Any accounting professional will be familiar with write-up clients – small business owners who only ask for basic financial reporting so they can do their taxes. And any accounting professional will be familiar with the frustration that comes from wading through client data that hasn’t been seen or touched by an accountant in months or more.
Trevor Smith, Director of Technology Services for Xero Gold Partners Harshman Phillips and Company was no exception. He found write-ups frustratingly inefficient – until he started using Xero.
From re-keying to matching
Here’s how it used to work: every month clients would email PDFs of their bank statements. He’d print them out, then his staff would enter them into accounting systems for analysis and reporting. It was a time-consuming process, rife with data entry and human error.
Then they started using Xero and the pain of write-ups all but disappeared. Rather than download and re-key a PDF, Xero’s bank feeds connect client ledgers directly to their bank accounts. Bank transactions automatically come through each day, and all staff need to do is code them. According to Trevor, this makes the process “far more effective, far more efficient and far less prone to errors”.
Trevor uses staff capacity as an efficiency metric. Prior to Xero, one of his staff members was spending all of her time on one client. Now, she’s working on 3.5 clients, and Trevor has plans to bump her up to four clients.
Of course, Trevor’s staff member isn’t working four times as hard. She’s working smarter because Xero has eliminated “at least six steps” from the write-up process. What’s more, the output is more reliable. Since the transaction information comes straight from the bank, without any intermediate steps, Trevor can always vouch for its accuracy.
More than more capacity
The direct result of this efficiency is more capacity. Harshman Phillips & Company can take on more write-up clients without increasing the amount of time they spend on those clients.
There’s also an indirect, more interesting result. The Harshman Phillips write-up process gives clients faster access to higher-quality information than they’re used to. “In the past, they’d have to speculate on the health of their business,” says Trevor, “but now, because we can provide accurate, detailed financial positions on an ongoing basis, they can look and see how they’re doing this month, how they did last month, without waiting for a CPA to crunch the numbers.”
Once clients are armed with this information, they start asking questions based on it. Those questions quickly turn into conversations about how Harshman Phillips & Company can help their business perform better. One of his write-up clients, for example, saw that his operational model could be improved. Soon enough, Trevor and his colleagues had consulting work looking at that model, looking at future cashflow and finding the best way to fund his expansion. The client’s business is expanding, and Harshman Phillips is benefiting from the higher-value consulting that comes from it.
Trevor recognizes that the shift to a new kind of relationship can be hard for some of the more traditional accounting professionals to swallow. But it’s not hard for their clients. “For business owners, it’s the same approach as with their employees. They want someone who can get results, get solutions, be proactive and help them grow their business.”
Stepping into that role, according to Trevor, is the best thing about the new write-up process. “We really become a trusted advisor.”
Right now, we’ve got lots of online training on how you can make the write-up process more efficient. Join us to find out more.