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How Small Accounting Firms can Increase Productivity by Leveraging Technology (w/ Joshua Lance, Ignition)

How Small Accounting Firms Can Increase Productivity By Leveraging Technology

As a CPA and Head of Accounting at Ignition, I understand the challenges that small to medium-sized accounting firms face in today’s competitive market. In order to stay ahead of the competition it is essential to find ways to increase productivity and efficiency without sacrificing quality. One way to do this is by leveraging technology. 

Whether you’re a small or mid-sized accounting firm, your competition is determined by how efficient you are, how well you differentiate your firm from your competitors and how effectively you recruit and retain talent. Leverage today is no longer dependent on staffing. With today’s technology, small to midsize firms can increase productivity without losing money or increasing headcount.

Cloud computing and cloud-based software solutions

Cloud computing has truly leveled the playing field for small and medium-sized accounting firms, allowing them to compete on equal footing. Historically, larger firms had an advantage in terms of labor force, allowing them to handle complex and time-consuming tasks, such as preparing long and complicated tax returns. However, today’s technology allows small firms to compete without needing a large workforce.

 

Cloud-based software and tools enable small firms to be more efficient in their tax preparation, compliance, and workflow processes. This allows them to meet the increasingly high expectations of clients, many of whom are intolerant and only willing to pay what they initially perceive as value. This puts a lot of pressure on firms to be as efficient as possible. Digital-first clients expect firms to be highly responsive and take advantage of the best technology. By leveraging technology, small firms can be more responsive to and offer the same level of service as larger firms.

Utilizing digital workflows to increase efficiency and stay competitive

Modern accounting firms are utilizing digital workflows and cloud technologies to streamline their processes and improve efficiency. By using cloud-based tools, data entry and information are aggregated in one place, allowing for easy access and collaboration between clients and accountants. 

The use of cloud technologies in accounting firms allows for a ‘one stop shop’ approach to tax preparation. From the engagement letter to the finished 1040, all the steps in the engagement and billing process can be conveniently handled through a single cloud solution. This accessibility and efficiency helps to build trust with clients and adds value to the services provided by the firm.

There are several ways firms can benefit from utilizing digital workflows and leveraging cloud-based technology and software: 

  • Digital workflows and cloud-based technology allow for remote and flexible work arrangements, which can help firms attract and retain top talent. This is especially important in a competitive job market where skilled accountants have many options. By offering the ability to work remotely and on flexible schedules firms can create a more attractive and supportive work environment. 
  • Cloud-based technology and software can help firms increase efficiency by automating routine tasks and reducing errors. This frees up accountants to focus on higher-value work, such as tax planning and advisory services. Automation tools can also improve accuracy and save time and money in the long run. 
  • Technology can help firms differentiate themselves from their competitors. By offering services such as online billing and payments, mobile apps for clients, and real-time financial reporting, firms can provide a level of convenience and accessibility that larger firms may not be able to match.

Making the move to the cloud

When moving to cloud technology, it’s important for accounting firms to develop a clear strategy and plan. This should involve stakeholders and set reasonable expectations for the transition. A successful plan should include the following considerations: 

  1. An assessment of the firm’s current technology. Can our current software integrate seamlessly with any new software and can you expect support to implement this new technology to avoid outages or downtime?
  2. A re-examination of current workflows to determine how they will need to be adjusted to support the new technology. 
  3. An implementation team spearheaded by a leader to test the technology. Create an implementation plan or team, led by a designated ‘change champion’ to test the technology and identify any issues or challenges. This team should be flexible and adaptable to ensure a smooth transition. Find the answers to questions such as, what is working for us right now, what isn’t, and where do we need to go next to improve current processes and workflows. The key is to remain flexible while implementing the plan.

Differentiating your firm through technology

To differentiate your firm through technology, it’s important to have a strong presence on social media and online. Larger firms historically have always had an advertising budget and longstanding reputations to bring in clients and produce ‘brand loyalty’. While larger firms may have an advantage in terms of advertising budgets, small firms can compete by providing targeted and relevant online content for their niche. This can help to clearly distinguish your firm from its competitors and attract and retain clients. 

A content strategy plan for a small accounting firm might include the following:

  • Providing targeted relevant website content updated on a regular basis to clearly distinguish a small firm from its competitors.
  • Actively using social media to attract and retain clients.
  • Actively using social media to attract staff.

All types of firms can definitely use social media more effectively by posting more frequently but the key lies in building an authentic relationship with the prospect by providing them with valuable and relevant content.

Using social media to build your ‘know, like, trust’ factor

While cloud technologies help with building efficiency, allocating and collaborating on various social media tasks, can increase that ‘know, like, trust’ factor which in turn can lead to increased profits. Case in point: When a firm or company starts leveraging social media to build trust, a prospect may feel more connected, secure and comfortable reaching out to a small firm. Nurturing this trust also becomes much more integral to your branding and client experience.

When there is no social media presence, a client might feel compelled to research a firm multiple times before making a single inquiry, if at all. On the other hand, when a small firm has a strong online presence, that same prospect may have already gotten the impression from their social media posts and electronic word-of-mouth that the firm has their best interests at heart. They may research the firm a bit online and begin making initial inquiries right away.

How do clients perceive your firm?

Client expectations are at an all-time high. Do your clients perceive your firm as modern and up-to-date? Are you leveraging technology such as Ignition to use time – your most valued resource – more effectively? By differentiating yourself among the competition using tax-based cloud software, efficient digital workflows, social media, and online content, you’ll have a better chance to increase productivity, efficiency and profits, and stand on a more equal footing in the playing field along with other larger-sized firms.

Ignition is a client engagement and commerce platform that helps you manage the important aspects of your client engagement process, including proposals, contracts, billing, and payments. Find out why thousands of accountants use Ignition.

 

Joshua Lance is Head of Accounting at Ignition and Founder and Managing Director of Lance CPA Group. Josh has been working in the accounting and education space for over 15 years.

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