Small business owners have to wear many hats making you very busy. Even if you have a financial or accounting background, getting and keeping the books dialed in is hard work. Consider these two thoughts: “The devil is in the details” and “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. So when you have so much to do, and keeping the big picture in mind is really important, keep track of things with checklists.
• Don’t stress the small stuff – use checklists
Keep small stuff in the checklists so you can focus on the horizon. And when you free yourself and your staff from stressing over the small stuff, you are free to focus on creativity.
• Checklists can improve everything.
Anyone who has critical and complicated tasks should use them. Does your bookkeeper use checklists? What daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual activities are critical? Does it matter if these things are done consistently and more efficiently? You bet it does. That’s why you need checklists.
Checklists will help you remember what bookkeeping tasks need to happen, and monitor what does get done; they will also help you find ways to improve efficiency. When you learn how to use checklists for bookkeeping, then you’ll learn to use them in other areas of your business. Checklists can improve the way your whole organization starts up, runs and completes old and new tasks, projects, processes and training. Working with checklists helps you create clarity. Without clarity, endeavors are mere setups for failure.
• Begin to make it better
If you want to improve training, productivity, and accuracy while increasing customer, management and staff satisfaction, try some basic project management checklists. Below are some guidelines to use in all areas of human endeavor, including accounting.
• Why a checklist?
1. Used consistently, checklists establish standards for ongoing and new projects.
2. Checklists can ensure clear communications between clients, management and staff.
3. Checklists create accountability by identifying areas that need improvement, which is the first step in any Continuous Improvement Process.
• Warning! Effective checklists are interactive.
Communication should flow between participants, so have participants initial/sign lists. Even better – provide worksheets or surveys in to increase awareness, report progress and raise issues. Always collect questions & comments – this is key to future improvement.
• Have checklists for each phase
1. Before – project/task/job kickoff
2. During – Interim reviews
3. After – Follow up review
Before – don’t hope for success, program it!
• State clear expectations
2. Give expected timeframes
• Highlight issues
1. Work with participants to spec out steps/milestones with target dates/times
2. Identify gating factors that will hold up progress
3. Caveats – include warnings of what Not to do, when known.
• Initiate orientation before work starts
1. Provide background
2. But get participants to research a project themselves before they start working on it
a. Establish forms to fill in (think treasure hunt)
b. This will enhance involvement and ensure a detailed understanding
c. Identify anomalies/peculiarities if known and provide examples
During – monitor progress
• Have checkpoint reviews for critical milestones
1. Provide self -review checklists to fix issues before proceeding further
2. Identify issues that need attention or items that need correction
After – assess and acknowledge
• End of Period/Task/Project Review
1. Final Checklist
2. Any further fixes or improvements?
• Provide useful and supportive feedback
1. Highlight successes and give accommodations where ever possible
2. Identify issues encountered and resolved
Repeat – with refined new checklists
• Establish and follow through with checklists
To prepare for takeoff pilots run down very extensive checklists to be ready as possible. Sloppy bookkeeping will not likely kill anyone, but it can bring down a whole company. Small business owners rarely want to slow down enough to implement quality improvement programs. But you have to stop assuming that everyone is on the same page as you. Understand that clients, management and staff all have so much at stake and want as much success as possible. Keep refining your checklists as your organization evolves. Without quality improvement in place growth can’t really take root. You will just get more mess faster.