Our clients frequently ask for help in automating their business processes because they see how well we do with their accounting systems. Business owners want to streamline their systems as much as possible in hopes that they can efficiently run their business from anywhere in the world with the least amount of time and costs associated. Many business owners think that automation has to be a big project with custom software when in reality many of your day to day business processes can be automated using technology in no time at all without software engineers.
The Issue. One process I do regularly is send engagement letters. The issue as I saw it was that every time we would accept a new client, after speaking with them on the phone and going over our terms, I kept finding myself away from a computer. It bothered me that I wasn’t able to send their engagement letter right away. All business owners understand that time is precious and not being able to get the proper documents to a client right away is crucial. We previously sent our clients a pdf to print out (which goes against everything we stand for), sign and return. I couldn’t help but think they would question why we didn’t practice what we preach in running a streamlined technology friendly accounting firm.
Solution. To solve this I put together a quick application stack that would allow me to initiate and send a customized engagement letter from my cell phone. Now before you go and say well why don’t you have the client initiate themselves on your website and although that can easily be created as well, I am currently serving as the sole filter to weed out (non-technology friendly) clients that may not be a good fit for us. So with that in mind I knew it needed to be myself initiating the letter but I wanted to be able to generate it from my cell phone and make sure it took me next to no time to do.
While I am simplifying in part how I created the automation stack below the takeaway is that I have no software background, I am no better with technology than the average person (in my opinion) and I truly believe anyone can automate their businesses processes very easily without any sort of computer background at all.
Steps. First step, I created a form utilizing one of the many form builders available. There are a ton and you just need one that supports api connections. The form is simple for the most part with fields for date, client name, business name and so on. In the form I also pre-loaded about a dozen common services with checkboxes so I didn’t have to do much typing. I also added another service field just in case I did want to type something custom on the fly.
Once the form was built I dropped an Iframe (copy/pasted) from the form on a web page. Then on my cell phone I just navigated to the url and created a shortcut to the url on my phones home page. See an image of the icon on my cell phone below in the top left. Once you click on it as you can see the form comes right up.
Next step, create a template engagement letter (which I already had) and replace any sort of information that would be customized with a merge identifier. Basically meaning that where the clients name goes you put clientname with brackets around it, where the date goes you put date with brackets around it and so on. Then upload the template to a document merge app. There are several of these apps out there as well, we are happy to help if you need any recommendations.
I also needed to link the merge app to docusign. Note some of the document merge apps come with e-sign capabilities so this step may not be needed in some cases.
The final step was to connect via api the form I created with the merge app that has the document and link up each of the fields and that’s it. See below what the client sees in their inbox and can open from their cell phone and sign electronically as well.
New Automation Flow. What I described above can be done in under an hour and automates something that used to be done manually and take 30min – 60min each time. We can now generate our engagement letters from a cell phone in about 1 minute. Of course there are many softwares that you can pay for that will do this for you as well and the specific application stack may differ depending on exactly what you want to do. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you or your business need any help with automating your processes. We are happy to help.
Is your business using any interesting automation tools? Please share with us in the comments below.