Creating Your Accounting Firm People Strategy: Processes and Tools

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When many accounting firm leaders are asked what makes their firm different, it’s not unusual to hear the reply, “Our People”.

It’s true that people are the brains and motive force that help deliver results to your clients. Yet many firms don’t have a formal “People Strategy” to ensure they are set up for success, now and in the future.

In this article we explore the components of a modern People Strategy and introduce practical “People Tools” for executing on your strategy.

What Is A People Strategy? 

Definition of People Strategy: a plan for the people, structure and processes you will need to achieve your firm vision.

Your People Strategy defines how your people will get you from where you are now to where you want to be, within a specified timeframe. 

Creating A Current and Future Org Chart

Venture Capitalist Brad Feld recommends creating a current and future org chart with a 3 year time horizon.

The purpose of this exercise is to highlight the gaps and how team members will need to upskill over the coming years to realise your vision.

Closely aligned with your future organisation chart is your accounting firm capacity plan. Many firms focus on growth through marketing, client acquisition and existing client growth.

These things are important, but it’s also crucial that you have enough capacity to get the work done. To this end, you need the right people in the right roles…

As a benchmark, your revenue should be at least a 3X multiple of your professional team salaries. If this is not the case, then you are under-leveraged.

Putting the right people in the right roles enables your whole team to flourish. We are big advocates of a “two-office strategy”, in which your experienced in-house people focus on high-value tasks such as:

  • Strategic and advisory work
  • New client acquisition
  • Growth from existing clients 
  • Interpretation and communication of insights
  • Project management

When you focus on high-value work in-house, you create a steady stream of process-driven work for more junior staff and/or your offshore team.

If you’d like ideas on the types of tasks our [toa_count target=”firms”]+ client firms are outsourcing to their offshore teams, check out our Free Checklist:

Communicating Your Vision & Creating Alignment

It’s one thing to have a vision of where you want to go, and a strategy that lays out broadly how you’ll get there. But it’s another thing to ensure all your team members understand the vision and are all heading in the same direction.

To aid clarity, communication and alignment, we use and recommend Gazelles’ One Page Strategic Plan.

Our One Page Plan is displayed around the office and every staff member has a copy. It’s impossible for team members to misunderstand our goals, strategy and key measures. 

Communicating Expectations With The Right Job Description

A One Page Strategic Plan operates at the firm level. At the personal level, each team member should have an Outcome-Driven Job Description.

The Dale Carnegie organisation recommends that each Job Description should contain answers to 4 key questions:

  • What is the purpose of my job? The answer should be simple, such as “Managing the corporate secretarial requirements for our clients.”
  • What do I need to do to make it happen? For someone in the above role, the answer might be “Send renewal reminders on time and follow processes to register as many client entities as possible.”
  • What tools do I need to be successful? For example, “corporate secretarial software and training”. 
  • How do I know when results have been achieved? For example, “percentage of entities registered on time”, and “total entity growth” would be objective measures of goal achievement. 

Do ALL your team members know the answers to these four questions for their role? 

Developing People 

In order to stay relevant and engaged, most professionals want to continually develop their skills and abilities (Which skills? See this Infographic that profiles The Modern Accountant).

Within our own company, every team member has a personalised learning plan that outlines professional development goals for the upcoming 6 to 12 month period.

Formal learning plans help to grow the value of each team member, while providing stimulation and challenge. It also enables you to reward your people with higher salaries to reflect their increasing value to your firm. 

Managing Communication 

Even with a well-crafted firm vision and specific job descriptions for every role, it’s still common to get off track, unless you have a way to keep everyone moving forward together.

Instituting a firm-wide Meeting Rhythm is a proven way to improve communication and take care of the little things on a regular basis, without losing sight of your big-picture goals.

Meetings should range from tactical “huddles” to annual strategic planning retreats, as outlined in this graphic:

Source: Growth Institute

For remote teams, collaboration tools such as Zoom make it possible to meet in real time, ensuring that everyone is working in sync.

Building A Winning Culture

Company culture is another concept that is frequently mentioned, but is somewhat difficult to define. Some of the practical tools for building a winning culture include some of the items we’ve already covered, plus a few more:

  • Defining your direction with a firm-wide Vision
  • Clarifying your Values, and living by them
  • Measuring your progress with a One Page Strategic Plan
  • Providing individual game plans and scoreboards via outcome-driven job descriptions
  • Maintaining frequent communication rhythms
  • Remembering to celebrate success 

A successful culture is often thought to be the result of some invisible alchemy that only a rare few leaders possess. But as you can see from the above, the scaffolding of “culture” is actually specific tools and processes anyone can apply.

How To Fast Track Your People Strategy With An Offshore Team

As you start to define and implement your People Strategy, you’ll quickly see that it makes sense to leverage your in-house resources with additional help. This can be achieved by adding offshore supporting roles.

The best way to start is to push the simple, process-driven work down to your offshore team members. Don’t start with the most complex work.

As you build confidence and competence in your offshore team, the level of work they accomplish will naturally increase.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you execute your People Strategy, contact us to request a Free Outsourcing Strategy and Plan to augment your local team.

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