Improve Efficiency in Your Practice by Minimizing Email

We've got a full set of content today, so let's get this going. It's top of the hour. Just waiting for one thing technically and we'll get going. Alrighty, let's get going. We're going to have a full day or a full hour and a half of content today. Today we're talking about practice efficiency. It's part of the Intuit Firm of the Future webinar series. All month we're going to be discussing and having content up on firmofthefuture.com all centered around practice sufficiency.

Today we're going to be talking about maximize your efficiency with your email, clients, and team. It's an overview of various different ways for you to get efficiency across all that you do. It is going to be part of a whole set of different pieces of content, articles, and webinars that are coming out this month. Again, check firmofthefuture.com to be able to see all those things come up. Right now, rise above your inbox, effective and efficient client onboarding are coming. I'd like to point out the last one there, the top 10 things efficient firms do. We've got a fantastic panel. That's going to be on March 23rd if you want to watch it live. You can go to karbonhq.com/events and watch that live, but it will be recorded in place on firmofthefuture.com. Again, go to firmofthefuture.com all this month to be able to learn about various different ways to improve your practice efficiency.

Now, before we get started, I just want to give a few tips out there. If you're new, to Go to Webinar, follow these steps. One, is you can expand and collapse that control panel that you see on the side using that arrow button, close any of those apps that you might have that might slow your connection. I'm going to try to address questions as we go, but I do have time at the end of the webinar. We also have somebody online that's going to be answering questions as we go as well, so feel to pop those in, and I'll get them answered as I can. Also, you don't need to scribble anything down, take screenshots and so forth. If you go to the Go to Webinar control panel, you'll see there in the handout section, a PDF of today's presentation and details, so go ahead and go there. For those of you that are looking for CPE credit, there is CPE credit, and there will be two questions that I'll pose throughout the webinar. I will point out to the screens to know what the keywords of the day are, so go ahead and stay tuned and look for those.

Who is speaking to you today? My name is Ian Vacin. I work for Karbon. Our web address is karbonhq.com. I'm Co-founder and VP of Product Marketing, and that is email address there, ian@karbonhq.com. Feel free to email me any questions if you need anything regarding this webinar or other things, just let me know. A little bit of history. I've been in the industry and around the profession for over 20 years. I spent 10 of those years at Intuit where I led the QuickBooks ProAdvisor Program. A lot of what you're going to be hearing about today are from round tables that we conducted this last winter with 400 plus practices like yours, where we spent significant time diving into what was working and what wasn't, ultimately try to get folks to be at a higher level of efficiency.

A little bit about Karbon. We're the place you collaborate with your team and look after your clients. Again, karbonhq.com. We're not going to be giving a demo or intro. If you want that, you need to go to karbonhq.com/events. Karbon overall helps you bring your email together, to triage it, to get you to collaborate across work. Timelines bring all that information together and give you contacts. Contacts are going to manage to allow you to then work across the work to be able to build checklists and have to-dos to ultimately get the work done, analyze everything you've searched for. If you're interested, again, go to karbonhq.com.

Today's agenda. What are going to talk about today? Again, last month, we talked about value pricing. This month is all about practice efficiency, and thank you for your feedback. A lot of you asked a little bit about the history or the background and some of the theory that leads into what we're going to be talking about as actions that you can take at after today's webinar. First, I'm going to start off with a little bit of overview of what we're going to cover today. We're going to talk a little bit about the theory and some of the underlying principles that drive the efficiencies, and then Parts Three through Six, we're going to talk about efficiency at varying different levels of perspective. That's the format for today.

For a quick overview, most of the time, and hopefully this is what you're going for. The reason for going down the optimization path is really to unlock your practice growth. It could also be to free up time to be doing other things. There's really two sides of that. You can increase your revenue or you can reduce your costs. On the increasing revenue side, it takes a little more time to do. Again, you can add more clients. There's different ways to do that on sales and marketing. You increase fees, and again, value pricing is something we talked about last month, which is part of that in terms of how do you get best value for the clients that you have. Then there's up-selling and cross-selling around revenue and client. All that is going to be driven from customer satisfaction and referral marketing. We're not going to be covering that today. We are going to be covering sales and marketing and other topics next month, so stay tuned for that.

Today, we're going to be focusing on the cost side and how to reduce cost. There's different ways to do that. You can lower your staff costs. We'll talk a little bit about organization design in that. There's also efficient servicing, how can you do more in less time, and then there's infrastructure costs and the like. Again, all that is driven by efficiency, which brings us to the topic of today, which is practice efficiency.

Now there's four different altitudes by which we can talk about practice efficiency. First is if I thought just about myself. The biggest gain you're going to get is really addressing email specifically, your own email and how you can approach that, and ultimately, to be able to give you and we're going to talk about ... The average person spends about 24 hours per week on email. If you look at some of the progressive accounting professionals out there, they're doing it in almost six or less. Again, you can get significant time back.

The next one is really creating a larger altitude there, which is really not just myself but the others that I work with, so that's really about my team. We're going to talk about collaboration and how you can really efficient effect a collaboration. Then it expands outside the firm to include your clients, and that's where you're going to talk about also collaboration and communication, but the bigger point that you can actually get efficiencies on is really on the onboarding process. Then lastly, it's going to all culminate together about how to create an efficient practice. That's really about getting visibility across the work and across everything that you're doing, and collectively being able to get things done faster. That's, again, where we're headed today.

We're going to first take a step back and talk a little bit about the theory overall and why that's going to impact. We're going to bring it up several times throughout today's discussion about how that impacts what we can and how we can do it as accounting professionals. Now, there's four different pieces to this. There's service offerings, so what are we selling. There's firm size and how that plays a part and what we can do and what we can offer. Also, there's a bit in terms of division of labor, how does it break down in terms of partner to manager to the doer ratio, and then organization design has a significant impact. We're going to be addressing that when we talk about the firm-wide efficiencies overall.

If you've been on our talk before, we talked about value pricing. This slide would look a little bit familiar, but if you were to bundle up everything that you might be providing against separating out a little bit of the ... Those who are doing wealth planning and management, that type of thing for individuals, this is what the seven offerings are. You've got IT consulting on the right, going to payroll, bookkeeping, accounting, tax, advisory services, and audit. Typically if you looked at that on an hourly rate, it's increasing from right to left, as well as the understanding of accounting specifically is requiring more and more capabilities from right to left. I gave here a bunch of different descriptors and whatnot. You can look at this in the handout, so I don't want to spend too much time, but the amount of services that you offer ultimately stretch you thinner and thinner. Again, the more people you have can impact how many of these things you can actually cover.

We're going to talk about how that impacts here in a second. One thing to note on firm size. Most firms on average, the average size is going to be three. It looks like an exponential graph. There's a very long tail of those of you that might be sole practitioners and so forth. Again, the firm size when married to the actual services that you can offer, break down into where a majority of your revenue can be gotten. That's where you might find yourself in any one of these segmentation buckets per se.

The first one is specialists in terms of you might be just doing audit or tax or advisory services, payroll or consulting, and that is driving a majority of your revenue. On the other side, again, accounting firms and outsourced bookkeeper. You saw in the poll earlier, a little bit over half are accounting firms, a little bit under half are outsourced bookkeepers. The number of employees you have will help determine how many of those services you could cover. Again, a bit...understand of that, understand how broad you could go and how broad you should go and what you're doing, because it spreads you thinner. The thinner you are, the harder it is for you to ultimately serve your clients.

That goes to the next concept, which is really around the division of labor. If you're owning or managing a team, it is very hard to have more than six direct reports. We also see this inside the profession as well. That drives a little bit of what we're going to see in organization design, but ultimately, it's a good understanding in terms of how you might want to set up your processes, and we'll talk about that later today. That division of labor really brings about this concept of three different levels, which is a really key topic that we'll talk about when we talk about visibility across the firm.

Inside in large firms, there's people who do the work, there's people who manage the work, and there's partners that oversee the organization as a whole, or the firm as a whole. Now, for some of you that are working by yourself, you do all three of those and you understand that. Again, it's difficult, but you've got to wear many hats in order to make your business succeed. For those of you that work in much larger organizations, then you start to see this breakdown and that of hierarchy that might exist. Again, that 6:1 ratio plays out here in terms of the manager-doer relationship, but also partner-manager and the like.

The one last theoretical concept we're going to talk about here that's going to drive a bit of the conversation later is around organization design. If you actually look at various different accounting firms and outsourced bookkeeping firms across the country and so forth, you'll see that they're any one of these three different types. Vertical, overall, is when you are running an organization and you've got a set of resource or folks that work for you that can service a client holistically. In that bucket, I might be doing accounting, payroll, and bookkeeping work, and one person owns the client relationship doing the collective work for that client. Versus in a horizontally opposed firm, it's generally broken down by departments that are functionally providing, whether it be just accounting or payroll or tax or what it might be, and it's then tiered. We're going to talk about the fact that it's quite hard for a vertical firm to get larger and larger in scale, and typically they migrate to a horizontal firm, and then there are hybrids that sit between that.

Again, that was just a little bit of theoretical concept. We're going to come back to some of those as we go through the conversation today. I know that's a bit drinking from the fire hose, but it'll make sense as we go through. We're going to talk about our first topic here on practice efficiency, which is really about optimizing yourself. Again, where I really want to focus on today is really starting with your email. I'm going to give a little bit of a preface here with some of the facts which are pretty eye-opening, why email is an issue and also an opportunity, and then I'm going to give you some really good solutions to go at. Each one of the topics that we're going to talk about today, we're going to be posting articles on firmofthefuture.com that really go into this in more detail and really illuminate the topic further. Today, it's a bit of an overview with some practical takeaways that you can make changes right now, but again, keep checking back to the site so you can get more and more information as we roll that out all month.

A bit of the facts that are out there...globally on this is that there's about 200 billion emails that are sent and received each day, which is pretty mind-blowing when you think about it, and 60% of those are business-related overall. Collectively, businesses are losing about $650 billion every year due to unnecessary email. You guys know it when you look at your email when you wake up in the morning. There's a whole bunch of stuff that you're purging out of that and you're getting that you just don't want. Overall, every 200 emails that you're receiving or handling each day, you're spending 24 hours emailing each week. Again, if you're dealing with 200 emails a day, you're spending 24 hours a week. On average, when we surveyed accounting professionals, they're doing or handling about 150 emails per day. It roughly about 18 hours per week, but again, there's quite a bit of variance in that.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Those who are really good about being efficient, they're processing and managing about 50 emails a day. I'm going to talk about how we can down from that 150 to 50, and that translates to about six hours per week email, so again, you're spending a third. That's 12 hours back that you could be getting about being more efficient just in this area. If you just think about what you could do with 12 more hours, it's a day and a half in a standard work day. That's an amazing amount of time to be doing something else, especially if it's in a billable sector of what you're doing.

This is an interesting one and we're going to talk about it. When a hundred people are needlessly CCed on email, you're wasting eight hours of work collectively. The last little nugget is, most workers are spending about one hour per day searching for lost emails. Again, you've had a conversation. You don't know where it is. You're trying to figure out what was said and how it was said. That ultimately is costing you one hour per day. Then if you were to break down your email, 18% of it is spam typically, 72% is irrelevant, and only 10% is really useful. Again, a lot of pains, and I'm sure a lot of you feel that, and it's really frustrating overall. What are really the issues around it?

The good thing about email is it's ubiquitous. As you know, typically from the client side of it, they're going to email. When something comes up, they might call you, they might text you. It depends on the issue or the situation there. Again, email is really easy to do and it's ubiquitous. Now, the problem is anyone can email. Robots can email you. A marketing automation from various companies can email you all the time. Again, what it creates is this environment that's really disruptive and unsatisfying, because as soon as you get to a fully read inbox, it's just filling back up again. We're going to talk about the fact that if you're in your email constantly all day, you're paying a really heavy cost on contact switching as well as in regards to wasting time trying to sort that and not actually having dedicated time on the work that's really paying the bills per se.

Email is the spirit. This is a big issue we're going to talk about later when we talk about team collaboration. When you've got a team of three, you have three different inboxes, and you have no idea what's in your co-worker's inbox, and that means that you're typically having cross-communication, you don't know where things are at. That really stems from one of the other problems that most emails are not only ... They're not actionable in terms of most people do not tell you what to do with the email, but they also don't really have any ownership or deadlines to them. We're going to talk about how we can enforce that and make that better, because it's going to ultimately serve us well at the end.

Email doesn't really have context. Again, this goes back to the searching problem. There are threads, but again, emails are easy to be separated out of the threads. All emails are treated equal. Your first in your inbox might be spam and your eighth one down might be a new prospect looking for signing up to do business with you, so when it comes in, you just don't know which ones are valuable at the start. Again, it lacks transparency and visibility. I'm sure all of you feel that, understand that. What can we do to actually improve then? I'm going to talk about four different things here that you can do to ultimately rise above your inbox and get yourself out of what I call as 'email hell'.

The first concept here is really being efficient from the start. The key concept here is when you wake up in the morning, you grab a cup of coffee and you flip open your laptop and you look at your email, the goal here is you want to touch each email only once. You don't want to look at it, review it, say, "I'm going to deal with it later," and then come back to it. Once you've done that reading and whatnot, you've already got the context, you really need to take action. What you want to be doing is you want to read it, you want to react to it, and then you want to go do whatever needs to be done.

The moniker here is, think about it in terms of whether it's one second, one minute, one hour, or one day, to be able to address this email. If it's one second or if it's not related to you, just delete it or archive it, whatever it might be. If it requires a short response, then immediately take the response, archive email and move it out. If the email is going to require more than a few sentences, it's actually going to take some thought, it might take some digging, it might be related to a piece of work, then you actually want to move it out of your inbox, mark it as a to-do in a proper to-do system or whatever your way of handling it is, and then prioritize it later with what work you want to get with the day. You're still moving it out of the inbox. You don't read it again, but you're going to be moving it into your work stream so that you can prioritize it appropriately with everything else that's going on. Otherwise, you're tempted to leave it there, and ultimately, spend time that you shouldn't be spending doing that.

Some tips on this overall is you can use groups and email groups to make it faster. Again, every second that you're having to go ahead and add six people that you're always adding on various different emails, create a group, because if you add up the time it takes to be able to add those six people and think about it, because it's taxing as well, those five seconds, 10 seconds, added across the entire amount that you're doing that over a year, becomes actually significant. Turn off your notifications on email. We're going to talk about it in the next step, which is really about how often you should be checking email. When a notification number pops up, it's going to gravitate you to immediately check your email. Every time you do that, you're wasting significant time going back and forth, or just bothering you as you go forward.

Template your messages. Again a lot of the messages, if you look and you start to see repetitive behavior, when you templatize those messages, it saves you significant time on responses. You can use automatic filters to be able to move certain things. A good example is I get a lot of RSS feeds. You might get a bunch of publications from various different industry pubs. Move those into folders so you can dedicate time and look at it throughout the week at one go, versus looking at them and reading them in the moment. Again, remember that emails are not your to-dos. Do not put them in there, because what you're doing is you're adding email upon email, and it slows you down.

The second big thing here is to change your habits. We talked about it a little bit before. You really want to have a routine, and everybody's routines are a little bit different, but there's some basic principles on this. One is you should be checking your email frequently but not constantly. Some people do it twice a day. I do it four times a day. Maybe you do it six times a day. The most typical times people do it are check email in the morning when I first get up, so I know how to prioritize my day. Check it before I go lunch to make sure nothing has transpired that I've got to address before I actually go out for a bit. Check it when I come back to re-prioritize my second half of the day, and then check it before I go home, or again, if I'm working from home, check it before I'm done for the evening so that I can tee up the next day.

You also want to set aside a dedicated time. Some people will allocate 30 minutes on their calendar or just block it off, so that way, it's dedicated. That time could be 15 minutes, it could be 30. It's whatever time it is you want to be able to go through the entire score of email...constantly be getting into a fully read inbox and addressing it. Again, the times will vary depending upon your volume and load, but what you don't want to be doing is getting in there, doing a few things, going out, and then coming back. You want to be able to have these set times when you're able to focus because when you're focused, you're going to be the most efficient with what you're doing.

The last one is delete first. Some people go from the fact of they're going look at everything. Just reading the subject lines, you can determine if something is spam or not, or something you don't need to know, then quickly you can check everything and then just un-check them, to un-archive or delete. You want to be able to quickly purge everything that's not needing your attention out of your inbox so that you can focus on stuff that really does require your attention. Again, we're going to talk about that purge process in the next step.

You want to do unto others as they will do unto you. If you keep your emails concise to somebody, they're going to send you a concise email back. It also helps you when you're reading an email thread for you to quickly follow what was done, so emails aren't going to do you any justice. The second thing is to write meaningful subject lines. If you write a meaningful subject line to somebody, they can quickly process that. They can know that it's actually significant, and they can actually take the action that's necessary. If you need an action, there is a due date and you know who needs to address it, you can deal with that right in the subject line.

For instance, if I need something from you, I could write, "Help requested: give me this document. I need it by end of day Friday." In that subject line now, most of what someone needs to know is there. They know who's responsible. They know when it's dues. They know they need help. They can then make sure they read it and address it. Also, when you get a response in that email, what you now have in the subject line is everything that you basically articulated quickly presented back to you. It gives you the context. You can quickly address it and move on. It not only helps them, but it's going to help you.

You should be targeting your emails. You don't need to put a million people on the CC line. If they don't really need to know about it, don't put them on there. You should be thinking about who needs go on the 'to' line, and then try as best you can not to CC people. If you do need to, maybe it's a BCC, and having a BCC is a gift. If I need to informed that something is being addressed because I'm a manager and somebody else is addressing the client's concern or whatever the project is, BCC me so I don't need to see all the rest of the communications. I can quickly see its address, delete it, and I'm out of that chain. That stops you from ultimately putting a lot of extra email in your co-workers inboxes, so therefore it helps them be more efficient, which helps everyone to be more efficient.

Label your emails when they come in. You're going to archive and put them in folders. Put labels on them because you're spending about an hour a day trying to search for those old emails. If you spend the time upfront to properly label them, you're going to give yourself a faster chance of finding it. There's some other tips and tricks here on changing habits you can do.

The last or the third bit here is we're going to talk about is reducing the flow. The biggest thing you can do here, and we're going to talk about this in terms of internal team collaboration, is take your internal dialogue from your firm out of email. Use other tools to do that. If you do that, you can reduce your email by almost 60% or more, which is amazing when you think about it. It's one of the biggest areas that you can ultimately reduce that flow. The reason for doing that is those other tools allow you to get the context of the conversation, or able to pair it with the work that's being done, and allow you to ultimately be more efficient in handling those communications in context of the business that you're doing.

My next suggestion here is you want to have a dedicated email for the different parts of your life. You have one for your work. You have one for your personal email, and you have one for what I call spam, or where your emails are going to be either handed off to all these different other companies that might be getting it, so you cannot have that spam hitting your other parts of your life. Your work email should just be a thing that's related to your clients, related to the business. Your personal is all the things that your friends and family are addressing, and that third one, spam, is the one that you're giving out, if you're signing up for newsletters or buying some random products from some random sites. It's a place that's separated so that if your email is being traded by those different companies, it's not impacting where you want to have ... the important things are at.

Eliminate spam. Gmail, Office 365, they all have the ability to label things as spam. If you just keep deleting the emails that keep coming in that aren't important to you, you're just repeating those clicks every single day. Use the spam blockers and ultimately to purge that stuff from coming in. Also proactively unsubscribe. If you're on something that you shouldn't be on, again, if it's a reputable site, it will always have an unsubscribe link at the bottom that is safe to click. Again, if you look at the URL, you can see whether or not it's from the proper location. When you click that unsubscribe link, they have to by the CAN-SPAM law, remove you from their email list, and that will stop any of those emails from coming into your inbox.

Next principle here is to send less to ultimately receive less. When you get an email and you send an email back to tell someone, "Thank you," and that's basically it, the immediate response on their side is to say, "Thank you," as well. Now your response has spawned two emails. While it may seem a little bit counterintuitive or not as friendly, just be cognizant of when you're sending emails out. Ultimately the human behavior is that ... are going to return email back to you, so when you send less, you are going to receive less.

Go out and get yourself an online calendaring app, calendar scheduling app. I use Calendly, but there's many different products out there. Just to be able to set an appointment up on a calendar with your clients typically take you anywhere between five to six emails. With a calendaring app, you're telling somebody to go to my calendar, pick a time that works for me and for you, and now you've just removed all those emails from happening. It greatly reduces it. If you're worried about that being impersonal, what you do is when you write the email, you just say, "Pick a time that's best for you off my calendar or send me a few dates and times that work for you." Generally, the person will go to the calendar and are more than happy to do that.

Lastly, if you're going to have a conversation or you're going to need to have a dialog that's got some depth to it, there's some ambiguity, don't do it on email. Pick the phone, have a chat. Use more of the traditional ways of being able to solve that, because the emails are just going to go back and forth, and there's a lot of speculation and assumptions that are made in email, and you just want to be able to stop that before they start.

Okay, my last point here, and then we're going to move on, is to get the work done elsewhere. We talked about this internal dialogue. Go use tools, internal collaboration tools, that can do that more effectively. We'll see that later. Again, on the internal discussions, you can use products like Slack, like Yammer. Instant communication, go use things like Hangouts, Skype, Slack, Zoom. For tasks and to-dos, you can use products like Asana, Evernote, Google Keep, those are some ones. For client management, you can use things like Google Drive and Groups. For work management, folks use Basecamp, Podio, Wrike, Confluence. If you want an industry specific one that actually brings this all together, that's what we do at Karbon. You can check us out at karbonhq.com. Again, where possible, get the work done elsewhere where you don't have to be doing it on email. Those other tools are going to be much more efficient for you and your business. Again, it's a lot here, but again, you can save so much significant time. You'll be so much more efficient just by addressing your email. I know it sounds simple, it is. You just need to make the next steps to do that.

That brings us to our first CPE keyword for the day. The keyword here is Tissue. Those of you that are tracking, go ahead and track the word Tissue. We're going to be bringing up that question at the end of the session today. Again, write this down. CPE Keyword Number One is Tissue, a nice little box there. It looks like it's in a car. I'm not sure where that picture was taken, but go ahead and take a look at that. Alrighty. Again, if you've got questions, go ahead and pop them in there and we'll address them as we go.

Now, moving into the second level here of talking about practice efficiency, this is actually collaborating with others. We've talked about it a little bit with the actual email part of it, but we're going to talk about it a little bit more in depth on that but also in terms of onboarding overall. For team collaboration, we're going to talk about communications, work, and some tools that you can use. Okay?

Communicating and collaborating. My first bit, and this is just a continuation of the last one, please no more internal email. Use products that actually allow you to collaborate and give you context on the work that's being done. There's plenty of tools out there. Choose your tool of choice. If you are using email, please don't use CCs. Be sure to know who is on the 'to' line. If you're going to be using any of this sort of internal communication, or if you're doing your own ad hoc method, use channels, what I call channels, to categorize. When you're having internal discussions, just knowing the client it's for, knowing what project it might be for, will give you an instant recognition when you read whatever is being asked about by one of your peers to collaborate on, an instant context of what it is that you're talking about, and refresh your memory on that information that needs to gotten and what you need to do with that.

It also gives you this huge leg up when actually trying to search for information that is relevant, because if you've got these different labels or channels, groups or whatever it might be that you're using, you're quickly able to go back and see the history of the communications, and be able to follow the chain of events in order for you to know what to do next. When you're talking about working with your team, using these labels or groups or channels will greatly improve in that, and for you to get whatever it is done.

The next thing is, and it's talked about over and over again, which you've got to over-communicate to your peers. What you think everybody knows, I can pretty much assure you they don't know. Remember just in an email context, your inbox is separated from their inbox, which is separated from the other inboxes. When you're working on work, you're immersed in it, but they may not be. We're going to talk about it later in the organization and how it's designed, but that communication, over-communication, is from the bottom-up and the top-down. Again, everybody is in the same boat together, and everyone needs to be rowing in cadence with one another. You need to do that process and get those operating mechanisms we'll talk about later to communicate proactively and doing it judiciously in order to make sure everyone's understanding how they're going to fit within the context of the work that needs to be done.

If you need something from somebody else, even if it's in an email, you need to flag them and let them know what's needed...and that they're expected to do something. Again, in the various different internal team collaboration tools, they allow for it. It's called.... You just put the...their name, and then you put that in the communication, and it flags to the top of their particular communication portal, for lack of better words. Don't assume that somebody is waiting for.... This is why, again, the 'to' line is really important on the email, because it means that they are needing to address it. You want to over-flag that so people will know what's needed so they can get it done on time.

The last piece here, and this is for those of you that own their firms or a manager within some of those bigger firms, is you really want to foster a culture of documenting. The reason for that is there's a lot of information that's stuck in everybody's heads, and while it seems onerous, it seems like a waste of time to document, it's so critical when you're handing things off between people in a team environment. You may be coming back to something later. Things may have changed in terms of the scope or what's been done earlier in a project. Every time you're documenting that, again, you're saving significant time on the back end for when you actually need it. In some cases, you may not, but you'll be surprised at how many times you want to go back and take a look at [inaudible 00:35:36] been done. If in a team environment, everyone's documenting, and I mean everybody, then you'll have all this rich information at your fingertips in order to get stuff done faster.

The next piece really is collaborating on the work itself. Every firm's processes are slightly different, and you need to take the time to discover to those processes. We're going to talk about on the firm-wide, a little bit about how to do that. You want to be able to have these repeatable processes that everybody is being able to work against in order to create consistency across the firm. This is how you're able to get those economies of scale. Then you want to define, document, and track those processes. They shouldn't be something that's a myth or a legend, or people think that part of it denoted that these processes ... They need to be owned, tracked, nurtured, living, and those processes need to have a home because once you write them down, once you've reviewed them, everybody knows how we should be offering collectively together, and it saves a lot of back end work that needs to be done.

Your processes, ultimately when you're collaborating, need to be global in nature so that they span across the whole firm and what you're doing, but they can't be too rigorous. They cannot be too rigid, I mean. They need to be flexible because every client that everybody in the firm that's working with is just slightly different, which mean the processes have to be malleable to work within the context of the client. That doesn't mean there's major changes to those processes, but there's minor tweaks to them, and that's how they're able to stay active and to be able to be used by everyone.

This is a pretty big principle. Everything that you have should have one owner. A project has one owner. A task has one owner. A checklist has one owner. It doesn't mean that the owner of a project is an owner of a task, which is an owner of a checklist item. They can be different people, but when you have multiple owners for anything, it becomes this ambiguity of who owns it and who needs to complete it, which ultimately leads to a lag in something being done, which ripples through the whole critical path of what needs to be accomplished in the process and wastes really valuable time. Multiple people can be following anything and monitoring it and watching or contributing, but there's always one owner and it's typically always one approver, because when you do that, you're ultimately going to speed up everything that the firm is working through. The last thing is bring your details and your docs together. Don't have these silos of information. Bring them into one place, one repository if possible, into one view, because that helps you in terms of being able to complete the work because you've got everything at your fingertips.

A couple of technologies. Again, going over what people are using overall to give you some tips and tricks. First, on the client collaboration side, use Google or Office 365 for the applications. Again some productivity tools, whether it be Sheets or whether it be Office's Word, Excel, whatever it not be, but using the online versions of those, you can collaborate. Collaboration tools are fantastic so you can actually be able to work collectively on information. A lot of folks use Smartsheets. Some people even use Zendesk or Freshdesk, or actually siloing information or spot request coming into the firm. For client communication, you're going to be using email. We're going to talk a little bit about why that is in our next section. Again, use one of the cloud versions like Gmail or Office 365.

For instant communication, this is again being able to know if one of your co-workers is up and running, so you can quickly have a conversation whether it be where you're going to lunch or what's going on with client X. A lot of folks are using Slack. You can use Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom. For internal communication, a lot of folks are using Slack and Yammer. For internal collaboration, people are using Slack, and larger firms are using Salesforce Chatter. Again, on the industry-specific side, it brings a lot of these things together in coordination with a Slack tool, you can use Karbon.

Now, we've talked about our own email. We've now talked about internally the team working together. Now, let's branch out a bit further to looking and working outside with our clients overall. Again, clients bring up a whole new set of challenges because they work differently between themselves. They're not technically within the walls of the organization, but again, there's a lot of time spent in terms of just getting documents or getting information to be able to move projects forward. We're going to talk a little bit first about collaboration with clients overall, some of the truths, some of the myths, some of the tips, and then we're going to talk about onboarding specifically because that's where we see a lot of time being spent and unfortunately being wasted overall.

Again, this is an extension of what we talked about in terms of team collaboration, about how to efficiently interact with your clients overall. Going back to the email conversation and how ubiquitous email is, email is, whether we like it or not, is the primary vehicle by which our clients are going to interact with us because it's just frankly the easiest. It's on my phone. It's on my tablet. It's on my computer. I'm never away from it. Typically everyone is always checking it. If something pops in my head, I can just quickly send an email to whoever I want and it's going to be seen in your inbox. It's your problem, you need to get an email back. A lot of folks have been using portals. Sadly again, going through a lot of the research and seeing the behaviors, portals rarely stick with clients.

For those of you who are setting up specifically the expectations in a contract about how to work together, you're providing the portal. You're going onto the browser, putting it into a bookmark, and then reiterating time and time again to go to this portal to actually interface with you, that's the right way to be able to get a portal to work, but most people are not doing that. The issue comes in is we're all inundated with all these different websites, especially with all the security concerns in some regards. We have many, many different usernames and passwords, and it's very hard to remember the URLs for the different places, like a portal, to go to, and then I need to put in there. It's just easier if I think about it, and I think of my trusted advisor to just write an email and ask it that way, and then have you respond back. Again, when you're talking about document exchange, it's a little bit of a different story here. If it's sensitive information, you'd need to be using a document portal.

Now, if there's anything that you're going to take away from this particular section, it's really the two bullets here underneath info collection tips. I've spent a lot of time on research around this, and so I'm very confident about this. What we've seen again when you look at e-organizers or questionnaires that you're going to provide a client, and this is regards to onboarding, but it could be an ongoing engagement where you're having to get details from somebody. When you drop a 50-page organizer on somebody's desk and ask them to fill it out, what generally happens is you get nothing back because it's become this large piece of work that I am now, as the client, have to get through, of which I don't feel confident that I know the answers to a lot of it. As soon as I hit a stumbling block on item number three of the 500 I've got to provide back, I also might pick it up, move to the other side of the desk and it sits there until the magical time that I don't have to complete comes to bear.

The issue comes into, in human behavior, is that you want to have people have small wins and successes to build confidence that they complete the set activity. If you took that 50-page organizer and broke it into very small bite-sized, piecemeal chunks, then what happens is, is the time that you'll get that information back will be greatly faster than it would've been if you gave it all at once because each one of those things you're asking for can be done in smaller windows. It builds confidence and it builds repetition for us to be able to tick through the full collective set of things. Outside of just an e-organizer, just think about when you're asking something from someone, if you can ask it into smaller increments. If you're going to ask for five documents, maybe one is a tax return, another one was some information around maybe the reports from last year, whatever it might be that you're using, ask it one by one, and then teach the person where they might be able to get it.

The next step on this to be able to really improve your chances and be able to get things to move a lot faster is really validate, whenever possible, information versus asking someone to give it to you outright. A lot of times, if you ask someone what their tax ID might be, they're going look blankly back to you because they don't really know what it looks like. They don't really have a context of where they might be able to find it, and so it's very hard for them to even just start the process of where to go. Even if you've provided, if you've had an inkling about what that tax ID would be and you actually put it into, "Is this your tax ID," you're going to get a quick response back which is, "No, it doesn't seem right. I think I've seen that before and that doesn't look correct. Let me go and find it. I think I know where to go look." Or you can just give the default, what is the syntax of that, because that syntax will remind somebody of where they may have seen this before.

If you're doing an e-organizer for instance, you know who they are. You probably roughly know their address. You can look under social profiles and dig out a bunch of information and pre-populate that in there, so again, people can quickly just scan, look to see if the information is right. Again, it gives that sense of progression and ultimately gives that sense of confidence so they get you back what you want more judiciously. Again, those are the two big pieces there.

The next one on the communication tips are, the firms that do really, really, really well with their clients set their expectations upfront. They do that in multiple ways. When working with the client and they're talking about the engagement that's going to move forward, two levels of this. One is, how should you react or how should you work with me in terms of our communication overall. When should you text? When should you call? When should you email? Which scenarios? You should call me if it's an emergency and we're going to need to be able to get on top of something instantaneously or within the hour. You text me if it's urgent and I need to get it across, and it has to happen within the day. You email me if it's following up on something or you're asking to clarify and there's some time to deal with it. I'm making those up.

It depends on what's right for your business, but there's different communication paths and you'll want to clear with the client and reinforce them. If they text you when they should've emailed, you respond and let them know, "Hey, this should be on an email. Please email me next time." The reason for doing that is it's going give you sanity back in your life, but it's also going to prioritize your queue for you so you know to use your communication channels to your benefit to ultimately streamline what you're doing. The other side of setting expectations upfront is how they're going to work for you in terms of how they're going to be working part of your team. I'm going to talk about that in the onboarding part here in a second.

That's also about training clients. If you're going to ask them to put documents in the document portal to upload it to you, don't expect them to know how to do it. It may be something you think is simple, but if you actually step them through how to do it once, then they can do it the next time. You want to over-communicate that, and you want to assume that they don't know. They can tell you that they do because it's in the moment, but it shows that you're being proactive, and again, it shows that you're trying to teach and help them work.

If you're emailing somebody or you're dealing with a client, continually try to break up the email so the communication is to only be in regards to one project. The reason for that is we talked earlier about how much time it takes to find information from before, and when information is cobbled up into one email off of one subject line, it's very hard for you to know where that sits within all the different threads and bodies of emails, versus you can quickly label the emails as a whole, to fit whatever context or projects it's in, and it makes it a lot easier for you to find later. We talked already about keeping emails concise. When you do that, it's quicker. Meaningful subject lines, we talked about as well.

The last point here is in interacting with your client, if you have account managers, or again, this is depending if you're a vertical firm or a horizontal firm, or a vertical firm, it might be one person doing everything. Make sure that they're always sending emails to the person that is the owner of that relationship, not to the collective team because when they're CC-ing four people across the team, when one person is owning the relationship, you've now created the scenario of your possibly having not only time for email, but the ambiguity of who's going to own it and the anxiety that happens there. If you keep telling the client to keep emailing one person, you're going to save time for the collective team overall.

Now let's move to onboarding. I'm going to talk about this in terms of what you're doing even before, you even deal with any clients coming on, all the way until after you've gotten onboarding completed. Here, I've defined onboarding as the process of bringing a new employer/client, specifically, on board, and that's also incorporating the training and the orientation. We're going to talk about it in these five steps. Onboarding in my definition, because everyone's got a slightly different definition, is when the work becomes routine. It's not necessarily just the capturing of all the information to get the work started, but it's also in terms of being able to get the team and the client and the rhythm, again, if we're talking about monthly services overall. We're going to talk today in these five different sections: pre-work, first conversation to close, kick-off through data capture, training the client themselves, and then getting work done overall.

The pre-work. Again, we're going to have an article about this. It's coming out shortly on firmofthefuture.com, so we'll dig into this a little bit more. The first thing is really identifying your ideal clients. The reason for doing this, it really sets up the onboarding process and how you can do that in a repetitious fashion because it's going to help fine tune your process about how you're going to handle them from start to finish. We'll be talking later in the year, and it'll be on Firm of the Future, around finding your niche and so forth. Having a good sense of who your ideal clients are ultimately gives you a best guide on how to serve them.

Defining your engagement. How are you going to bring on clients? What is the process going to be? Who is going to own the relationship? How are the hand-offs going to happen between ... Maybe someone is doing it in sales, and someone is doing account management, and then someone is doing the servicing. What are the different steps? What is the meeting cadence? What is the information that needs to be obtained from client to client? How is that laid out over a timeline, and then what are the expectations across that? By having that recipe, it helps you to then clearly define your processes to ultimately know and build out a really efficient, scalable process that we can follow time and time again across the whole organization.

The next one is really critical few technologies. Typically what we see from most firms is that they'll have a core set of three to six different technologies they use to do the servicing of a client or clients, and also to do work inside the firm. The more and more technologies that you incorporate, the more context that each person in your firm has to understanding, and the more contact switching have, and the more silos of information you have scattered around the firm. You really want to have those critical few technologies, not only for you to get work done, but to work with your clients.

Again, you may not be able to enforce that all the time on your clients because they may have their set ways and solutions they want to use, but wherever possible, you want to go down to a core group because it's going to make your life a lot easier. Then you'll also want to develop your own onboarding training. This is both for your employees so they know the processes, but this is also for your clients in terms of what do they need to learn on that first path so that they can get you what you need as fast as possible and then be able to own the responsibilities on their side to collectively work together. That's a bit of the work you need to do even before we're actually engaging with the client overall.

The next step here is from first conversation to close. This goes a lot to the value conversation that we talked about in value pricing in that section of it. You really need to, and when engaging with a client and it's in this case a prospect, get the clients talking, to be able to talk past the tip of the iceberg and understand all the root problems that sit underneath. Again, I urge you to go look at the value conversation stuff. I'm just going to quickly summarize it here. As they're talking through their issues and whatnot, that gives you an illumination of what are the goals that they want to accomplish, how are we going to impact that, and that allows you to sell your services and your engagement, and how it's best to work with you, and the value that you bring to the table. Having that conversation helps instill confidence on their side that you know what you're talking about, they can feel confident in the services they're going to get, and they're ultimately going to value that more.

The key here on the onboarding is at that point, you will need to find the engagement and leveraging what you've done in the pre-work. Here's the steps it is for you coming on. Here's the different things you need. Here's the checklist that we're going to go through. Here's the types of information that we want to get from you. Here's the type to get back to you. Here's how this is going to work and end, the deadlines across that. What your responsibilities are and what our responsibilities are. That really sets the expectation of what each party is going to do because when you're working with a client, whether you like it or not, they're an extension of your own business.

A lot of the times, for those of you that are doing client accounting services, you may be pushing onto the client to do...maybe some of the AR and AP. What happens when they don't do it underneath the expectations that you have? It falls back onto your team. It delays everything in the project and ultimately sets things back and you have to do a lot of catch-up. They are an extension of your own AR/AP functions whether or not you like it. This is where training also comes into play, but having those clear expectations upfront really sets the relationship going forward.

Now, what was traditionally the onboarding stuff is really the kick-off to the data capture phase. In larger firms, this may be a hand-off from sales, who's been bringing them across the line, to a dedicated onboarding specialist, towards the person that owns the relationship long-term. That's that last bullet there. We see time and time again that if there is a dedicated resource doing onboarding, the onboarding process goes faster and faster than if there's not. In the case where you don't have the flexibility for that, having a dedicated time each week for onboarding with a set cadence ultimately serves you well because it creates the proactive behavior that you need in order to be able to facilitate the process and keep things moving. You want to make sure you have these proper transitions from the sales to the engagement, and even at the end of onboarding, between those who are doing the engagement back to sales to reiterate what was done in the time frames that were allotted.

You want to have, again, when you're in the phase for that first kick-off meeting, which by the way you should be setting on the actual close of the prospect. You should have that first meeting already set on their calendar before they walk out of the door with expectations of what they need to bring in there. In that first meeting, you want to be able to set the goals of when you're going to accomplish this by, the critical path of activities to get there, and again, be clear on those deadlines and have the client understand the penalties that could be in terms of delaying a project. Again, if you are a really efficient organization, that could have financial impacts on the client for change orders because you've laddered your resources very tightly, and there's also some carrots in there as well. If you get this information faster, I can move this project even quicker. Instead of it taking 30 days, it could take 20 days.

Just as a data point out  there for everybody, onboarding for most firms takes anywhere between 60 to 90 days if you've actually looked at it end to end. Those who are doing this really well are doing it under 30 days. If you think of the exposure there on onboarding, if it goes past that 30 days, you have possibility of losing the client, but you're also not getting that revenue in from that ongoing servicing that you should be doing. Again, the onboarding has significant impact on your resources and on your revenue. We've already talked about asking for information progressively. This is where you should be doing that. Ask for it step by step by step. We already covered the dedicated resource.

The last bit here is training the client. It starts before you even sign and it goes all the way through. Again, you need to understand how they learn. Some people like to tinker. Some people like to watch tutorials. Some people like to have someone shadow them or do it in the moment, show them how to do it. Other people like to read manuals. You really need to understand what is the best pattern for each and every client and then adapt to that. You should have a plan for that training, again it goes back to the pre-work, about what you're going to do, what you're going to train them on. Again, don't over assume that they're going to know what to do because it may be simple to you, but it may be something that's confusing to them.

This goes back to reiterating the value, being the trusted advisor. Schedule time to be able to do that training. Get them familiar with what you do and how you do it, because once they get more familiar with it, they're most likely not going to want to do it themselves, and they're going to appreciate more all the things you're doing and the value that you bring. Again, everyone on the team is always trying to train the client, and you should always be trying to make sure you train your team.

The last thing on onboarding is getting the work done. At the end of the day, if you don't complete it, it's going to look bad upon you. Again, we talked about how customer satisfaction is so important. When you're setting the deadlines and the expectations, be realistic on what is possible. Being over aggressive doesn't serve you well. Understand what is truly valuable. You see this a lot of times that accounting professionals are asked for seven years worth of data, but the client doesn't really care about the seven years of data.

They care what's really in the moment, and really, this current year and last year for budgeting purposes is important. Determine what's really important for the client and work off of that versus what may be keeping you comfortable. Have your client own their own responsibilities and train them up to do that. Again, the more you can push off, the higher the value, or the less time you're spending and more in terms of value that you're capturing. Train the client to be successful, and again, note that success on this whole process is when it becomes routine.That's onboarding overall, so now we've covered myself, my team, expanded that to my clients. Now we're going to look at the visibility across the firm and practice efficiency on a broad sense across the firm overall. That's ultimately for most people, obtaining the goal of the visibility across the work of a firm and what's going on within the firm itself. Let me take one step back and going back to that little bit of theoretical stuff. We got two little pieces on this. If you want to be able to get visibility across the firm and the work, one of the big key points here is that you cannot be a micro-manager. I know everyone says they're not, but again, I'll talk a little bit about those points. It's really critical because visibility comes from the confidence and the trust that's established from those who are doing the work versus those who are managing the work, and again, it's a collective team effort.

I've just put up a few Management 101 pieces. They may be familiar. They may be just a reminder, but let's talk through these quickly and then we'll move on to the content. First thing is to note that everybody ... If we take the largest of firms, everybody in that firm is a manager. Everyone is managing something because, we talked about before, that everybody owns something within the process. From the person who's doing the work to the owner, you may own a project. You may own a client. You may own a team. You may own the firm overall. You own something, and that's gratifying to human nature, but it also allows for things to be efficiently done across a hierarchy. Even [a flat 01:00:58] organization, there's still a minor hierarchy. Again, it allows for everything to get do correctly.

The next point is, everyone has to have clear goals and objectives. It must be measurable objectives, an ownership that ladder up to the entire outcomes of the firm. In a really organization, the person who's the owner or the partner, they have the set goals of the firm. Maybe it's revenue targets, profitability targets. It could be something else. The next person down, the manager, their activities all must ladder up into that partner's activities. If you go a level down deeper, if it's someone who's doing the work, their activities need to ladder up to the manager's, who's going to ladder up to the owners. What that allows you to do is ensure that everybody across the chain of command is solving for the same things. Again, this is how really efficient, large, large organizations are able to operate.

When you're talking about goals and you're talking about objectives, they should be short-term, actionable, measurable, and realistic. Google has done this really well. My wife works for them, but it's typically been labelled as what's called the OKR process. Again, those are setting up goals. They're usually quarterly, so quarter visibility. Anything after it, that's six months out, generally they've changed so much within three months they're no longer applicable. You could have a one-year goal, but then only have a three-month horizon by which you're looking at. Those things should only number in three to five different actions or objectives that you're going after, and they should be really crystal clear and measurable at the end of the day. We should know within three months whether or not we've mattered or not. As one's responsibility grows, your focus is going to evolve from my world to our world as a team, to us as an organization. We're going to see that in a second why that's important.

Micromanagement exists when trust doesn't. Again when there's trust, everyone is going hand in hand working together. You need to, if you're the owner, set people up for success. Especially, the number one barrier that exists today across the accounting profession is getting a name and holding on to talent. In order for you to do that, you've got to be given training, mentorship, and guidance across the organization because you want to make sure that people are enriched, they're excited, and they're engaged. You need to develop your team and cross-train. Again, when you have a small organization, one person leaves, if you've got really fine-tuned process, it can throw everything up in the air. Then you've got to have a culture of learning from mistakes, but you've got to celebrate the wins. If we do something, even if it's small, you've got to take a step back, celebrate it, because again as an organization, that's what helps you feed in terms of confidence and motivation overall. Okay. I know that was a step back, for a lot you that's probably repeat, but some good management things.

Now, we've got to understand and we talked earlier about how organizations were set up, so now we're going to look at that organization in a little bit more detail. This is a really good set of slides to understand what everybody's perspective is, because by understanding that, you can see how everyone needs to work closely together in order to be a well-oiled machine. There's three different levels of an organization. There's people who do the work, and their domain and their visibility is around my stuff, my clients, my projects. The manager is overseeing the doers. They may also be doing some work as well, and their perspective is around our team, and the partners is over us, the organization overall.

Why is that important? Because if I am the doer, these are the questions I'm asking day in and day out. What has changed since I've last checked for my projects and client? What's urgent with my clients that I need to address right now? Have my priorities changed? Again, let's go back to email and creating to-dos and checking my priorities and making sure I'm working on the critical things that are going to drive to the overall business objectives of the firm. Are my projects on track? If not, would I need to get some help? Am I going to meet my deadlines? Those are the key questions that someone's asking when they're trying to move projects and clients forward.

Now if I'm a manager, those questions and the altitude of those questions change. Now I'm looking at what has changed across my team. Are we on track collectively to meet the goals of the team? Are we servicing our clients appropriately? How can we improve our team's efficiency? What up-sell/cross-sell opportunities exist that we can drive more revenue for the firm overall?

On the partner/owner side, that perspective changes to another altitude. What's happening across the practice collectively? Are the clients that we have happy? If they aren't, why not? If they are, how do we extrapolate that some more? Do we have the resources and tools collectively to be successful? Are we having issues inside the firm that we need to be able to address, and how can I unblock those? How do we drive more business from our new or existing clients? Where do I go get new clients? How do I get more out of the clients that we already have, which is typically where you want to start. Are we profitable overall? If we are, where are we getting that profit and what should we do to magnify that? If we aren't, what should we change in order to make that happen? Again, you can start to see how the altitude plays out in terms of how I'm going to address things in a firm.

By understanding that, we're now going to talk about how do we unlock practice growth, and what are the drivers that usually generate that additional efficiency, and ultimately leading up to higher profitability. We talked this at the beginning. There's the revenue side and then there's cost side. Again, I'm going to leave the revenue side for a different day, and we've got other stuff that we've already talked about and we have more coming. There's five things that we're going to talk [about 01:06:40] that reduced costs. There's the role in the organization design and how that can play a factor. How do we get consistency across the work? This is really going to be feeding the economies of scale. Accountability is critical as well as transparency because that's ultimately going to allow us to make sure that everything is being done on quality and on time. Then how do we get the visibility across that so that when I'm working on projects, I know that everything is coming together. Or if I'm actually the owner of the firm, how do I know that the well-oiled machine is operating like it should. Again, we're going to dig into those five here in this last bit.

We talked about this before. Again, in terms of the organization design that you might have, whether it's horizontal or vertical or a mixture of the two, there's really two different ways for you to get the most value out of it, and that's with specialization or simplification. If I go back to those two different views, if I'm in a vertical structure where I have individuals that are controlling or owing a client holistically and servicing their collective needs. If I'm operating in a business where we're taking any client that walks through the door, it becomes quite problematic for me as a person doing the work for the client to switch from someone who may be servicing a small business that is a professional organization that has two employees, and then my other client happens to be a manufacturing client, five million in revenue, multi-site. Those are two very different clients. That context, which is very, very great, but also I don't have necessarily the specialization in each of those to be able to derive the best value, highest customer satisfaction.

There's two ways to address this. You can either make sure that your employees internally are specialized on various different niches that you may be doing or addressing. Again if you're a single person, unfortunately you've got to wear all the hats, but then it also goes back to the business overall. It can be specializing and focusing on a particular niche that you're going to drive a business. Again, the more focus you have, the better value that's perceived by your client, and the more you can charge in terms of what you do because you have more knowledge in the space and that's what's rewarded.

Now if you're in a horizontal firm, so a much larger firm and you're doing a departmental breakdown, then the key way here is to reduce the cost of the staff that you have. See if all these specialized roles themselves, so now it's really about simplification of the process and task that each person is doing. When you're able to do that, you're able to get people to be more efficient across the silo of activities that they're doing. You're able to bring in less experienced people that you pay less for, or you're going to get better outcome from more senior people that you have because they're able to replicate and repeat that work more judiciously. Now, the thing to note here is in that sort of situation, you want to make sure you're cross-training people because that repetitious nature also has an unsatisfactory side to it, so you need to be careful.

That was org design. The second thing is really about consistency of the work. This really comes down to standardizing your processes and tools collectively for the team. The more and more that you can make work consistent, you can make it understandable, the easier it is for you to be able to look across that, ensure everything is following the right pattern so you can identify things quicker, but again, it allows you so you don't have to learn as much as you go from client to client. The key here is to document as much as you can, all the processes need to be in a living doc, and ultimately, being updated as we go. Again, those who are doing the work are living and breathing and owning the processes and can identify when those processes need to change. Those who are managing the work need to own the outcome of those processes and how they should be altered and changed over time as well as revisiting them periodically. Those who own the firm or the partners are approving those processes to make sure that what they're going to be doing collectively as an organization.

You should be building checklists with links to your repository that explain how you do the processes overall. Again, I recommend using that in online sort of environment because you can change your processes once, and then be able to have that reflected in all the different checklists across all of your projects. You want to be able to make sure that those processes are not too rigid. Again, every client is slightly different and operate slightly different, so the team needs to be empowered to be able to change those processes for each client within reason. Don't assume that the team knows it. You need to train the staff on that, on those processes, to make sure everyone is following it, and then again, you need to iterate them. Everybody needs to be documenting. Everybody needs to be owning and playing a part in those processes, not just for those doing the work, but it's all the way up. If you're owning the firm, you have to lead by example.  Management is really important here, and reminding people and going back to the fact that we're all going by the same rules and the same processes.

Firm-wide accountability and transparency. This goes back, and we talked about it in Management 101, that everyone needs to have clear goals, objectives, and ownership. The key here is ownership. That goes back to everyone. Everything has a singular owner, the checklist item, the to-do, the client, project, again the team, whatever it might be. The next points here are really critical. If you want to have a high-performing organization, the operating mechanisms are really critical. We've seen a lot of firms but they're doing daily stand-ups, which is basically on their internal team collaboration tool. Every person in the firm is just stating within one sentence, usually within 10 to 12 words or less, what they're doing that day. Every week, each team is reporting back what they've accomplished and what they're going to accomplish next week. Then monthly, there is a communication from the organization owners and the top of what's going on in the organization, rolling back as much as possible about where the organization is headed, what we've collectively done, so that there's understanding from those who are doing the work to what their outcomes have obtained for the company overall.

That transparency across those operating mechanisms is truly a two-way street. [You can't 01:13:12] ask for people who are doing these things, spending the time to document and to provide the visibility. Again if you're the owner, providing that same visibility and that same transparency on your side. Again, you've got to lead by example. This is the hardest part for some folks, is really delegating with risk of failure. A lot of managers that have teams who keep diving down into the work, to ensure that it's going to be on quality on time. If people are owning different pieces of it, you've got rely on those people to actually deliver. If they don't, the first time it's really you're talking to ... Again, [in the 01:13:46] the second or the third time, maybe it's not the right fit for them and maybe go elsewhere. That accountability and transparency is really important.

That's driving to our last piece here that we're talking about today, and that's really the visibility across the work overall. The keys here are you've got to, as much as you can, eliminate information silos wherever they exist. Your first one is really, I would say, your inboxes of each person that you have there because those inboxes are locked areas of where a lot of information around clients and projects exist, and that serves nobody across the organization well because they can't get access to it in order to do what they need to get done, done. Go leverage those modern team collaboration tools because that keeps that open and active dialogue. It creates context and allows for people to be able to work quickly across projects and be able to share work.

You've got to track everything. That is especially around the external communications with clients and the internal communications around getting the work done. That allows you to have everything you need at your fingertips any time, whether or not you're the person doing the work or you're the owner of the firm. Then everyone needs to be diligent, and again, this is another lead by examples on creating to-dos, raising projects, again, scope creep is a big problem. Anytime the scope is outside of what's something to be done, the project should be raised, the manager should be aware, and that should be addressed to the client. You need to not only create those to-dos, but you should be using those checklists and going through them because that allows you to be able to flag issues and get help and ensure that things are progressing as they need to. Again, I can't say enough, lead by example, be better partners or managers, of what's expected overall.

That leads us to our CPE Keyword Number Two, which is Rose. Our second keyword of the day is Rose, for all those looking to get CPE, Keyword Number Two is Rose. We're going to get to the CPE questions in just a short moment. Remember, CPE Keyword Number Two is Rose.

Let me wrap this all up real quick. I know we covered a lot of content. Again, that content will be available to you on a handout, but also on individual topics, we're going to be a little bit more in depth. We've covered today four different pieces. The first piece is really around how do I make myself more efficient, and you should focus on your email. Again, you can bring down the 18 hours that you're probably spending per week down to six, and there's some really great tools about having a routine, ultimately having the right sort of perspective about how to process through your email, reducing the flow with various tools and tips that I gave, and then using tools that they ultimately take ... You can do your things elsewhere and not in the email themselves.

Around my team, around collaborating. It's around the documents, the processes, around trust and so forth. Around my clients. We talked about communications, collaboration, and onboarding. Again, the big things in onboarding was ask for information [progressively 01:16:54], validate, don't ask people to populate, and then really training plays a huge part in that. Around my practice and the visibility there around focus, which we really want in organization design, focusing on the clients or the task usually in terms of processes, also in terms of visibility and transparency, and [inaudible 01:17:15] ladders up to visibility.

Going back to what we've discussed, today's topic was an overview of all these underlying topics, of which you're going to see more and more coming out, be it rise above your inbox, client onboarding. Team and client communication is another topic. Maintaining visibility, again I'm going to go into these a bit more in detail with all the different underlying points spelled out. There is a great panel discussion again on March 23rd. It's going through the top 10 things that efficient firms do. I've got four fantastic panels that are going to articulate how they've done it and what they've seen, so you can hear it from folks that have been doing it really well. If you want to watch that live and ask questions, you need to go karbonhq.com/events. It will be recorded and on firmofthefuture.com towards the end of the month. Again, if you wanted to know anything about Karbon, you can go to karbonhq.com and so forth.

Firm of the Future. Go to firmofthefuture.com. There's a wealth of content already up there, and there's a wealth of more content coming. It's getting richer and richer and richer. You're going to find this up there as well and recorded. I wanted to say, for myself and the Karbon team and from Intuit, thank you so much for the time today. If you want to get Karbon, you go to karbonhq.com. Follow us at KarbonHQ, but also if you have any questions regarding this content, other things, don't hesitate to email me at ian@karbonhq.com. Again, I'm happy to help, happy to give some details.

What I might do before we go in to questions are for all of those that you are seeking CPE, I'm going to launch the first [poll 01:19:01]. This was for CPE [polling 01:19:02] question number one. What was the question that was asked? [inaudible 01:19:10] Tissue twice, nose, medicine, or box? Again, the faster you answer this, the faster we can keep moving. I'm going to give you 10 seconds, so keep getting those questions answered in here. Again, tissue, nose, medicine, or box? Again, I'm going to close the poll here in three seconds, two, one. Here we go. Then the last one was we had a second polling question because, again, this is not a 60-minute but a 90-minute. Let's launch that poll. Was it rose, tree, bike, car, or house? Again, the faster we can answer this, the faster we can keep moving on. Again, was it rose, tree, bike, car, or house? I'll give you guys a couple more seconds. Three, two, one. Close that poll.

Now, I'm going to go ahead and look at some of the questions that came up to help answer this. I'll take a few questions, so keep bringing them in if you have them. First one here is, what was the calendar app that you had mentioned earlier? There's several different ones out there. You can just search for online calendar scheduling app and you'll probably get a whole set. The one that I've used and have experience with that works well for me is called Calendly, C-A-L-E-N-D-L-Y. Sorry. It's not calendar, it's Calendly. That's a good one to go. A couple of questions around ... Will you be getting a recording of the webinar? Yes, this is being recorded and it should be [inaudible 01:21:00] straight afterwards. If you need it and you didn't get it, feel free to email me. Let's see. A couple of you have mentioned you've seen many of those different issues and there's some good points here. Thank you, it's the whole reason for doing this. Looking at the end of it, I think I've covered all the other questions.

We're actually going to adjourn a little bit early, which is great because I know that you guys all have busy days. On behalf of myself, on behalf of the Intuit team and on Karbon, thank you so much for joining us. Go check out firmofthefuture.com to be able to look at this and all the other great content that's coming. Thank you all and goodbye.