White paper

Managing accounting firm resources

In today’s challenging and unpredictable environment, it is more important than ever for tax and accounting practices to successfully manage firm resources. Failure to do so can lead to costly inefficiencies, additional strains on staff, unhappy clients, and, ultimately, a loss in profitability.

In fact, research suggests that improving firm efficiencies remains a top strategic priority for firms, especially in light of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a 2021 study from the Thomson Reuters Institute, tax professionals are looking to return to a more normal working environment and a return to some of the strategic priorities they had in mind before the pandemic. These priorities, however, have been modernized to reflect the experiences of working through the pandemic and adapting to the new world. This includes efficiency — more streamlined processes, greater productivity, moving through work faster, and investing in the right technology.

This likely comes as no surprise given the hurdles that firms face. Having the right infrastructure in place is essential to help better navigate staffing constraints, client expectations, and the ability to scale.

Some firms, however, may be left wondering where to begin and the best practices to employ. This white paper explores three important key steps firms should consider and provides actionable insights they can set into motion today.

Let’s first take a closer look at why effective management of firm resources must not be overlooked.

Reap the benefits

When was the last time your firm evaluated how it manages its resources? If it has been a while, it may be time to do so and to rethink your approach given the benefits to be gained.

Ease staffing constraints

One of the most talked-about struggles facing firms today is staffing constraints. Attracting and retaining top talent is not a new concern for the profession. The pandemic, however, further fueled the issue and changed the way employees can and want to work.

Underscoring this point, a survey of finance and accounting professionals conducted by human resource consulting firm Robert Half found that 87% said it’s challenging to find skilled professionals. The most challenging areas to hire are finance and financial planning and analysis, general accounting, and financial reporting.

“Staffing is a huge problem. Well, then I feel in general, we get stuck on that and forget about what other things we can do, like use of technology or otherwise that can allow us at least to keep going. Because we don't want to just stop doing things because we lost the brains in the firm or a couple of staff,” said Mo Arbas, Senior Business Advisory Consultant - Advisory Squad Lead at Thomson Reuters, during a 2022 Thomson Reuters Advisory Symposium.

“I know it's not easy. It's difficult, but what else can we do to keep going so that you don't have to say, ‘You know what, I lost two staff. I can't even go home. I need to fill up that entire time.’ How can we have infrastructure in place, so we don't get stuck? This is very important.”

Seek staff input and ask them what you can do as a firm — whether it be providing additional coaching or technology — to help them be more efficient and to work smarter and faster.

Make sure the associate understands that this is not to imply that they are not doing their job well. It is simply that the firm is always striving to improvements.

“Why can't we allow staff to be a lot more efficient by providing them the technology they need?” Arbas asked.

Free up time

Increasing your firm’s bandwidth and capacity also enables staff to free up more time that can be spent on higher-margin, more satisfying work like advisory services.

The accounting profession has long been known for long hours, especially during the busy tax season. This increased stress and workload can take a toll on both the physical and mental health of associates. Furthermore, the day-to-day pressures of the profession continue to rise due to shifts in client demands and a more complex regulatory landscape.

Leveraging the right tools and technology to work faster and smarter, as well as being able to deliver clients higher-value offerings like advisory services, can help firms break the cycle.

“Part of also getting back capacity and bandwidth, part of also being on the top of your game with technology is, what else can you do as a partner, as a firm leader, to start letting go and get that time back to be the advisor that we're hoping for all of the leaders in the industry to be?” Arbas said.

Make a positive impression

You’ve probably heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This holds true when meeting with clients. Technology impacts a client’s first impression.

Take, for example, a firm that is providing strategic advisory services. You are advising clients on how to better their business. If the client comes to the office and sees piles of paper and file folders everywhere, what is the message you’re sending? The client may be left questioning your organizational skills and wondering if their business paperwork will just become another pile in your office.

Or perhaps you’re connecting virtually with the client but the technology you have in place is outdated or lacks in functionality. Does your firm’s technology reflect that you are limited in your own ability to have a growing business?

“Make sure you're bringing them into an environment that makes them feel welcome; that makes them see you in a professional environment that's not a stack of paperwork that you're digging through,” said Therese Witherow, Principal Trainer at Thomson Reuters, during the 2022 Thomson Reuters Advisory Symposium.

“They may be the ones bringing you the shoebox of paperwork. That's the client. How do you then, in return, give it back to them? How are you reviewing their documents with them? How are you going through things? Show them the impact of the technology. Show the impact of how you are moving forward and how you can move their business forward,” Witherow continues.

Getting started

Are you wondering where and how to begin? If so, there are three key steps that firms should consider:

  • Identify bottlenecks
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Lean on technology

Identify bottlenecks

Start by reviewing the firm’s current processes and workflows. This will help you identify and address bottlenecks. Then think of the little steps your firm can take to help free up some of the bandwidth and capacity.

“Think about your practice management software and where you are and where the bottlenecks tend to be. Maybe it's you, maybe it's not, but can you get your processes more efficient so things run more fluidly and you don't have this situation where everything is ultimately stuck in one person's queue, waiting on them to be able to get to it?” said Brittany Lanphier, managing partner of Lanphier LLP in Denver, Colorado, during the 2022 Thomson Reuters Advisory Symposium.

To further illustrate, Lanphier reflected on how the firm’s tax preparation process looked about seven years ago, prior to its shift to an advisory-focused model and the hiring of additional staff.

At that time, 40% of every project was Lanphier’s responsibility, plus she handled all of the client communication, invoicing, etc.

“It would get to the point where every return was in my queue in one of these steps and no one else had any work to do because everything was waiting on me. That was a big challenge and I knew something that we were going to have to get out of,” Lanphier said.

The firm has since grown, added administrative staff, and reevaluated workflows.

“[Today] only 12% of the steps are my responsibility. I handle no client communication. I don't do the billing, the tax return delivery. If a client wants to review a return, I don't do that step either,” Lanphier said.

“Now, I am no longer the bottleneck in any of these processes. In fact, the last two tax seasons I have never been more than a day behind my queue and I'm often able — even those last couple weeks of tax season — to get myself down to an empty queue. Has anyone here ever had an empty queue a week before tax deadline?”

Added Lanphier, “It allows me to be that swing man that can really pitch in where it's needed rather than feeling like I'm the one that's constantly holding up the process. So that's a very, very different feeling from how it used to be.”

Clarify roles, centralize documents, and standardize processes

Take a closer look at current staff roles and responsibilities to help ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of every part of workflow process. Also consider whether it is time to make any changes to the roles and responsibilities based on the strengths of the staff.

It is also beneficial to document workflows and to store client documents in a centralized location for greater efficiency.

“So many times I've heard about firms' staff taking a client file home, and then somebody needs it in the office and they get stuck. That's why I front scan. I get client documentation, source documents I scan right up front. This way it leaves no room for, ‘Where's this document?’ ‘Where's the paperwork?’ But having all this holistically, everything documented, understanding roles and responsibilities will allow us to move forward,” Arbas said.

“How are we going to handle this? How are we going to avoid saying X or Y or Z? Document this because you're the leader of the firm. You know how to handle it, but not everybody else knows how to handle it,” Arbas said.

Lean on technology

When looking to better manage the firm’s resources, it is important not to underestimate the power and importance of technology in driving greater automation and efficiencies.

As noted in a blog post by Raleigh, North Carolina-based Technology Associates, which provides IT services and support to small to medium-sized businesses, “Investing in and implementing automation strategies can reduce the heightened stress your firm feels during the busy season and boost productivity for your accounting team. Additionally, the right use of technology can also foster a stronger team culture.”

In addition to implementing new technology solutions, if needed, it is also important to ensure the software you do have in place — like your Practice Management solution, for example — is up to date and being optimized to its full potential. Your firm may have changed its processes, but has it changed the software to accommodate those processes?

Furthermore, consider the following tech tips to further expand capacity and bandwidth within your firm:

  • Use digital brochures. Bid adieu to the traditional print brochure and go digital. This enables you to quickly and easily make adjusts and ensure it stays up to date. Also, consider the use of a QR code to make it easy for people to access the brochure and perhaps even forward it on to others for referrals.

  • Leverage texting with clients. Think of your client and their personal life. It’s likely they get text reminders from their doctor, their dentist, etc., on upcoming appointments. Why not do the same? Leverage a text messaging service to send clients appointment reminders, payment reminders, or reminders the office will be closed for the holidays, etc.

  • Develop video libraries to further educate both staff and clients. Have you ever gone to YouTube to watch a quick video on how to fix, build, or cook something? Chances are you have. The same idea applies here. Think about repetitive tasks that staff, especially new hires, need to do and create short video tutorials. How? Record the computer screen as the actions are being taken and record your voice narrating the steps. There’s no need to show your face, only your screen. Build an internal network location with a library of these videos and break them out into categories so they can be easily located.

Learning videos can also be created for clients and posted on the firm’s website. For example, create a tutorial on how to upload a document to the client portal, or how to complete the tax organizer, etc. If a client calls the office with a question and there’s a video on that topic, direct them to the website. This saves staff time and frees up firm resources.

Plus, the more activity on your website, the more the site gets pushed up in a search engine — a win-win.

  • Use emails embedded with videos to enhance client communication. Are you looking to communicate with clients on a new regulatory change? Do you want to send clients a “welcome to tax season” message? Whatever the messaging may be, rather than sending out emails with paragraphs of text they have to read through, consider emails with embedded videos. Clients are more likely to feel engaged and view the video. Embedded videos can be an effective way to communicate with clients and proactively address questions they may have on regulatory changes, etc. Again, another tool to help free up firm resources.

  • Create email templates for more efficiencies. Create email templates using Outlook File Template (OFT) in Outlook. Email templates enable your firm to save time and standardize the look and feel of emails you send out regularly to clients.

As outlined in a blog post by boutique creative agency, Aedieno, OFT is ideal for:

  • Template-based, one-on-one communication or small recipient list

  • Same message or format for regular, ongoing, or re-sending

  • Internal communication with image download limitations


With a rise in staffing constraints and client expectations, it is more important than ever for tax and accounting practices to successfully manage firm resources. Failure to do so can lead to costly inefficiencies, additional strains on staff, unhappy clients and, ultimately, a loss in profitability. Don’t let your firm fall victim.

Take action today by identifying bottlenecks in your processes and workflow, clarifying roles and responsibilities, and leveraging technology to increase firm bandwidth and capacity.

To ensure your firm is on the right path, turn to a solutions provider like Thomson Reuters who has the expertise and solutions you need.

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