The business discipline of practice growth: find the time to focus on the services clients want most.

Author:Hostetler, Dustin
Position::Certified Public Accountant

Lean Six Sigma, which began in the manufacturing industry, is a business management strategy that works to improve the quality of end products. By identifying and removing the causes of defects and variability in manufacturing and business processes, efficiency is gained. Skilled facilitators (certified Black Belts) lead this team-based problem solving approach by bringing a set of tools that are uniquely applied to each process and situation. Starting with a thorough measurement and analysis of all current steps in the process, the team identifies where efficiencies are being lost and uses Lean techniques to improve those processes.

A recent survey by the Institute of Management & Administration asked clients why they leave their CPA firms. The number one response was poor client service, and the third highest response was that the firm was not being proactive. Lean Six Sigma helps firms to address both concerns by becoming more efficient in providing client services and finding more time for the strategic, proactive services that clients want.

The more effectively a firm gets work in the office to be completed and delivered, the more quickly the work can be billed--leading to increased cash receipts. Finding more time is at the heart of Lean Six Sigma, especially when applied to professional services, such as accounting.

Who doesn't want to have more time? Here is how Lean Six Sigma can help you achieve it.

Applying Lean Six Sigma to Professional Services

In order to become a certified Black Belt, students must complete a real-life Lean Six Sigma project. In determining a project to tackle, some partners at Rea & Associates, Inc., (Rea) mentioned that areas in the tax return process could be improved. Although no precedent has been set for using Lean Six Sigma in a professional services setting, the model can be applied to any industry.

The first ever Lean Six Sigma project done in a CPA firm looked at the business tax return process in one of Rea's local offices. The success of that project led to additional process improvement projects, initially at the local office level and, within the past two years, firm-wide projects. The firm's most recent project that looked at business tax returns on a firm-wide basis resulted in an increase of cash receipts by 10% over the previous year.

Meeting Economic Demands

Finding ways to make services more efficient makes sense anytime, but in today's economic conditions, it's more important than ever. As clients...

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