Getting Primed For Tax Season: Ensuring You And Your Global Team Are Set For Success (Q&A Part 2)
To get ready for tax season, you and your global team need to be consider five critical points. In part one of this Q and A session, we covered (1) Essentials of Capacity Planning and (2) Getting Your Planning and Rhythms Right. Now, we’re going to cover (3) Preparing Your Team for A Successful Tax Season, (4) Filipino Factors, How To Work Best In A Global Team, and (5) Essential KPIs.
Preparing Your Team For A Successful Tax Season
Question for Clients: When you were still starting with your offshore/global team, what were your major adjustments to prepare for the tax season?
Initially, offshoring felt out of control and unpredictable. That was more my experience than anything else. This makes capacity planning less effective and creates bottlenecks around workload. The biggest adjustments where creating consistency in team output (both volume and format) to better predict capacity planning, which ultimately for us come back to training, team building, systems and processes. The team all now work together daily and discuss issues and solutions together.
I think the thing we found out was that you really needed to decide or determine what work is going to be prepared by the offshore team. I don’t think it’s any good just going we don’t want to do that here anymore, let’s ship it offshore because that just doesn’t work. So you’ve got to decide and figure out what work is going to work best being done offshore. And once you find that you can really then develop processes around that. So we’re able to determine quite quickly, with the skill set of our employees that we hire, what work suited them and also the processes that we put in place that enabled that work to be done with sufficient training of the staff.
One of the challenges we faced was the best way to get the information over to the staff to be able to prepare the work that we want them to do. Whether it was the good old shoe box client or whether it was the online cloud computing client, it still both posed challenges in getting that source data over to the staff. So we needed that. Those were the challenges we face. We’ve now got the processes in place to be able to get that over in an efficient manner and it seems to be going on quite well. I think one of the biggest things you’ve got to get used early on is that things aren’t going to go smoothly straight off the bat. It did take us a good six months to a year to get our processes and procedures in place, but what that enables us to do with communication with our staff was to isolate those issues, work with them to say what’s not working, what is working, and improve them jointly.
Question for Team Members: Can you describe your experience with tax seasons and how do you prepare to support your team?
I have been to one full tax season with the team. With the number of jobs more than usual, it’s a bit overwhelming at first. But with a supportive client and Manila teammates who are always willing to help, I was able to manage and complete the jobs. It gave me the self satisfaction that I was able to produce for the team during the tax season. It’s actually exciting and I look forward for the next tax season. As mentioned by Brad, we do prepare process documentation and updates before the tax season starts. Brad and the Manly team is coming next week for a whole week training and discussions. We do this annually which shows the how the team gives importance of preparing for the tax season. I help by seeing to it that I not only absorb but also share information during the whole week training and discussions and also while having the ultimate client experience while they are here.
The 2017 tax season is a bit challenging compared to the past tax seasons I have experienced due to the new SMSF rules especially the CGT Relief and transfer balance cap of $1.6M for pension phase accounts. We started preparing trust deed upgrade for our clients before the start of the tax season. We also ensure that the funds are compliant with certain requirements such as meeting the minimum and maximum pension limits etc. Before every tax season, we send out pension letters/reminders to clients.
Question for Clients: What were your major considerations in delegating tasks to your offshore team member? Can you give us a sample of the tasks you have entrusted them?
Major considerations are always what interests people, what excites them and gets them delivering great outcomes. The whole team own a full client and this is because it creates variety, we treat every quarter as if we are finalising the year and discuss tax planning options to drive input and suggestions.
An example would be recently Agerico was given a scope to work through around Cryptocurrency. A lot of current new work is building in this area so we needed to prepare and have clear processes to guide the team, Agerico is working through our practice portfolio of Crypto developing systems and templates to manage the compliance part. We expect to roll this out next week when the team is in Manila.
Rochelle another team member is working with me on a full-service business compliance model and developing detailed procedures around onboarding and day to day workflow. She then manages the hand over and training to existing staff.
All staff are involved in complex taxation principles and implementing these to client affairs.
We were a bit bold in what we thought could be done in the outset. So we just basically said here’s an individual tax return, go do it. Or here’s a whole lot of information, prepare the BAS. Quickly learned that’s obviously not the way to do it. So we broke that down then into different sections of what needed to be done as part of that job. Obviously then, sufficient training with us going over there or providing training courses to be able to upskill our staff. And, in time, we were able to obviously get the basics right and then progress each of the staff members to be able to fill that full role of doing an individual tax return and work papers and BAS accordingly.
So I think that the thought process of excellent offshore staff, go do it, is not the right way to go about it. I think we learned very quickly from that. And I think I was a good investment to learn upfront for all onshore staff here, not just us as business owners, but the staff who are also engaging with the offshore staff are saying right well I don’t need to do that anymore, they can do it, it doesn’t work that way. So it was a process of determining what works best getting offshore and the best processes to do it. Then, very quickly, we figured that out and got that set.
Question for Team Members: What are your tips on how to manage multiple tasks related to tax season for other offshore team members like you who are listening?
At least for a week but preferably for the next month, we need to check jobs that need information or additional details to be able to complete it, we then send email request to the specific clients. For clients who are unresponsive, we send SMS notification through Skype that we sent an email request to this email at this particular date. For daily tasks, we do the same and we just leave notes to keep Brad posted. Then we move to the next job not only we save time but we are actually productive for the day.
To manage multiple tasks related to the tax season, first thing is to prepare a plan. Make a to do list and set priorities. Take note which is urgent and which is not. Mapping out each day beforehand will improve time management and increase overall productivity.
Question for Clients: What are your quick tips on having a successful tax season? How did your global team help in achieving this?
For me the key factors are:
- Are all processes and procedures updated and ready.
- Has the team had a good team building event to improve on relationships and trust.
- Are the team trained in the required areas, motivated and happy.
- Are the systems issues resolved and efficiencies in place.
- Know your client. Capacity planning correctly assigned.
- Are all client loose ends resolved before the workload increases.
- Client engagement terms reviewed.
The team are always involved in June of each year with a great team building event and presentations delivered to groups on changes/improvements/updates to process and procedures.
Having sufficient resources available is very important. If you don’t have them, then the work is not just going to get done. The workflow planned out, what is each staff member going to do. And also on the flip side to educate our clients as to when we’d like their work in throughout the year so that we can plan our workflow and know what each of our staff members are going to do.
Technology, we’re a big supporter here of technology. So we’re we’re quite happy to invest in that technology to have the most efficient resources available here for our staff to enter that tax season so that we can build a bigger, stronger, and faster workflow based around that. And also, having energetic staff at the start of the tax year to really hit the ground running, I think, is quite important. So we had our offshore staff out two weeks ago and we had a busy time but we also did a fair bit of social things as well in this month of June as we tend to do with our onshore teams to really have them in a good frame of mind, ready to hit the ground running come 1 July.
Filipino Factors, How To Work Best In A Global Team
Question for Clients: If you had a word / phrase to describe the value that your offshore team provides, what would it be and can you explain why you chose that word or phrase?
Exultant comes to mind.
Which means triumphantly happy. The culture of the Filipino people are great, good approach to life, each other and this translates into the work environment. The team work together and support each other not against each other.
Question for Team Members: What activity or practice do you think is the best or most effective way to build a relationship with your client?
Nothing beats knowing the client personally to build relationship. The Manly Team usually comes to the Philippines annually to do a week long training just before the tax season starts. Also, as mentioned by Brad, last November we were able to come and visit Manly. We were able to meet Brad’s family and fortunately some of Brad’s clients. Spending personal time with the Client is the best way to build relationship.
I believe the most effective way to build a relationship with your client is having consistent and effective communication either thru skype chat and call or meeting in person. We have weekly meetings every Wednesday to catch up on our work in progress. And for the two years that I’ve been with THP, I have met Scott in person thrice. He went to Manila twice. And recently, Manila and Clark Team went to Sydney for a week to meet the whole THP team. We get the chance to chat with everyone and it was a really great experience.
Another effective way to build a relationship with your client is to do exceptional work of course. If the client is not happy, it would be impossible to force long lasting relationships. Our aim to exceed their expectations whenever possible, and demonstrate how we can become a valued extension of the client’s business.
Question for Clients: Let’s talk about KPIs. What are your favourite KPIs to measure (if relevant, how have these changed since you had an offshore team?)
I am fairly basic with KPIs, being a fixed fee firm i look at multiple of each person’s profit to wages and try to achieve 3 to 4 times. Each staff member has there own profit and loss.
At the same time the KPIs that i find more relevant are, happiness, motivation, desire to go above the call of duty and high level of quality in ones work. Coaching then gets the person to a 4 times multiple. Efficiency and productivity over time improves this to 6 times for the offshore staff. There has been a considerable increase in the multiple going offshore but due to further improvements in quality and work paper detail this is placing a cap on the return to around 6 times, focus being quality over quantity.
Question for Team Members: How do you measure your performance in your role? What do you do to ensure you hit or even exceed KPIs?
Honestly, there are still a lot to learn and I would say I am steadily progressing to the role. It is still a long way to go but knowing with the team’s and knowing you have reliable team mates, achieving the set KPIs is actually imbedded to the team’s culture. It’s a culture geared towards continuous improvement through teamwork while facing challenges always on a positive note.
There are qualitative and quantitative ways to measure performance in my role. Completing a number of funds for a certain time before due date is how we measure productivity. Having zero to minimal review comments and adjustments in the financials, and not receiving negative feedback from THP’s clients is the best way to measure qualitative aspects.
To ensure that KPIs have been met or exceeded, proper planning of tasks is needed. A balance between efficiency and effectivity should be in place. I have to make sure that I can finish a fund the fastest way possible with high quality result.
Based on what you’ve read above, you and your global team now have insights to take on tax season and deliver the results you and your clients want. If you don’t have a global team yet, it’s about time that you do!
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