Having multiple offices gives firms the ability to serve a geographically larger area and a wider base from which to attract staff. And when the workload gets heavy, multi-office firms can shift work from one office to another. Load-balancing work across offices is a great idea on the surface, but it can be more complicated than it sounds.
Different Types of Work
Many times, branch offices perform a different type of work than other locations. This can happen when a firm has acquired another location because of a specific niche or line of business that they specialize in. Someone who typically works on individual returns may need some help getting up to speed on business returns. An auditor may not be as intimately familiar with the nitty-gritty of tax law as someone who works in tax all year long. For cases like this, one good approach is to group projects by complexity. You can assign simpler projects to less seasoned staff. Give more complex work to your staff members with more expertise.
Colleagues in other offices might do the same type of work you do but have different ways of doing it. Different partners have different preferences, or other offices just have different way s of doing the same thing. The end product may turn out the same, but the review process can get complicated when expectations aren’t clear. Using a workflow system with project templates and detailed worksteps can help firms standardize their processes. When everyone knows what step comes next and who is responsible for what, they can focus clearly on the work itself.
Getting to Know the Clients
Perhaps the most important problem multi-office firms face is understanding the needs of unfamiliar clients. Most clients are only familiar with one of your firm’s offices. Offloading the work to another office might make sense for you, but can confuse clients. A centralized client database, with detailed client notes can help ensure your staff has the information they need about the client. Being able to easily move completed work back to the client’s primary point of contact is essential for client satisfaction.
To learn more about creating a one-firm culture in multi-office firms, download our ebook, “Creating a one-firm culture in the cloud: 10 tips for multi-office firms.”