Hiring and managing CPA part timers in an accounting firm


Do you guys do part-time hires? How do you kind of approach that topic area?

Chet: Yeah, we do. Some of our best team members are part-time. They work in our virtual office. We have some part-timers that maybe … because we’ve been really open-minded and flexible and because we’ve done that, we’ve been able to retain some high quality talent. So, let’s say, for example, we have a great team member, her name is Courtney, and she just had her third child. She works on a reduced schedule. Had we not been flexible, we wouldn’t have Courtney on our team. And Courtney is a key part of our firm. She is excellent. She’s great with clients. She’s just a really strong person. If we were rigid and didn’t allow that part-time flexibility, I don’t know she’s be on our team today. And so that’s kind of driving force for us. It is nice to have that part-time, flexible work environment.

Now, the struggles with that are – is how do you customize that to each person? That’s become one of our challenges – is that you want to be very fair and create the opportunities for a lot of people who want to go part-time. But is part-time 20 hours a week, 25, 32, 36? And how does that affect benefits? So, our struggle’s been – is how do we still allow that flexible work environment, the part-time opportunity, but how do we not have it be so custom and all over the page? It’s been kind of hard for us, from an HR standpoint, to stay fair and be consistent. So, that’s one of the things that we’re working through as a firm. But one of the best things I feel like we do is allowed for that part-time and flexible work environment. It’s been really good for our firm to do that.

Interviewer: Quick follow-up question on part-time because somebody mentioned that, while somebody’s part-time, they might not respond to the client requests as quickly as we want them to. So, I imagine in that part-time scenario, they might work Monday, Tuesday, client submits something Thursday, they don’t hear back till the following Monday. I’m assuming that’s the case. That might be a process question of then how you handle requests that come in. We talked with somebody yesterday about having that centralized inbox, requests@, or questions@, and that’s kind of shared resource or whatever it may be or … But, so when you hire part-time, do you look at the structure of X hours per day, or are these Monday and Wednesday and then what happens is somebody sends a request Thursday, and they don’t hear back till the following Monday?How do you kind of juggle that and then, again, I want Joe to jump in here in just a second.

Chet: Yeah. No, that’s always the challenge and people’s hesitancy to allow people to go part-time. We have kind of unwritten rule around here that every e-mail and phone call gets responded to within 24 hours. And so, over time, we’ve consistently delivered on that, not perfectly, but we’ve consistently delivered on that. And so our clients have developed a trust in that. And not always are they expecting immediate turnaround, except for payroll. Payroll’s the one department of our firm where there are areas … We have to make sure they’re backed up if they’re gone, someone’s covering for them. A lot of times, like in a Hiring and Managing CPA Part Timers.
Courtney for example, the clients that she works with, we have a lot of open communication with and so they kind of know her work the environment. If she’s going to be out for a period of day, she will check her e-mail intermittently. She’s a manager inside of our firm, so she has a higher work role. So, a lot of it becomes communication with the client and they know, but then consistently being able to deliver on, “Okay, if they need something, they know that I’ll respond to them within 24 hours.” And if there’s something where they can’t or they’re going to be out for a longer period of time, then they’ll check their e-mail intermittently or have someone else cover for them.

Yeah. And it also made me realize, I put one up earlier today, so if anybody tries to e-mail me, this is what you’ll see. Having an auto-responder for the days that you’re out. Obviously then there’s the reminder to put the auto-responder for the days you’re out, so you can say, “For something urgent, go to these resources, do this or that.” I also like the idea of just setting expectations of, “Okay, if you submit a request outside of this time zone, either send it straight to here or just know that I’m out every Thursday or whatever it may be.” So there’s a lot of context to that as well. Joe, how does it work at Two Roads? Do you hire part-time people or is it always full-time? Have you hired part-time in the past, had any issues with that? What’s been your take on kind of the part-time management world?

Joe: Yeah, yeah. Chet, it kind of sounds like we’re cut from the same cloth in many ways. We should have a chat after this. Yeah, we’re the same way. We hire part-time. We have our own Courtney’s in-house. I’d say we’re looking for people who can work 30 to 40 hours. We’ve just found there’s this immense talent pool of typically stay-at-home moms who might have been in the CPA world and they don’t want that lifestyle for their growing families. And so we’ve been able to create this kind of stay-at-home work environment. Again, results-only work environment is huge because we only manage the product that they’re producing.
But one way we’ve kind of gotten around the part-time is when we’re hiring, we only hire people who are cultural fits, that really believe in what we’re trying to do. And one of those ways is we just ask every team member to be responsive a lot like Chet’s firm. From 9 to 5, we want you responsive. Now, that could be taking the kids to school in the morning. Or that could be picking them up at three o’clock. Just have your phone on you, be available for phone calls. If you see a fiery e-mail, just shoot back quick e-mail on your phone that says, “Hey, I see it, I hear ya, I’m going to get to this.” And a lot of its expectations.

Our clients know who we are. They know who we hire. They know we care about them. We’ve got one employee that’s just amazing. In the interview process, she said, “I have one stipulation. And it’s why I’ve turned down some other jobs.” She said, “Thursdays is the day with my mom. I want to go bowling. I want to be in the bowling league with my mom. I won’t be responsive basically until two on Thursdays, if that’s okay.” I’m like, “Absolutely. Of course. Just make sure your clients know.” And it’s kind of fun thing that her client load knows, “Man, Donna’s unavailable because she’s bowling with her mom. How cool is that?” But I know she’s going to send me that e-mail at two that says, “I’m done bowling. I’m back to work.” I think it comes down to culture and the expectations.

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