Written for Gusto by Daniel Moshe founder and CEO of Tech Guru
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Busy season is over. The time has come to build your virtual CPA firm. A virtual CPA firm means that you and your team get to work in the most optimal place without any hassles. It means less commuting, and has the potential for a tremendous productivity boost.
What stands in the way between you and an online accounting practice is only your imagination. Automation, collaboration, and hardware to support your connectivity are with an arm’s reach. With new apps and processes in place, you’ll be able to serve your clients in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago.
Let’s make it happen. Here’s how.
Lead by example—automate your back office
If your back office is clunky, you’re not alone. Billing can be a beast if you haven’t changed the way you do things in the last few years. Fortunately, invoicing will become instantly easier once you make the leap to a digital back office.
There are a few components to consider:
• First, automate work that is currently performed manually by finding the right applications for your firm. Expensify, Xero, Bill.com, and of course, Gusto, are some apps I recommend for making your team a lot more efficient.
• Next, integrate the apps by connecting them to each other, or to other apps you already use, by leveraging existing integrations.
• Once integrated, take some time to streamline how these systems work for your team. You can do this by figuring out, and then writing down, your firm’s preferred way to use these applications.
• Training everyone so they use the applications consistently can also be part of the plan. You might need to make some adjustments in default settings to get everything to work just the way you want it to, every single time.
• Now comes the fun part: relax while automation happens without any help from you!
How to get it going
Talk to your team to find out which apps they love and which ones slow them down. Take stock of your current software spend and compare it with cloud options. Not only will making the switch help your firm grow, but you might also be pleasantly surprised by the pricing.
Collaborate in real time
Seamless collaboration has never been simpler. From start to finish, you can save countless steps—literally and figuratively—by using apps designed to bring coworkers together virtually.
For the documents and spreadsheets that accompany any project, invite your team to Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Sharepoint to work on documents simultaneously and securely. You’ll find this to be much easier than printing, red-lining, and repeating on every draft. Lastly, avoid the “reply all” influx of unnecessary emails by setting everyone up on Slack. This application will help your team coordinate on segmented “channels.”
How to get it going
Take advantage of the slow time at the office by rolling out some new collaboration apps. It will take some getting used to, but in no time you’ll be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
You want to deliver a great client experience, but your sluggish operations are getting in the way. Never fear: there are a couple of tricks to get this area of your virtual practice running smoothly.
• Automate communication and collaboration when you invite clients to text you. These days, everyone texts, so make it easier to work with you by setting up a business text platform like HeyMarket. You can even add a widget to allow clients and prospects to text you right from your website.
• Invite your clients to schedule an appointment with you more easily with Calendly or Appointlet. You can integrate either one with your online calendar, and then simply send others a link so they can view your availability. The back-and-forth emails and calls that are the hallmark of scheduling are no longer an issue.
• For the meeting itself, you could trek across town or use a video conferencing app like Zoom to connect with clients easily, wherever they may be.
• When it comes to practice management, time and billing, tax preparation and workflow software, look to the cloud. Consider cloud platforms that may be available from your tax software provider such as CCH Axcess.
How to get it going
Your clients will be motivated by your adaptation. Help them migrate to cloud editions of their back office as well. With your client in the cloud, you’ll be able to serve them better and provide value-add services like LivePlan that you can update and review with them as a monthly service.
Set your team up for a successful virtual practice with the right hardware. They might not even realize what they’ve been missing till they take their shiny new toy out of the box.
• Go big on monitors—really big. The Dell 43″ Ultra HD 4K monitor is like four monitors in one for only $900. No more side-by-side monitors and head spinning to fetch all your needed data.
• You want employees to be able to work from home, vacation, and anywhere, so provide them with laptops and tablets. Invest in powerful performance and storage to maximize return on investment. Dell business notebooks, as well as iPads will put a big smile on your colleagues’ faces, help them get more done, and make client meetings more productive.
• Want to make everyone’s smartphones virtual-friendly? Consider the rest of your ecosystem before you decide on a model. To prevent data breaches, be sure to train your team in mobile device security and have them sign your mobile device policy.
• A good scanner and headset will go a long way. You’ll want your scanner to be fast, compact, and capable of scanning double-sided, like the Fujitsu SnapScan. Avoid being “that guy” with bad sound on a video conference by getting a Jabra Evolve headset. Wired, wireless – as long as it works, the details can come down to personal preference.
• Don’t forget accessories! It’s the little things that will make or break a virtual CPA. In this case, a battery pack, extra power adapters, and a multi-port USB charger are a finishing touch that make your technology more convenient and keep you focused on taking care of clients.
How to get it going
Take inventory at the office. A laptop would let Donna work from home while recovering from a cold—while keeping clients and colleagues from getting sick, too. A headset would enable Jason to get through calls without shouting. New hardware is an easy way to boost productivity while showing your employees their work matters.
Fast, reliable, and secure communications are the backbone of the virtual CPA firm. Make your connection one that your team doesn’t have to wait for or wonder about.
The digital-age-old question might be, “Fiber, or cable, or both?” Since each area is different, you’ll need to research to find what the fastest service available is to you. DSL and satellite are slower, so they’ll dramatically reduce productivity. And sure, you can have both fiber and cable if you want. A little redundancy never hurt anyone’s productivity.
When it comes to wifi, the latest mesh technology is the way to go for home office networks – just be sure to enable maximum encryption to prevent a data breach. A VPN service can offer an extra layer of protection while working out of coffee shops and airports, and are available for about $10/month.
How to get it going
Start gathering quotes and information, and make the change when you’re ready. You’ll want to pinch yourself when you can finally work in a dependable wifi situation.
Good to go
If ditching your physical office and moving your accounting firm completely online has been on your mind, all the tools are available to you and keep improving. You’ll give yourself and your team a renewed sense of purpose of serving clients in the best way possible.
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