5 tools that will make your accounting firm a success
A carpenter can’t build a house without the proper tools. The same rule applies if you’re going to run a top-notch accounting firm—you need the proper tools to get the job done right. But what are those tools? We asked five experienced accounting professionals what their favorite tools are for running an accounting firm, and we’ve compiled them into this guide.
The tools listed here range from the basic to the technologically advanced, but all are a vital part of running an efficient business. This guide will help you in selecting the best tools to use in your accounting practice.
Cloud-Based Project Management Software
“When it comes to great accounting tools, there’s nothing that compares to a good, cloud-based project management system. With accounting, you’ve always got a lot of cases that you’re working at the same time, and you need to stay organized to stay on top of all of your projects and their statuses. Getting a cloud-based system just makes it easier, because you can update projects and statuses from anywhere, and anyone else who works in your office can do the same thing. So people can communicate about a project and get the most recent information on a case right away. No matter what other tools you have or what skills you bring to the table, if you can’t stay organized, you can’t get the job done right. That’s why nothing compares to having a cloud-based project management system.”
As Mr. D’Angelo told us, few things compare to the convenience and efficiency of working in a cloud-based system. The alternative involves getting constant status updates from employees, sharing information on paper or through email, and trying to keep track of deadlines on a separate calendar. When all of your projects are in the cloud, you are able to get things done more efficiently and with fewer errors caused by lapses in communication. This is especially important if you have a team working on your projects. With the cloud, there is one central location where everyone can view progress, communicate about any issues, and follow up to make sure things get done.
Paperless document management system
“If you’re still running an accounting firm with all paper files, you’re behind the times. A good document management system is one of the best tools you can get for your business, because it makes you more efficient, and it makes it easier for your clients to share and see documents. Since I started using document management software, my job has gotten a lot easier. I don’t have to travel with four to six suitcases of paperwork anymore. I just bring my one suitcase and my laptop, and I have everything I need. And my clients are happier too, because I can get them answers right away. Instead of having to say, ‘I’ll call you back’ when they call with a question, I can look up their documents in the software and get them an answer right away.”
Mr. DiFusco is right—keeping physical copies of all of your accounting documents is old hack. Using an electronic document management system is the new best practice for all accounting firms; if you’re not using one, then you’re not going to stay competitive in the industry for long. After all, the name of the accounting game is efficiency, and document management systems are made to keep you as efficient as possible, from their basic structure to their smallest functions. The features included in these kinds of software make you more efficient at your job—instant document sharing, quick searches of information, storage of all client data, access from multiple devices, etc. You can imagine how these kinds of features will save you hours of time that would otherwise be spent sifting through, reading, and filing physical paperwork.
A fast, efficient computer
“Working in accounting, my computer is my business, so I need it to be as fast and efficient as possible. Sure, you need the tax software and the document management software and all that, but you can’t actually do anything with that software if you’re computer doesn’t run it right. If you don’t have the memory or the processing capabilities, you can’t use all that software, so you have to have the right computer first. Your computer is the foundation for all of those other things that you need to run a successful accounting practice, so it’s one of the most important tools you can have. You can’t neglect it.”
We rely on our computers for so much these days, but are you paying enough attention to what your computer needs? You give your car regular tune-ups and maintenance, but few people realize that their computer needs the same thing. If you want your computer to be reliable and to run all of its software efficiently, you need to treat it right. You should be doing regular cleanups of your computer by removing old information that is no longer needed; this frees up memory to help your computer run more efficiently. Additionally, avoid putting unnecessary documents on your computer that will slow it down; as we’ve mentioned, using a cloud system will help greatly with this. You should also have antivirus software installed to protect your computer, and do regular “scrubs” to remove any malicious software that may have attached itself to your computer. You should also make sure to install updates for your computer whenever they are available.
The right tax software
“I started doing taxes back when we had to do it all by hand. I used to write in all the numbers by hand, and then type them into the forms to send to the IRS. If a client found another income statement or another piece of paperwork that I needed to factor in, I had to recalculate everything and do it all again. Tax software has really changed the accounting industry, and it’s made everything a lot easier. It’s got to be one of my favorite tools, just because of how much time it saves. Tax law is complicated enough; I don’t need the rest of it to be complicated too! Now, if there’s an additional income statement or something, I can just type it into the tax software I use and reprint it. Any public accountant out there needs to have this tool. It’s just that simple.”
There are several types of tax software available in the marketplace; every CPA will have their own opinion on which tax software is best, so you need to do your research and decide for yourself which software will work best for you, your business, and your clients. Remember to keep in mind its integration capabilities with your other software, such as your document management system. Once you’ve selected a software, make sure that you take the time to learn about all of its features. The right tax software is only effective if you know how to use it right.
The basic kit
“This might make me sound old, given all the technology available for accounting these days, but I still think my favorite accounting tool is a basic bundle of three items: a good calculator, plenty of yellow notepads, and a box of good, sharp pencils. When it comes down to it, accounting is about catching all the details, and you can’t solely rely on a piece of software to do that for you. You’ve got to be able to take good notes about the files you’re working on, and you sometimes have to double check stuff by hand if there’s a discrepancy. Never underestimate the value of good, old -fashioned, by-hand work every now and then.”
We love the idea of holding onto some of the basics, even with all of the advanced technology out there. When it comes down to it, your clients are coming to you because of your knowledge and expertise, not because of the technology you use. In the end, your experience and the knowledge that you have really are the best tools you can bring to the table. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra tools in the kit to help you build a great business.
Are you ready to learn more?