Getting Primed For Tax Season: Ensuring You And Your Global Team Are Set For Success (Q&A Part 1)
Are you and your global team ready for tax season? If you already have a global team or planning to build your own, you will find this extremely useful. Learn how two The Outsourced Accountant clients and their rockstar global team members are getting primed for tax season.
In this Q and A session, we have Brad Cowley, owner of IGnite Accounting and Financial Services, and Agerico Bueno, senior accountant. We also have Scott Costain, partner at Thomas Hopper and Partners, and Relian Velarde, SMSF accountant.
They all will be answering questions regarding five key areas: (1) Essentials of Capacity Planning, (2) Getting Your Planning and Rhythms Right, (3) Preparing Your Team for A Successful Tax Season, (4) Filipino Factors, How To Work Best In A Global Team, and (5) Essential KPIs.
Here in part one, we will be covering Essentials of Capacity Planning and Getting Your Planning and Rhythms Right.
Essentials of Capacity Planning
Question for Clients: How has offshoring contributed to your workflow efficiency and productivity? Has it given you more time personally? Has it given you more work-life balance?
It has contributed to workflow efficiency. Because the teams are separated, it requires a higher usage of cloud-based technology and well-documented processes. This is driving a high level of quality.
Productivity has been a little more challenging but is resolved with continual team engagement and training. From my personal experience we have been focusing on quality of work. We have seen this transitioning through to improvements in productivity and speed of delivery. But it takes time.
So far, we have been growing too fast to reap the benefits of work-life balance but this should be in place over the coming six months with further technology developments and further resource being recruited.
I think what it has enabled us as a firm here to do is to take on more work in that vein, whether it’s onshore or offshore, more resources will obviously allow that but the type of work that we’ve been able to provide to our offshore staff has certainly freed up a lot of time for our onshore staff to be able to take on more high-level work here in Australia for new clients but also to review existing clients where that service wasn’t being done before. Having the grunt work being able to be done offshore and the very important compliance work being done onshore has freed up their time to now actually analyse clients’ information, analyse client data and look for opportunities in the existing client base where beforehand there was probably just a priority to get the job done. So what we’re finding with the offshoring process is that the engine room continually runs. All those important tasks of compliance, whether it be the quarterly BAS or year end, it’s always moving and it’s always getting done and there’s no lag in time there. So it has allowed us to pitch for that extra work where previously we weren’t allowed.
Has it given me more time? Has it given me a work-life balance? Talking to you the other day, Nick. It has actually gone the other way and I don’t necessarily mind that. I think what it’s done is it’s made this firm really productive and new work coming in. So it’s actually increased the workflow, I think, but I don’t necessarily mind that. I’d much rather it be that way than sort of twiddling thumbs the other way. I guess what it’s done for me is that it’s enabled me to sort of delegate some other tasks around the office that I was probably doing myself which probably shouldn’t be doing it’s freed up a little bit of my time to let them go and look for that new work, liaise with the high-value clients, and look at the opportunities there. So work-life balance hasn’t necessarily changed it but I think it certainly changed it for the better for the firm in this sort of work that now I’m starting to do.
Question for Team Members: How has working for a global client / accounting firm helped you?
I am working with a very experienced and supportive client. It helped me a lot in gaining knowledge, experience and confidence in working with Australian Clients. Brad gives us the right amount of freedom in dealing with the clients. Working with a global firm, it builds up your confidence and self-satisfaction that what you actually do adds value to the job.
Working for a global client/accounting firm forces me to step outside of my comfort zone, which opens up opportunities to develop new skills and have new experiences. I learned SMSF which is a specialized accounting. It gives me the chance to develop strong communication skills and confidence as I progress in my career. It also gives me work life balance which I haven’t experienced from working in a local company.
Getting Your Planning and Rhythms Right
Question for Clients: How do you go about your communication rhythms to help ensure your teams work well?
It’s important to me that we have fun, that the team enjoys coming to work and they are motivated. The basic structure used is:
- Staff are constantly paired into teams around mini projects. Staff develop the process and procedures and this is an ongoing process.
- Development programs are established around each staff member and a 12 month plan is agreed with them on specific areas of improvement with associated financial rewards at completion.
- We use Xero Practice with better scheduling to manage workflow and provide a consistent and visible rhythm of work.
- Regular catch ups via skype are used and consistent feedback is provided to manage staff perception with how they are performing. Consistent praise is provided.
- Six monthly team gettogethers, alternating between Manila and Sydney. Usually 6 days of training and activities.
We’ve always tried to hold the thought that even though there is a big divide of water between us that our staff are really just in the next office next door. So, we’ve tried to break that barrier down by having weekly and daily Skype meetings, discussions on emails, what have you, to really keep that communication flowing. Just as a staff member here onshore can walk into our offices, we’d like to have our offshore staff feel the same. We’ve tried to empower one of our staff members here for each of the divisions that we run. So one here in our office is pretty much in charge of our Self Managed Super Fund division. So the girls there will pretty much liaise with her and communicate with her any work-related questions or issues surrounding the work that they’re doing. So there’s that one focal point there so that everything sort of is going through that point and we found that to be quite efficient.
We do a big team weekly work-in-progress meeting where we all jump into the boardroom here and fire up Skype and have our offshore team join us. And then, we’ll go through for half an hour or so where everybody goes through their workflow to see where everybody is at and understand who’s got what on, any issues, or the like. And also, if there’s anything that somebody’s learned throughout the week in whatever it may be, a seminar that I attended or a bit of tax legislation or even software improvements, we share it with the team so that we’re all on the same page.
I think getting the rhythm right really needs to start with getting your processes right. Nick, when we were speaking before, we might have done that around the other way when we first started off. We didn’t necessarily have our processes right and that found us wanting a little bit. But once we invested in a process improvement strategy, we could really see the benefits of that. And what it does is it gives guidelines for not only the offshore staff but also the onshore staff so that the workflow or the jobs that are being prepared are all done in the same fashion and that everybody understands how it needs to be done. There are videos there to be able to review if if anyone gets stuck. And we’ve found that to be a really smooth transition for our offshore teams.
Question for Team Members: Are the rhythms beneficial for you? How? In what way? What is important to you to help keep ensure you communicate well?
Yes, since communication is the most important part of the job. Is sets out expectations and what is the required output. In our team, what we do is Brad leaves notes in the job. Before I start preparing, I check the notes and if I don’t understand or part of the notes is unclear, I leave a note as well and setting the job status for Brad’s advise. And if it’s urgent I write direct email to Brad. Also, for complex jobs before finalising, we discuss first through Skype to ensure that the instructions were carried out. The most important thing is that you and your client is always on the same page. If I have doubts or uneasy about the job I reach out to Brad first to prevent errors and actually save time.
Yes, they are beneficial. It provides an opportunity to solve problems and make adjustments quickly, and it ultimately saves time and resources by helping eliminate the communication gap. The important thing is to make sure that the flow of communication is always open. We can always reach out to the partners and to anyone in the firm if we are having any issues.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this Q and A session!
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