What’s on the Menu – A Fresh Look at Accounting Workflow
If your firm were a restaurant, would it be a smoothly running machine or total chaos?
Imagine that you’re a budding entrepreneur, following your dream of owning and running the best diner in town. You’ve found the perfect old diner car, restored it, hired the best fry cook you know, and even found some waitresses with bee-hive hairdos that know diner lingo. Yes, the gum-chewing teenager at the register seems to be a few cards short of a full deck, but he’ll probably figure it out eventually. Menus? Nah– you can just wing it. Customers know the kinds of things diners serve and your fry cook can make anything- except your grandmother’s famous Secret Sauce. You’ll just have to show him how to make it as needed. You can probably see the unhappy end of this scenario. But what does this imaginary, poorly-run diner have to do with your accounting firm? Probably more than you like to think!
It starts with the Menu – Organizing your Accounting Services
Before you decide what dishes you’re going to put on your menu you need to figure out what kinds of dishes you’re going to offer. Are there going to be appetizers? Salads? Desserts? Beer and Wine? Are you going to have a separate kid’s menu? Will you do catering and special events?
Just like a restaurant, the first step in organizing your accounting workflow is defining what kinds of services you’re going to offer– although, unless you’re just now hanging out your accounting shingle, you’ve probably already decided what’s on your firm’s ‘menu’. In that case, the first step in setting up your firm’s workflow is to write down your list of what kinds of services you provide. Does your firm offer payroll services, AP, AR, training, consulting, controller services, tax? Do you have special services that you offer to a certain type of client? Aero helps users define their menu of services by creating Aero Types. These Aero Types as another task management tool.
Writing Down the Recipes – Your ‘Secret Sauce’
Back to our imaginary diner: now that you know what kind of food and extra services you’ll provide, you and your fry-cook need to decide exactly how each dish will be prepared and served. Are the pancakes always served with the butter melting on top or is there a pat of butter on the side? How many ounces of meat goes into each burger? And exactly how do you make Grandma’s meatballs? You’ll want to
write down these preparation and serving instructions and keep them in a handy location. Even your awesome fry-cook may want to glance at them from time to time (he’s not always at the top of his game after a night of poker). With these detailed instructions at hand, your customers will never know who made their dinner– the best fry-cook in town or his nephew, filling in on poker night.
As an accounting firm owner, writing down detailed instructions on how to perform each service you offer is the key to setting up an accounting workflow that is repeatable and scalable. These instructions are your recipes for success – your ‘secret sauce’! Using Aero Templates, you can create and store the detailed instructions for how to provide each of your firm’s services. Aero Templates give you the ability to make sure that your firm delivers consistently high-quality services to all of your clients, no matter who is performing the actual work.
How to Run the Register – Creating Your Firm’s Procedures
Back in our mythical diner, every time the kid at the register has a question (and he has a lot, same ones, over and over), you have to stop what you’re doing and go help him. So you sit down one day and write down instructions for everything he’s supposed to do: how to ring up a to-go order, what to do with the tips that are added to credit card receipts, when and how to take cash out of the drawer and put it in the safe, maybe even one on how the register works with a diagram and everything. And boy, did that make both your jobs easier! Two months later, you’re doubly glad you’ve got it all written down when he tells you he’s leaving to become a Phish groupie and follow them around the country. Your written procedures help the next gum-chewing teenager get up to speed quickly.
Writing down your firm’s procedures and storing them in a central location like Aero is an important part of a good workflow management system. Not only do these procedures provide a readily available resource for new staff, but they are handy for anyone who just has a quick question or is performing work that is not often done. Even if your firm is staffed by You, Yourself, and your Labrador Retriever, you’ll want those procedures available as a reference. Making sure your procedures are defined, organized, available, and kept up to date is key to a smoothly running firm.
Order up! – Putting it all together
In a diner, you may not know exactly who’s going to walk in your door on any given day (except for Bob, every Tuesday), but you can plan on serving more burgers than liver and onions and feeding more people on a Friday than a Monday. And you make your plans accordingly, scheduling your staff and making food purchases based on the customers you expect to serve. In fact, to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and your diner is the best this side of the Mississippi, you’ve made a to-do list for each staff person to follow. Susie fills the ketchup, salt and pepper, while Doris makes sure that the menus are wiped down and the syrup carafes are full. Everyone knows what they need to do and when, leading to happy, well-fed customers who will be back again soon!
Most accounting firms have the advantage of knowing in advance exactly what services they’re going to provide for which clients on what day. Often, you’re providing the same service to a client at a regular interval. As a firm owner, your challenge is make sure everyone knows what they need to do each day and nothing falls through the cracks. In other words, once you have defined your firm’s work, you need to organize it. Aero users can use Templates to create Master Aeros, scheduling recurring services for clients and assigning them to the appropriate staff. When you’re finished, everyone in the firm knows exactly what they need to do each day. They also have instructions for exactly how each service is to be performed and easily accessible resources available to help them perform their work. And you’ve got happy, satisfied customers!