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How to Fortify Your Accounting Firm During a Dry Spell

December 12th, 2018

accounting, accountants, efficiency, technology, clients, workforce

For most accountants, December goes by in a whirl. In the buildup to the holiday season and the end of the year, accounting firms are typically inundated with a high volume of priority work that needs to be closed before the year ends. After December, however, firms go through an off-season during the months of January and February. But even this slow period can be a huge opportunity in disguise for accountants to grow their business and gear up for the year ahead. This, of course, can happen only if you have a strong strategy in place to utilise this time effectively.

Here are the most efficient ways for accounting firms to use their off-season to its full potential.

Streamline your current internal processes

The busy season doesn’t really give your firm a lot of time for introspection. During slower months, however, you can analyse your organisation’s performance and identify areas for improvement. You might, for example, feel the need to update your existing CRM as the current one wasn’t able to meet your firm’s demands. This can be an excellent time to try out different options, train your staff to use it and evaluate its effectiveness. This also applies if your firm has still not made the shift to the cloud. Adopting new technologies like this might not be the best idea during rush periods as your employees will not have time to adapt to it. Doing this can, in fact, hamper productivity rather than improve it. The off-season, on the other hand, is the perfect opportunity for this.

Evaluate your workforce

Nothing can bring your firm’s shortcomings to the fore like a chaotic tax season. It is during this time that you might come to the realisation that your firm is understaffed or uncover requirements for new skills. During the off-season, you can take several measures to ensure your firm is properly staffed for the next busy period. This can involve hiring new people for existing roles or creating new roles completely. For example, just a few years ago, most accounting firms lacked a dedicated technology department. Now, with the advent of technology-backed accounting solutions, a skilled tech department is essential (the size of which will depend on your firm’s requirements). This has become even more important with the enforcement of GDPR guidelines as any technological lapses can result in heavy fines for your firm.

If you don’t want to expand your full-time workforce due to other considerations such as high overhead costs, you can consider outsourcing routine tasks. This can help free up time for your existing staff to focus on higher-value activities. You can also make use of the gig economy to hire freelancers or a remote workforce to help your firm withstand busy periods.

Nurture relationships with clients and prospects

During the off-season, you might not have as much contact with your clients since the work they require is significantly lower. But neglecting your relationship with them during this time might spell bad news for your business. Strong relationships form the basis of any accounting firm’s partnership with clients. Keeping in close contact with clients even during slow periods can help develop a more personal connection with them. By doing this, clients will be more likely to stay loyal to your firm during busier periods.

Off-season months are also the perfect time to grow your client base. Nurturing prospects during busier periods is very difficult as the workload is already so high. However, during the months of January and February, you will have a lot more time to devote to lead nurturing. You can also use this time to kickstart your content marketing strategy for a more cost-effective and time-efficient way to nurture leads. In this way, you can use the slow season to ensure busier months are more profitable.

Analyse a cash-flow forecast

Going into the new year, a strong future-oriented business strategy is crucial for your firm to scale up. An essential component of a growth strategy is the cash flow forecast. A cash flow forecast will give you a clear idea of how much revenue you receive each month, how much of it you spend (in the form of monthly overheads, salaries, marketing, etc.) and how much you are left with at the end of each month. Getting these figures is very important to understand how effectively your firm is managing its revenue. By analysing these figures, look for a recurring trend. Is your firm coming dangerously close to running into a deficit each month? In this case, you might need to revisit your budget, look for ways to cut costs or ways to generate higher revenue to ensure your firm doesn’t have to repeat the same pattern in the next few months.

Update your digital presence

Since most client acquisition for accounting firms happens offline, many tend to neglect their online presence. Continuing to do this in the long run, however, can do more harm than is immediately obvious. Most clients today prefer to research accounting firms online before they make the final decision on whom to partner with. If your firm isn’t discoverable on the internet or has a poor website with a lack of information on it, you can lose out on valuable clients. The off-season is an excellent time to pay serious attention to your firm’s digital image. You can start revamping your website to keep in line with the values your firm stands for and update the content on it to provide users with all the information they require to make a decision. In conjunction with this, you should also start SEO-optimising your website and content to make it easier for clients to find through search engines like Google. These steps are also important ways to grow your client base before the busy months begin.

The slow months of January and February are no excuse for accounting firms to lose out on valuable business development opportunities. Through these techniques, you can ensure that your firm utilises every day of the off-season to its maximum potential.

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