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In accountancy, as with any business, the skill level of your team is not always reflected in their productivity. You may have the brightest accountants and bookkeepers, but they’ll still be rushing at year end, pulling their hair out with frustration over your clients – why do some of your clients routinely ignore all of your requests for information? Or perhaps they make silly mistakes because of the time pressure which can be costly for your clients and catastrophic for your reputation.

So how can you help this? How can you harness the power of your team and become a well oiled accounting machine?

Does your team know what’s expected of them?

Your people systems and the way you manage your team is just as important as your ability to complete a set of accounts. We’ve worked with excellent accountants, helping them to improve their productivity and systemise their business. The problems are rarely around the skill set of their team, but around the culture of the business, the way the team are managed both by the Business Owner and the Managers within the firm, and the consistency with which they operate.

Do you have targets set within your business and are these enforced? As an example, do you have targets in place for the completion of X amount of tax returns each month, so that December and January aren’t the absolute worst months? How do you measure this?

How motivated are your team? Do you have regular performance reviews with them and listen to their thoughts and ideas for improvement?

Do your clients know what you expect when working with them? (Yes, it is ok to tell them!)

When you take on new clients, and meet with your current clients do you make it crystal clear when you need their information by? Do you explain to them in plain words how important to is and how much more organised and less stressful it will be to operate in advance? Do you have reminder emails, automations to run this?

Perhaps you could build into your teams’ targets – follow up on X amount of clients a week. You can create email templates that are ready to go which serve as reminders, and you can impose rewards for the clients who submit their information to you ahead of the deadline.

Imagine if you received all the information you needed 9, 10, 11 months ahead of the submission date, and that each of your team had a target of X amount of returns each month, with a view to finishing a month, or two months before  the crazy hits?

Do you have plans in place for achieving your deadlines and goals?

Say you wanted to increase your client base by 50% in 5 years. Ask yourself what would need to be in position in three years for this to be on track. Then in 12 months. And finally in 90 days. We call this 3-1-90 planning and it really works to drive and motivate towards achieving your goals.

So let’s get planning, here’s why:

1. Helps you to spot opportunities 
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.

2. Brings individuals and teams together and breaks down silos 
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done. Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.

3. Creates a safe environment for new and creative ideas 
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’ It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames. Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.

4. Gives everyone the chance to contribute 
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution. Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it. How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?

5. Exposes your blind spots 
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots. It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.

6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.

7. Keeps your products & services relevant 
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them – that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.

8. Builds a stronger management team 
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.

9. Determines priorities 
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results. You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.

10. Builds ownership and accountability 
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan. Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.

Take time out to look in in your business and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.

Marianne Page, For more information, please visit https://www.mariannepage.co.uk/


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Finance Derivative is a global financial and business analysis magazine, published by FM.Publishing. It is a yearly print and online magazine providing broad coverage and analysis of the financial industry, international business and the global economy.

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