3 Crucial Steps to Building an Effective Accounting Team
A happy team yields a happy client and that’s good for business. Just ask Two Roads President Chad Ridner who has built this bookkeeping and tax advisory shop into the Firm of the Future. We also dive into the 3 Crucial steps to building an effective accounting team built to last.
On this episode of Growing Your Firm podcast, Chad shares his views on
- Finding Your Business Opportunity
- A Great Way to Grow You Team
- Why Communication is Key
- 3 Crucial Steps to Building an Effective Accounting Team
- and so much more…
Twitter: @ChadRidner or @TwoRoadsCo
Finding Your Business Opportunity
Five years ago, Chad joined the bookkeeping firm, Two Roads, based in Knoxville TN. They believed that a big business opportunity was to serve the needs of business owners by helping them manage their finances and taxes.
These particular, targeted business owners run companies typically in the restaurant, retail, or medical fields. Generally, they have not been savvy bookkeepers or they do not want to spend time analyzing the details of the books and turning their attention away from their core business.
It was easier said than done, and that’s where the importance of your team matters.
Building a bookkeeping firm from a business perspective is “not easy to do,” says Chad. You have to wear different hats. While you are performing accurate bookkeeping and tax service work for your clients, you still have to sell, manage, and grow the business.
In the first year or two of launching Two Roads, business was a “whirlwind” according to Chad. The firm took any client they could. Over time though, the firm got better, more confident, and comfortable with who they are.
From there, they decided to refine their industry focus to the areas where they were best suited to deliver value.
And they chose only the clients who had the better personality fits with their firm. Two Roads had to be the right fit for the client, and the client had to be the right fit for Two Roads. That is why Chad refers to their clients as “partners”.
Soon enough their business results improved that led to additional business from referrals and introductions.
To service business clients, both locally and throughout the US remotely, the firm hired, over time, a dedicated team of 11 bookkeepers and CPAs who work directly with clients.
As they have added people to the team, their business complexity grows. So many things have changed for Chad as he notes. The business six months ago was different from the business three years ago. “We are constantly learning and changing, he says. The key to success, he believes, is being flexible, fluid and ready to adopt whatever is new.
The team identifies client pain points and then devises solutions. “It can be groundbreaking,” Chad notes. Delivering great service to clients is predicated on speaking the language of their respective industries.
Growing Your Team
Like choosing the right clients and the right industries, choosing the right team members is equally important.
For Chad’s team to be effective in their job, they need to enjoy their work, their clients, and their teammates.
Team culture is the “driver” for Two Roads. Chad believes that if the firm takes “great care of the team and is treated as though they are number one, they, in turn, are going to treat partners as they are number one.” So a happy team yields a happy client.
“I think so often in our profession, team members really aren’t team members, they are really just numbers. And they work for big companies, they work lots of hours, there is not a lot of work life balance…They are seen as a commodity.” Chad says.
“We really believe that our team members matter…that our voice matters.”
So how do you choose the right members for your team?
Chad says that the company looks for not just a personality fit but also good technical skills needed to perform business deliverables.
And technical skills are important, particularly when you are a growing firm like Chad’s.
To fit in well within the company culture, members of the team have an independent approach to the way they operate, are happy helping small businesses, and are technically competent in accounting concepts and software.
In identifying top candidates, Two Roads developed their own hiring process that evaluates behavior, personality, and technicals. Their process involves three general steps.
Candidates must pass each step before they can move on to the next one.
3 Crucial Steps to Building an Effective Accounting Team
Step 1: Competency test that assesses accounting knowledge
Step 2: QuickBooks test that assesses software knowledge
Step 3: Four individual, face-to-face interviews.
In these interviews, candidates are assessed on their customer service experience, their idea of culture, and additional technical concepts. Candidates are presented with real scenarios with team members that test their reactions and their response times. Candidates are even assessed on their email styles.
“Subtle things become a big deal,” Chad believes and it is with that statement he has learned the tricks to building an effective accounting team that actually lasts.
Communication Is Key
Two Roads has grown today to 18 professionals. The office structure is flat and has team leaders in charge of overseeing areas such as technology, onboarding, tax, and accounting.
They are trying not to become overwhelmed with doing it all. Bookkeepers are doing general day-to-day accounting while Chad and team leaders help lead sales.
“We are trying to fit people in their strengths and where they perform best,” notes Chad. “We focus on greatest strengths instead of being all things to all people.”
Chad believes leading a team is less about managing and more about offering guidance. “The position of leadership is really about serving those.” He thinks, “Everyone is a leader in their own right, and everyone’s voice matters.” And this approach creates a happy working environment.
Since the team embraces a remote working arrangement, on-going communication, and even over-communication, with one another is very important to be able to maintain the camaraderie of the firm.
Good, frequent communication often provides input and perspectives.
Weekly team meetings are productive. Weekly email newsletters are useful. The team shares updates and advice and input such as big wins, new clients,
business tips, payroll events, deadlines, tax updates, software considerations, administration notes, holiday schedules, and training opportunities. Members are highlighted for solving problems or going “above and beyond” to help.
“We don’t see each other but once a month, so those weekly interactions are helpful to feel engaged.”
For Chad, communication is the focus with clients externally and with each other internally. When the team is abreast of the latest news, real-time developments, and considerations, Chad knows that it creates an appreciative and happy staff. Communication is a valuable business tactic. “When they feel cared for, they’ll be with you for a long time.”