Now that we’ve covered the importance of an After Action Review for your firm’s post busy season, it’s time to really figure out which of your processes work and which ones might need to be reviewed and improved.
Below I have broken down all of the key action items you may have once you have completed your AAR and how to prioritize, plan, and progress through each one. Once you identify and prioritize each item that needs to be worked on, then you need to assign a leader to each task. The best way to get something done, is to make it someone’s job, after all!
Step 1. Assign staff to each area that needs to be improved, and then have them take a deep dive into this specific area of your process, suggesting improvements along the way. Once a new process has been discussed and vetted, it is important to share this with the whole team. When you share this, it’s a good idea to do a dry run before the next busy season hits!
Completing this process right after your busy season (like tax season) is critical. This way, we capture everything when it’s fresh in everyone’s minds and we do something about it before
We get stuck in a cycle of facing the same problems, challenges and frustrations each year.
Step 2. Identify the topics you want to address. This part of your process often takes the longest. Maybe you have missing documents? Or poor communication between client and firm? Or maybe there are too many places that you have to go to find all your information.
One of the more common things that can lead to late nights and stress is that you get to January 1st and you realize you don’t have the information you need, in order to do the 1099s. If you don’t have all your ducks in a row, it is a hectic scramble and that’s when mistakes are made. Now is the time to determine how you will avoid this!
Another thing that firms are often wrestling with, especially now that we are (mostly) all working remotely, is that data exists in silos. This happens when data is coming in too many ways. Plus, if you have data silos, staff have to check too many places for all the relevant information they might need. This causes lots of stress, and lots of wasted time.
All throughout this process, everything needs to be documented to make sure all the new procedures are easy to follow consistently and you can onboard new staff easily when needed.
And of course, the underlying theme with all of this is security – anything you roll out, change, or do in your firm must be secure. So emailing your clients, asking for their W9s won’t fly anymore.
Step 3. Look at best practices to solve for the issues you have identified. If you are struggling to solve an issue, it’s a good idea to expand your potential pool of solutions by seeking help from a peer (like me) or a reputable source such as a solution provider.
The first problem we used as a common example is one I can help you solve: your missing W9s. The easy response is to update your year end files as you go. Create a centralized, secure place for all your digital files, this way everything can be easily located while staying safe. I like to use SmartVault for this! Each month, make sure you receive your W9s from each client – Liscio templates make these requests fast and easy as well as giving clients a secure way to send them. Using the QuickBooks Online AP lists as a guide, you can ensure that you have a complete set of documents from each of your clients.
Another issue many firms find themselves wasting time on is getting their clients to communicate effectively. Most firms request documents are sent via email. Not only has email become a serious bottleneck in many firms, it’s also super unsafe!
Here’s what I suggest instead: Think about the client’s day to understand why they don’t respond instantly. Many times, your client will receive your email via their smartphone. They don’t have access to the documents they need or a scanner and they definitely don’t want to try logging into your online portal using their smartphone.
If they don’t receive your email while they are on the go, then they get it when they are at work. Good right? Wrong. They have their own clients in and out the door and on the phone all day. Their priority is on making money and serving their clients. Your email will sit in their inbox until the link to the portal has expired and they have to ask for help to log in. This stalls all your work on this client.
So how can we solve this? Think like the client thinks! If they are texting you, it means that they are more likely to do business with you via their phone. Many millennials ignore emails and don’t own scanners or printers. Your solution is to match their mobile lives.
Set yourself up for success by adopting some or all of the policies I have shared with you, and make dumping email a very high priority.
There are a few easy solutions to some big problems your firm may be experiencing. Schedule a demo with Liscio so you can see how much faster your firm can move when you are working with your client’s needs. Get your documents sent in on time.
Now it’s time to put your AAR learning into action…
Repeating these steps with all of the areas you want to improve based on your After Action Review will help your firm become more efficient for next tax season and ensure your clients feel cared for and can provide what you need quickly and easily. That’s a win for everyone and another reason to do your AAR now.