Every CPA practice should have its own “how-to” manual. You can call it whatever you like – your “Firm Policies & Procedures”, “Working Procedures”, “Practice Manual”, anything. Its name isn’t important – it’s having one that’s crucial.
Here are some quick tips to help make what seems like a huge undertaking much more manageable:
- One section at a time. To start, just commit to completing one section of your manual – just one. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your staff. Pick a category – maybe “Sales and Marketing”, “Safety and Security”, or “Customer Service”. Embark on completing just that one section. When it’s finished, take a break before starting on the next. It’ll go even more smoothly next time, because you’ll have gained valuable insight from completing the first.
- Gather your notes. Ask everyone involved in doing the work to gather the notes, checklists, forms and “cheat sheets” they use. It might be information they refer to on a regular basis, or notes they haven’t needed since they first came on board. Either way, gather as much information from your staff as possible. It will serve as the “bones” on which you’ll build your manual.
- Make it easy to read. In the actual writing of the manual, make all information easy to read, understand, and find. Use alphabetical and numerical listings, logical headings and sub-headings, bullet points, simple and concise sentence structure, etc.
- Attach supporting forms. Anywhere in the manual where you instruct the user to use a particular form, be sure to attach a copy of that form. Also, tell the user where they can find additional copies of the form, both printed and in your computer system.
- Don’t hide the hiccups. Let your staff know that you want to be made aware of any problems in the way things are being done. Encourage them to bring those problems to your attention, not sweep them under the rug. Creating a firm how-to manual is a perfect opportunity to smooth out any wrinkles in your procedures.
- Review. This is your practice. You’re the leader. Be sure to sign off on procedures personally, ensuring that they’re consistent with your overall vision.
So – which section of your how-to manual do you think is the smartest to start with?
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