The Firm Administrator: Your Unsung Hero

Hear! Hear! for Admin Team Support! Do you have a digital firm administrator or admin team? Do you give him or her all the credit they deserve?

I’m talking about the person who greets and touches your customers’ documents first, is the last person to assemble them, and often the person who is talking with the customer about the finished product. This role, I believe, is the hardest within the office and has probably been one of the most to evolve over the last few years.

In the old days, the documents went in a folder to the preparer and through the office. When the return was complete, they assembled the tax return and mailed it.

A fairly easy job.

Not anymore.

The firm administrator role has evolved and is one of the most important touchpoints in a firm.

How does it look today?

  1. Documents come in via mail, email, portal, text and other unusual ways.  Some come in nice complete sets, but often many come in a little at a time. Or you think they are complete; then there’s a last-minute call or email saying,” Wait, I have one more thing.”
  2. Once the documents are in, the admin scans them or collates a PDF and adds them to the AutoFlow queue.
  3. The admin opens the Workstream project.
  4. In between, phones must be answered as to the status of where returns are, mailing addresses updated, and pleasant chit chat if customers are waiting to visit with a preparer or partner.
  5. Returns when complete appear on his or her Workstream dashboard for assembly and are delivered by mail, portal, and/or pickup.
  6. Let’s not forget a last minute redo after a partner changes something overnight or a customer remembers to include one more thing.
  7. Now, we have the collection of e-file signature pages and are pushing the button to send them off to the IRS.

I’m exhausted!  And it’s only 10am.

Pro tips from a tax partner (treat your admin team nicely!)

I caught up with Denise Felber, a tax partner at HoganTaylor in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the AICPA Engage event. I was intrigued to hear how the support team for their firm of approximately 225 people have responded to their changing roles.

JP: When we talk about tax software, to me it’s almost like a digital manager now. You know you no longer print and staple. You really have to watch those files and where they go. How is your admin staff reacting to all these changes?

DF: Well, our tax processor had never done it until this last busy season. And she was awesome. She catches spelling errors. She catches things with addresses.  Because she stopped having to worry about copying and stapling all this stuff, she makes our products a little more polished. When they go out she’s thinking more. We’ve got one [person] that is in charge of basically tracking our clients and getting them set up in the system, making sure they’re on every list that they need to be on. It’s a lot of client management details.

And then we have one [person] that her sole job is to do [AutoFlow]. Because we use [AutoFlow] to get the information on the returns. And that’s her whole job. She does a verification. She makes sure that all information gets in and she does page counts. So, they’re very much a part of the process and they know how important they are in our product.

JP: What I think is interesting about that is it really shifts that role. I always say that the most important person in a tax firm is the person who takes the documents and the person who lets them go. And usually it’s the same person, the administrative person.

DF: And you treat them very nice.

JP: Absolutely. That’s awesome that they’re adapting as well because I think we forget about them sometimes. Or we’re thinking about how we’re going to implement technology and a lot of times they’re the ones who are watching it more. Sometimes even more than the staff or the partners.

DF:  And they’re the ones who will come to us going “we didn’t do it right.” There’s a diagnostic criteria.  They’re very much into their jobs.

Listen to the whole interview:

Give your firm administrator the right tools

I do believe that the administrative team can be a tax firm’s unsung heroes.  This role has evolved significantly.

Are you giving your administrative team the tools and the training necessary for them to up their game and most importantly your firm’s customer experience?

To learn more about how the roles in accounting firms are changing, download Jody’s latest whitepaper, “The New Firm Transformation: Technology, Growth and the Future.”



Jody Padar, CPA, MST

CEO & Principal, New Vision CPA Group

All stories by: Jody Padar, CPA, MST