We get it. Your business is your baby and it is no small thing to hand over your books to a new financial daycare. But, we are here to walk you through the process and promise that once it’s done, you will be happy you did. It is a process we have finely tuned over the years into an onboarding machine that sets us apart from the competition.
Curious about how it all goes down?
Onboarding new clients is a seamless, three-phase process with an opt-in for advanced services, depending on a client’s additional needs.
Signing on involves contract and scope-of-work discussions with our director, who shares important information about you and your company with ORBA’s onboarding team.
Our onboarding manager will then plan a kickoff meeting. New clients receive an email with an agenda, along with items you need to bring to our first meeting. Items include: Account and systems access, pass codes and login credentials, and any specific procedures we should be aware of.
We will come to your office, unless you work from home or in a co-working space, and would rather use one of ORBA’s meeting spaces. If your business or key contacts happen to be out of state, we will conduct the meeting via video conference.
Phase 1: Kickoff Meeting
Introduction, Approach and Expectations and System Set Up
We have two types of clients: Those that have some experience in accounting and finance who want to stay more involved, and those who prefer to hand everything over and rely on our best practices and schedule.
There is a third type of client who we empathize with: The owner we mentioned above who has been doing everything up until now and is reluctant to hand over the books to the business they have poured their heart into. Let me assure you, we do not take this process lightly. Our primary goal at this stage is to ensure your trust and show you that we care about your business and your success. This relationship begins from day one of onboarding.
At the kickoff meeting, introductions are made between the onboarding manager, ongoing manager and the client’s team.
A crucial part of this phase is reviewing the onboarding approach and plan, determining our schedule and setting expectations. This is paramount for establishing a great working relationship. We lay out the frequency of our meetings (at least once a week during the onboarding process); agree on the timing for the transition and ownership of processes; develop scheduling around reporting; clarify how much involvement the client will have; and discuss what information they need to make important business decisions. We then tailor our approach to meet your needs.
The most important aspect of the kickoff meeting is gaining access to your accounts and systems. The goal is to have all the required access before the meeting ends. We want to be fully equipped for phase two, so that the transition to our services will be seamless.
Phase 2: Weekly Accounting Items
Transition of Bill Payments, Customer Invoicing and Payroll
In phase two of onboarding , we cover all things that need to be done weekly or bi-weekly:
Accounts receivable (AR);
Accounts payable (AP); and
Accounting processes are standard, but each client is different. We cover anything that is unique to your business and plan for that transition.
Each meeting is structured around your needs. At the first meeting for each process, you will train us on your procedures. We leave the meeting with full ownership and responsibility of execution. We come to the second meeting with questions and clarifications on deliverables.
We provide a status update at every meeting, celebrate your successes to date and plan for future changes if needed.
Once we understand the existing procedures, we develop or make process improvements where necessary. We will not make changes until we truly understand and have gone through the current process and can replicate it. All procedures are entered in our task management software, Asana, so everything lives in one place and anyone on the team can step in and assist. This part alone sets us apart, as you will forever have all your accounting procedures meticulously documented.
This is our standard approach, but if there is something more pressing to your business than getting trained on weekly items — for example, an issue with AR and invoicing that needs immediate attention, a need to focus on clean-up to apply for a line of credit, etc. — then we prioritize that. Onboarding is a dynamic and evolving process.
We are continually making and communicating adjustments as we move through phases three to five of this process. This is one of the best parts about onboarding you as a new client — it is all at your fingertips. We get to witness your excitement because of the changes we are making. We see the house that is being built and want you to share in that vision.
Phase 3: Month-End Accounting Items
Budgeting and Cash Flow Forecasting
Sharing Month-End Process
In phase three, we cover and learn about all items related to month-end accounting and verify their accuracy and completeness: Cash and credit card and other balance sheet account reconciliations and related journal entries, AP, AR, etc.
Depending on the complexity of the month-end process, we step right in and take over or, if necessary, plan for any training required. We then document the steps into Asana.
We create balance sheet workbooks, which I find most businesses are not currently using. We learn about the current month-end reporting from a deliverables point of view and we discuss what reports we can provide. Usually it is more (in quality and quantity), not less.
One of the biggest asks that we get is related to cash flow reporting. Budgeting and cash flow is the focus of phase three, but on a minuscule scale, it is also included with AR, AP and bill payments. Not only will we create these reports, we own them and typically update them weekly in accordance with bill pay, so that you have the information you need to make important decisions.
Next, we cover the chart of accounts and reorganize as needed. Fixes to the chart of accounts will provide useful information about profitability and aid in budgeting. We reconstruct and adjust reports to suit the needs of your business — needs like reporting by department or class, product or business line — to help you make better business decisions and maximize the profitability of your company.
Once you have completed phases one through three, your associate is onboarded with no interruption in services. They are typically trained behind the scenes throughout the onboarding process. Their focus is to maintain completion of the weekly accounting items and month-end close with direction and oversight from the ongoing manager. This allows the onboarding manager to redirect their attention to higher level services.
Phases 4 & 5: Advanced services
Key Metrics and Other Special Projects
If you sign up for the advanced services packages, we will continue onboarding as needed with reviewing managers.
Within a week of the kickoff meeting, we are already owning and executing on the first process we agreed to take over. Typically, the total onboarding process timeline is completed within five to six weeks.
We are not afraid to talk about our emotions
As an onboarding manager, you need to have a very high emotional intelligence. I know, not something you associate with your every day accountant. And, that is what sets us apart. Our team is able to read our clients, analyze their needs (e.g., do they need more details in their reports or something more high level). I genuinely consider our clients’ anxieties and what keeps them up at night, at least from a business perspective. We aim to address all of their concerns, predict what they need and deliver without them ever needing to ask.
Because we listen so intently, we often learn things in the onboarding process that may need addressing or extra help. And, because we are embedded in a full-service accounting firm, if we ever encounter something outside our realm of go-to services, we can easily access expert tax advice, audit advice and GAAP-compliant advice, to name a few examples.
I am reluctant to say this — only because I am the onboarding manager — but what makes our onboarding truly unique is our people. Our onboarding process and procedures can be duplicated, but the people executing them cannot. Emotional intelligence and empathy are traits that transcend process and procedures. Genuine care for our clients and believing in the success of their business is what ultimately sets us apart.