Let’s talk admin from an accountant’s perspective. I often hear, “It’s not rocket science, why is it so hard to get things done?”
If I had a $1 for every time I’d heard a Partner or an Accountant say a variation of “I just don’t understand what the admin team does, it’s not that hard, but everything seems to take so long or things get missed”...I wouldn’t need to write this blog!
I spend a lot of time in Accounting firms, both big and small and every one of them suffers from the same issue. Allow me to shed some light as to why the admin team seems to cop the brunt of the industry frustrations.
Hypothetically, let’s paint a scenario. You’re a partner in a firm and have recently implemented some wonderful software that allows you to not only upfront price your clients work and get them to accept this proposal, but also collect their payment prior to beginning their work (just like paying for a flight online!). As a firm, your team are all on board with this new process because they understand the value and positive impact this has on the business cashflow and internal processes no longer required for invoicing and debtor collection, they even like working to tighter turnaround times to get the work done! Your clients have also been notified and managed through this transition with letters and phone calls where necessary. Your whole business moving forward is on board with the new “upfront billing and payment” method.
Then one day you get a new client come to you. As a partner you know this client is going to be beneficial to the firm from the fees that can be generated. The client thinks you’re fantastic and wants to come on as a new client, BUT...they tell you they can’t pay you upfront like your business terms state. What do you do?
As a business owner in a professional services industry, you have two qualities that somewhat conflict.
1. You want to help people, in whatever they need to grow or fix their financial position.
2. You want to make money, everyone does.
99.9% of the time in the above scenario, a partner in a firm will make the decision to accept the terms of the client and effectively say “sure, you don’t have to adhere to our terms, let’s work out a payment arrangement”, not only to help this client, but also to secure the revenue generated moving forward.
As soon as you accept the client’s terms, you’ve broken your own process. And who has to remember this and manage it moving forward...your admin team. Now multiply this one break in process across your entire client base, and this will effectively be the amount of bespoke situations that are created and thus need to be managed by the admin team.
As an example, let’s use the BAS situation. If you use Xero Tax, in a stereotypical firm, here is a list of the different ways a client has their BAS completed:
That’s over 10 different ways BAS’s get completed and when a Partner asks the admin team for a lodgement list of where the BAS’s are up to, hopefully you can appreciate that one report will not capture all of this information, therefore the time to produce an up to date list will take additional time.
In any professional services business, there are some tasks that can be completed with a “cookie cutter” approach, however for the most part, every client you deal with has a bespoke scenario and is therefore treated with a tailored service offering. There is no issue with this however, every time you change or break a process, consider the impact this will have on the admin team and how much more difficult it is for them to do their job, in what you would suggest is a “timely manner”.
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.