Tips for better practice management

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Sometimes, it takes the most basic tweaks, to take a business from good to great. SAIBA’s Accountant of the Month, Nicole Holborow-Browne gives some tips to help improve the practicalities of running your own practice. Read what works for her.

Sometimes, in accounting, it feels as if all we are doing is follow up on outstanding items! From reminding clients of documents and payments, to reminding SARS of our outstanding queries. Here, are some very hands-on tips that have worked for me, to help keep track of all the admin and follow-up items:

Emails:

I have folders in my inbox, and as soon as an email is attended to, it is moved to a finalised folder. Each time I open my email, the emails in my inbox are the items, I know I need to attend to in the next day or two. I do this on an ongoing basis, and so, I never lose track of my email filing. I find 5 minutes a day is MUCH easier than needing to clear a whole day when you didn’t stay on top of your emails. If there are any emails that I feel needs more than 2-3 days to be resolved, I print them out. I try not to end a day with more than 5-10 emails in my inbox. Bear in mind I receive over 100 emails a day!

Another email tip: save ALL your emails – they are vital as backup. If I have a discussion with a client telephonically, I like to back it up afterwards with an email confirmation of what was discussed, for my record to call up at any given time.

As the owner of the business, I have also set up that I receive a copy of all incoming and outgoing emails across the business. This can be time consuming, but it ensures that when a client phones, I know exactly what has been transpired and also as I may have knowledge of some legislation that my employees might not have.

Computer folders:
I have a folder for each client, for each tax year. All documents are saved in their tax year. Items that are attended to are also scanned and saved.

All this information is also backed up remotely. I always scan in SARS stamped documents, so that there is more than one copy of that document – SARS stamped documents are so important in trying to get them to follow up if documents are lost.

Once a case (such as a personal tax return), is finalised, we stamp it finalised, and scan in all the paperwork. There is now a hard copy, scanned copy and also submission on E-filing.

SARS Follow Ups:
In our office we have an alpha-sorter (from A – Z), where we put all pending items. As soon as a tax return is submitted, we write on the front cover page of the return ALL the info, and then place it in the alpha sorter. We have a staff meeting every Monday morning, where we review every pending item and decide whether it needs to be followed up with SARS or with the client (where we may be waiting for a document).

We also place all payment instructions to our clients (for PAYE/ VAT/ TAX/ COID) in this sorter, so we can remind clients of payments again, before due date.

This is a simple but invaluable system for our office, as we don’t lose track of these follow-up items. There are also times, where clients loose emails, or documents, and if we did not have the record to followup afterwards, the matter may not have been finalised.

We only file items away once it has been confirmed by SARS as finalised.

Lists, lists, lists:
We have list for everything! There is a list of personal tax clients, list for VAT clients, list for PAYE clients etc.

Each month, we print the lists and mark off as attended to. We have to make sure we do as much as we can to not forget a client!