TFYW #007: Building A Different Team

Oct 28, 2022

This week’s topic is about building a team to do work instead of fill roles.

Building teams and finding talent is becoming an increasingly important topic.

Here are a few factoids:

  • At least 47% of the AICPA membership is at retirement age. The pandemic has made many boomers consider their next move, and many are opting out of the industry.
  • While accounting graduates are at an all-time high, CPA exam candidates have stayed level, indicating that a lower percentage of graduates are taking the exams.
  • 89% of all US-based CPA firms are expected to need the same number of or more CPAs on staff from 2021 to 2022.  

Source: 2019 AICPA Trends report

These issues make up what is broadly called the ‘Pipeline Problem’.

Most firm owners don’t need research results to know that finding good talent is a problem.

There are fewer accounting professionals than ever, yet the demand for these professionals is only increasing.

What does this mean for you and your firm?

Depending on your position, these issues can be either problematic or an incredible opportunity.

Let’s cut to the chase – unless you can offer 20% above market pay, you will have to be creative regarding your firm’s staffing needs.

During this newsletter, I will suggest alternatives or steps you can take instead of throwing another body in the mix.

Spoiler: Technology holds the most weight when solving your staffing needs. Second is your set of services and your firm design.

 

Technology

I am a massive fan of technology and automation. The more I use it, the broader my vision grows of what I can do.

I was directed to a quote by Naval Ravikant, that has changed my mindset forever:

“Code and media are permission less leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep. An army of robots is freely available – it’s just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency.

Use it.”

Replace ‘newly rich’ with ‘most profitable firms.’

 

Don’t resist technology – this is a reminder that this is the first thing that needs to be addressed before you can do anything else.

 

Workflow Evolution

Individual workflows are the building blocks of all firms.

With my coaching clients, we break down the daunting task of modernizing their firms into their workflows, making the process more clear and manageable.

Workflows are evolving quickly. With how fast tech is changing, a firm owner could find ways to enhance a workflow every single day.

I don’t recommend this – but I frequently advocate for reviewing your workflow designs consistently to maximize your firm.

Workflow design determines how your team completes a set of tasks.

If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:

 

Intentional workflow design significantly increases the flexibility, profitability, and scalability of your firm.

A well-designed workflow will be separated into individual tasks, maximizing technology and leveraging the best people for those tasks.

There has to be as much focus on the HOW of your services as the WHAT.

A lot of talent gets wasted on tasks that either a machine or other team members can complete.

Here’s a quick peek at what an individual tax return workflow could look like:

> Client onboarding is all automated – the client completes all data entry;

No sending or chasing pdf checklists to gather information

> The portal walks the client through the necessary steps to sign an automated engagement letter and secure document upload.

No manually sending doc transfer requests or esignature engagement letters

> Your team is notified only after all the steps are complete. 

An administrative member in Spokane moves the information into the draft return and organizes the client documents for quick prep and review.

> Your tax preparer in Tempe easily prepares the return and sends any follow-up questions via the portal.

> You review the return at home in Buffalo and make any final adjustments.

> The administrator triggers the final canned communication:

The 8879 is sent for signature;

An invoice is sent for payment; 

And when the above two are received, a copy of the 1040 is securely sent to the client;

> The administrator efiles the return and completes the file.

Workflow Best Practices

  • Client requests and follow-ups should be automated. Chasing clients for documents is the biggest waste of time in any workflow;
  • With a secure cloud infrastructure, tasks can be handed off between team members anywhere.
  • Canned or templated communication speeds up every engagement and ensures communication and expectations are the same across the board.
  • A smaller set of services allows you to refine your workflows better. Offering too many services dilutes how good your workflows can become.
  • Workflows should minimize when skilled talent is involved. The less you’re involved, the better!

Fixing your staffing issues has little to do with matching people to roles but rather with understanding how and where the work can be completed.

Many competent non-accounting team members can bring incredible value to your workflows.

Introducing an automation contractor to help create workflows and connect technology could quickly replace 100s of hours for your team over a few years.

Training a virtual assistant on a factional or full-time basis can be a game changer, as they can support the whole team in various tasks.

The first step is admitting to yourself that a lot of your work can be done by someone or something else.

I hope this has helped you look at your pipeline problem differently.

Build The Firm You Want,

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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