10 Questions to Ask During The Offseason

We did it! We survived another busy tax season! now onto the offseason! Things are finally winding down and you have hopefully just returned from a much needed vacation to somewhere gorgeous.

So the all important question is… Now what? What do you do now that the busy season is over to make sure you don’t spend the next 6 months in a fog? Well, there a ton of things you could do, but we’d like to focus this month on one option: Business clean up.

The reality is, during tax season, things are moving so fast that it’s virtually impossible to take a step back and analyze how your business is running. Now that work is slowing down a bit, this is a great opportunity to do just that!

Now, you may decide to hire an independent third party to work with you on this process, or you may decide to take it on yourself. This decision can depend a lot on the culture of your business and how your employees interact with each other.

No matter what you decide, it’s important to have a game plan before you jump in. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered.

Here are 10 questions you can ask to get a good idea of how your business can improve:

 

  1. Is there a way to make our process of collecting client source documents more efficient? Many clients assume they have to deliver their documents in person to the firm which takes time and can delay the entire filing process. In reality, digital delivery is more efficient and often more secure but it requires teaching clients how to use those tools.
  2. How efficient is our process for making changes to client information? Having an incorrect email or mailing address or phone number for a client can cause a huge delay in workflow while you try to get ahold of the client. When a client notifies you of a change in their contact information, what is the process for updating their info? Do you have a company-wide list or does it require changing the info in multiple places? By creating a master client list and giving the responsibility of keeping that information up to date to just one person, you’ll reduce the risk of mistakes being made.
  3. Do we have an efficient way of managing paperwork and workflow? There are many different aspects to tax workflow, including everything from tracking due dates and return status, linking source documents, and delivering them to the client. Many firms have established separate processes for each of these steps because there hasn’t been any way to integrate all of them. As technology advances, there are more and more options available for firms to streamline their processes and make their workflow more efficient.
  4. Are we delivering tax data as effectively as possible? When you consider that most clients want a digital copy of their tax return anyway, it quickly becomes ridiculous to think about the time and cost to print, bind, and mail them a hard copy. It’s important to be proactive in teaching your clients about using secure web-based programs. Do this in the off season so that when work increases again, you’ll have one less thing on your plate.
  5. Where can we look for resources and ideas to streamline our processes? Your staff will probably be able to pinpoint the places that you could improve workflow or make processes more efficient. But very rarely will you have an employee who can point out a problem area and provide a solution. Your company leaders should be networking with peers either within your CPA firm association or at conferences. Stay ahead of new technology that could help you take your business to the next level.
  6. What’s going well? It’s always a good idea to spend some time focusing on what you’re doing really well. This will help build team morale and is a good opportunity to reward top performers in your company.
  7. What can you do to improve the client experience? If you have client’s that you feel comfortable asking this question, it’s always great to get their perspective. Ask them what you can do to make the process easier for them or if there is anything they’d like you to do differently. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything they ask you to, this is just a place to start.
  8. Is our pricing still competitive? Have your competitors changed their pricing recently? It’s always good to take a look at your pricing and make changes as needed.
  9. How can we improve our budgeting process? Are you spending too much on supplies or not enough on employee appreciation? Analyze how your money was spent last year and make decisions about what makes sense for this year.
  10. Do we need to make any changes to our team? Hiring new people can be exciting while letting people go can be really, really difficult. But the reality is that your team has to evolve as your company grows. The off-season is a great time to reflect and determine who the vital members of your team are and who may not be the best fit anymore.

Whether you decide to take on this entire process in house, or hire someone else to help, it’s important to involve your team. Talk to them about what’s working really well and what they feel you could improve on. Remember that happy employees are better employees!

Be sure and check back with us next week when we’ll be sharing some pointers for reviewing and refreshing (if needed) job descriptions.

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