Yesterday I wrote to you about why systems and procedures are so important to have in your business. Today, let’s delve into actually creating a checklist.
To begin with, I think it’s important to start from the big picture and then delve deeper into your business processes. With that said, what are the major, big picture things that a business has to focus on? For a tax practice, this list might look something like this:
1. Client acquisition (marketing & sales)
2. Client retention
3. Client case work
From this, you can develop sets of systems that focus on each of these areas.
Yesterday, I mentioned my friend James Orr and what he’s done in regards to building systems. On his real estate blog, for example, he shares his real estate investor daily marketing checklist. Take a look at this, and notice that this checklist itself branches off into more detailed checklists.
For a real estate investor that is looking to purchase properties at below market value, he has to conduct a number of different marketing campaigns to achieve multiple, parallel objectives in his business. He has to buy houses, sell houses, rent houses, etc. The same is true for your tax practice. Depending on your particular practice areas you may have very different marketing to do to fill various holes in your client activity. For example, your daily marketing checklist might look like this:
1. Marketing to acquire 1040 preparation clients
2. Marketing to acquire 1120/1065 preparation clients
3. Marketing to acquire payroll service clients
4. Marketing to acquire clients for wealth management services
5. Marketing to sell tax resolution services
6. Marketing to sell examination representation services
Then, you need to look at each of these particular items and create procedures for them. If this sounds overly complicated, it’s not. In all reality, you probably already have some sort of process going on in your firm for getting an objective accomplished, it just isn’t documented in writing yet.
In order to begin documenting your existing systems, start with the person that actually performs the task already. Have them write out what they do, how they do it, and any hidden stumbling blocks, “gotchas”, or tricks that only that person knows regarding being successful at the task.
While this might sound pointless, it’s not: It gives you a place to start, which is the most important thing. Once you have something in writing, then you can improve on it from there.
Systems and checklists can get deeper and more detailed as you go down the chain. With our example from above, item number one might consist of a dozen different ways of acquiring 1040 clients. Then, each of those marketing methods is going to have it’s own checklist. If one of your marketing methods is sending postcards to your entire ZIP code, then that checklist itself might branch into multiple other checklists.
I realize that this sounds like a daunting task. But bear in mind two important points. First, it doesn’t need to be done all at once. Second, it’s worth it in the long run for making your firm operate more efficiently and more profitably.
We’ve got a lot more to discuss on systems, especially as tax season approaches. That is the time of year when well defined processes make a very visible difference around your office, so we’ll discuss tax season systems in particular over the next couple weeks.