Tax and accounting firm managers and sole practitioners are looking for ways to leverage cloud technology to increase their firms’ operational efficiency, product delivery and, hopefully, employee satisfaction. During the transformation of turning my firm, The WII Group (pronounced W2 Group), into a cloud-based firm five years ago, we instantly saw gains by moving to the cloud. Now, five years later, we have seen our firm’s efficiency and profits grow exponentially.
Here are six of the top gains we have seen from moving to the cloud:
- Staff Acquisition: The cloud has given us the ability to expand the radius for talent. Recently, we were looking for a young and experienced CPA willing to work a flexible schedule throughout the non-busy season and full-time during busy season. With so many major firms in the Washington, D.C. area, the local search found much of nothing. But, by having a social media presence and using cloud technology, we found a diamond-in-the-rough CPA looking for the flexibility of working anywhere with flexible hours. With technology such as Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online, she completed our clients’ tax returns remotely, and with Microsoft SharePoint and QuickBooks® Online Accountant (QBOA), she accessed all of our client files securely and was able to know and manage her workload. The cloud simply allows you to find the best talent available no matter where you live!
- Staffing Costs: The cloud has given firms the ability to be flexible with their staffing costs. For example, the median wages from state to state and across the country can be drastically different. The expansion of the employment base has allowed organizations in high cost-of-living areas to employ individuals from lower cost-of-living areas with the same skill set.
- Access: Have you ever needed a document or file that was on your office server while you were on the road or on vacation? I know I am not the only one working on vacation! Of course, you were upset you couldn’t get those documents, but the cloud allows you to take the office with you. Having your documents stored in the cloud – we use Office 365 – allows me to review and download documents from the cloud, whether I am at home or in Costa Rica. Don’t tell anyone, but during the most recent tax season, I left my office to hit the beach in Florida. Because of cloud technology such as Intuit Link, my clients uploaded their tax documents to the office for tax preparation and I was able to access ProConnect Tax Online from Florida. The fact that you’re not in the office should not slow down, or temporarily close, your business.
- Operational Costs: Depending on how you choose your technology, the cloud can lower your firm’s cost. Whether big or small, most firms that are not working in the cloud find themselves hiring full-time IT professionals, or keeping one on retainer or on recurring monthly plans. IT staff does not come cheap – and they shouldn’t be cheap; they are responsible for installing software, maintaining web servers and downloading software. With cloud technology such as SharePoint, Dropbox and Google Docs, you have outsourced the IT expertise to the top IT experts in the world at less than half the price of an additional employee.
- Get Paid Faster: As a CPA and trusted business advisor to my clients, it makes me want to cry and yell when I see them opening mail with checks and writing checks. The cloud allows you get paid faster and more efficiently. A business cannot run without cash flow, and a good business owners understands that cash flow is key. With Practice Ignition, receipt of payment is hardly ever an issue. Our process for payment is tailored to ensure quick and reliable recurring payments are received from our clients. Once an electronic engagement letter is signed from Practice Ignition, our clients agree to receiving our invoices electronically and paying electronically. If we’re lucky (which we are), they agree to having our software debit their account on a recurring basis for our monthly fees. As a result, our admin isn’t wasting time tracking down payments, and as the owner, I am not worried about making payroll. Our software debits the account on the 5th of each month and notifies us if there are any issues. No more checks in the office mail and no more calls about when we should expect to get paid.
- Employee Satisfaction: We have all heard the adage that employees are your most important asset. It’s always been my philosophy to make sure you take care of your staff – the workhorses getting the job done – each and every day. As a result, you want to make their jobs are easier, not harder. The cloud allows my entire staff to work remotely every day. They absolutely love the fact that they can work from home; we trust them to be productive, and I have to say they are. In fact, this added benefit creates a loyalty between employee and employer. Staff are grateful that you are allowing them skip the morning commute, expensive wardrobe bill, and expensive daycare or summer camps over the summer.
In addition, the cloud eliminates the risk of losing a good employee due to relocation or change in circumstances. By working from home, I find my staff watches the clock less and gets more work done! Are they always at their desk? NO! They are using some of the provided flexibility to get “real life” done as well. However, because of this flexibility, we have never had an issue with requesting additional work time from staff during peak periods, such as month-end or tax season. Your staff will be grateful that they work for a cloud-based firm and will reward the firm with loyalty, effective labor and a commitment to getting the job done.
If your firm isn’t in the cloud, now is the time to do it – don’t hesitate. Based on our experience, you’ll see immediate benefits with happier clients and happier staff. Good luck!
Editor’s note: Jeff Wilson recently participated in a Q&A on adopting technology, including ProConnect Tax Online and QBOA, in “Best Time to Adopt Technology (Hint: It’s Now).”