How to Win More Time by Building Internal Processes

March 15, 2019 Cristina Garza

Cristina Garza

Sitting on a ski lift on a bluebird day is one of the best feelings in the world. I turn my phone to airplane mode, snuggle up next to my ski partner, and get ready to fly down the mountain. Granted, flying to me looks like flailing to everyone else, but I love it nonetheless.

Just a few years ago, driving to the mountains and turning off the world felt totally impossible, even for a quick mini-vacation. I would constantly check my phone to see how things were going at the office, and I felt a little jolt of panic every time my phone buzzed. There is only so much cortisol that can flood your system before you admit that things need to change. I really only had two choices:

  1. Shut down the business and find a nine-to-five job that would give me the decompression time I sorely needed; or
  2. Work with my team to develop systems and processes that would reduce everyone’s stress.

Thankfully, my team at Accountingprose was on board with the latter, and we’ve reaped incredible benefits – some of which were totally unexpected. Read on to learn more about some of the steps we took to develop our internal processes.

The work before the work

Before we could really make an impact on the business, we had to take inventory of our current processes and figure out what was working and what wasn’t. In this honest self-reflection, we noticed that we were serving our clients in many different ways, using lots of different software, communicating inconsistently, and that our team wasn’t really unified. We were even doing some of the work manually, which tends to be prone to error and wastes a ton of time. The worst part was, no one felt like they were empowered to do their best work as there was no real way to gauge what great work looked like.

Once we got our arms around what wasn’t working, it was time to make some serious changes. We had historically been serving clients on many different accounting software packages including Xero, Quickbooks Desktop, Quickbooks Online, and even spreadsheets. We found that in an effort to earn new business, we were adding layers of complication and stress to our workday.

We also noticed that our workflow was pretty confusing to our clients and our team. For example, some clients uploaded documents and receipts for us, while some mailed them in or even had us drop in to pick up the documents. We had different expectations with each client, and those varying expectations weren’t effectively communicated internally, which meant that our attrition rate was high and both customer and job satisfaction were low.

We could have let these problems get the best of us, accepting that this is normal for an accounting services company. After all, this was a common experience for a lot of people in our industry – you work the way the clients want to work or they will find someone else to do the job.

We decided to flip the script and actively sought out partnerships with software companies that would help us achieve our overall vision of creating an effective workflow that would benefit everyone.

Build partnerships with problem solvers

We built v2 of Accountingprose with our Software Holy Trinity – Xero, Hubdoc, and We knew that the high cost of our old technology stack, driving to grab documents from our clients, and keeping check stock on hand would never be scalable. We could never relax on a beach, on a ski lift, or visit family in another state (or country!) if we kept with the status quo; thus, we were reborn.

In building these partnerships, we have found that not only do we get access to the best software on the planet, but we have also become deeply embedded in a thriving cloud accounting community, have developed a voice that resonates with prospective clients, and are able to shape the future of our industry – completely unexpected, but all awesome benefits.

Get it in writing

We also made a special effort to document our processes, so that any new employee or client to join the fold would be able to quickly get up to speed. Our documentation software stack has evolved over the years, but we have landed on a few key tools to make our work lives easy:

  • Lucidchart – We use this tool to document our processes at a very high level. This allows us to move through each step in the process, uncover any holes, and give us a chance to ask, “What if?”. Our workflow is not always linear and Lucidchart allows us to think through the different paths that may be available – almost like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ for accounting.
  • Loom – We use Loom to record quick videos to add to our content library or to quickly share with our clients. This is an excellent solution when you want to share your screen, describe a problem and solution, and not type a thousand-word essay that no one will read.
  • Camtasia This tool is amazing for longer videos that require more detail or depth. We can edit the video to zoom in or highlight different parts of the screen, annotate the recording, and edit out the fluff.
  • Teamwork Desk –  After the flowcharts are complete and our videos are created, we use Teamwork Desk to bring it all together. We create internal and external help desk articles and can insert videos, gifs, photos, and text which is perfect for us. We make sure that the articles are detailed enough to answer the question, but short enough to not put anyone to sleep.

Rinse and repeat

Recognizing that change is inevitable is the first step in the road to burnout recovery. It’s easy to be complacent and rely on what has served you well in the past. However, a game changer for us has been to constantly revisit and assess our technology stack and processes. This can be done in a formal setting, such as a company retreat, but those tend to happen infrequently. Rather, we use our Friday meetings to chat about our processes and look for ways that we can improve rather than waiting to get served with a big heaping dose of cortisol. Building a culture that thrives on improvement and allows everyone to have a voice is a surefire way to quickly evolve with everyone on board.

The next time you are putting in extra hours on a Saturday, longingly reading snow reports, or dreaming of sipping Mai Tais on the beach, decide that it is time to make a change. I’m sure you didn’t become a business owner because you wanted to work longer hours and do more work. Take a step back and make the decision that it’s time to put some systems and processes in place that will give you the freedom to do all of the things you love and none of the things you don’t.

Increase efficiency in your bookkeeping workflow – document your bookkeeping process with our free template!

About the Author

Cristina Garza

Cristina Garza is the Founder and Chief Number Cruncher at Accountingprose, a full-service advisory firm based out of Denver, CO. She is a Xero Ambassador and a five-time member of Hubdoc’s annual list of the Top 50 Cloud Accountants of North America. When not leading a team of small business superheroes, she can be found backpacking in the mountains or lifting all of the weights.

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