How smoothly is your business operating? Do you find it challenging to manage client information or track the status of projects? Has it become more difficult to collaborate with colleagues in a remote environment? Before you can produce quality work for your clients, your internal processes should be mapped out, standardized and refined.
Efficient internal processes help you stay nimble, prepared and focused on your clients while allowing you to make better business decisions. Teams that spend less time dwelling on operational details tend to have more time to focus on producing higher-quality work. When your business is running smoothly, it also enables you to think more strategically and grow your business. This is especially important when you are operating in a strong labor market. The war for talent has forced firms to find new ways to service their clients or create capacity on the operations side by outsourcing.
In our July article, we discussed areas to consider outsourcing such as HR and payroll, IT and accounting, but there are other areas more closely tied to the operations of your core business and client management that, when refined, can optimize your efficiency and allow you to focus on delivering the best work to clients. Here are six different areas of your day-to-day business to consider evaluating and refining:
Establish your proposal process
Your relationship with clients often begins at the proposal stage, and responding to a potential client’s RFP in a timely and professional manner is essential. Instead of scrambling to put together a proposal, which can disrupt work, prepare your proposal process and tools for putting it together ahead of time. This includes segmenting and preparing case studies and work examples that align specifically with different clients’ business type and vision. Map out the workflow that identifies who on the team is responsible for gathering input and putting the proposal together. Ensure you have an established pricing model that can be used as a starting point for putting together the proposed fees for the engagement.
If you’re still manually aggregating all client information in a spreadsheet and communicating with clients via untracked, one-off emails, consider incorporating a Customer Relationship Management tool to manage your client relationships. By implementing a CRM, you can centralize and categorize all client data and improve and track your client and prospect communications. CRMs allow for a more robust database of all client information, saving you time spent collecting client information across various platforms and applications. Having access to this information across your team, no matter where they’re working, will cause less disruptions throughout the workday. It will also save you time if an employee leaves; all client information is stored directly in the CRM, eliminating the process of combing through a prior employee’s email and notes to assemble all client information.
Understand your project management process
As your firm grows, understanding where work is distributed among employees is crucial, especially as remote work continues to grow. Even small agencies, with limited resources and employees, should have a firm grasp of how their project management process operates. Whether you hire a designated project manager or implement a project management tool, refining your project workflow and logically mapping out your creative steps can help you save time and money, prevent internal tension and eliminate on-the-spot guesswork. Be sure to include key elements, including project briefing, first draft, revisions and feedback, project launch and performance analysis. This can also be an important tool to present to clients: it allows you to set an expectation for your work timeline and update them on your current projects.
Introduce productive collaboration tools
Effective collaboration is key in a creative agency. It fosters an environment of innovation, artistry and out-of-the-box thinking. However, as many employers are hiring remote workers or allowing their employees to work from home, collaboration can be stifled and subdued. Introducing collaboration tools, such as a chat and video function or live editing features, allows you to mimic an environment of in-person creativity. If you’re encouraging employees to return to the office, consider using that time for brainstorming or strategy planning sessions. Collaboration tools can also be an effective means of managing client communications, rather than calling or emailing to get a quick answer.
Improve your time tracking process
Tracking your time spent on a project or client is important from a billing aspect, but it’s important to understand how you’re spending your time from a measuring profitability standpoint as well. Understanding and identifying which type of work brings in the most profit—for less work—by implementing an effective time tracking tool can help you make better business decisions in the future. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Stop overservicing your accounts!
This one might seem like an obvious comment, but it is worth mentioning. Overservicing an account not only leads to inefficiency, but it lowers profitability and can negatively impact the morale of your team. Whether you like it or not, your team knows when you’re giving away work by overservicing an account. Don’t be afraid to have these tough conversations with your clients. They are most likely feeling the same pressures, and they understand you are running a business as well. Your teams have spent years building their knowledge about the industries you serve. Don’t create inefficiencies by giving it away for free.
Understanding and refining your internal processes is crucial in running a productive, collaborative and efficient organization. Whether you’re streamlining your project management workflow or preparing your proposal process and pricing structure, implementing these changes on the back end can help improve your internal operational efficiency and free you up to focus on quality work for your clients.
Dominic Rovano, CPA, is a partner at Janover LLC and leads the firm’s Professional Services Group.