How to improve efficiency and run your business on autopilot

Top tips to drive business efficiency in challenging times

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The following article was reposted from Ignition's blog.

With the self-assessment season under way and an uncertain economic climate afoot, how do you ensure you are driving business efficiency, while protecting your practice against rising costs?

That's a lot to consider during the busiest time for accounting professionals, but now really is the time to shore up your practice as British business owners look to their accountant to help them through these challenging times. 

One of the most effective ways to reduce business costs is by boosting efficiency. Understanding your options and having the right support when switching to a new process can make all the difference.

You’ve heard it time and time again: automate your tasks to unlock valuable time. This has become a mantra for accounting tech providers for good reason – you may be spending multiple hours each week on tasks that tech can do for you.

One obvious issue for busy accounting professionals is finding the time to integrate new processes. A less obvious challenge is how to introduce your clients to a new process.

Ignition is a technology platform that does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, making it simple to engage clients, get paid and run your business. Ignition’s 2022 State of client engagement report shows that by avoiding or delaying awkward conversations with clients, accountants and bookkeepers are trading short-term comfort for the long-term health of their teams and firms.

Rebecca Mihalic, Ignition’s regional head of accounting, says timing is crucial when it comes to implementing a new piece of technology.

‘As accountants, we’re generally not trained in having difficult conversations with clients. Soft skills aren’t always our strong point but building customer relationships is important. Instead, we’re taught to be technicians and do the numbers, so changing a process can be tricky,’ Rebecca says.

Having the conversation

Introducing a new system or process to clients is all about tact. As an accountant who has tried many different platforms, Rebecca has found that introducing a new process or technology system during a project works well. For example, tying it in with tax returns.

‘That way it doesn’t become an uncomfortable conversation with your clients, but part of your new engagement process with them,’ she says.

It’s crucial to be on the same page as clients right from the start, to minimise surprises and set the client and firm up for success. Think about how you can use industry vetted proposal templates and engagement letters, such as those provided by Ignition, to stay compliant and ensure the client experience is streamlined and professional. This will help present your new process or pricing changes to clients efficiently and effectively.

Lean on your support network

Rebecca has relied on the Ignition implementation team since she first started using the platform many years ago.

‘I can’t stress how helpful this has been,’ she says. ‘You can give the implementation team a bulk of data and they will draft up templates for you. They also have a design team to create brochures and videos you can attach to your engagement letters. That support network has been pivotal,’ she says.

With business costs on the rise and firms facing staff shortages, having this extra support means accountants and bookkeepers can spend more time working on value-add services.

Four immediate time-savers

There are many proven ways to reduce costs and overheads, but few are as effective as the clever utilisation of technology. The adoption of technology can pay significant dividends over time and allows you to streamline manual business processes, reducing employee hours and producing cost savings. Technology has many additional advantages, from improving business flexibility to increasing productivity.

Here are four ways technology can empower your accounting firm to save time:

1 Go paperless with digital engagement letters
Moving away from manual processes such as using Word documents and PDFs to create engagement letters can reduce mistakes caused by human error. It can also shave hours off the time required to generate these documents. Taking advantage of software also makes it quicker and easier to locate electronic records and remain compliant with a seamless digital audit trail.

You can ensure your client experience is engaging, and professional right from the start by using industry-vetted proposal and engagement letter templates. These make it easy for clients to sign your proposal online.

2 Automating billing and payment processes to tackle late payments

Late payments are a major challenge for accounting professionals. Ignition’s 2022 State of client engagement research shows that in the US, 94% of accountants and bookkeepers (95% in Australia and 90% in the UK) say they experience awkward situations of chasing clients' late payments. Automating this process saves valuable time that can be redirected to your clients and revenue generating work.

Tim Garth, director of CATS Accountants, says since using Ignition to engage clients and automate billing and payments it’s easier to have conversations with clients early on about their services and value. Having a clear proposal and automated payments and billing process has also helped to free up time and revolutionised cashflow for the business.

3 Run your firm on autopilot with business-critical integrations

Connect your management software, accounting ledger, payroll, and other business-critical solutions so your processes can run on autopilot. Setting up your integrations and replacing manual processes with automation could save your firm hours every week – time that’s better spent building strong and lasting client relationships. For example, over half (59%) of Ignition customers say they’ve saved time and improved efficiency since implementing Ignition.

4 Obtain valuable business insights to close more deals

business intelligence dashboard can provide valuable insights into your business cashflow, allowing you to forecast revenue and make decisions with confidence. With more control of your sales pipeline, you should be able to refine and prioritise the information that’s most important to you, to ensure you never miss a deal. Business dashboards also help you focus your business effort on the services that bring the greatest returns and provide insights into the returns that your pricing models generate.

Over to you

Learn more about how to run your business on autopilot in Ignition’s step-by-step e-book, Future-proof your practice during economic uncertainty. It focuses on four key areas: scalability, pricing, efficiency and client retention, and provides simple, practical ways to shore up your firm for the future.