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How to Develop a Culture of High-Quality Work Across Your Firm

15 minute read

The best part about being known for high-quality work is the consistent stream of referrals that come from satisfied clients.

Why is that a good thing? Well, let’s take these stats from Annex Cloud for example –

“A referred customer is 18% more loyal than a customer acquired by other means.”

“Referred customers are 4 times more likely to refer more customers to your brand.”

“Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher customer retention rate”

Referrals are the cheapest and most effective way to grow your client base. But they don’t come easy, you have to consistently show up with your best work to gain your existing clients’ loyalty – and referral.

Sloppy work laden with errors and delivered late won’t earn a business the respect of its customers. Also, doing great work today but delivering bad work the next day is just as bad. 

So what does high-quality work look like in an accounting firm?

  • Providing value to your clients based on the terms of your contract with them. For example, offering high-value services such as solid financial projections, giving them up-to-date financial reports, doing tax planning or managing payroll.
  • Delivering work on time, all the time, i.e. their monthly bookkeeping should not be delivered to them 2 weeks after the deadline and ensuring they meet tax filing deadlines so they don’t have to pay penalties.
  • Doing error-free work, e.g. paying their employees the right amount and deducting the correct amount of taxes from payroll. Or, ensuring they remit the right amount of taxes to tax authorities.
  • Taking into account their updates and changes when working on their projects.
  • Being partners and advisors to clients by showing them you have their best interests at heart. And being available for them (within reasonable measures).

A culture of high-quality work in your accounting firm will not only increase the rate of client satisfaction and referrals, it will also help you –

  • Get Rid of PITA (Pain in the you-know-what) Clients:: When your firm is known for high-quality work, you will attract high-quality clients. You will also grow so much that you can filter out non-ideal clients that will only stress you out and take away from your bottom line. 
  • Expand Your Services or Become Highly Specialized: With a good reputation and the right systems in place, you can effectively expand your offerings or become hyper-focused on a specific client group. Both strategies have proven to be effective ways to increase revenue. Rory Henry, CEO of AFO Wealth Management Forward in a recent chat told us:

    “Those in the accounting profession are uniquely positioned to take on the mantle of a family office (Chief Family Officer) because they are already doing a lot of this work. It’s about systemizing processes and putting the action plan in place to start serving clients better.”
  • Build Long-lasting Client Relationships: When clients trust you, they stick with you for the long haul. This builds into a rich and long-lasting relationship.
  • Increase Revenue: with repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals come more revenue. Music to the ears of any firm owner.

So how can you make high-quality work the ethos across your accounting firm?

4 Ways to Develop a Culture of High-quality Work that Drive Client Satisfaction and Referrals

Set it as a Goal and Make it Known Across Your Firm

Not clearly defining goals is one of the reasons why businesses fail. If high-quality work will become the culture across your firm, then every member of your staff needs to know it. It has to become front and center. It has to be ingrained into their subconscious such that when they are doing client work, going for high-quality will be their default whether someone is watching or not. Kellie Parks had this to say about goals:

“If you don’t state goals, your team members are not going to have any idea of which way they’re running with the ball and when they should get to the end post.”

Define What High-Quality Work Means in Your Firm

If you put 10 people in a room and tell them to define even the most common words, chances are they will all say different things. Their core understanding of those words may be similar but their perceptions and how they relate to them will be completely different.

For example, Dr. Liu and his colleagues used an imaging technique called resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine person-to-person variability of brain connectivity in 23 healthy individuals five times over the course of six months. What they found was that “differences in the physical connections of the brain are at the root of what makes people think and behave differently from one another.”

That’s why if you’ll make high-quality work a “thing” in your firm, you’ll need to clearly define and break down what that looks like so everyone has a common understanding of it. This can be:

  • We never send out a client's work until a manager reviews it and gives their okay.
  • We send monthly bookkeeping on the 1st of every month, unfailingly.
  • We must always keep each other abreast of all client updates so that the finished work reflects their feedback. 
  • Etc.

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Provide the Systems and Tools to Make it a Habit

Next, you want to make sure high-quality work is not just “known” as the ethos but that it is also achievable. Below are some ways to make certain characteristics of high-quality work possible in your firm: 

Meeting Deadlines  

Here’s how to ensure your staff is able to send out client work in due time:

  • Break Work Down into Smaller Tasks For projects that require a great deal of work and time, breaking it down into smaller steps will make it easier for your team to hit their goals.
  • Delegate Work After breaking work down into smaller tasks, ensure you delegate work to your staff effectively. This will make work less burdensome and keep procrastination away. But while delegating work, you want to make sure you’re sharing the joy of work equitably, Financial Cents’ capacity management report will help you with this. It allows you to see who has room for more work so you can keep the balance in your firm.
  • Automatically Keep Team Members in the Loop Most accounting work involves multiple members of the team where someone cannot complete their part of the job until someone else is done with their part of it. Planning how and when they will hand off is equally important. You'd be asking for too much if you rely on your brain to manage this process. Financial Cents has a feature that automatically notifies each assignee when their task is due to begin. It will also help all assignees focus on their current tasks by making their tasks inactive until the preceding steps are completed. That way, you save the assignees from worrying about whether or not it’s time to start their dependent tasks.

Avoiding Errors

The best way to reduce or completely avoid errors is to standardize your processes with workflow checklists. The reason is simple: members of your team may have different ways of completing tasks, leading to inconsistency and a higher probability of making errors. But using workflow checklists will guide them to complete common tasks in a uniform manner — hitting all the marks of excellence you’ve ingrained in each step of your checklists.

You can do these in 2 ways:

Use workflow checklist templates

Templates are there to save you time and make your team agile. You can tap into our library of checklist templates, download and customize them to suit your firm’s quality assurance needs. Our checklist templates were created in collaboration and with the feedback of firm owners like you. 

Create yours from scratch

If you prefer, you can create your workflow checklists from scratch. Here’s how to get it done.

After you’ve downloaded or created your checklists, share them with your team for use.

Collaborating with Clients 

Successful client relationships involve collaboration — in sharing information, documents, and updates. How do you ensure you’re able to effectively collaborate with clients without friction so you can provide them with high-quality work?

Automate Client Data Collection

In a perfect world, your clients will send you the information you need shortly after requesting them. But the world isn’t perfect. Most clients take their sweet time before sending information and documents. This has led many firms to come up with different ways to tackle this problem including slamming clients with hefty late submission fees. However, with Financial Cents, you don’t have to lift a finger again once you’ve set up client task, the system will auto-remind them until they send what you need.

We know how hard it is to consistently deliver high-quality work when you can’t get your client to respond to your requests on time so client tasks help take that burden off you.

Take Notes to Keep Everyone Up to Date

Keeping everyone in the loop of client updates is key. This is how you deliver a high-quality end product that takes into account all changes and adjustments made by the client. You can add client notes to tasks with spreadsheets and sticky notes. But that will be more stressful to manage. Plus, it can easily get lost in transit. Or, you can use Financial Cents’ client notes. It’s designed such that any member of the team can write notes directly on a client’s profile so that everyone assigned to their work can see what they said during their last call or the document they shared in their last email.

Communicate with Clients without Feeling Overwhelmed

The average worker receives 121 emails per day. And half of it may be irrelevant and promotional, burying essential client emails that contain important client updates or documents. 

The good news is, Financial Cents email integration helps you take control of your inbox by helping you to:

  • Display all emails to and from a client (on their profile) to any member of your staff so that you know who last spoke to a client, when, and about what.
  • Stay on top of ad hoc client requests by easily turning any email into a project, delegating it to your team, and tracking its progress in one place.
  • Pin client emails to related work so your team has all the information and context they need to get their work done. 
  • Quickly respond to your client from within Financial Cents so you don’t have to switch between different tabs.

Set Milestones and Internally Reward Good Work 

The common consensus is that the reward for good work is more work. What many fail to realize is that you won’t get more good work if you don’t appreciate and incentivize the initial good work. 

A great way to go about this is to set certain milestones that if met, will be rewarded with incentives. This will further cement the importance of high-quality work across your firm and motivate team members to do excellent work.

Incentives can be a bonus, a team outing, memberships, etc.

Conclusion

Be the firm that delivers great work, come rain or come shine. Be the firm every great client wants to work with. Be the firm clients want their friends and colleagues to work with. Be the firm every accountant wants to work for.  Be the firm with a good reputation, respected and influential in the industry.

We hope with this article, we’ve shown you how to become that firm.

As CEO of Financial Cents, Shahram Zarshenas spends his time helping accountants get visibility across their firm to prevent things from falling through the cracks. Financial Cents is the maker of an easy-to-use work management solution built to help firms manage their staff and client work.

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