Are you spending too much time on accounting?
One of the late realizations that I had after 20 years of using a powerful accounting program is that it was costing much more per year than it should. It wasn't the $1,000 per year subscription that cost too much; it was the time required to USE the accounting program. A true accounting program, like we were using, is very fussy. If it were a person, it would be considered “high maintenance”. In our case, the time spent on accounting was time that could have been spent on billable tasks. We could have easily afforded to farm out every accounting chore for what we were “spending” in lost opportunity.
Here is how I look at time allocation for accounting now.
This table shows how I would allocate time for all the administration tasks:
- Paid Time Off
- General Office / Clerical / Record-keeping / Correspondence / Office Supplies / Library
- Business Development / Marketing / Sales
- Software Management / Acquisition / Deployment / Training / Maintenance
- Special projects
- Bookkeeping / Time Collection / Invoicing / Paying Bills / Payroll / Project Accounting
- Financial planning / Banking / Insurance / Tax preparation
- Professional Development / Professional Organizations / Continuing Ed
- Facility / Housekeeping / FFE management / Network and server admin
- Benefits Admin / Time Off / Office policies
This table is based on a five person firm. The spreadsheet is available for download if you are a subscriber. Try out your own assumptions.
In our case, we used up just about all of our admin time, leaving little for accounting. Just 1.2% of our firm's time was available for accounting.
If you can do accounting in the 1.2% allocation, that would be ideal. Can you do accounting in 120 hours a year for a 5-person firm? That's 2-1/4 hours per week! 10 hours per month! We were spending 6 times that amount of time. Our system was costing us about $60,000 a year in lost revenue. Even if the time couldn't be billed, it would have made a HUGE difference in our marketing efforts.
To keep accounting time under control, here's what you CAN’T do:
- You can't use timesheets that aren't entered directly into the bookkeeping software
- You can't use invoice templates requiring monthly maintenance of the account status
- You can't spend time tracking down reimbursable expenses and mileage
- AND you can't afford to be using true accounting software
And one thing you should be doing, you should know your profitability on each project so that you can make informed decisions about the work you pursue.
So what is the answer? I am still looking, but Harvest can save you lots of time on Timekeeping and Project Accounting.