As an accountant or a bookkeeper, having the ability to provide advice to your clients in real-time is hugely valuable. Real-time advice will help your clients resolve financial issues before they escalate and empower them to make smarter business decisions.
A firm that has steadily made their way toward real-time financial reporting is Growthwise, a cloud-based accounting and advisory business. Historically, the Growthwise team worked to put together year-end reports (due in June in Australia) by May of the following year. The problem with this was that they were giving clients information that was almost 11 months old. To reduce this timeframe, they set a goal to cut down their reporting time by one month each year.
In order to reach their goal to provide better, faster advice to their clients, Growthwise started to focus on discovering workflow inefficiencies and resolving them with cloud accounting technology.
We’ve outlined four key steps Growthwise took to dramatically reduce their reporting timeframe, allowing them to help their clients make more timely, informed business decisions (and how you can apply them at your firm, too!).
1. Identify workflow inefficiencies
By analyzing the way your firm is currently doing things, you'll be able to identify inefficient processes that can be replaced or optimized by technology.
To identify inefficiencies, document your firm’s current workflow(s) and highlight the processes that cause you, your staff, and your clients the biggest headaches. Start by determining the end goal of your workflow (i.e., what you are working to accomplish), then write down each task that is involved in completing this goal, from start to finish. This will allow you to pinpoint the areas of your workflow where introducing a new app will be the most beneficial.
For Growthwise, the processes that were getting in the way of reducing their reporting timeframe were those that took a lot of time – specifically, collecting client documents, doing manual data entry, managing dispersed documents, and creating financial reports (when data was missing).
Steph Hinds, founder and Head Ninja at Growthwise, recalls the inefficiency of those dark days and how it impacted their productivity: “We were forever chasing – we once had to chase a client for two months just to get a bank statement. On average, it took five to six emails or five to six phone calls just to get missing documents.”
2. Find the right technology solution(s)
By identifying the inefficiencies in their workflow, Growthwise had a much better idea as to how to find an effective technology solution.
Growthwise knew that the apps that would be most helpful for reducing their reporting timeframe were those that would decrease the amount of time it took to collect and process client documents, complete reconciliation, and produce financial reports.
As Steph explains, “We wanted something that was as automated as possible – something that would allow our clients to do fewer steps and allow us to do our job.” With this (and other specific criteria) in mind, their search for an app that could help with automated document collection and data entry led them to Hubdoc.
Regardless of the inefficiencies that you're looking to resolve, it’s important to consider how an app will work for your internal team and your clients. Internally, you want to choose an app that will automate laborious administrative tasks, enabling you to complete them at a faster rate. For your clients, ensure that you are choosing an app that can seamlessly integrate with their day-to-day, making it easier to get you what you need to get the job done.
With so many available app solutions, it can be tough to discover and evaluate the right apps for your firm and your clients. Make sure you do your app due diligence and standardize your app selection process.
3. Gain internal buy-in
Getting your team on board is essential for implementing new routines and technology into your practice.
Communicating the direct benefits that the new system will have on your team is a great way to encourage internal buy-in. When Growthwise decided to implement Hubdoc, Steph said that gaining buy-in was as simple as telling her team, “You don’t have to hound clients for stuff!”
For Growthwise, introducing new apps is always an easy sell, as they have made it part of their culture to embrace automation and technology. However, teams with a lot of experience in more traditional accounting workflows might be hesitant to change. For example, Polay + Clark found that positioning their transition to the cloud as an opportunity for continued education was an effective way to get buy-in from their experienced employees.
4. Get your clients on board
After testing the app internally and getting your team’s stamp of approval, you'll be ready to introduce the app to your clients.
Consider rolling out the implementation in cohorts. Not sure where to start with your existing clients? It might be a good idea to begin with who would benefit from the solution most. If you’re onboarding new clients, introduce the new app as part of your tech stack from day one.
When implementing Hubdoc, Growthwise found that they had the most success starting with their most demanding clients – i.e., those they were constantly chasing and hounding for their overdue financial documents.
Once Growthwise’s initial Hubdoc rollout was complete, they standardized their Hubdoc setup and onboarding process for new clients. This standardized process helps to ensure their clients are enthusiastic about using the tool from the get-go and creates even more efficiency.
It’s a journey
Providing real-time financial advice to your clients won’t happen overnight, nor will it be perfect right away. Set goals and benchmark against your original processes so that you can measure the reduction in your reporting cycle over time.
Growthwise was able to get one step closer to real-time financials by understanding the processes that were preventing their collection of real-time data, finding the technology that could help, getting buy-in on the process change from their staff, and strategically onboarding their clients.
As a result, they almost reached their goal of having their year-end financials completed by November. “We almost made it – we literally almost made that November deadline!” says Steph.
Beyond reducing their reporting timeframe, Steph explains the value of having better, faster financial data: “We have access to that information much quicker. We can sit down with [our clients] and help them to make those decisions, and they get to implement those changes six months before they would have been able to previously.”
For more information on how Growthwise uses Hubdoc to get one step closer to providing real-time financials, read our partner success story: The Growthwise Journey to Real-Time Financials: Automating Document Collection & Data Entry
About the AuthorFollow on Twitter More Content by Paige Sopik