Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Like herding cats
That's what it feels like when I'm trying to organise our clients.
Try as I may, I just haven't been able to come up with an effective solution to the annual workflow conundrum: how do I get clients to match the delivery of books and records to us with our ability to turn them round? Over the years I have come to hate August, it's the month when we always seem to have the largest number of jobs in waiting to be started - and likewise it's the month when we have the fewest available chargeable hours to get accounts and Tax Returns completed.
What that means is that those of us who ARE in the office this will be working flat out. And to make matters worse we'll be balancing our planned work schedules with clients phoning up and effectively jumping the queue because there's some urgency they forgot to tell us about before, or they just think that the longer turnaround time at this time of year is unacceptable.
Over the years I have discussed this issue with numerous practitioners, and generally it seems we're all in the same boat. I have, however, met a few who look at me as though I'm mad. Why would I put up with such a situation, they ask. Those lucky few who claim to have cracked the system manage to maintain a short turnaround time on all jobs all year round. What's more, they plan their workload 12 months ahead and KNOW what work to expect in at any time - and therefore, of course, what bills they will raise in any given month.I have no idea how they do it, they must have their clients drilled to know exactly the date each year they have to deliver their books and records. I have even come across a firm where a junior member of staff is tasked with going out to collect records that fail to arrive on the specified day - which they need to do because there's a member of their accounts team sat there waiting to start them, and they have just that one slot to do them before they move on to their next planned job!
Fact or fiction? I'm not sure, but if there's a grain of truth in any of these stories it means there are firms out there who have found a way to get their clients more organised than we have.
If anyone has any tips, please post a Comment below. In the meantime I've got a pile of accounts to review before the phone rings again.