Running an online practice: A day in the life

Running an online practice: A day in the life

Carla Caldwell is presenting an ongoing series of webinars to help accountants and bookkeepers move their practice online. Here are some upcoming dates: Dec. 10. Register today.

Many of my clients ask me why having an online practice is such a big deal for me as an accountant and firm owner. They ask me, “What’s the difference which application my clients use, or whether they’re on QuickBooks® Desktop or QuickBooks Online?”

My response is something like this: How much time do you have? Or, how much time do you spend each day digging for information rather than making recommendations based on information that’s always at your disposal? Better yet, wouldn’t you prefer to have the ability to respond to every client’s email or phone request in minutes, and still be able to leave work early, or at least on time?

To really understand why this is a big deal, you actually have to experience it.

What would it be like to run a firm that was completely online? How would that change your daily exchanges with your clients, or your ability to grow your practice? To give you an idea of what I personally have experienced, here’s a typical day-in-the-life to get the idea.

Let’s suppose you already moved your practice and clients online. What would your day look like? How much more could you accomplish and still have time for your family, a workout, or lunch with a friend?

Imagine a day like this

Your day begins – 8:30 am

You open your email to the usual questions from clients:

  • Client A: “Can I meet with you about my numbers? I don’t understand why I am making more money this year, and yet cash flow is still so tight?”
  • Client B: “I want to open a new location and need to apply for a small SBA loan. Can I have my financials ready by Friday?”

Next: Responding to clients – 9 am

You log into QuickBooks Online Accountant and access Client A’s books.

You run their P&L, and see that the cost of goods sold (COGS) is 5% higher than last year, but then notice their payroll has gone up by 30%. You also review the balance sheet and see that they have paid down more than $50,000 in debt over the past year. You have a picture of where their cash has gone, and so you create a short 3-minute video, showing them their financials and where they may need to look for issues, and then let them know they can book a time with you on your calendar with the link in the email. In less than 8 minutes, you send Client A the video.

You then switch from your dashboard over to Client B’s books.

You run their P&L by Location and see that their current three locations are doing great. They are very profitable, including overhead allocations, and if they are using the same model, they should be in good shape. After reviewing their balance sheet, however, you concur that they will need some type of financing to do this, as they have made some heavy equipment investments over the past year.

In less than 10 minutes, you send Client B an email with a link to your calendar for them to book a time with you, in case they need more information, and let them know that the books are up to date through last Friday, so that they can run reports and get the application started.

Now it’s time to check on your practice and team – 10 am

After reviewing project deadlines for the team in your practice management software, you determine capacity and whether any shifts in projects are needed. You notice that your new team member is improving and gaining productivity each week. It looks like your team is ready to take on more clients, so you know when you book your next appointment with a potential client that your capacity is solid.

A call with a potential client – 10:30 am

As you start the zoom call, you have your proposal app open, as well as your discovery document to ensure you don’t forget to ask key questions.

When you talk to the client, you confirm their needs and how you can assist, fill out the proposal, and send it to them while still on the call. You review it with the client right then, and after they accept and sign the engagement letter in the proposal app, and enter their payment info securely, you send a link to your calendar to set up the first call to get the client started.

To introduce and alert your team about your new client, you send an email to the team sharing the good news. Then, you make arrangements to set up your client in QuickBooks Online, and get them set up for online bill payments and online credit card updates that match expenses to the receipts captured via an app. With the client’s books up to date, you send an email, letting them know that their cash flow is good to be able to pay out the payroll bonuses they asked you about last week.

Lunchtime – 12 pm

Meet with a friend or potential client at a coffee shop near to you.

Return to the office – 1 pm

Check in with your team and respond to requests from clients sent since this morning. Make a few phone calls to follow up on issues and answer any outstanding questions.

Getting your last desktop client onboard – 3 pm

Finally, it’s time to meet with one of your oldest clients, who happens to still be on QuickBooks Desktop. It’s time to have the conversation about moving to QuickBooks Online, and discuss why moving online is such a good idea for them. You explain that you can schedule online bill payments as you just did for another client, keep their expenses and income up to date throughout the month, and not just once a month or even once a quarter or year. They’ll start to see how that can really help them plan cash flow better as they look to hire another person for their team.

When you demonstrate that they never have to send you a backup or accountant’s copy ever again, or worry about that computer crashing like it did a couple months ago, the client is starting to come around to the new process.

You’ll know you moved not only your practice, but also several other clients in similar industries as them online, and helped them understand and trust that they will get the same, if not better, services from your firm – except now in real time.

You tell them that a team member will schedule a time with them to show them the new processes they will use, and remind them that all your trainings will be recorded for easy viewing later. And, of course, your team is there to help.

Now there’s time for you – 4 pm

After such a great day that’s productive, effective, and moving you and your clients forward, you don’t feel guilty leaving the office an hour early. You head home to relax and hang out with your family!