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Firm and Workflow Management

The efficient CPA: Setting up rhythms to run your firm efficiently

Jason Blumer  Blumer & Associates, CPAs

Jason Blumer  Blumer & Associates, CPAs

As my partner and I have built our own firm, and consulted and coached with many other growing firms, we’ve found a key part of growth is found in rhythms. Rhythms lead to becoming an efficient CPA firm, and it’s amazing how much more you can grow and produce when you are an efficient CPA. I’ll explain what I mean by rhythms in service companies, and then I’ll talk through what they do for firms that are seeking growth.

How do humans respond to growth?

Service companies are particular in how they respond to growth. Efficient CPA firms work in this way. Since the product being sold is the knowledge and creativity of humans, it’s important to understand how humans work, respond, and deliver creative services. Humans don’t always respond to growth in the same way. Some fear it, some love it, and many just don’t understand what the owners are doing in their efforts to grow.

With these truths on how humans act, humans can tend to believe things that were never said, respond to growth in ways that protect themselves, and often move towards becoming an island in their own work. Islands are safe for humans, so they will go there when the world around them is chaotic or confusing. We can all struggle with moving to an island when we are fearful or need to hide.

What are rhythms?

Rhythms are habits that service based companies can employ to bring a foundation of safety to how the team lives within the ‘firm family’ while serving clients. Rhythms cull down the chaos and fear during growth. Rhythms make the firm, it’s growth plans, and the owners safe again for the employees to come close to.

Rhythms are habits or behaviors you can put on a calendar, hit the ‘recurring’ button on the calendar software, and recur the rhythm throughout the rest of the year. There can be many, many rhythms to employ in your firm. There can be calendar based rhythms like annually, quarterly, monthly, and weekly. There can by rhythms by type of human in the firm like client, team, leadership team, and owners. Efficient CPA firms will brainstorm a list of rhythms, and then boil that list down to a set of core rhythms that will apply globally to all services and all teams (no exceptions). Here are some examples of core rhythms: weekly team meetings, monthly client financial presentations, weekly leadership team meetings, quarterly conversations (partners with team), weekly partner same page meetings, quarterly partner strategy meetings, annual team retreats, weekly tax team meetings tracking progress, monthly accounting review meetings, etc.

Note that rhythms are meant to serve the firm and make its growth healthier, more enjoyable for the team, and to deliver higher value to the clients. Rhythms are not necessarily meant to serve individual clients or team members. Rhythms are meant to bring safety to the whole firm, and everyone that lives within the rhythms becomes a greater community member, further enhancing the firm’s value. But to achieve efficiency, accountability is needed to follow the rhythms consistently. Unused or undervalued rhythms are of no use. They have to be spoken of, improved, and used.

Not only do rhythms bring health to a growing firm with lots of movement, they create an immense amount of efficiency. With healthy rhythms, a regular firm becomes an efficient CPA firm. With efficiency comes consistency. And when the whole team begins to produce value and deliverables in a similar way, the clients begin to feel a sense of comfort from how deliverables are presented and the results those rhythms consistently create for them.

How do you know if you need rhythms?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself as an assessment of your team’s need for rhythms:

  • Does your team consistently fail to do what firm processes say, or what you’ve told them as the firm owner?
  • Are you surprised by how your team is responding to the team and clients?
  • Are you seeing the team act in unusual, unexpected ways?
  • Is the team hurting your growth, or sabotaging firm processes?
  • Are some of your team frustrating other team members because of their bad habits?
  • Does your team feel safe enough to speak to you about the confusion and bad habits in the firm?
  • Does your team state or repeat things and/or ideas that were never said?
  • Are there particular team members that protect their process of work, or move away from the firm and work alone?

Answers to these questions can be signs of chaos and confusion that can be managed and culled down with a few healthy, consistently applied rhythms. Few firms employ the intentional use of rhythms — but those that do become efficient CPA firms and healthy organizations that attract and keep amazing team and clients tied to the firm for a long time.

 

Looking for more tips on growing your firm? Register for our webinar Moving beyond busy season: Plan now for firm growth.

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