How Process Standardization Can Help You Scale Up

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How Process Standardization Can Help You Scale Up

You’ve probably seen your team working super hard during the busy season. While “fully utilized” might sound like music to your ears, you know you need to strike a balance. Your team can work hard when needed, but you don’t want to overdo it and burn them out.

During busy times, the question of scale often comes up. “If we’re constantly having to scramble to get the work done, how can we ever get resilient enough to scale up properly?

Many roads can lead to scale. One of those roads involves making sure your processes are efficient and effective.

If you want to grow your team, you need to have solid processes and workflow management systems in place. You need to create rails you can put your business on so it can go full steam ahead.

This is where you can use tools to automate and streamline tasks, so your team can work more efficiently. One example of this we’ve spoken about before could be getting your documentation in order.

Another example could be about creating a standard set of processes as one of the most effective ways to increase the quality of your work and reduce the load of repeatable tasks.

Having similar processes allows staff to keep less information in their heads as they switch between clients. That means less training for you to perform and more flexibility in how you assign staff.

Look at how you’re handling tasks for your clients. If you’re doing things in a highly individualized way for each one, you’re going to struggle. Scaling up is best achieved when you do a lot of the same things with minimum fuss so you can spend time doing more impactful work elsewhere.

And, as an added bonus, having standard practices makes pricing new clients much, much easier.

Here are some things you could do to standardize processes:

Step 1: Choose your process
Choose the four or five processes you spend the most time on. Look for ones with easily repeatable elements that are typically done by junior staff. This is stuff like Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable, Bank Reconciliation, Audit preparation, Financial Statement preparation, Grants & Vouchers reporting and Payroll.

Step 2: Understand your current state
The goal of understanding your standard process is not to remove all variation in how you do things but to remove as much as you can.

We recently helped one of our clients put together an audit of how they did bank reconciliation across all of their clients. We built a simple tracking spreadsheet that included, among other things, bank name, number and type of bank accounts, whether or not a bank feed was in place, the mechanism for sharing supporting documents, the process for noting unreconciled items, and cut-off dates.

After a few meetings, we decided we needed to define a process for onboarding customers that encouraged bank feeds to be put in place, as well as processes for doing the reconciliation for customers with and without feeds in place.

Step 3: Define (and document) your future state
Once you have identified what processes you need, you will define your future state in a format you can share and validate. Don’t worry about getting too fancy. The point is to create something that clearly communicates your ideas.

Step 4: Share with stakeholders
You should share your flows internally to make sure you have it right and that you’ve identified the different contingencies you’ll need to account for. It’s critical that you review these with the people who are actually doing the work.

Step 5: Document
Create a detailed set of written instructions that backs them up. How detailed should the instructions be? Well, the flow and documentation should be comprehensive enough that a new person coming in should be able to pick them up and do the work.

Step 6: Implement and monitor
Put your finished documentation in one centrally located place. Appoint a resource to “own” the documentation. Every six months or so have them reach out to your managers and ask them if anything has changed in how they do these processes.

The bottom line

It might seem like a lot of work, and it is, but with a little preparation, it doesn’t have to be daunting. This is just one of the ways you can scale up. It doesn’t always have to be rocket science consultant-led stuff that gets you there. Focus on your firm’s processes first, especially if you have big plans for the future.

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Yann Beaullan-Thong

Yann Beaullan-Thong

Yann is Accsurant’s president. With 20 years experience and six different technology startups behind him, Yann has a proven track record in developing innovative solutions based on his technology and financial acumen.