Want to run a virtual accountancy practice? Here are four tips to succeed
Paperless, digital and connected – every aspect of work is evolving to be more dynamic.
Couple this with an ever-increasing number of digital-first firms starting up, and it's easy to understand why so many accountancy practices are considering the idea of transitioning to a virtual practice.
However, by the same token, many accountants are hesitant to evolve due to a number of uncertainties and concerns.
What is a virtual accountancy practice?
A virtual accountancy practice is a firm that operates digitally rather than from a physical office, meaning processes are online and employees work remotely.
Firms can become completely virtual, ditching the workplace entirely, or take a hybrid approach where they retain a physical office, but staff predominantly work from home (WFH).
People want to work virtually
The BBC found that 70% of workers state they’ll never return to the office full-time.
To compete in this increasingly competitive employment landscape, you need to ensure your business is meeting the needs of the modern employee, and in many cases, that’s flexible working and digital processes.
Our current conversations with accountancy practices affirm this as they’re seeing the right to WFH repeatedly being raised by potential candidates during the hiring process.
Recruitment note: a virtual practice isn’t bound by location and can hire purely remote workers based anywhere, widening the talent pool.
Common concerns regarding a virtual practice
The pandemic proved that productivity isn’t an issue for the majority of employees working from home and those that did see a drop just needed re-aligning/training.
However, many concerns regarding practicality, client perception and team engagement are still raised when discussing a virtual accountancy practice.
Fear not – with some planning and consideration, which we’ll cover, these concerns can be put to rest.
Four tips for creating a successful virtual practice
When looking to create or transition to being a virtual practice, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re making the most out of the change and optimising your chances for success.
Consider the following:
1) Regular team check-ins
If you’re worried about team synergy and visibility of workloads, consider implementing morning check-ins with your team.
By holding daily team catch-ups virtually (often referred to as stand-ups), your people can still communicate and build their working relationships while also having the opportunity to ask questions and flag issues.
Each person is given a finite amount of time, normally no more than 5 minutes, helping the catch-ups run succinctly.
Top tip: when scheduling morning check-ins with your team, consider factors such as school runs to ensure the proposed time doesn’t conflict with people’s needs and commitments.
2) Training juniors? Share your screen
Historically, when juniors join a firm, they tend to shadow someone, sitting next to them during their first few weeks to learn how processes are handled.
Once they have an idea of a process, consider reversing the roles and let them 'do’ while you watch and guide them through it – this can help accommodate different learning styles.
Top tip: consider having all your processes documented so a new member of staff can follow at their own pace. This also doubles up as a way to regularly review your processes for productivity gains.
3) Building your client relationships with communications
Are you worried about your client relationships if you cut out the in-person contact? There are proactive steps you can take outside of normal client management.
Firstly, we’d advise you to increase communications – consider implementing weekly emails that give clients the latest news and service updates.
Secondly, be sure to create social media accounts for your firm on all the major platforms that your clients reside, and share regular company, legislation and service updates there.
By doing the above, most clients will see and hear far more from you than when you were a traditional accountant.
4) Modern technology
Undoubtedly, the most important component to making a virtual practice successful is technology.
Running a virtual practice means that you and your people must be able to work remotely, which requires cloud accountancy software, such as IRIS Elements.
If you don’t want to switch to a full cloud solution, I still recommend you think about more than just hosting your desktop applications – security, governance and service levels are equally important when going down this route.
Top tip: another technology consideration is your HR software; when operating in a virtual environment, HR processes such as submitting annual leave, managing appraisals and even the onboarding process should be digitised.
The benefits of a virtual practice
Ask yourself: why did you start your firm?
Whether you wanted to be your own boss to better manage your work-life balance, or you’re looking to be a renowned practice known across the UK, digitisation can help.
Embracing software and utilising a digital approach not only enables you far more freedom in your day, but you can easily scale your services as you expand – learn more about cloud integration.
Looking for more support on creating a virtual practice? We hosted a session on the Accountants’ Club (the friendliest accountancy community out there!) – click here to join the community for free.