Neal Morrison, partner at McInerney Saunders shared his top tips and tools for practice profitability at this years’ UK200 annual conference, held in Edinburgh.

Neal gave a rundown of a list of creative ways he and the firm use technology to become more efficient and spend time on the more important things in life.

Below is a list of his top tips for embracing technology to increase efficiency and ultimately client satisfaction.

To set the scene, here’s the range of software McInerney Saunders uses to run its practice:
•Practice Engine
•Sage
•Alpha Tax
•Irish Taxation Software Services Limited (ITSS)
•Microsoft Office
•Relate Company Secretary

1. Make basic actions simple

Morrison uses tools in email, Word and Excel to simplify certain processes.

He achieves a zero inbox in Outlook by creating auto rules, which send emails not immediately important (like LinkedIn updates, newsletters, CC and BCC emails) to separate folders which he deals with in due course.

In Word, Morrison keeps a pre-defined letterhead template which he will then save as a PDF and email a copy to clients, rather than using fax or posting it.

In Excel, he has a number of tools he uses to make things a bit quicker:
•The data filter and data sort tools to quickly filter rows and columns when searching for something
•The text to columns tool which converts single lines into multiple columns
•Concatenation – which adds a group of text values to one another and combines data from separate cells, making it easier to copy and paste to Word
•The pivot table function which he uses to sort data such as staff’s chargeable hours

2. Utilise productivity software

McInerney Saunders has paperless office tools implemented, such as Expd8, which they use for document management and client communication on a dual-screen.

Other software they implement includes Dragon Dictation, Ocrex AutoRec, PDF converter and an iXBRL Adapter.

Morrison finds AutoRec useful for any situation where analysing a bank statement is required, and Dragon Dictation for speedy work when he can only talk rather than type.

3. Run your practice like a business

Morrison’s firm focuses on business development by implementing a raft of tools designed to help them keep abreast of elements such as sales, client satisfaction and connecting with new and existing clients.

The firm uses live information systems such as Xero, Receipt Bank and AccountsIQ, so clients can access their data at any time and cross-collaborate.

Social media features high on the firm’s list of business development as a form of marketing – they’re active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and have just joined YouTube.

Morrison is an active Tweeter, but only uses the medium to gather information rather than put information out there. He advises members to use hashtags, such as #taxreturns, which can be useful for winning new business around self assessment season.

Simply click on the hashtag, see who’s talking about tax season, and tweet them seeing if they need help with their returns.

It also uses a sales pipeline, such as vision-net.ie and Salesforce to keep track of clients and new wins.

The firm also employs a focus on customer satisfaction and making client service a priority, with the ultimate goal being loyalty.

“It’s all very well and good looking out for new clients but don’t neglect the clients you already have. There’s a phenomenal amount of work coming from existing clients, so go to them and get out and about,” Morrison advised.

4. Embrace apps

Morrison admitted that he’s an Apple fanatic and would be completely lost without his tablet device.

He uses a number of apps to improve efficiency in his practice, including LogMeIn Ignition which allows him to access his work desktop from his tablet anywhere, at any time.

The other apps he uses are:
•Evernote
•Business card reader – this scans business cards and adds them to Outlook contacts
•Dictamus – a dictation app that plugs in to Dragon Dictation
•Doc Scanner
•1Password – this is a one-stop shop for all of your passwords
•iMindMap – good for presentations, planning

Future technical practice profitability tools for McInerney Saunders, Morrison said, include a Citrix receiver, client portal and digital signature application.