The end of the calendar year is rapidly approaching and for many it probably can’t come soon enough. I’ve been turning my mind to some things accounting firm owners and managers could benefit from thinking about at this time.

In my experience December and January can be very different in different firms. I have noticed in some firms they are very quiet months and yet in others they are busy and productive. To some extent I think this comes down to how you like to operate but I also think it comes down to planning.

We know that many businesses do start to wind down in the lead up to Christmas. The school holidays start and it is quite natural that routines change and the focus moves more to family. What I have observed in a few firms however is that they have people in the office with not enough work to do in December and/or January. At the root of this is a lack of meaningful capacity planning and management. To address that here are some suggestions:

  • Decide what the length of shutdown is going to be for your business this year if you have not already.
  • Communicate this to your team
  • Get clear about who is off when – often those with school age children will take extra time
  • Make sure you have enough work in the pipeline for the people working in the December/January period. This means proactively working with your clients to get work in. (My own accountant has just done this with me.)

None of these are difficult things to do and can make a real difference to your financial results in December and January.

Here are some other things that you could do between now and year end:

  • If you do time sheets and record WIP, complete a detailed review and make sure billing is up to date. The longer the gap between doing the work and billing for it the less likely you or the client will remember what was done and the value it provided.
  • Chase up debtors. If you don’t collect before Christmas it could be February before you collect them.
  • If you have not already, it is not too late to plan a team event to celebrate the end of the calendar year.
  • In addition to a year end event consider a gift for each team member as a small token of your appreciation for his or her commitment in what has been a challenging year for most. Particularly in a year when salaries may not have been reviewed, this will be appreciated I’d expect.
  • Pick something off your to do list that you have been putting off and push hard to get it done. It will give you a real boost to have finally knocked it off your list!
  • Do a review of your client list to identify if any of your clients (focus on your best clients in particular) will face any issues over the year end period and whether you need to proactively assist them prior.
  • Acknowledge all you clients in some way, whether it be with a quirky Christmas card, email, phone call, or in some cases, a gift that reflects who you are. One of my clients recently said the criteria for a client gift was that it had to be locally produced, consumable and not naff!
  • Go back to your business plan (if you don’t have one ring me now and we can book a time to fix that) and assess your progress. If there have been roadblocks to achievement what are they and what has been their root cause?
  • In respect of your personal effort and the firm more broadly ask:
    • What has gone well?
    • What would I/we do differently?
    • What should I/we stop doing?
    • What should I/we start doing?
  • Pause to consider your goals for 2021. Then get clear on what you will achieve in the first quarter

It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day rush of our work. As we move towards the end of the year I reckon if you can do the things I’ve just listed you’ll finish the year on a positive note and should be optimistic about what 2021 will bring for you.