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Here Colin Dunn, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, reveals how to build a top bookkeeping team.
5 STEPS TO A BETTER BOOKKEEPING TEAM
A ‘championship team’ will out-perform a ‘team of champions’ every time. So how do you create one?
There are five key questions that you need to ask yourself (and then act on) in this article, as you build a championship bookkeeping team.
- Do you have the right people?
- Are they motivated?
- Do they know what to do?
- Do they know how to do it?
- Do you have the right environment conducive to success?
Let’s deal with each one.
1. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE?
In the ground-breaking research book about successful businesses “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, the concept of the ‘bus’ kept on coming up. The concept is simple enough …
…get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people in the right seats on the bus and then work out where the bus is going…
There may be some people in your firm who are not the right people. Maybe it is an Administration person, a Senior Accountant or maybe it is a Partner! Some people just will not change. However, give them a chance and if counselling, career development, or a good talking to does not work, then do them (and your business) a favour and free up their future.
We have all had someone leave (or we asked them to leave) and thought afterwards “I wish I had done that sooner”.
They may be the right people, but they are in the wrong seats doing the wrong thing. A classic example is having Accountants doing administrative work. Right person, seriously wrong seat! Hire one Client Services Assistant (administration support for the Accounting team) per five Accountants and you will free up significant capacity to help you grow your firm.
If you want your team to follow your vision then they must be the right team, in the right seats.
2. ARE THEY MOTIVATED?
How long do we spend at work during our lifetime?
Let us say we turn up to work for 40 hours each week. Add a one hour commute each day and make that 45 hours each week. If that is a 45 week year, then we have 2,025 hours each year either commuting or attending work. Most will spend about 40 years working so make that 81,000 hours. There are 8,760 hours in a year so that means each and every one of us will spend just over 9 (full) years at work!
With that amount of time spent working, you had better enjoy it. We only have one shot at this life and it is our choice if we go through life enjoying it or not. Do you (and your team) want to come to work? Are you (and your bookkeeping team) motivated to do that – or is it drudgery?
What motivates people? It is different for everyone. Some want money, some want interesting work, maybe its recognition, maybe fulfilment. You don’t know until you ask them.
So ask the bookkeeping team what motivates them. What is their passion? Why do they come to work? What would they change if they could? What are they looking for in a job?
Now you have to go and do step one first (right team on the bus) because it is pointless having a bunch of idiots (best word we could think of) who are motivated. A bunch of motivated idiots is not a good look!
3. DO THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO?
OK – so you have the right people, you have asked them what motivates them and what they want out of life. Now we start getting technical.
When you hire someone new, what is your induction process like?
Is it like most, which is … “THANK GOD YOU ARE HERE”. There Is your desk, your computer, the rest rooms are over there, here Is some work and I will see you at the end of the week!
Or is it more of a structured approach to induction? A structured approach would be where:
- There is an introductory meeting from the managing director explaining the values, goals and strategy of the business
- You explain commitments on each side and ask the new person what they want to get out of their employment
- There is a formal position description so that the new person knows precisely what they have to do in their role to be successful
- They are assigned to a ‘buddy’ in the office who is going to show them around, introduce them to everyone and teach them the systems
- There is a team celebration (maybe coffee and cake) to welcome the new person
- They are not introduced to do the work of their role until they are crystal clear what they have to do and how they do it
- There is an ‘end of first-week’ meeting by the managing director to see how they are settling into their new role
- On an ongoing basis, giving clear job instructions on each project will also make a marked difference.
4. DO THEY KNOW HOW TO DO IT?
One of the biggest assets an Accounting firm has that is not on the balance sheet is ‘knowledge’ – the know-how of the firm. At the end of the day, that’s what an Accounting firm sells – knowledge.
We all know we need to train people so that they have more knowledge to do their job better. However what happens each day to the knowledge that you have invested in? It walks out the door – and sometimes it doesn’t come back!
Training is important to teach people how to do things. You should have a percentage of your revenue dedicated to external training programs (or quality non-technical e-learning such as our LearningHUB).
However, even more important are the documented step-by-step systems that someone would follow after (or before) the training takes place. We are talking about each member of your bookkeeping team knowing how to do everything.We are talking about having an intranet with step by step, documented on-line procedures, linking to various tools so that a team member can ‘self-train’ on how to use your systems.
Remember – just because they have worked for another Accounting firm does not mean they know how to do it at your place.
5. DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT?
The war for talent will continue so you need to do different things to attract and retain people. You may need to focus on a different working environment. The environment relates to your facility, the equipment in it and the way you work with your bookkeeping team. So that would include office, furniture, IT equipment and various ‘team’ programs.
In our live training workshops over the years, we have asked team members in Accounting firms to nominate what they want to do to improve the environment. Here is a merged list from a number of teams that we know have been successfully implemented:
- Celebrate wins – have a ship’s bell in the office and ring it every time something significant happens
- Cable TV with a data projector and a big screen
- Personal trainer or yoga classes every week – a fit team is a productive team
- Lunch each day – why not!
- Fridge full of food – including breakfast
- Team building afternoons / days / weekends – get some outside professional help or go somewhere organised
- Flexible hours – you are paying rent 24/7 – use it
- Laptops for all – that way they are not tied to their desk
- Two (minimum) screens on every desk – you have no doubt already figured out how efficient it is
- Plants, colourful walls, view – make it an enjoyable place to be
- Quality chairs – remember the team are sitting for eight hours per day
- Open bar – Friday night drinks maybe – if you can…be sensible!
- Fruit on Mondays, lollies (candy) on Fridays
- Exciting work – no administration for Accountants
- Take them for lunch for no reason
- Quality coffee machine – speaks for itself
- Career path – where to from here?
- Pay above market rates – maybe plus 20 per cent
- Pre-emptive pay increases – offer it before you are asked
- Bonus program – have one that works and gets the team involved
- Show them the numbers – get them involved – maybe all of the KPIs plus revenue and maybe profit – the more they know the more they will perform – especially if it ties to a performance bonus.
These things are not major expenditure items. Get rid of the social club and have a ‘team happiness’ amount each month allocated in your budget and then put someone in charge of team happiness.
A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM
So there you go… five simple steps to creating a high-performing championship team.
As Norman Schwarzkopf once said: “When in command take charge!”
You are in command of your business, your people and your own circumstances. Maybe it is time to take charge and build a championship team and an even better business.
One of the key points talented young accounting graduates cite in selecting an employer is the quality of non-technical training that you can provide. This is where e-Learning really benefits.
If you’d like to know how to attract and retain the best people, check out PANALITIX LearningHUB, a cloud-based platform that you can use to differentiate your firm and attract the very best young accountants today… so that your firm can thrive tomorrow.