What is a ‘firm playbook’ and how do I create one?

Does your accounting firm need to stay competitive? Discover the power of a modern firm playbook and why your firm can’t afford to be without one.

minute read

Last Updated June 28, 2024

An image of hands together in a huddle.


Imagine your accounting firm is a championship football team.* You have the talent, skills and drive to be the best. But without a solid game plan—a firm playbook that guides your every move—even the most gifted teams would run around aimlessly. 

Just like elite championship teams, your firm needs a finely tuned playbook. And we’re not just talking about a boring procedure manual. Playbooks are living documents that lay out strategies for conquering every aspect of your business, from staff management and client onboarding to tax season and advisory.

Modern firms use playbooks, and you should, too. So, let’s get into it.

What is a modern firm playbook? 

An image that outlines three ways playbooks serve accounting firms. This list is also included in the body copy of the blog.

First things first: Let’s define what a firm playbook actually is. For sports teams, it’s usually just a bunch of Xs and Os, circles, dots and arrows. To outsiders, it may look like gibberish. But in actuality, it’s a comprehensive guide that provides the framework and strategies that make teams more efficient and streamlined. (And, when executed well, it leads to championships.) 

Throw in automation and tech-driven operations, and it holds true for accounting firms, too. Playbooks serve as a roadmap for firms to: 

  • Streamline their workflows. 
  • Reduce manual tasks. 
  • Adopt and implement modern tools and applications. 

You may have noticed that we’ve said “playbooks.” That’s intentional. Many firms will have more than one playbook, and there are no wrong playbooks here. (We just suggest you don’t go overboard with them, OK?) You may have a playbook for staff management, payroll, tax season, client management…the list could go on. Create playbooks that work best for your firm. 

What should go in my playbook? 

An image that has an icon showing a play with Xs, Os and an arrow on a board, and the title "Playbooks include plays that:" along with for bulleted items that are written about in the blog.

Just like with sports teams, no firm playbook is going to be exactly the same. But each one has similar aspects, including plays (plans) that: 

Analyze existing processes 

You have to know where your firm currently stands before you can make any changes. Get your staff involved to: 

  • Identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies and room for improvement. 
  • Map out current processes to determine pain points. 
  • Determine where manual tasks can be optimized or automated. 

Rightworks Academy members: Download our process scorecards to help you with this. 

Implement the right tech stack 

At the core of every accounting firm is a tech stack. Whether it’s tangled or tidy is up to you. Optimized tech stacks include: 

  • Cloud-based applications 
  • Automation tools 
  • Data analytics platforms 

Determine a clear vision for how technology is used in your firm and create a simplified approach to implementing it effectively. 

Streamline and automate workflows 

Playbooks outline strategies for automating accounting tasks, workflows and processes. This can include: 

  • Automating manual tasks, such as data entry, reconciliations or payroll. 
  • Leveraging AI to analyze data, identify patterns and provide insights. 
  • Adopting document management systems to manage, store, retrieve and send documents. 

You want to streamline as many processes and workflows as possible to free up time to focus on what matters: your clients. 

Require continuous improvement 

Playbooks set the foundation for ongoing process improvement, enhanced automation and scaling your firm’s operations. If you’re not reviewing your plays regularly, processes won’t improve. On a regular basis, ask your team: 

  • How did you feel about this play? 
  • Did we hit our milestones and/or goals? Why or why not? 
  • What can we improve? 

Use this feedback to adjust your plays/strategies to continuously improve your firm. 

A piece of advice: Huddle up 

An image of a group of accounting firm staff in a huddle celebrating.
Successful modern firms keep their staff involved in creating their firm playbooks.

Teamwork makes the dream work. Yes, we said it. It’s important to keep your staff involved in crafting your playbooks—from beginning to end. Have them help you assess your firm’s current situation. Give them space to provide candid feedback about what is and isn’t working. And implement their feedback. 

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers for advice. Ask your community if anyone has done things the way you’re doing them or thinking about doing them. Chances are, you share similar goals with other firms, and you’ve run plays that have or haven’t worked, or maybe someone in your community has. That sort of support and collaboration is invaluable. (Academy members, you can use Circles to collaborate with your peers.) 

And if you’ve been around Rightworks or the Academy for any period of time, you know that we strongly believe that people matter most. So, huddle up and be ready to listen. 

Create your modern firm playbook 

As you develop each playbook, it’s important to set clear goals and define specific plays or action steps to achieve those goals. Remember, it’s an ongoing process that requires regular assessment, collaboration with your team and adaptation when needed. 

By taking time to assess your firm’s current state and crafting tailored playbooks, you’re well on your way to winning that championship—er, creating long-term success for your modern accounting firm. 

If you’re ready to create your own playbooks and need some direction, become a Rightworks Academy member today! 

Hands in…📢 1-2-3 BREAK! 📢 


*Fun fact: Emily was at the 2022 National Championship game in Indianapolis to watch her beloved Georgia Bulldogs win their first national championship in over 40 years. And yes, she cried. 

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