This is part one of a five-part series on workflow in your accounting practice.  Over the course of this series I’ll walk you through best practices in setting up a workflow system for delivering Client Accounting Services (CAS) and the benefits you can expect once you have it up and running.

What is workflow?  

Workflow is an ‘organized and repeatable business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes.’ Clear as mud? How about this: workflow is defining what you do and organizing your resources in such a way as to enable others to do the same thing in the same way.

There are as many different kinds of workflows as there are business activities: administration, sales, marketing, even software apps have workflows. In this series of blogs, I’m going to be talking about service delivery workflow and setting up a workflow system for your accounting firm – a system to organize the setup, performance, and tracking of your accounting service delivery.

Why do I need a workflow system?

In a service business like accounting, how you deliver your services is critical. Not only do you want to deliver the superior services, but you want to make a profit on them. Whether you are performing the work yourself or delegating the work to staff, you must manage the workflow in your accounting practice in order to maximize profit and deliver a quality product. This goes double for anyone thinking about (or using) fixed fees – if you fix your price, you must control your costs through systematizing your service delivery.

But I’m doing fine without one!

Is it time for a new Workflow system?If by doing fine, you mean still in business, then yes, maybe you are. But look me right in my virtual eye and tell me that none of these apply to you:

  • Deadlines have been missed or you’ve stayed up until 1 am in order to make them
  • You’ve bolted awake at 2am frantically wondering if an essential client service was completed
  • The thought of going on a vacation and turning off your phone is ridiculous
  • You can’t remember the last time you took a vacation
  • You think you might need to hire someone, but can’t figure out where you’re going to find the time to train them
  • You have an amazing employee who knows how to do everything – and if they leave, you’re in big trouble
  • There are multiple services that only you can provide because you are the only one who knows how to do them
  • The only way you can get the status of client work is to ask the staff how it’s going
  • You’ve ever gone home at night with no idea of what (if anything) you accomplished that day
  • You’ve moved your firm to fixed-fee engagements, but you have no idea which ones are profitable
  • You aren’t sure if the work for your fixed-fee engagements is within the scope of the original agreement

You OWN the firm – or you ARE the firm?

If you recognize yourself in any of the above scenarios, you may be in a situation where without you, there is no firm. Setting up and using a workflow system allows you to convert your knowledge capital into scalable processes, increasing opportunities for profit. Defining and organizing your processes and services is not a small task, but doing so is a proactive approach to success now…and in the future.

Up next: Defining Your Services

A version of this blog originally appeared in Insightful Accountant