My $12,000 mistake: using Word for engagements

May 4th, 2021 by Jennie Moore 6 minutes read

Managing scope is an important part of being an accounting professional, both during and after tax season. To do this successfully, you need to first have a solid understanding of how to create an engagement. This will ensure that your firm is compensated appropriately for the services you provide, as well as limiting liability.

Before using Practice Ignition here at Moore Details Inc., my boutique bookkeeping practice, we relied on Microsoft Word to prepare our engagements. It seemed rational and budget-friendly at the time. But as I scaled, I realized that creating my engagements in Word was costing me both time and money.

This was an untenable situation. In fact, this practice was actively harming my business.

What’s wrong with Microsoft Word?

Microsoft Word is a great word processor—but as I learned the hard way, that doesn’t make it suitable for preparing client engagements.

Unsurprisingly, the process of creating customized engagements in Word is incredibly time-consuming. More importantly, however, I actually ended up losing a client worth $12,000 in recurring yearly revenue as a direct result of using Microsoft Word to create my engagements.

OUCH!

Here’s how to avoid my mistake—and why you need to leverage a solution like Practice Ignition when looking to scale your firm.

Remember: engagements are the face of your brand

Word is bland. No matter how many fonts you try out, or the images you include to try and bring it to life, it’s still blah blah blah boring.

In fact, it’s yesterday’s technology.

As accountants, our clients expect us to solve their financial problems using the latest cutting-edge technology. So when you promise prospective clients a tech-led approach but send them a Word document, they can’t help but think you’ve been living under a rock the past decade or so.

This might seem a little dramatic. Word isn’t that bad, right? Wrong.

What I learned is that my Word-based engagement process didn’t match the level of service that I promised my clients. I told them that I’d make their lives easier—yet sending an engagement as a Word document actually made it harder for them to sign it and send it back over to me.

They were expecting an electronic, easy-to-understand, intuitive process. But by sending over a Word document, clients suddenly questioned how I would make their lives easier. After all, I hadn't even managed to make my own life easier...

I was basically shooting myself in the foot.

For too long, I simply accepted that this was the way I operated. Deep down, I knew it could be improved—but this wasn’t a high -task. At least, so I thought.

That all changed when I lost a promising lead.

We had a great kickoff call. I got on well with them and they seemed like a really promising business. I sent over my engagement and eagerly awaited their response.

But when they did get back in touch, it wasn’t the response I was expecting. They were brutally honest with me, saying: “Well Jennie, we really liked talking with you. However, when we saw your proposal, it just didn’t match up to what you were preaching.”

This was a real kick in the teeth—but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Put your practice first

In the following few days after I lost that lead, I kept on mulling over why I hadn’t ditched Word sooner. I knew in the back of my mind that I was using a substandard process, but I was so focused on completing work for clients that I forgot one crucial thing…

Sometimes you have to put your practice first.

Client-centric practices will go to all sorts of lengths not to disappoint their clients. When that comes at the expense of looking after your own practice, however, something needs to change.

Now I know you’re probably super busy implementing financial technology for your clients. Our firm has migrated several businesses to Quickbooks Online and Xero, so we know just how much time and effort it takes to onboard a new client and get them properly set up with your existing workflows.

But this doesn’t mean that you can simply neglect your own practice while you focus on your clients.

If you promise a prospective client that you’ll migrate them to the latest cloud-based technology, guess what: your engagements should also be cloud-based. If they aren’t, then your prospects will suddenly question your self-confessed knowledge of all things cloud-related.

Think about it: you wouldn’t trust an IT guru to fix your laptop if they still used Microsoft 95.

So why would a prospect trust your apparent tech expertise when you still use Word for engagements?

Take the time necessary to ensure that your engagement and onboarding processes match the services that you offer your clients. Show your practice some love—this will ensure that prospects trust what you say, and just as importantly, that they trust your practice.

Top tips to get you started

Taken from my own personal experience, here are some top tips to help you digitize your engagement process.

Most importantly, does the platform make it easy for you to get started with templates for your services and a basic letter of engagement?

The answer is YES with Practice Ignition.

Remember: get it right

In closing, my advice is to take your time when selecting a proposal system for your firm. Test it out thoroughly. Send out a few trial engagements to see if it has the right features for your particular brand.

Then, once you’re sure that it adds genuine value to your practice, make the commitment to act and fully implement the engagement process into your onboarding and workflows. You’ll be amazing at how much more efficient your life will become.

Since my firm implemented Practice Ignition, we’ve never again lost out on a valuable lead—and we’ve never looked back.
So I urge all of you out there: give it a try, today.

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