It’s not surprising that the second month of the year is already on our doorstep. Time flies when you’re having fun they say – and if you’re not careful, we’ll be staring down 2022 wondering where the year has gone. That’s why we’ve pulled together our top 21 for 21 – from tips & tricks to save you time, to books & ideas to challenge your thinking, and tech tools designed to give you back your precious time. Consider and act on even a handful of these and you’ll be well on your way to making 2021 your best year yet!
1. Prioritise client service
Good client service will never go out of fashion, but it’s the well-considered moments of wow that will keep your clients singing your praises. If you haven’t already implemented a client relationship management program, 2021 is the year to do so! Start simple, identify your “A” clients and pencil in reminders for significant milestones, and consider quarterly any wins or updates that might warrant a special mention, token, or meal.
2. Get strategic
Pencilling in your strategic planning sessions for the year? Skip the tried-and-true annual company update for a High Involvement Planning session with your team, which includes getting your teams input on how they think the business is going and where they’d like to take things. A simple framework for this includes simply asking the questions: what are you going to work on? Do differently? Experiment with? What will you stop, start, do more of, and do less of?
3. Implement a marketing plan
While referrals are fabulous for generating new business, you can’t control when they will come through which is why making a broader making strategy and implementation plan is a must this year. Start by listing out your goals, consider the qualities of your ideal client (where you’ll find them and how to engage with them) and then plan & execute key activities to create traction.
4. Take charge of your document management
Did you know that searching for documents costs professional services firms nearly $4,000 in lost productivity per employee each month! If you find yourself fumbling over the search bar – it might be time to revisit your document storage options. There are a host of solutions on the market, but make sure the solution is fast & responsive, intuitive & easy, and integrates with your existing practice management system and other core business solutions (like email). If you’re looking for a modern, intuitive, and secure document management solution, HowNow Document Management ticks all of those boxes and many more.
5. Implement a client portal with an integrated e-signing solution
Have you been sitting on the sideline the past few years waiting to see how others roll out their client portals? A portal is a great val-add when it comes to adding accessibility to your client’s data and allows you to distribute documents securely without creating oversized emails. A comprehensive portal solution (like HowNow Portal) should also provide a fully integrated and compliant e-signing to allow your clients to legally sign off on a whole host of documents, from trust resolutions to ASIC documents and tax returns, without needing to print and scan/copy back to you.
6. Outsource your compliance workpaper management
It’s no easy task staying on top of the raft of compliance requirements and changes year on year. Rather than chew up time in house managing and keeping your workpapers up to date, why not outsource the task to a dedicated team of CAs and CPAs? Smart Workpapers allow you to create your own starter file and choose what’s included in the workbook for each job. Create any combination of your firm’s templates and ours, with multiple sheets and sign-off for individual items.
7. Automate information flows
With the myriad of processes our firms are running, and the wealth of data we’re all working with these days, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by information. Rather than get bogged down in programs, cross-checking information, or copying data from one place to another, then it might be time to utilize a handy integration tool. Microsoft Flow is a great option if you’re already using Office365 or other Microsoft tools, and Zapier or Integromat are both free online tools that allow you to integrate a whole host of online systems to automate manual tasks.
8. Automate your annual collations
Speaking of automation, if you’re still manually preparing your annual client report collations – stop. FuseDocs is a smart automation platform that, when integrated with your practice management and document management platforms, allows you to prepare an entire annual report package collation in a matter of seconds. Standardise your processes across teams or locations and prepare professional report packs that are easy for your clients to read and navigate.
9.Get creative with Canva
If you’re thinking about ramping up your marketing efforts in 2021, then look no further than Canva. The free online platform makes designing everything from flyers to blog post headings and email newsletter banners a breeze. It’s easy to use and has a host of free templates ready to go too, so you can get your story out there sooner.
10. Start listening
Podcasts are fantastic ways to digest information on your morning commute, daily run, or while whipping up dinner. While there are so many great podcasts out there for everything from comedic relief, to self-care and business development, we’re big fans of In the Slipstream for industry-specific insights, HBR Ideacast for broadening our minds, and Philosophy Bites for challenging our world views.
11. Turn these pages
Podcasts are great, but sometimes nothing beats a good old fashioned page-turner. This year, we’re all about revisiting old favourites to learn something new. We love Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human and Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, both of which challenge your thinking and could no doubt spark your next innovation.
12. Make meetings with clients easier than ever
We’re all now well and truly used to meeting our clients online but organizing those Zooms can take a bit of back and forth. Utilising an integrated calendar plugin is a fantastic way to automate your scheduling efforts and gives clients a self-service way to connect with you for their next meeting. Try Microsoft Bookings, Calendly, or Acuity, all of which can integrate with various screen sharing platforms and have team scheduling functionality too.
13. Review your key business processes
While what you’ve always done has no doubt been serving you well, it’s good to revisit those tried-and-true key business processes every few years or so to step back, reflect, and assess whether they’re still relevant or how they could be improved with new tech or capabilities. Use Microsoft Visio to map out your key business processes/tasks, and then question why you’re doing it, how you’re doing it, and could it be done another (better) way?
14. Make note-taking a breeze
Tired of scrambling for a piece of paper or opening blank emails and word documents to jot down notes to yourself? Add the Papier extension to your Chrome browser and when you open a fresh tab in the browser, Papier turns it into a blank sheet for taking notes. Complete with character and word count and automatic syncing with Chrome, you’ll be able to easily keep on top of all of your wild ideas.
15. Learn something new
Chartered Accountants, ANZ members can access complimentary access to LinkedIn Learning, giving you access to more than 16,000 on-demand high-quality courses from LinkedIn Learning – anytime, anywhere.
16. Simplify your reporting
Still, using your desktop ledger? 2021 should be the year you make the shift to the cloud and say goodbye to clunky data and double handling, and hello to your customised, flexible, & secure ledger solution. Reportance Cirrus is a flexible, cloud-based practice ledger designed to help you work how you want to work. Packed with future-fit features like dedicated, private storage for your practice, and the flexibility to customize the look and feel of your report pack, Reportance Cirrus is the go-to ledger choice for the modern accounting practice.
17. Be brave and bold on a new platform
Your standard weekly LinkedIn posts not landing how they used to? Why not try your hand at a new platform and format for sharing thoughts, ideas, and information with your clients. Create monthly or quarterly video updates for clients to include in your email newsletters, or have a go at a Facebook or LinkedIn live stream with a colleague to cover off on FAQ about business and tax topics. Don’t worry if it isn’t polished or scripted – your clients will appreciate you keeping things natural and in turn, you’ll likely achieve higher engagement.
18. Stay up to date with industry insights
You’d like to think you know what’s happening in the accounting industry, but it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’re busy in the day-to-day. Subscribing to regular industry reports and digests is a great way to quickly stay on top of what’s happening out there. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Ibis World publish regular reports including benchmarking KPIs, industry hot topics, and data analysis.
19. Review your technology needs
Just like with your Key Business Processes, the technology you’re using should be regularly reviewed and assessed for suitability. Next time your software package is up for renewal, be sure to reflect on how you’re using the platform, and pencil in a time to speak with your account manager and ask them the hard questions to ensure you’re making the most of it.
20. Implement simple email hacks to save you hours
Tired of trying to reach inbox 0 and never quite getting there? Make 2021 the year you get smarter with your email use. Set up simple rules like syphoning off emails you’re CC’d into or that are sent from marketing lists, into a separate folder, and set aside a little time every couple of days to quickly review and action the contents.
21. Take time to step back and refocus
Of course, you might be reading this list wondering how you could possibly make time to implement any of these thoughts and ideas, which is why our most important tip for 2021 is to step back and refocus. Set aside time to reflect on your goals – personally and professionally and revisit your progress regularly. If there are items on this list you’re keen to consider, start with low hanging fruit – something low in effort but big on value. And if you want to kick around how you could be better at making use of your time over the coming year, we’re always keen to kick around what we’re seeing that works well for our clients and that could help you too.
Business Fitness has been helping firms rise to the top of their game since 2001 by providing end-to-end software solutions designed to help you and your team work smarter, not harder so you can focus your time and energy on what’s most important – growing your practice, developing your team, and supporting your clients.