Running a small accounting practice has many advantages. You can be nimble and provide a personalized level of client service that large accounting firms simply can’t match.

Here are five ways to make your accounting firm more efficient, productive and effective:

1. Maximize technology. A huge range of technological solutions are helping accounting practices improve their productivity and time management and, in turn, their efficiency. This includes everything from using free tools like join.me or Google Hangouts and mobile apps to host virtual meetings with clients to paying for customer relationship management and document management software. Thomson Reuters and Intuit both offer full suites of programs specifically designed to help accounting firms manage workflow, back-office functions such as payroll and client interactions.

2. Move to the cloud. Storing data and documents on reputable Internet-based solutions can potentially save your firm large amounts of time—and grief. For example, consider using DropBox to easily upload and share documents with clients rather than relying on email, which can be more time-consuming and harder to organize. Storing files and client on reputable cloud services can also protect you and ensure you have access to documents in case something happens to your firm’s computers or server.

3. Maintain a user-friendly web site. Your accounting firm’s online presence can affect your efficiency. For starters, make sure it’s easy to find your contact information—including phone and email on your web site—so prospective clients can find you. Also include a frequently-asked questions section so clients and prospects aren’t calling with questions that could be easily answered online. Also consider adding an online bill pay feature that accepts credit cards, so you can get paid faster.

4. Streamline—and continuously review—your internal processes. Your client interactions and document management are just a piece of the puzzle. Your internal processes and workflow also greatly impact your efficiency. Improving processes first means understanding how work currently flows through the organization and then evaluating various ways to speed up processes and make them more efficient. “The very act of examining and then standardizing your processes allows you to redefine them and remove inefficiencies,” Brock Philp, CEO of Doc.IT, a company that makes workflow solutions for accounting professionals, told CPA Practice Advisor. “The end-result is standardized workflow processes being written as firm policy.”

5. Make disaster-recovery plans. A nightmare for any accounting firm is an unexpected power outage or data loss during spring busy season. Because such a scenario isn’t so far-fetched, your business needs to be ready. This can include backing up data regularly—perhaps daily during high season—and using cloud-based solutions to store data so that it can be accessed from anywhere in case of an outage in the office.

It’s imperative that you run your firm as efficiently as possible. Your clients expect that, of course. But your firm’s efficiency also directly impacts its bottom line because it affects how much time your accountants spend on various tasks—and time equals money. Moreover, the accounting industry has become super competitive as many people are turning to accounting software and other bookkeeping solutions rather than hiring professionals. You need to stand out from the pack.

The accounting industry is changing rapidly and those firms that get up to speed and focus on efficiency will be the ones that prosper in the coming years. 

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