Where is another printer cartridge? Why doesn’t my password work all of a sudden? Where can I find the document, I had last week? There is no sugar left! What’s Practice Ignition for? How do I send a DocuSign document? How can I do a share split? Where do I get to check if an invoice has been paid?
These sound like a lot of questions, but to a Practice Manager of a Public Practice Accounting firm, these can all be summarised into what is effectively the question asked every fifteen minutes – Can you help me with this? And of course, the answer is always “Yes”.
The role description of a Practice Manager and the daily activities of a good Practice Manager can be worlds apart, not because they are different, but that the job description is the equivalent of a post-it note to what a good Practice Manager does. All PMs assume that they will need to have an answer to every question they get asked, and if they don’t have it immediately, its expected within 30 mins – and for the most part, they do.
Being a Practice Manager is like being the Ringleader of a circus, the CEO of an ASX200 company and a parent all wrapped up in one. It can be rewarding, but also challenging – particularly on the people side of things. For those teams, usually Admin and Accounting, that report to them, it is the Practice Manager’s responsibility to ensure that they have what they need, and for the partners of a firm, they have what they want. While each firm is almost the same for eighty percent of what it does (it’s an accounting firm, how different can it really be), it’s the twenty percent variations that is where a good practice manager can make all the difference. So, the question then remains, what makes a good practice manager?
Like almost any role, if they are always too busy, flustered, have piles of papers, or thousands of emails piled up – they are not busy, they are either disorganised or trying to justify themselves with activity instead of results – or both. People who do not appear busy or flustered are the people who really get things done, because – they spend time getting it done. An effective Practice Manager, or anyone for that matter, is that un-flustered person. Effectiveness comes down to the right software stack in place, the right processes with clear guidelines, boundaries and consistency to build firm confidence.
What enables a good Practice Manager? Trust. Trust is built over time, obviously – but partners need to trust in the Practice Manager they have things in order and have a management reporting system in place to ensure trust and confidence. A good Practice Manager will almost appear to make themselves redundant over time, as things just fall into place. Partners who interfere or micro-manage will lose a good Practice Manager because a good Practice Manager knows that micro-management is the death-knell to success – so why would they stay in a position that doesn’t trust the systems or the people.
Finding a good Practice Manager is tough, very tough. If a Practice Manager has a good working relationship with a firm, it’s partners and staff, they are very unlikely to leave. The role of Practice Manager can be rewarding, to the right person if the right firm is a good fit. Sure, sometimes we get tired or stagnate in a firm, so staying in the same role for more than about five years is always a bad idea. We need breadth of experience, new perspectives and views on things so that each firm grows from both within, and external experience.
If you are a Practice Manager, well done – just because basically it’s not said to you enough, so well done, good job.
To those that work with Practice Manager’s say thanks twice as often as you do, because without them you will have to do what they currently do for you. Do you want that?
Clarity Street was conceived from years of engaging with Accounting firms on a daily basis and a constant desire to make Accounting firms & SME’s more efficient and profitable.