One of the joys of my job is listening to advisors share their great stories. A couple of months ago, I met with an accountant (let’s call her Susan), who described how she found a way out of a difficult period for her accounting practice by combining good old business savvy with a new way of thinking.
Over the past few years, Susan had built a solid practice. Yet recently she started bumping up against a ceiling. She and her staff were working at maximum capacity - and, since competition in her market kept prices down, margins were tight. So much so that Susan had already trimmed travel, marketing and technology expenses in an effort to boost profits. As a prudent business owner, she was reluctant to spend on more resources until she was sure she could generate enough revenue to pay for them.
To unlock her business logjam, she needed a new idea to jump-start her top-line.
The Aha Moment
The game-changing idea came when one of Susan’s bookkeepers was talking to her about the time wasted collecting documents. She had to sift through emails to find docs. She had to watch for faxes and couriers. She had to ask for documents over and over again. Some clients even insisted on sending over boxes full of paper documents. For most clients, it took her hours every month to sift, sort and process it all.
The problem was by no means a new one. But, like many advisors, Susan considered it just the way things had always been. Until now.
And that led to her game-changing insight. When her bookkeeper said she could be spending her time more profitably, it spurred Susan to take a closer look at the problem. She was surprised to find that everyone on her team each spent several hours per client per month just managing documents.
She’d been aware there were cloud-based accounting apps that automated document management, but had resisted going down that road because she’d been thinking of apps as a cost. Something to be avoided when she was watching her bottom-line carefully.
But now she asked herself which would cost more: continue with the inefficient workflow, or adopt the right technology to make the problem go away? If she could reduce the time-wasting, she and her staff would have more time for revenue building. They’d be freed up to provide more advice. She thought that would bring in more revenue—probably a lot more than they’d spend on the software.
She decided to run a test.
The Right Apps Unlock Revenue Gains
After doing some research, Susan chose to automate her accounts payables by integrating Hubdoc and Bill.com with her accounting software. Hubdoc automatically collected and managed all her clients’ online bills and statements. Bill.com handled approval, payment and syncing with their accounting software.
Once the automated workflow was in place, Susan realized she’d been right. Apps were not just a cost. They turned out to be a significant revenue generator.
The new approach cut the time Susan and her staff spent on document handling by over 30%. No more sifting through emails or faxes looking for docs. No more chasing down documents. Technology took care of the picking and sorting, so they could work to the full level of their capability. Not only did staff morale increase, they also had more time to spend with each client.
They spent more time providing solutions to clients’ most pressing problems. That advice helped their clients’ businesses grow faster, and as a result, Susan’s revenue increased. The firm’s revenue per client grew.
Plus, Susan and her staff still had unused capacity. This allowed Susan to add additional clients without having to add more staff.
Thanks to the new apps, Susan’s revenue curve started to rise again.
The Last Word
I like to share Susan’s story with any advisor who’s facing the challenge of managing expenses while trying to build revenue. Her insight that apps aren’t a cost, but instead help generate revenue, made her practice much more efficient. The extra capacity allowed her to help more clients, and it freed her up to be a better advisor. She showed me how finding a new way of thinking can push your practice to a new level and allow you to scale more profitably.