What's Next For Accounting? - Issue #141

How to Standardize Your Services

👂 How to Standardize Your Services

This week I gave away a massive template to solve what was the biggest headache in my firm.

Most firms deliver a smorgasbord of disparate services to clients.

It starts innocently enough: Letting Becky fax the payroll hours; Picking up tax docs from Jim’s house in person. But before you know it you’ve got a hot mess of un-delegate-able variations that lead to a host of problems:

  • Everyone in the firm is selling something different

  • Every project looks a little different

  • SOPs are developed (or not) at the client level (huge volume of SOPs) rather than the service level

This week on the pod we ran through a process to get your arms around the various things you do for clients. It starts with separating out what’s standardized, and what’s unique to a client engagement.

We’ve run through:

  • A 5-tier system to structure the service you provide Video Audio

  • A process to get your arms around the mess of work you do, with the goal of plugging it into this framework Video Audio

  • How to simplify from there, with the goal of doing more similar work now that we have a clear system Video Audio

  • What your SOPs look like in this new paradigm, and how to build them at the service-level rather than the client-level Video Audio

This service library template is the same process I went through to get my 2,000 client firm on the road to a more standardized approach to service delivery.

💎 This Week's Sponsor

📅 This Week

  • Most firms know they need to increase prices, but are unsure how to do so without pissing everyone off. Here’s how

  • Want to build a custom layer of software atop client accounting files? Midday may be the easiest way. They “launched” this week, and are an open source layer that sits atop Xero and QBO

  • I don’t do private consulting because I instead do it in public, for all to learn from. You can share details about your firm with me anonymously here and I may offer my thoughts. Some past examples:

  • A few co’s building US tax prep software with AI are looking to hire tax pros - reply to this email if you’d like an intro

  • A few write-ups on accounting & finance work AI is actively replacing:

    • The survey from CNN notes at this stage it’s mainly augmenting existing roles, rather than replacing anyone

    • EY says tax pros are already saving up to 14 hours a week thanks to AI liberating data previously “trapped in organizational silos”

    • This a16z writeup hits on a smattering of things that seem automate-able, but are arguably the same tasks people have been talking about automating for decades

    • Solutions are still integration-blocked - umpteen different data sources are unique to each engagement, making the notion of building an end-to-end solution challenging

    • Data silos always were, and continue to be the problem

    • If you’ve worked with tools like Plaid that are said to have overcome these silo problems, you know just how far we are from solving this

  • You can now publish your Notion pages to a custom domain with a navigation menu, like a proper website

🔮 Q&A

How do you build systems for work that’s impossible to systematize? Link
No system is perfect. Rather than trying to build the perfect system, let’s build an imperfect system that yields better results. An imperfect system beats no system because (1) you can continue to build on it, (2) work gravitates toward systems once they exist, rather than becoming more disorganized over time.

What do you do when clients provide inaccurate or incomplete info? Link
In some cases you just can’t put your neck on the line with bad info. But in lower stakes cases, be sure to explicitly outline any assumptions baked into your work. These situations are often unavoidable for your client, and the best you can do with what you have can still be tremendously valuable.

I struggle to define success for myself. Any tips? Link
It’s worth considering why we fixate on “success”. It’s a subjective concept based in external validation. Instead consider what personal fulfillment looks like, using long-term satisfaction as a more meaningful north star. Reflect on what brings you into a state of flow and aligns with your values, even if it means abandoning the expectations of others.

If AI will replace the doing of the work, what happens to the number crunchers? Link
The doing of the work has always been at risk, and a moving target. Computers eliminated the need for people to hand-foot totals. Bank feeds eliminated the need to hand key transaction data (QBD transaction entry beep sound). Evolving your skillset has always been part of the game, it’s just happening faster now.

Is offshoring the "boomer version" of using AI to do your work? Link 
The greatest misconception with offshoring today is it’s for low-level work. Many US folks interact with offshore workers in frustrating, low skill contexts. Support calls, the sort of thing you’d rather not be doing. It ought to go without saying, but anything you can teach an onshore accountant to do, you can also teach an offshore accountant to do. Whether AI displaces them is largely the same discussion as it is for onshore workers, perhaps with the exception of client management.

😍 From The Community

My private peer networking community Realize for firm leaders, and it’s now reached its cap of 500 members 🎉

▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ 500/500 members