New Year’s Resolution: A better, more efficient (and higher profit) practice

Start the new year in the best way with our selection of tips and tricks that could cause earthquake changes in your practice.

Keir Thomas-Bryant
Keir Thomas-Bryant

As 2022 gets underway, many of us are beginning new year’s resolutions—either giving something up, or starting something new.

Losing weight, getting fitter, or abandoning a particular vice are high on the list.

Why not apply the same logic to your work life?

Why not give up inefficient and time-consuming processes, by taking advantage of new ways of working? This way you can revolutionise not just your working life but also your profit margin and fees model.

You can make 2022 the year you do more, for less financial and time outlay. You can spend more time on what’s important to you, rather than the drudge work.  

What you need is already there: Technology. Making better use of software and apps is an easy win.  

So, as 2022 begins, and once the crush of Self Assessment is out of the way, why not set aside a little time to at least investigate the options?  

Here’s some tips for starting.

Moving to technology-first

Recent research revealed that two in five accountants (42%) still store some records in filing cabinets.

Aside from creating a potentially disastrous outcome with the accelerating shift to Making Tax Digital, this shows how some members of the profession continue to be digital laggards.  

This would almost be acceptable were it not for the fact that clients are increasingly digital-first. And accountants must match this approach and attitude, or they risk being passed over in the selection process.  

Upon establishing a business, people seek-out apps that can help as a first step. This is especially true amongst the digital-native younger generation to whom mobile technology and the internet have seemingly always existed.

While some accountants might blanch at the thought of moving to a technology-first focus, the reality is that you have to go back very far to see an industry that wasn’t empowered by technology.  

The rise of the desktop computer brought spreadsheets, for example, while the digital calculator prior to that was also revolutionary. That takes us back to the 1960s—and there are few accountants practicing today that can claim to have started their career earlier than this!

In short, accountants have walked hand-in-hand with technology for decades.  

And the requirement to put technology first is once again at the heart of any considerations around growth, increasing profits or creating better working processes.  

Real-time relationships

The aforementioned research also showed that slightly over half of small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have become more reliant on their accountant because of the pandemic.  

Accountants have to be able to build on this to thrive in the post-pandemic world. It’s almost as if the pandemic has jolted both businesses and accountants out of the mentality that accountants are only useful at tax time.  

Increasingly, the relationship between an accountant and clients must be near-instant. Gone are the days when accountants get to see client finances just once a year, or perhaps quarterly in the case of VAT.

The research goes on to say that, when considering how best to grow, 44% of small businesses said they would consult an accountant.

The days when accountants might have to ask clients to output reports in to facilitate guidance for this kind of thing need to come to an end.  

Practices need to adopt a new mindset. Technology empowers this. They must link their client’s software to their own so that they have a real-time view of client finances. This means there’s no need to request data. It’s just there, and a few clicks away.  

This is already a key fundamental feature offered by progressive practices, who have altered their service offerings (e.g. compliance, yearly/quarterly accounts and regular financial reviews) to respond to this kind of freedom. They can regularly check-in to the financial situation without the client needing to be aware, and advise as required.  

This leads to an increase in fees. Clients consider this reasonable considering what they perceive to be a better-value service. Yet for the accountant, the additional work is minimal and in the bullseye of their experience range.

Get rid of the boring tasks

Adopting digital-first is made easier if you realise it’s the flipside of a paperless approach.  

No, we’re not suggesting you get rid of all paperwork. This is impossible. But if you look at where paper tends to be generated and also processed, then the path to going digital-first—and reaping the benefits in saved time and costs—is made much easier.  

Let’s take paper receipts as an example, These are one of the last bastions of paper-based business that we have. While bank statements, invoices and even contracts can be electronic, paper receipts are still stubbornly ubiquitous.

Data automation tools like AutoEntry are the way forward. As one of our customers has said, if you can take and send a selfie, you can use AutoEntry.

Just open the app on your mobile and snap the receipt, just like taking a photo. AutoEntry extracts and verifies the data from the document.  

Or you can scan in receipts or other documents on your laptop or desktop computer. Most printers nowadays include a flat-bed scanner.  

All you need do then is categorise the data, then send it to your accounting software. No more manual keying. The reduction in labour is astonishing.  

Depending on how many receipts you or your clients deal with, this could save hours per week of data entry, plus the time saved of organising, finding and storing these paper receipts.

A beautiful thing about data automation is that it helps you or your clients do jobs incrementally: so, for example, instead of collating everything at the last minute, you’re filing every receipt as soon as you get it. By the time tax season rolls around, you’ve already done much (possibly all) of your data entry and filing.

Automated data entry is also typically more accurate than when a human does it. This is especially the case with strong AI that can learn patterns (like document formats and fonts) and become more efficient the more you use it.

Conclusion: Here’s to a more productive and fulfilling 2022!

There’s no need to merely wish for a better 2022, or to treat better working practices as a pipedream.  

It’s simply about making better and fuller use of technology right now. This can be as simple as using the technology we already have in our pockets, or the laptops we carry around with us. There’s no need to reach for exotic technology, or to be a cutting-edge adopter. We just need to make smarter use of the same tech used by hundreds of millions every day.

So, why not sit down now and make plans for how you’re going to have a better 2022—and the subsequent decade after today?

Sign up to AutoEntry today and start a more productive year!

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