Best Practices

Systemize or capsize - 3 warning signs that your processes need some TLC

Do you have the feeling like your firm could capsize at any moment? Discover the 3 warning signs that you need to give your processes some TLC.

Have you ever experienced this feeling?

It feels like your accounting or bookkeeping firm is floating along steadily, and things are going well, great even, but at any moment a huge wave could come along causing you to capsize? 

As your firm grows, and you continue to bring clients and new team members onboard, you’ll get to a sticking point where that ‘capsize feeling’ starts to kick in.

Generally, it means that you need to spend a bit of time giving your systems and processes some TLC.

But how do you know when is the right time?

In this article I’ll share with you 3 of the biggest warning signs to look out for. But first, let’s take a look at what causes this capsize-threatening imbalance…

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Your firm consists of 3 key components 

Every accounting and bookkeeping firm (and in fact every business) consists of 3 key components. 

These 3 components are what create action, and when all 3 are balanced harmoniously, you create some seriously efficient action and things sail along smoothly. As soon as one or more become imbalanced, that’s when you get the feeling that you might capsize unexpectedly.

So what do these 3 key components look like? Well the 3 areas comprise of:

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Technology

The People, Process, Technology (PPT) framework assumes that People perform work for your business using processes, and technology is used to streamline (and sometimes automate) these processes.

In your case, your team (people) complete work (e.g. bookkeeping) using workflows (processes) and technology (practice management, invoice/receipt capture, bookkeeping software) to streamline these workflows.

Any guesses as to which of the 3 often causes the biggest imbalance?

Yep. Processes.

It has a fairly simple explanation, and it generally comes down to a lack of time and priority.

In the early days of starting and growing your firm, you’re busy winning clients and doing the work. Then you start to build out your team, and now you’re busy winning clients, doing the work, and managing a team. And as much as you’d like to spend time building systems and processes, you can’t. After all, why spend a day on processes when you could spend a day doing ‘actual work’. 

But eventually you reach a sticking point. In order to bring more clients or more team members onboard, you need to have the systems and processes in place. 

So what are the warning signs to look out for? How do you know when it’s the right time to start re-balancing and building out your processes?

There are many, but here are the top 3…


1. You’re working flat-out AND deadlines are being missed

It’s pretty natural to be working flat-out, especially in a small growing firm. There’s always something to do.

But when you’re working flat out AND deadlines are being missed or only just barely being hit, it could be a sign that you need to start building out your processes and systems to add efficiency and ease some of the pressure. 

By spending time building out your processes you can:

  • Set clear guidelines for when jobs should be started and when they need to be finished
  • Build in internal deadlines to help create ‘job stages’ and buffers between when you want to get work done, and when it actually needs to be done
  • Have a better grasp of what’s not started, what’s in progress, what’s waiting on the client, and what needs reviewing

2. Consistency of work is declining

When you start out on your own, it’s easy enough to be consistent most of the time.

After all, you know your own standards better than anybody else.

But as your team starts growing and more clients come onboard, consistency will naturally decrease. Even a small team can produce vastly different results for clients, and when the pressure is on these issues are amplified.

The underlying cause of this declining consistency is a lack of systems and processes. 

By spending time building out your processes you can:

  • Document the exact workflows for different services and tasks that you complete
  • Standardize certain processes so that everybody is on the same page
  • More easily fill in training and knowledge gaps in your team members by having everything systemised and documented

3. You struggle to delegate effectively

As you grow, you need to get things off your plate - but finding time to train, and to delegate work isn’t easy. 

There are many factors at play here, but one of the biggest obstacles to effective delegation is a lack of systems and processes. 

By having systems and processes in place, you’re not just delegating a task, you’re delegating a process, and processes are tasks on steroids, complete with checklists, videos and other training materials to help your team get up to speed. 

By spending time building out your processes you can:

  • Give your team members clear guidelines to follow including checklists, and training videos for tasks
  • Once complete, you’ll free up more time for yourself by being able to delegating more work (without the need for time-sapping training again and again)
  • Give your team members more autonomy to complete work without you

Getting started is the hardest step

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I know…

“In the time it takes me to start working on these processes, I could have done a load of client work” 

But the only place this leads you in the long run is busy, out of balance, and possibly even more trapped ‘doing the work’ without any free time at all to focus on systems and processes.

If you’re experiencing any of these 3 warning signs, and you feel like you might capsize, it’s time to rebalance your firm. 

Getting started is absolutely the hardest step, and it’s one of the reasons we launched our workflow template library, to give small firms the head start in creating their processes.

With these workflow templates, we’ve taken the first (and hardest step) for you. 

They’re ready-made processes for different services and tasks that can make deadline management, consistency of work and team delegation much easier.

All you need to do is spend a small amount of time tweaking them to suit your firm, or better yet, use them as they come and make changes later.

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