work anywhere by logging into your clients’ and own practice data from quality mobile devices and laptops. Remember to have appropriate access security set up on each device as well as systems being accessed.
6. Use electronic signing
Adobe Sign allows you and your clients to electronically approve statutory accounts, self-assessment tax returns and engagement letters in a quick and efficient manner.
7. Go paperless
It’s difficult to grow a practice from home without filing cabinets of paper files overrunning your space. After being through a process of fully standardising all my files, my next step is to move to paperless. Secure back up, and the ability to add receipts into Cloud book-keeping systems, removes the need to keep paper copies for most documents.
Other small practices I know have moved to shared office environments to help separate work/home life and have benefitted from significant new client opportunities from those businesses operating in the same building.
8. Workflow management
I can’t resist having a small manual to do list with me at all times, but a centrally based workflow, either a separately purchased system, or own ad hoc database, is a must for efficiency and to ensure nothing is missed.
9. Get an app
Your own firm’s mobile app and Twitter account adds to your customers’ experience of your service, gives you extra communication channels with your clients and raises your brand awareness as being at the forefront of digital technology. With specialist accountancy app creators, and partners providing automated tweets, these can be set up to involve minimal effort.
10. Embrace change
See change as an opportunity for your practice, rather than being left behind.