Keep Calm & Automate Your Client Onboarding

New client onboarding is one of the most challenging and painful aspects of running an accounting firm. But it’s also a significant opportunity to set yourself up for success. It sets the tone for the entire relationship. Grab a coffee and join us to learn how to automate your client onboarding process to save time and create happier clients. We’re not looking to add new apps to your tech stack. You’ll learn to streamline your existing processes using the latest no-code technology.

Attention: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for understanding!

Korey Cournoyer: [00:00:00] Yeah, I think that's such an interesting point. Like, you know, it doesn't take much to change that first conversation, right? It's the difference between did you set up QuickBooks, Xero, Net Suite, whatever you're using, Did you set that up? Did you set that up or did you not changes the entire dynamic of that first call? Are they coming there and saying, okay, let's actually start or are you coming? They're saying, you know, I'm going to set up these things. It's going to take a few weeks or it's a whole different it's something so small, but it changes the entire outlook of that relationship.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:33] Want to learn what sets LiveFlow apart from the thousands of other QuickBooks Online apps? Do you want to learn how LiveFlow saves time for Hundreds of accountants and bookkeepers want to learn how LiveFlow helps accountants and bookkeepers to use LiveFlow successfully in their firms. Stay tuned to hear more from our sponsor LiveFlow later in the episode. If you'd like to earn CPE credit for listening to this episode, visit earmark CPE ABC.com. Download the app, take a short quiz and get your CPE certificate. Continuing education has never been so easy. And now on to the episode. I am Blake Oliver. I am joined today by Korey Cournoyer of GrowthLab Financial. Cory, great to see you.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:01:22] Like we had some technical difficulties, but we're here.

Blake Oliver: [00:01:26] Well, you know, we are using the latest technology to bring you some of the latest education about technology. And so there's always going to be snags. And actually we'll talk about this when we get into automation, right? Like when we are using technology to automate processes. That automation technology is new. It often breaks. And that was, I think, one of the big frustrations for a lot of people. One of the main obstacles to implementing automation in your firm is just the chance that it's going to break and then having to go fix it. But you add that people, it stops people. Yeah.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:02:04] Tell me these people and I think like it. We'll get into it more, but it forces you to really understand the pros and cons of what you're doing right and.

Blake Oliver: [00:02:13] So the topic today is keep calm and automate your client onboarding. We're talking about automation, and one reason that we're talking about automation is because you and GrowthLab are experts in automation. You've got a no code practice now in your firm. Tell me a bit about no code, what GrowthLab is doing and what your role is.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:02:36] Korey Cool. Yeah. So we started focusing on no code maybe about six, seven months ago, give or take. And the impetus for that was really like we started automating things in our firm, starting with Zapier and things I'll get into later. And we've started to understand really like the pain points around actually automating, right? Like automation can actually cause many more pain points than it's worth if you don't do it right. And so we kind of started to figure some of these things out. We explore with new systems, make Integra Matt, others that will go into it really started to understand like the nuances of where we should focus as a accounting firm. And as we started talking to other accounting firms about some of their similar pain points, we're like, this is actually let's help some of our peers. Like let's actually help some of these other firms that are having these same exact struggles as us. And so our no code low code practice focused on process automation is really a niche within the accounting community. It's really focused on other accounting firms because we can bring our experiences automating things in the past for our own firm to them. So that's really what we focus on helping other firms. We're not just focused on, you know, quick automations, build a Zapier and off you go. It's really on process automation, right? I think there's we have to distill those differences as we talk about nail code.

Blake Oliver: [00:03:53] Yeah, that's really important, right? Is doing it holistically, not just one off and and understanding our processes before we start to automate. That's a really key point that we're going to talk about today. And if you are listening to this on the podcast feed, chances are the course is already live and you can just go download the app, find the course search for the title of this course, which is keep calm and automate your client onboarding and then you'll find it. Take the quiz, register for that, get your free CPE OC With that out of the way, let's get into our agenda for today. So we're talking about client onboarding and automation. We are going to talk about why we are focusing on client onboarding specifically when it comes to automation. Then we're going to talk about process mapping. We'll talk about how do I start process mapping. And then only after we've talked about process mapping and we've gotten a little example of that, then we're going to get into automation. It's very important to do the process mapping first, and then we'll talk about the tools you can use to automate how GrowthLab can help you with that. And then we will leave time for some Q&A. So if you're attending live again, feel free to put in any questions into the LinkedIn chat. I will be monitoring that and we'll do our best to answer those questions for you. So Korey, let's talk first about number one, why focus on client onboarding when it comes to automation? Why did we pick this particular area of a firm to automate? First.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:05:33] I feel like we could probably have a one hour discussion on just just this bullet, right? Why focus on client onboarding? It's probably five or six reasons why I push firms to go this route first and foremost. One is when we talk about automation, I'm going to jump a bit for a second, but when we talk about automation, right, one of the challenges people face is and we faced it in our own firm is what do we actually automate, right? We know the technology is out there, we know it's existing and we just want to automate things, right? We just want to make our practice smoother, more efficient, more scalable can go on and on. Right? And so we start dabbling in what like what is our pain point, what makes sense to automate. And so we ended up focusing on customer success, client onboarding as kind of that first first foray for new firms starting in automation because of a couple of reasons. One is the pain point across all firms, right? For the most part, it's a pain point because it's a sticky customer experience, right? We want to have the best customer experience when they first walk in that door, right? It's like, what's that? First impressions are everything in this and the more seamless you can make that onboarding experience for that customer, chances are the more likely they are to be a long term customer because they have a bad experience front that goes on for too long.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:06:52] Right? So it's an important inflection point for the customer experience in your firm as a whole. Another reason is because most of the time that's the first way that firm owners can actually get out and start scaling their business. Right. A lot of the times for some of the smaller firms, the the practice owner is really the one that's doing that client onboarding, right? They're the ones setting up the systems. They're the ones building out the internal controls and the internal workflow management systems. And so it's the first place that firm practice owners can scale their own practice. And then lastly, kind of the last piece I'll touch on here is there's limited efficiencies with scale, right? A lot of the onboarding onboarding flow across all firms. While there are certain nuances that are different or certain firms use different apps, we use carbon ignition, right? Other firms may use canopy and propose a ball, right? There's a million out there, but generally speaking, the workflow is the same across firms. You get a new client that signs an engagement agreement or engagement letter. They you set up the internal document management system, you set up the internal workflow management system, you set up the internal communication system, right? Generally speaking, it's the same flow. And so you can kind of optimize that based on other people's experiences pretty easily. And so that's kind of like the main place we focus on because it's the lowest hanging fruit in our opinion.

Blake Oliver: [00:08:19] So we've got it's a common pain point. It sets the tone for the client relationship and then it's a good place to start because it's easy in the sense that there's a lot of firms that do onboarding, every firm does onboarding, and generally it's done in a similar way. So what Growth app is learned about automating onboarding will be applicable to almost any firm, I'm sure.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:08:45] Yeah, And that's why we kind of like we step away from don't just look at the apps. It's like, I'm going to I'm sure I'll talk about ignition and carbon and stuff because that's what we use in our own practice. But that doesn't mean that this only applies to those apps, right? Think about the holistic workflow. Mm hmm.

Blake Oliver: [00:09:02] Yeah. So for me to I'm curious to get your take on this quarry in my firm, one of the smart things that I did, I did a lot of dumb things, but one of the smart things that I did was I broke out onboarding from ongoing client services. I made those into two separate teams and I'm being a bit when I say teams, I might be a bit generous because it was really one onboarding person, but I had a dedicated person who was my onboarding team with me and that's all that they did. Do you recommend.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:09:36] That? Yes, that's how we started to that's how we kind of went down this path of I kind of blend when I talk about this. For success in client onboarding, because I agree with that. We kind of look at those as kind of the same, the same resources, same people doing that. But yeah, like going back to the point where many firm owners are doing the client onboarding themselves. If you can find a way to leverage that client onboarding, whether it's through automation and also like systematizing that workflow, which we'll get into with process mapping, if you can find a way to process that and begin automating it, that's the perfect opportunity to begin separating onboarding from recurring services. It's an easy entry point.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:18] Yeah. And why does you said that the onboarding sets the tone for the client relationship? Mm hmm. Why is that?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:10:26] I think it's a it's a handful of things, but probably most importantly is think about our own experiences with other other companies or accounting or non accounting related, right? If you have to begin repeating yourself, if you have to begin sending over documents two times, three times, if you get the wrong Zoom links. Right. I'm talking about like simple things here, right? One mistake, it's not going to change the relationship. For the most part. You begin having a poor process and a poor just communication system between the onboarding team and the recurring team. There's going to become a disconnect there, and then the client's going to feel like there's no love there, right? Especially, I think, in accounting, where it's becoming such a commoditized industry, like it is even more important to focus on the customer experience, right? Because you want to have them. If they love your firm, they're going to tell all of their friends, right? The small business world, there's no better recommendation than another business owner.

Blake Oliver: [00:11:21] Great point. Their client experience is something we really all need to be focusing on. And yeah, if they don't have to be giving you the same documents over and over again, or you asking the same questions over and over again, which is pretty common, right? When we have a disorganized process, it's going to be a better experience.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:11:38] It was one of our pain points. The last thing I'll say on this is like it was one of our pain points at GrowthLab. Being honest was, you know, we had customers coming to us and being like, I just told the accounting team or I just told the onboarding team what, you know, what state I was incorporated in, Right. Example here, Right. Why are you asking me this again? Right. Once they get to the recurrent services and it's such a small thing when you think about it, but to the customer, when you're dealing with their accounting, which is such a a personal topic to them, right? You're dealing with their money in many facets, right? It's such a personal topic to them that I think that that pain point just gets exacerbated. It feels a lot worse because it's such a sensitive topic.

Blake Oliver: [00:12:19] All right. I'm convinced that focusing on onboarding is important. I hope that our listeners are as well. So let's talk about getting started and we aren't going to jump straight into the automation tools. We're going to start first with something you called process mapping. So what is process mapping and why do we start with process mapping?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:12:42] So in short, process mapping is is visualizing your processes. It's literally just mapping them visually on a on a screen, whether it's on a whiteboard. There's a lot of things that you can do there, but why do we focus there? Going back for a second, when you start talking to people about what you can automate and what you where they can begin automating their firm, it's kind of a teeter top, right? It's what can I automate? Okay, great. I've learned that I can actually automate things. Now. Let's automate everything, right? Like it's a slippery slope that people go down. And so process mapping, what that does is it forces you to pause. If forces you to say, what am I actually automating? Because just because you can automate something doesn't mean you should automate something because. At least a girls lab and a lot of other firms I've talked to. What happens with technology and software is really you begin to cherry pick new software and new technology for your firm because it solves a specific pain point in that time. Right? It solves a discrete problem. And so firms have bundled together these like this random tech stack solving individual discrete pain points, rather than looking at it at a holistic view of what are the technology solutions that I need to solve this workflow. And then begin automating that process. What I mean by that is if you just begin automating for the sake of automating a process, you're going to look back six months from now, 12 months from now, as you begin to scale and say, Oh crap, that actually doesn't fit my business or it doesn't fit what I'm trying to solve for. And so process mapping is the process of pausing, mapping out your workflow, and then taking a look at what actually makes sense, truly makes sense to begin automating.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:28] Okay. So we're going to take a big picture of you. We're going to figure out what the process looks like and then we're going to decide what we want to automate and what tools to use.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:14:39] Yeah, because a lot of people, they they think they know their process, right? Everyone knows their process until you ask them to. Draw it out, right? And then it's, Oh, wait a minute, maybe this is happening. Maybe it's maybe it's not. It kind of follows this. It kind of doesn't. It forces you to get it concretely, what is actually happening.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:01] You know what that reminds me of? It's that challenge to draw the continental United States right from memory. And you think, you know, all 50 states if you've been around long enough. And then when you actually have to draw it, you realize, oh, I actually don't know where Nebraska is relative to Colorado or something like that. Right. I know they're near each other, but I don't know where. Maybe that's just me. You know, I didn't I didn't have geography in in school as like a class. But. But yeah, it's.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:15:33] I don't think I could do that. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:35] Yeah. You know what? If we have time at the end, we should get a whiteboard out, and then we'll see. We'll see if.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:15:41] We can do a CPE.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:43] You know, You know how you can tell where somebody is from? Because all the Californians like, we can't, we can't figure out where all those little states are on the East Coast. You know, we get we get like, where's where's Rhode Island?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:15:52] Korey Like it's not Long Island. Rhode Island.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:55] Rhode Island, Yeah. Which is where you're located, right? Yeah. All right.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:16:00] I'm based on the Providence.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:01] Okay. So I digress, though, Right? Okay. So we're we're going to start with process mapping. Now, this this might be a challenge because we are recording for a podcast here. So can you help me? If I close my eyes and I open my mind's eye, can we visualize a process map? And for those who are watching this on the YouTube edition, we will have a screen share as well. So you have an advantage. But we're going to we're going to do our best to visualize this for you. So if you're out walking the dog or you're out doing the dishes or whatever it is, you can follow along as well. So, Korey, I may interrupt and narrate for you.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:16:40] Yeah, please.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:41] Okay.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:16:43] So I'm going to I'm going to share my screen. Why don't we. What are we going to like? Dive in? Take a look at one. Sure. I'll try and explain it as much as I can for those listening in.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:52] And you know what this kind of reminds me of while you get that going, Korey, it reminds me of I think it was in cost accounting in college when I had to do these or managerial accounting, as we called it. I had to do these flow charts.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:17:06] And that was just going to say, Yeah, it.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:09] Looks a little different because you're using a tool called Miro here. But you know, like I think that it's very similar in that we've got boxes, we've got words in them and we've got arrows pointing. And you know what we should do before we start, Korey is let's go ahead and turn off our videos so that the screen share goes full screen.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:17:31] Cool.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:36] Think about this. If you have approximately 60 clients and create five reports a month for each of them, that's over 3600 reports a year. And let's say you're really fast and it only takes you a minute per report. That's almost 2.5 days a year you spend creating reports. Here are a few of the ways how LiveFlow saves time for so many accountants in bookkeepers. Once you create the perfect suite of reports for a client, you can just copy the Google sheet, use LiveFlow to connect it to a different client's QuickBooks Online company. And you're done. The new reports will pull in the data for the second client automatically. You can easily drill down to the details of each number on a LiveFlow report, including drilling down to the transaction level to navigate directly to the transaction inside of QuickBooks Online. No more opening QuickBooks Online to search for a specific transaction. LiveFlow and Google sheets are in the cloud so you don't have to waste time emailing files between your team and clients. You can give your clients access to a suite of reports that they can view at any time, eliminating one off requests for you or your staff. To learn more about using LiveFlow and how you can save 20% off your first three months. Head over to earmark CPE promo slash LiveFlow that is earmark CPE dot promo forward slash lx ivf lx o w stop manually updating your spreadsheets with LiveFlow. All right. I'm going to let you go ahead and walk us through this.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:19:11] Yeah, no, I think that that's a great point, Blake, is it's it's a similar to a flow chart, right? It is meant to be a mind map, a flow chart, a process map, whatever you want to call it, outlining your processes. And the key that we want to focus on here is not just people, right? It's not just. Okay, Blake, you signs the engagement agreement, and so I'm going to do X and then someone else is going to jump in and do Y, right? We want to make sure that as we're going through this, we're looking at it a bigger picture. What are the systems that play into here? Because nine times out of ten, it's really the systems and the pain points that those systems cause. That is the focus on why we want to automate things, right, Whether it's redundant data entry, right, running parallel systems, you know, desktop versus cloud based systems. Right. It's usually the systems, generally speaking, broadly speaking, that cause 80 to 90% of those pain points.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:14] Okay.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:20:15] So let's go through this.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:16] And systems you're talking about. This is where the data lives. This is where the files live.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:20:20] Yeah. Any any type of apps as part of your tech stack as this as I talk about systems. And so I like to kind of think about process mapping and starting process mapping. We're using a tool called Miro Miro. It's simply just our preferred, no affiliation with them, but it's a really clean, easy way to visualize it using different colors and stuff. And I'll go into why. But when beginning this process map with your team, whether it's you or whether you're doing it with someone else, I usually like to approach this as an interview style. Right? Act naive, access it. I don't know anything going on in the business and interview someone. Right. I did it with someone else on my team, on the sales team here the other day. Act as if I don't know anything. Right. So what happens? Great. We get a new lead. So if you're looking at this screen or if you're listening in, we have a new lead as that first initial. Initial starting point for this process map. Right. We're not going to focus on marketing. We're not going to focus on sales for this. We just have a new lead that wants to move forward. Got it. What happens next? 90% of the time you'll send them some form of welcome email, right? You'll send them usually a template to welcome email. You may have systems that do this. We can say, Hey, Joe. Hey, Sally. Glad you want to learn more. You know, let's set up a call, right? Usually this is, generally speaking, 80% of how these flows work. You'll have that kind of that moves forward to the next box on here you have the sales call with the lead. Right. And if you're looking in, you'll see I have kind of a sticky note here where I've added some context or a 20 to 30 minutes call on average.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:22:01] Right. I don't want to focus on on the the specifics on this. But the point I'm trying to make in this is add context and add detail as you go along in this process map, because the point of doing this process map is not each bucket you make. The point of doing this process map is when you step away and you see the process map as a whole, and then you begin to realize, Oh wait, right, there's probably something better. So you have that sales call with the with the lead. And usually what happens is they either say, yep, let's let's move forward, send me something, a proposal engagement agreement, or they drop off. Right. Whether it's not a good fit from their end on your end, it's kind of to generally speaking avenues that they can go down to move on. We'll prep this engagement agreement. And as I'm going through this also, you'll notice that there's different array of colors being used in these in this map, if you're if you're watching it. I like to do this and kind of color code. Some of these boxes are part of this workflow because the gray versus red versus the blue versus the green, it helps you to identify areas of opportunity. In other words, I use Gray just personally speaking as a manual process, right? It takes an individual manually sending this. Can it be assisted by systems or it's are you prepping engagement agreement? Are you doing that in on a piece of paper writing it out? No, you're probably doing that in a system like Ignition or Proposal Ball or one of those. But it's.

Blake Oliver: [00:23:32] You know, it might be word. Korey That's a lot of word for word. Yeah.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:23:37] Yep. But that's a, that's a great point, Blake, because that identifies an area of opportunity, right, when we go back to this. Mm hmm.

Blake Oliver: [00:23:46] Okay. So we're according to this process map example we are doing that engagement letter is a manual process. So let's assume it's word, right?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:23:54] Yep. And, you know, you prep it up and you'll send it to the lead, right? You probably send it out of the either a system or you'll just email them the engagement. Right. And once again, I don't want to like I want to preface this or add in here, right. We're not focused. Don't focus as we're going through this on the specific, you know, this is the workflow that we that we want to push or that we think is best for businesses, right? That's not what I'm focusing on here. I want you to take a step back and try and align it with your business, because generally speaking, 80% of this flow probably correlates in some capacity with yours. So once you send that engagement agreement, there's probably usually about three ways that I think about people going as their next step, either A they're ready to decide which is best best case scenario. They're unsure about signing, in which case you probably have a branch off in this process map and you'll have a follow up conversation with them. Maybe they'll go into a nurturing campaign, right, with your marketing team, depending on what that looks like, maybe you'll just keep them in your back pocket and follow up. Right? A lot of things can happen there, or you just simply it wasn't a good fit, right? They there's a misalignment for whatever reason, and they kind of just fall off, right. So kind of three ways they can go.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:25:10] Let's just assume for this conversation as we go through this, Blake, that they do side, right? They do want to move forward. And this is usually where the pain points begin to happen, right? Because this is where this is where sales usually leaves all if they are distinct roles or more. So it's where the practice owner gets that lead in the door. They sell them on the engagement agreement and then they actually have to begin setting up stuff right then. Then the work actually begins. So what happens when they sign an engagement agreement? Right. Usually it kind of branches off from most firms into two parallel things happening, right? You're setting up systems. So I'll go into in a second and you kind of doing some of that administrative capacity planning, if you will, right. Depending on if they come in for tax versus accounting versus CFO or FBA, depending on what your firm offers. There's some level of communication with the what would I call the services team, right. We going to be doing that work And if there's not, and if it is the practice owner. That we're looking at here. This is even a better example. Blake I think because the practice owner is doing both of these things and then picking up the baton at the end in doing the work. So the need for automation is even multiplied. Yes. So as we go through this. Right.

Blake Oliver: [00:26:30] So, so now just to describe what I'm seeing here, we've got this visual. We've got two parallel pathways now, and that's why this has gotten complex, because we've got we've got a coordinate with the services team and that's the upper pathway and then get them aware of what's happening. And at the same time, we have to now start getting the payment and setting up all the systems. So we've got the people on the top and the systems on the bottom that are getting set up. Is that fair to say?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:26:58] Yeah, absolutely. And to to go back for a second on why we focus on client onboarding. This is it. What we're looking at right here, Blake, because this is there's no efficiency with scale here, right? Like whether you get one client in or whether you get 100 clients in at a time, right? Depending on the size of your firm. Like these things all have to happen, right? You still have to set up your communication systems. You still have to set up your file storage systems. You still set up your project tracking or your time tracking, right? You still have to do this no matter if you get one client or 100 clients. And so there's limited like the efficiencies with that scale. And so automation is like that perfect opportunity that we focus on, on client onboarding because this is just non value add. Right. So the things that we're doing here that you're looking at setting up these systems internally, there's no immediate delivery of value to the client. It's just has to get done. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:27:54] And this is where I think the first failure point shows up, at least in my experience, which is I would get the payment from the customer, I would schedule the first onboarding meeting, but by that meeting I hadn't yet set up everything that needed to be set up, so we couldn't actually do anything. And there was a big difference in that first meeting. If I had everything ready to go and we were ready to to, I could show them, Hey, I've got your QuickBooks or your Xero file set up and transactions are flowing in you. I could show them a result very quickly as opposed to, Oh, we didn't do that yet. And now we just have to kind of.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:28:36] Like.

Blake Oliver: [00:28:37] Waste time, right?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:28:39] Yeah, I think that's such an interesting point. Like, you know, it doesn't take much to change that first conversation, right? It's the difference between did you set up QuickBooks Zero, Net Suite, whatever you're using, Did you set that up? Not to focus on that, that specific system. Right. But did you set that up or did you not changes the entire dynamic of that first call? Right. Are they coming there and saying, okay, look, let's actually start or you're coming? They're saying, you know, I've got to set up these things. It's going to take a few weeks, right? It's a whole different it's something so small, but it changes the entire outlook of that relationship.

Blake Oliver: [00:29:14] And maybe a more general example that would be better is simply having the shared file storage setup so that the client can, in their first meeting, start uploading documents to you and you can show them how to do that. Whereas sometimes in that first meeting, nothing is set up and then you're rushing to create the shared folder and share that with them. And they're just sitting there watching you do something. It's kind of a waste of their time, right?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:29:38] Yeah. Or worse yet, the system is not set up and you're sending over the client, sending over, you know, tax returns or files or, you know, different things over to email. And then the individual team member is kind of just like trying to manage those files off to the side. Right? And then you have to you have to make sure that those files actually get into the, you know, shared storage. So there's a you can talk about these pain points, but hope to emphasize the reason.

Blake Oliver: [00:30:06] And so what we're seeing here is we've got on the lower workflow, which is the system set up. We've got a few examples set up Microsoft teams slash slack. That's the communications with the client. If you're using a chat tool with them, then we've got set up one drive slash box slash drive folder, that's the shared file service. So you can securely exchange files, your file portal, if you will. Then we've got the time tracking for their employees. That would be tsheets or harvest or clock strike, what have you. Then we've got the QBO or zero file and then we've got the carbon asana jetpack, the the task management or the project management software that you're going to be using for them. And so those are all I mean, those are just five core things. I'm sure we could have many more as well, depending on what they've signed up for.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:30:54] Absolutely. Yeah. There can be a million here, right. And what I found is going through this process map with a lot of firms is oftentimes these are the these are the five core things that you probably need. Right. You can have a lot more. But what happens is firms realize as they go on that they are solving different pain points. And so. They may have multiple file storage systems set up. Right. They may have multiple. Some may use carbon and jetpack or carbon and canopy. Right. Depending on the services team. Right. This flow that we're looking at right here can really blow up. So it's ripe area of opportunity. And if you're watching or if not, we have these gray boxes that have each of these systems, right. So set up teams, set up one drive, so on and so forth. And then I've highlighted them in red for this conversation here. And I've done that specifically because that is a pain point, right? As you go through this process map, whether you define teams or OneDrive or setting up these systems as your your distinct pain points, do there, whatever it is, if you feel like this process just doesn't feel right, takes too much time, right? It's it's mis coordinated, whatever the reason is, I like to tell people highlight it in red, because that allows you, when you come back to this to identify areas of opportunity. Right. We're not when we're building a process map, we're not trying to solve the problem as we build it, because that just that just causes a whole new can of worms. Right. You really when you do this process map, you want to define the current state and stop there. Don't don't fix it. Don't solve for it. Define current state and then pause.

Blake Oliver: [00:32:34] Okay. So we've we've identified a few different areas that we can automate right there with those highlights.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:32:41] Yep. And then kind of at the end of this, usually what happens, you set up those internal systems, you know, you plant capacity or plan who you're going to pass the baton to for who's actually going to do the recurring work. And then in some capacity or some format that kind of get transferred off to the the surface team for however that looks in your business. But you know, what we're focusing on here is current state defined, current state, no future proofing identifiers of opportunity and just map systems and people. That's kind of the three top tips I would give people.

Blake Oliver: [00:33:16] All right. So now that we've defined our current process, now, do we get to automate this?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:33:22] Not quite. Not quite. And the reason why is when you've identified the pain points, Blake, that's what opens up the next conversation, which is what are the systems right to define system requirements. So I'm going to use a random example, and I'm not meaning to pick on any specific app here, but let's just say random example. You use slack, right, for client communication and you use OneDrive. Right? A completely random example, right? If in some capacity those systems need to talk to each other, you need to define that as a system requirement as part of your onboarding process. Right? So if you're going to change what applications you're using, you want to make sure that they not only solve the pain point that you're looking for, but they integrate with the rest of your tech stack, right? Not just saying, Oh, Slack has the best user interface and the best features, I'm going to use that. And then going to the next bucket, I like using box. It looks clean and then I like use a clock shark that's that solves my pain point, right? You want to look at these as a totality. Do these systems talk to each other? Like what are the system requirements in terms of access levels? What is the system requirements in terms of client communication, client experience? Right. Like it needs to be a holistic conversation. Bl8 that's not just it solves this problem, let's implement it. And so as we kind of like go through this, I'm going to switch for a second here. Blake Mm hmm. I'm going to go down and we have a more automated form of this that we went through. Right now, I'm going to walk through this one, Blake, if that's okay with you. Of what? What? This is a, this is a simplified example or but what this could look like as your feature statement.

Blake Oliver: [00:35:06] Okay, So it looks pretty similar right now where I have the the new lead comes in, I send the welcome email, they do the sales call or I do the sales call and then I prep the engagement agreement. Oh, that's different.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:35:22] Mm hmm. Yeah. So that's hence the color coding here. Right. But after that sales call, right. That prepping of the engagement agreement, whether it's ignition or four possibly or even word, I've seen people do this right. I've seen this part automated but that's an easy shouldn't take easy right. That's a that could be a clear first step automation right. If you're using a system like HubSpot. So for example, how GrowthLab does this? We use HubSpot and we use the deal flow the deal columns in HubSpot. And so as it moves along in that process of becoming further and further down the pipeline, getting closer and closer to signing, we have different automations that are triggered by the columns in HubSpot that may be set up the client and ignition, or maybe send them specific emails depending on where they are in that journey. Right, But. In this case, the simplified example here, that's where that example comes from. You have that call. They're ready for the engagement agreement. You move them in HubSpot, you move them in your workflow system and they prep up the engagement agreement or they prep up the client, I should say, in our use case.

Blake Oliver: [00:36:29] Yeah, I think that's a huge area to improve because in an ideal world you can actually send the engagement agreement during the call and because that's where a lot of deals get lost from a sales and marketing standpoint is you have a great call with the client and you said, I'm going to send you, you say I'm going to send you my engagement agreement, then you send it and they never get back to you. They write other priorities, or maybe somebody else gets in there and talks to them and sells them on their services before you get a chance. And that's where deals are lost, right?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:37:00] So 100%. Yeah. And I also think on that topic, like I'm sure firm owners are looking at this or listening in right now and being like, Yeah, but you know, Blake, how long does it actually take me to set up that client in ignition? Right? The answer is not much. Right? Maybe takes you 3 minutes. But it's not about saving those 3 minutes. Right. Because if it was just about saving 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, like that's not that's not what we're focusing on here. Right. Because if you're just focused on saving bulk time, there are probably other areas in your firm that can save you more than 20 minutes at a time. Right. When you go on a limb and say guarantee there are. Right. But why do you do this? Why do you find these small optimizations along the way? I mean, it helps reduce errors, right? If someone is manually going in there and typing things out, it's just prone to human error. No one's fault. It just happens. Right. It creates a consistency. Right. So as we go along here, when it's skip forward for a second here.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:04] Well, just on that note, share in one of the in the large firm that I worked for in public accounting, briefly before I left public accounting, we used word documents, we used a word template. And I think there were ten different versions of that of that engagement letter for our for our just our one practice, because we had sort of made modifications to it over time and it sort of spiraled out of control in that sense. And nobody really knew which one was the correct one.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:38:31] That's a great example, right? Yeah. Is version control.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:35] All right. But please do continue.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:38:37] And so, you know, things kind of look the same. Writes they you send the engagement agreement, they sign, they pay. And this is where we had that branch off. And the previous, you know, current state that we were looking at before where it branches off and you have the system set up and then you have the coordination right to capacity planning and coordination with service team. Right. However that looks in your firm. But if you're watching this, what you'll notice is there's one big green box here, right? What we had before was about five different gray boxes of manual things that happen. Someone goes and manually sets up Microsoft teams, someone manually sets up OneDrive. So when manually sets up Harvest or Tsheets, right, manually sets up carbon. And when you can figure out, let's just pretend for a second that you've defined those system requirements for the apps that you're using. Whichever ones are on here or others, you define those system requirements. You know, they talk to each other. When you can then automate that entire system set up that gets triggered by, let's say, payment confirmation or signature of the engagement letter.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:39:44] When you can trigger that, not only do all of these things happen in conjunction, but you are virtually guaranteed that they're all going to be set up correctly, right? They are not going to have the spelling errors. All of the names are going to match. Right. The team is going to have the correct access levels that they need. Right. It just it happens. And it's one less thing. While that may only save you 20 to 30 minutes per client, give or take, it's a fact that it gets done immediately. And so the rest of the team doesn't have to worry about it. And it helps ease that workflow along. Right? It gives you that extra buffer as you were talking about before. Blake, of you go to that first call. Oh, crap. I didn't set up teams. I didn't set up my OneDrive or box folder. Right? You don't the team doesn't have to worry about that anymore. And it's not just the time savings, it's the mental thought process, right. That I feel like that Blake Right. Takes up more time than anything else.

Blake Oliver: [00:40:36] Well, and to be fair, even if you're saving I mean, looking at this list here, setting up all this might take me. Even if I'm fast. It could take me an hour or more. And if I'm the partner and, you know, I'm. I'm highly valuable. Right? My billing rate is pretty high, you know, several hundred dollars an hour at least for me to automate that. I'm saving hundreds of dollars every time I automate that.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:41:01] Yeah, it's an opportunity cost 100%. And for the firm owner. Right. This this is a easy way if you can just spend those couple in an hour. Blake Right. If you can spend that hour instead of setting up these systems that are non value add, you could focus on getting another lead in the door or focus on doing more billable work or completing another engagement or getting out another tax return that is massive opportunity cost.

Blake Oliver: [00:41:28] Yeah, Well, so let's talk about how you actually automate this stuff, like let's get into the tools now.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:41:37] Yeah. So, you know, we recommend that everyone kind of starts with depending on, on how you want to approach this. If you are open to testing things out yourself, we focus on Zapier. It's you've probably heard about it. It's a household name for automation. No code, Low code, right. Use Zapier because it's a easier time to lie, right? You can probably begin playing with that. And I recommend this to firms because if you've never automated a single thing in your firm at all, start with Zapier because it's easy, right? Even if it's automating a Slack message, automating an email, right? You can begin to understand the limitations of these automations. If you want to take it that next level and begin automating things like system setups here on a more granular basis, while Zapier can do that, you're going to have limitations around things like searching. If the Microsoft folder was already set up before and if it was, don't make a new one. Right. Random example. Right. But like those filtering those if then you begin to get limited. And so for those we use, we personally use make you should be called in decrement. That's probably our favorite and get pretty granular. You can access a lot of the same apps. You can get down to the API level or this process street. Right? Like I know you use process street, right?

Blake Oliver: [00:42:56] Yeah, we use Process Street for earmark media, which is our media podcast production company. And every podcast episode goes through the same workflow, which I think now has three dozen steps in it. And so to ensure quality in the production process, that is essential. Now I know that carbon is, is very similar in that it has these checklists and automations and whatnot. So yeah, I would, I would compare in the accounting world, right. Carbon and Process Street are kind of similar in that respect. You create jobs for everything you need to do and then work through the checklist.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:43:38] And I think what's important to highlight that you just said Blake, though, was you're not sort of like Zapier is automating a task. Zapier automates tools like Zapier to automate a specific discrete task, right? Do X When you start to use tools like make or process street, you're not focus on automating a task or a discrete pain point or problem. You're automating. You begin to automate the process. And I think that's when you begin to find like, scale efficiencies with what you're doing. Mm hmm.

Blake Oliver: [00:44:10] Yeah. So for instance, like in Process Street, we could create checklist items to set up all of those different systems, and then each of those checklist items could be assigned to an individual, or we could hook up that task to Integra Matt or to Zapier. And when you check that box, it kicks off an automation. So what I like about tools like Process Street is it allows you to combine people and technology into a single process and then eventually swap them out if necessary. You can take a people driven process and automate it, but still have it in the same checklist. And that's powerful because you're not going to be able to automate everything all at once, you know? Yeah. So, so Zapier, great for automating. Diy, right? Like, it's pretty easy. I feel like anyone could sign up for it and start to figure out how to automate something Integra Matte or Make as it's now called, which is the you can't just search make on Google because you won't find anything, unfortunately. But the website is Macomb, so that's pretty good.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:45:26] I really haven't changed the name, to be honest.

Blake Oliver: [00:45:28] But I mean, I understand from a marketing standpoint, Integra Matt sounds like a laundromat, right? Yeah. So with Make, you can do more conditional logic. It's more sophisticated, but I imagine it's also a heavier lift to learn.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:45:43] Yeah, it's a heavier lift to learn in the thing. As you begin to build some of these automations for your own firm is you'll realize that things break and that's not because you set it up incorrectly or that's not because someone else set it up incorrectly. They just. The the the tools that you're using. Let's say it's box and slack. Right. They change their API. Api is just a it's the internal code that they use, Right. They change their code. They change their systems. Right. It's Zapier or make can't keep up with these thousands and thousands of apps that they're connected to. And so you're going to have breakages. And so that's kind of the key when thinking through this and why I say don't just automate for the sake of automating, because if you've automate these granular little tasks without thinking through the workflow, you're going to come back in six months from now and have a series of errors, and it's going to take you twice as long to like dig through that and manage those. Right. So holistic, right? It's a key word here, I think.

Blake Oliver: [00:46:49] Yeah. So quarry GrowthLab offers. This sort of service, helping to set up Zapier to make automations doing process mapping. You help firms do this, which is how you've become experts. Well, I guess you first started doing it for yourselves and now you are helping other firms. So tell me about tell me about that. Like like I'm a firm owner. I I'm interested in being able to to automate, but I don't have the time to do it myself. Like, how can you help me?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:47:30] I'd say probably two. Two areas, right? The first is, I always ask people. Do you have your processes mapped or laid out? Right? Even if it's not mapped right, Maybe you have a tool like Carbon or Asana or any of these workflow management systems that you've at least outlined the workflow, right? Do you actually have it down in granular? So if you haven't, we'll start with some form of process mapping engagement so that we can at least if nothing else, if you don't want to focus on automation, you can at least get your processes defined. We can kind of walk through that with you, helping you to identify the the areas of opportunity, the pain points of. That's kind of like the first place. If you've done that or you have that or gone through that. We have a new division called App Stream, which if you're watching, we have Blake has it up on the screen here, an app stream. What we focused on is we talked to other firm owners and the problem with why they haven't outsourced some of their development of the automation is because a lot of other firms are charging high development fees up front. And then you go back to, well, now I have to manage it or hire them again to fix it. So what we've done is we've built a subscription model around helping accounting firms automate their workflows. And so starting at around 200 bucks a month, we work with firms and we'll identify automations, We'll build them, we'll host them for you, and then we'll manage them and monitor them on a monthly basis so that if you have any of these problems or workflow changes or anything like that, we'll actually jump in and fix that for you so that it's truly an automated workflow. So for today.

Blake Oliver: [00:49:06] You're telling me that like I, I work with you to set up an automation where when the customer pays, my automation automatically sets up the shared file structure so that they can start sending me documents and then kicks an email off to them, inviting them to it and explaining how all that works. That was normally a process I had to do manually. Now it's just automatic. You can help me build that and then if it breaks, you'll fix it.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:49:36] If it breaks, we'll fix it. If you want to change the structure, you want to change what that email says, we'll update that. We'll monitor it. Will maintain it. Yeah, all of that. Okay.

Blake Oliver: [00:49:45] Sounds like a.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:49:46] An and then it's we've also put together an onboarding bundle because like we talked about today, like the whole conversation today. Blake Re onboarding is one of the big pain points. And so we put together a bundle where we will set up all of those like pain points that we went through today the file storage, the internal communication, the workflow management system, time tracking, the internal accounting, right. We bundle those all together. So those five automations that you just saw completely go away manually. We've put together a package for that that will do that at starting at 400 bucks a month. And the key here, though, that I want to touch on Blake, is it's scalable, right? This is not an automation. And then once you hit ten new customers per month, it scales up. Right? This is not a linear growth rate. Like this is truly scalable for firms where they begin automating it. As you scale your firm from 12 new customers a year to 120 new customers per year. You don't have to think about it.

Blake Oliver: [00:50:48] So if folks want to learn more, if they want to sign up, you've got a page on your website GrowthLab financials. Then go to what we do in the menu bar and go down to workflow automation. And the direct URL is just GrowthLab financial slash workflow hyphen automations. But if they come to your main website, I think they'll.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:51:11] They reach out and on LinkedIn or. Yeah, happy to have to talk with any firm owners that want to learn more.

Blake Oliver: [00:51:19] And what I like about this, Korey, and why I like talking to you is that there's lots of IT consultants, there's lots of tech people that will work with firms on building automations. I shouldn't say lots, but they exist. But they aren't accountants themselves. They don't do the monthly clothes, they don't do CFO type work. And so they're not as familiar with like the specific needs of accounting and finance and and specifically doing outsourced accounting for small businesses. So you're basically taking what you've done internally at GrowthLab and you're repackaging that as a service for other firms. Is that fair?

Korey Cournoyer: [00:52:00] Yeah. Packaging what we've learned in the show that you don't have to go through those same painful experiences that we went through trying to figure this out.

Blake Oliver: [00:52:09] Yeah, that's great. Well, Korey, it's been a pleasure chatting with you today. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for educating me a bit about, you know, process mapping and automation and what's possible. I really do think like onboarding, it's a great place to start. I mean, onboard yourself onto automation with client onboarding would be fair to say, right? It's a good fit.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:52:35] First place to.

Blake Oliver: [00:52:36] Start, this place to start. All right. Well, I hope to see you again soon. This has been a pleasure. Thanks, everyone who joined us live. And again, don't forget, if you are listening to this episode, you can get free CPE for it. Just download the earmark CPE app. Go to earmark ecom or search the Apple App Store or the Google Play store. Download the app and you can start earning free CPE for listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos such as this one. Just search for the title of this episode. Keep calm and automate your client onboarding or go to the GrowthLab channel on the earmark app. You'll see it there. You just have to take a quick five question quiz after you watch this video or listen to the podcast episode and then you'll be able to earn your CPE Korey, I hope to see you again soon.

Korey Cournoyer: [00:53:27] Thank you.

Blake Oliver: [00:53:27] Blake Bye.

Creators and Guests

Korey Cournoyer
Guest
Korey Cournoyer
While an avid learner, skier, and mentor, I also serve as Director of Corporate Development at GrowthLab Financial. My life-long goal is to continuously find the intercept between technological innovation and regulation. From working on side projects to better leverage the rise of new technology, to sitting with local business owners to understand the impact of regulation of startups and innovation, my approach always stays the same. People come first. I thrive in a world of the unknown, where problems don’t always come with a clear solution. Providing the creative energy in line with realistic problem solving, I aim for continuous collaboration and deliberate execution.
Keep Calm & Automate Your Client Onboarding
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