In public accounting, as in many professions, the hours can be long – this is especially true for partners. Meeting with clients, reviewing tax returns, answering emails, and attending networking events, makes it almost impossible to fit in a 40 hour work week. But what if you were forced to work 40 hours a week and not a single hour more? Would your business seriously suffer? Would you lose clients? Would the quality of your work decrease? If you answered yes to any of these questions then chances are your practice is at serious risk. Developing a model where your firm is successful whether or not you work 60 hours a week or 40 hours a week is vital for any public accounting firm.
Try this exercise – grab your calendar and calculate how many hours you expect to work this week. If you find yourself needing more than 40 hours then start crossing off the items that are above your pay grade. Maybe you don’t need to prep that return or maybe your manager can run a meeting with your client. Really force yourself to get at or below 40 hours for the week. Think of all the different tasks or projects that can be pushed down the line in order to free up your time for more high value projects.
Hire Your Replacement
Now that you made a list of items that need to be pushed off your schedule you can find your replacement. Utilize the people around you to free up your schedule even if it means giving one hour of work to five different staff members. Communication is key, make sure work is spread evenly so that you’re not just pushing off your schedule onto someone else.
Leverage Your Staff
Profitable accounting firms utilize their staff by leveraging their individual staff members’ competencies. Chances are you have experts at different levels with varying expertise. If a staff member specializes in the preparation of S-Corp returns, but struggles with C-corp returns than it is a good idea to give them more S-Corp returns. By using this technique you can increase the efficiencies of projects while increasing the competencies of your firm.
Push Down Work At All Levels
If you find your managers are just as busy as you are and can’t take on the responsibility of more work then it’s time to push work down. Find the task your managers are performing that can be done by supervisors or senior level staff members. This frees up managers for higher level work while developing other staff members in the process.
The best way to free up more time for you and your staff members is by leveraging efficiencies. Develop best practices when using technology to significantly reduce the time it takes to complete projects. Instead of manually entering transactions try to create ways to automate this process. Create incentives for the creation of efficiencies by compensating staff members for finding ways to drastically reduce the time on a project. If a staff member leverages technology to cut the time of a project in half then there should be some type of reward.
Hire More Staff
If you have fully implemented all of these tactics but everyone in your firm is still working in excess of 40 hours a week then it might be time to hire new staff members. Instead of expecting everyone to work more hours try adding more staff members instead. You can’t expect your firm to grow if everyone is at capacity.
Even if you chose to work more than 40 hours a week these techniques will ensure that more hours will be spent growing your firm. You don’t see the CEO of Apple fixing your iPhone or the CEO of Amazon delivering your package. However, partners are often on the front lines of their business – reviewing returns, meeting with clients, networking, and managing staff members. By pushing down work you have more time to be proactive to client’s needs and significantly improve the quality of work and growth of your practice.