Compliance season is just around the corner, and you may have to ask yourself what new technology you can implement immediately to alleviate some of the frustration of previous seasons. But in my personal experience, demonstrating the latest and greatest technology isn’t how you’re going to make your office more efficient this year.
Instead, I want to encourage you to take the time to describe your processes and find the bottlenecks. Eliminating those sticking points is going to be the key to getting rid of the tax season blues. It will also be how you can build a sustainable and sustainable business with duplicable systems that you can share with your team as the business grows.
Once you’ve completed your in-depth exploration and found out how your processes can be improved, I’m sure data collection is one item that has appeared at the top of the list. Organization, or the lack of it, could play a major role in why your office (virtual or otherwise) doesn’t run like a well-oiled machine. Dealing with this problem head-on will give you the time you need to add value to your customers in new and exciting ways.
Like yourself, have you ever had to search through piles of paper on your desk or on your floor for hours on end for a single piece of paper that you remember seeing in order to complete a task and remove it from your desk? ? It is so frustrating.
Better data collection and storage
Don’t you just feel the freedom to work when your desk is clean? I know I do. These random piles of paper can be eliminated or minimized with secure data collection and storage policies for your business.
I know collecting data from clients can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s sent in multiple ways. You have emails, snails, social media messages, SMS or even carrier pigeon (well not really, but you get what I’m saying here).
Trying to manage all of these data collection points can be overwhelming. Having one or two data collection points will allow you and your team to work faster, maximizing efficiency. So, is it time to decide how you are going to receive the data?
In my office, documents are accepted in two main ways, either by uploading to our secure customer portal or by those we accept during a set meeting time for document scanning for customers who are not as savvy. in technology. These scanning appointments last 20 minutes or less and come with rules and instructions that make the scanning process easier. Rules such as taking all your documents out of the envelopes and making sure there are no staples in sight.
The value of good data collection
How can something as simple as collecting data enable you to deliver so much value to customers? A word here – access. Being able to access data quickly will allow you to process the information immediately and offer changes and insights that could have taken much longer if you had to search for data.
Do you remember having to wait 10-14 days after a month to receive a bank statement in the mail? Now we have online banking and can access bank statements as well as bank balance almost instantly.
Having immediate access like this can help us provide those additional consulting services that offer immense value like cash flow planning. This is what makes it possible to have immediate access to data.
Now that the data collection is well defined, let’s talk about the organization of the information received. We know customers will give us all the mail they get if we let them, so we have to direct them. I love checklists. For each service we provide, there is a checklist of general documents that we need from a client in order to provide the service.
We have turned these checklists into PDF forms which are hosted on our website which we can share securely with clients to explain to them what we need. It also gives them the framework to collect the data before sending it again, streamlining the data collection process; two birds, one stone!
Having this framework also makes the data collection process scalable. Having a baseline that can be standardized in training will be important as your business grows.
Additionally, having a framework to begin with allows you to customize the data collection request for particular circumstances. There is also the freedom in flexibility and speed.
Bring it all home
Now that we’ve established a place to receive the data and the customer sends us the data that we actually need to get the job done, it’s time to make our job and / or that of our staff easier. This is where configuring file naming conventions will help reduce document search time.
Knowing exactly which document you are opening based on name saves you wasting time looking for the things you need. My office has a standardized folder structure for each client that makes it easy to share the right access to information and quickly find the documents we are looking for.
My team knows that it can find a tax client file by searching our directory by “Last name, First name”, then in this file, there is a file for each “20XX” year. Tucked away within these annual files are files for client source documents, working papers, and delivered statements. This streamlined system makes it easy to train staff and quickly find the data you’re looking for.
Being paperless from the start of my business and adopting a policy of data collection and storage eliminated the need for large filing cabinets and facilitated the adoption of the cloud and new technologies. It also gave me the mental space to really advise my clients on issues that matter to them.
Whether it’s helping my accounting clients grow their business with the services of the CFO or helping my tax clients save through tax planning strategies, collecting and storing data is a thing of the past. less I have to think about. According to an article from Roberts Wesleyan College, the average person makes 35,000 choices a day.
So, let’s try to use some of these everyday choices to benefit our customers in a more meaningful way instead of spending time looking for that piece of paper buried somewhere on your desk. One way to become a better advisor is to eliminate mundane tasks that can be automated or streamlined.
In the long run, eliminating these tasks gives you time to learn, discover, and explore more that can ultimately benefit your business and your customers.