This is the ninth episode of our series BKOT. This episode focuses on the impact of pandemic on offshore hiring of accounting firms. What measures can be taken to work in this situation as we all are working remotely. Additionally, we need to evolve in this new normal and enhance the security level, team morale, filling the gap of lack of knowledge, and environment at our place of employment. Watch the video to know more.
#BKOT 09: BUILD A KICKASS OFFSHORE TEAM
HOW PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED THE STIGMA ON OFFSHORE HIRING OF ACCOUNTING FIRMS
Hosted by: Mike Goossen, CPA, Vice President, Entigrity Offshore Staffing
Guest: Shawn Parikh, Founder & CEO, Entigrity Offshore Staffing
Guest: Chris Rivera, Director Client relations, Entigrity Offshore Staffing
Guest: Sia Kal, Managing Partner, FY USA LLC
Mike: Welcome! Today we're here at the how to build a kitkat remote staffing team and we want to talk about today how has this pandemic impacted the stigma or changed our way we think about offshoring and so today I have Sia Kal with us as well as Shawn Parikh and Chris Rivera we're all here to to just kind of kick around the idea what has changed since we've been experiencing this wonderful situation that has changed how we do business how we see things and hopefully we'll be able to come to some terms with it so with that said I’d like to start off with Sia have him kind of open up the concept here and then introduce the topics and let's see if we can take it from here so it's all yours.
Sia: Thanks so much Mike you, appreciate that introduction and you know you asked a very quick a good question which was what has caused the pandemic change. Maybe we should be asking what what hasn't changed or what it had you know it's or we've just gone through so many changes that it's easier just to look for the things that have remained the same the good news is that what has remained the same hopefully as our value systems right those don't change shouldn't change anyway no matter what's going on so when it comes to offshoring what's interesting is that what the pandemic did is it forced everyone to go into remote working environments and people were first to make it work somehow right. We had some rough patches and technology was kind of there but it wasn't there and zoom was trying to keep up with the change quickly but everyone sort of gathered together to make it work and ultimately look we're in august now right and we've been doing this for months now so this in my mind and also in talking to the accounting firms that we work with this notion of sort of offshoring has started to have a different definition they think of it more as a remote working structure rather than this stereotypical outlook at what this it really is right, so there's a lot of there's a lot of impact that this situation has had on the way we view things and in a good way actually has forced us to challenge our preconceived ideas about certain topics in business mainly the offshoring so that's what we're going to be talking about today. Now Mike, you mentioned mike that how has the pandemic changed the stigma right, so let's first if you guys agree Shawn and Chris if you guys agree let's talk about what is the stigma first and then we go back and we can talk about how that has changed based on your perspectives so why don't we start with you Shawn. What do you think about in terms of what are the common stigmas you have encountered? You've been doing this for quite some time so you've kind of seen and heard it all right.
Shawn: Well as you said pandemic has been a great leveler to solution I mean pandemic has not really you know it was not an exception whether you are living in a developed part of the world or whether you're living in a developing part of the world or underdeveloped well each part of the world is equally impacted so it kind of leveled everyone on the same place that you are a human being and a virus can show you at the end of the day every human being is equal on earth. So it acts I mean pandemic that way on humanity has given a huge impact according to me on the mindset when we talk about accounting firms what we have been talking to several thousands of them like you Sia, Chris, Mike we coach them we talk to them we do we work with them in and out and there are several you know layers of the stigma but one of the fundamental thing what inhibits accounting firm to openly look as offshore hiring is what you know my client would think about this or what my client would think or how should I tell my client about this.This is one of the fundamental factor you know although it is now widely accepted it is accelerating the acceptance is accelerating now but still there is a mindset that you know what would happen if my client would come to know about this and you know what we experienced is more than client it is your mindset, you who think that it is something what your client would think, so probably if you step and try with 10 clients, 20 clients, 30 clients.You will realize that probably one out 100 would have some kind of a problem in the world which is so consolidated and which is so integrated so this is probably Sia I think is one of the core stigma around offshore hiring especially for accounting firms.
Sia: Yeah! that's interesting as you were talking Shawn I could think of so many different instances when I would hear this exact stigma coming from CPA’s that we're looking into possibly doing offshoring and what really was at the heart of their concerns as you mentioned was this notion that somehow the quality of the work would suffer because they are offshoring and that would be perceived in a negative way from the client's perspective and it would be delivered in a negative way from their own perspective but that's not necessarily the case you know knowledge is power and I think what that revealed to me Shawn it was that there was just the lack of knowledge in terms of how does a good offshoring work right so you can go to many restaurants not all restaurants are going to give you good food. Some you may make you sick but you won't stop going to restaurants you continue going to them and i think of like services like offshoring there's good and there's bad ones and if you just do your due diligence and you know get involved with companies who really know what they're doing like Entigrity and ask some good questions you know a good offshoring company in my opinion, would welcome questions would actually relish in answering the questions because the questions break the barrier of this gap of lack of knowledge of what how this really works and if you're really an offshoring company that know what you're doing you take care of things like I'm jumping ahead a little bit but would take care of things like security like the quality of of your workforce you got those two things just two main things and that goes a long way especially for someone who's never done offshoring or maybe someone who's have had offshoring and has had a bad experience with it but what they're definitely one of the stigmas is what you mentioned Shawn so very very interesting interesting topic. Let's go to Mike what are you know you are a CPA and you've you know you've been in this not just in the accounting industry but in this specific world of offshoring and how it impacts everything what have you been hearing from your end that is different than what Shawn has been hearing perhaps.
Mike: Well! as Shawn indicated that the concern is of you know not working well that I guess what I think is it people don't quite grasp the conceptual opportunity of the offshore staffing relationship to what they're doing quality of course is a concern but I think there's a lack of knowledge is how am I going to make this happen well how I work with this person who's so far away when that might be true but they're really no different than just the office next door if we're working on the same project through the cloud or whatever the connection process is so i think there's a lack of understanding or concern about how to make it successfully work and produce and so i think that's one of the stigmas I get a feedback on is gosh you know I'm not sure how am I gonna control this person so far away or how am I going to get connection and with then of course it becomes a technology conversation then it comes into a security conversation and there's a concern about security that gets mixed up because the human experience is that the further away from me the less secure it is which is not necessarily true anymore and as Shawn mentioned earlier about the whole boundary thing I mean the whole world is you know flat I mean it's like you know I'm always the may just personally I just get just the fact that so much information is so quickly and really available from anywhere now, it's surprisingly still new to a lot of people I mean I'm in my late 50s it's just stunning to me at the pace of change compared to when I started accounting with no computers yeah I started with ‘no computers’ folks. I started with paper and a pencil and so this is so dramatic. I'm talking to people that are just my age and they started with no computers and a pencil so it's we have to help them be beyond their history and help them understand that so that's kind of somewhere i'm at.
Sia: Yeah let me ask you this do you think you know I know we're still in the stigma part of our conversation but I'm curious if you think because of what just happened to the whole entire world that the infrastructure the security protocols have improved have almost there's been a boost or the opposite that it's more vulnerable now than it's been before what is your impression on that Mike?
Mike: Well! when I think about zoom for example that we're currently using for this thing I mean they exploded in use as so many other online meeting platforms and yeah it uncovered some concerns no doubt some security issues and some hacking stuff and all that sort of thing I'm sure we're all aware so I think the sheer volume and demand has forced them to in make improvements that maybe didn't happen or wasn't as known you know. Crisis doesn't necessarily expose I mean almost always exposes weakness yeah a crisis doesn't build character exposes weakness and so yeah so those things were exposed so the big companies the right not the big ones but the companies involved made changes in shifts and i know we had to make some adjustments as well and it's something that is true and so I think we become better as a result if we take it seriously and adjust as needed and yes we're heading the ground and so good companies are better as a result of this weaker companies might be gone.
Sia: Yeah! Interesting perspective there Mike, We're hoping that the security has improved and it has in a lot of different areas but we'll get a little bit more later on into this security protocols of an offshoring type environment probably more specifically the best practices that we can observe from Entigrity specifically since this is something that is very personal and you guys it's very near and dear to your hearts so we can explore on that a little bit later. Chris let's go to you I know that you just finished a webinar so hopefully you had a red bull maybe time to relax or you had something some energetic protein shake that is giving enough energy to answer the very tough questions we're going over this facebook live event right so what what are your what are your stick what are the stigmas that you've encountered you've seen in all kinds and all types so share some of those with our listeners today that would be great?
Chris: A lot of the hesitation in the beginning was in general was just the remote aspect of it right the client was comfortable with everything and but the the remote aspect was just nerve-wracking and tried to explain to them that remote working has been around since the 80s it's really taken off across several industries especially in technology financial technology but it hasn't really you know made its way into the accounting world and then boom pandemic happens gas pedal everyone go virtual do you have to be fully virtual no but everyone's become virtual now they're like oh it's not that bad right but then yeah they as you start thinking it always seems to be especially when you're thinking about the security aspect or the quality of work it's maybe one or two people three people that are assuming that's how everyone's thinking right assuming how they're 100 clients you're thinking or the other 10 associates to work with they're thinking unfortunately and they need to be more collaborative and talk about it and and then explore it not just automatically assume it's the india oh no security it's like wait a second or offshoring a security it's wait no it's not the case whatsoever so the quality of work too right yeah, it's a lot most companies and the price is low right so people are like it's probably gonna be that reflective of the work too and so there's a hesitation there but you gotta explore you gotta take a look at it but the the biggest thing is yeah the security aspect and I've walked into so many client office last year i just walked right in and knocked on their door and you have to think and then I see you looking around everyone's on their cell phone people are checking their personal email there's no cameras anywhere and it's like well wait a second how secure is your office you know and so again it's just one person's thought process encompasses everyone else's but is that really the truth.
Sia: Yeah! that's really interesting right we have this presumption that for some reason the everything within the four corners of our office in fact it's the safest security you could possibly have right you know I work you know I have one of the services that FY USA LLC that we actually have someone go in and try to break in the security system of firms just to show them their vulnerabilities and what we ought to do is just do that for anyone who's questioning the security of offshoring because it kind of levels the playing field right and just you know as as you were as you were talking I was actually admiring I was listening to you but I was admiring your apple ear earphone earpieces here and my bluetooth yeah yeah it took me back to the days that we all had these cord earpieces that we would be using right and at some point an an invention came an innovator came and said look we can take they were other wireless headphones before the apple wireless headphones came out so why wasn't it so popular just like offshoring you know I think of that they were offshoring before right so what happened that all of a sudden it has become a commonly used system for firms who are looking into the future and what I like to just get people's attention in terms of anyone who has either had a bad experience with offshoring or thinking about doing offshoring in the future it is about cutting the court if you have never done the offshoring it's about cutting the court it may feel a little bit anxious if you've never done it but you've got to trust the process and trust the system and make sure you're working with individuals that know what they're doing with a company that knows what they're doing because that can save you a lot of grief that can save you a lot of headache and it will take care of the very things that the stigmas that people have such as security you know a great offshoring company like Entigrity. I don't work for Entigrity so anything I'm saying right now I'm not it's not like I'm getting paid for it it's a it's a straight from the heart it is look we use we work with accounting firms and they use entigrity so we've seen it from both ends from this end and from the other end and what we've seen is some some great systems for the security and the quality of work and that kind of thing so it's just cutting the court and allowing to move forward in the industry with doing something that actually makes sense with the right company, now so we've talked about stigmas guys you know and they're all yeah go ahead Shawn!
Shawn: Yeah, so one more thing which I want to in fact I was talking to a client today yeah Chris was in the in the webinar I happened to talk with Gina and you know she had concerns one of the stigmas that we were talking talk about that you know they are I think I don't know but they are a big firm in Canada and she thought that because she is into human resource management into her firm. She thought that well we have not done this before only for the reason I thought that what my team would think about this. Am I trying to I mean I don't want them to feel insecure about it, I don't want them to you know feel that I am trying to make them feel that you don't you're no more part of the company so because we have built this company it's not just a money-making machine for us. It is what we are, it is our existence. And I just I was actually clueless you know I did not have an answer at that point of time. That I’m really doing something right? I mean I question myself yeah well what she's saying makes perfect sense you know. In an ideal world if you're living in a community your first responsibility is towards that community. But then I thought if you're not remaining agile, what zoom did to skype will happen. Zoom is the lunch of skype. Skype was here for 20 years and zoom is today the number one application for video calling and video meetings. So well it was literally confusing for me even though after talking to a thousand accountants I might have the answer ready to go from my template, but it really struck me and she was telling from her heart, but I have never done this only for the reason not that we are completely remote in Canada, even though we have employees in the same city we have capabilities to be complete remote but this is one thing that I don't want my employees to think and yeah that is one of the stigma whether we agree or whether we not.
Sia: Isn't it interesting that in terms of our humanity always cares about what others think isn't that some of the reason why sometimes we buy the type of car we buy, we live where we live, we wear the type of things we wear and it's not just to the accounting industry and people it's just us caring about what others think it's that affirmation we look for but beyond that more responsibly it is taking care of feeling responsible for the mental health of our team in this situation that you brought up.
Mike: Well I was going to say that what Shawn was saying goes along with the other a very close related stigma or concern is that of sending jobs out of our country and he thought you know what most companies, CPA firms especially you know they're patriotic to a certain extent they they want to support local and the reality is however many firms especially those that might be more rural entities don't have the ability to always bring in or acquire the type of talent that they need to be successful and allowing a remote staffing offshore group to take care of some of those issues that day-to-day routine things that are distracting their key employees from being as successful as they can so if I'm a number two guy or three guy in a firm and I'm frustrated with some of the boring tasks we use that phrase from my perspective that that are preventing me from really helping the client like I want to, I'm actually pleased when I find out my firm is sending some of those things off to somebody else. I don't care where they are. I just don't want to deal with those things. I want to deal with the client. I want to do what I do best and I can't all the time.
Sia: You know what Mike it's interesting because one of the things I always tell the partners is that when you think of your team every single team member they're really great at doing a handful of things they're really great at it there's two three or maybe four things that they're really good at and what offshoring does is that it allows and makes available to your team so they could do more of what they're really good at and the other stuff that are not they're not as great with it or they just do it out of just pure obligation if you take those off of their plate they have the headspace now to actually do some meaningful work.
Now we have talked about stigmas and almost every stigma has been a negative one here's a positive statement that they have which it always fascinates me and I know I've had conversations with Shawn about this so it's that there's this positive stigma that hey I have a problem with my team because of whatever reason and i'm just going to resolve it because now i'm going to get this offshoring team and I'm going to offshore some work and it's going to fix the team morale, it's going to fix all the management issues I've had with my team because I'm offshoring. Poop it's gone! It's out it doesn't exist anymore it goes away and that's a stigma it's a positive stigma right, but the team morale and as you know and I'm interested to hear your perspective on this shawn is and Mike you mentioned this as well you know crisis they don't change our character they reveal our character right, so how the character of the partners and how their approach is to the team and specifically in that example you brought up shawn with that lady you were talking to in regards to her team. Her character is a caring character she cares about her team and the offshoring will be an expansion of that onto the offshore team to be inclusive of that team as they join forces together.
It's not an outside versus inside mentality which causes a lot of problems I've seen in offshoring and all that. It is combining bringing in together in a collaborative environment where both teams feel like they're part of the same cost and they're being cared for and that that doesn't just happen on its own so what I have seen time and time again people have done offshoring with without success in terms of their team morale and they're wondering why and when I interview their on-site team when I interview them they reveal problems that were there long before there was offshoring. It just got exasperated with that and so one of the things that it is it's crucial for people to pay attention to is that if you don't have a system in place where you actually take care of your employees where the team morale is good that's not going to just get fixed offshore.
Shawn: Well this might be true but very very difficult to kind of sometimes sell to accounting firms because you know team morale is as good as yours I always believe that and if I've been thinking about this if your team is somewhere finding difficult to come to you or somewhere finding difficult to you know look at the things from the perspective of how a business owner or how a manager would look or how a senior would look somewhere I think it's the fault of the senior so well I agree that sometimes it balances. It brings a balance of power what we call in the whole equation sometimes you know you have an old employee you can't really tell her because you know that she has contributed so much to the firm but now the problem is she is not understanding that we are evolving and we are going in the next phase she needs to understand that she cannot just play with the same rules, principles are same but the rule changes so she needs to evolve and reinvent herself and you as you are a boss you are an owner you are a partner you try to tell her or tell him about you know this is the way we are going this will require a new you a new person of yours and so that I have seen that somewhere when offshore hiring comes it works both the ways, it has a negative thing around it too but sometimes it creates a balance of power where it brings the level of insecurity in your onshore team a good insecurity which keeps them on their toes. But yeah we have seen in many cases there is huge resistance coming in from second level management especially from accountants and senior accountants and such a level of resistance that they don't want to cooperate the process but we have tried when we do the onboarding we try to talk to the partners talk to the owners and talk to team also and tell them that this is how the normal situation is unless we collaborate with each other there is no way out we can make this successful and you know at the end of the day the firm will suffer so we are all working for the same objective which is it's growth.
Chris: Every firm has a gap from speaking with clients there's always a gap and that's what I try to uncover and when you when you uncover that gap it could be they have too many data entry and not enough senior level or they the senior level are just tired of just doing the data entry they don't need to do that and so they're tired they're bogged down and then or there's mid-level management or team leads that need to be in place so every firm has a gap somewhere when you uncover that it ends up being that the onshore team is like oh finally a solution you know as long as they're they are being helped in some type of way and when you uncover that and you communicate and you collaborate the offshore wherever just everyone's on the same page then everyone's like holy cow this is amazing I've no firm has ever reduced if they've reduced it's like one person it's not replacing it's not like 10 onshore and then we're just replacing all 10 onshore no they need help they need two or three offshore to help those 10 onshore with the gap in their firm I see that all the time once that's uncovered that just takes off.
Sia: It's interesting so you know we've covered a lot of things and we're going over time here so I want to make sure that we give a proper attention to in terms of what has changed so let me just summarize of what has changed in terms of this pandemic changing the stigma these stigmas we have. No one is that we now realize we're a world without any borders really right because unfortunately the virus impacts everyone the same. So we're not as off putting when it comes to working with other jurisdictions that's one thing that I've seen changed. The situation has forced us also to become to work remotely and that has changed the perspective of what offshoring is which is not that different from working remotely it's just a different country versus the same country otherwise there's virtually no difference except that you get more security as a matter of fact in some situations. Shawn & Chris you mentioned it as well, maintain the quality I think that is we've realized some of the firms we know that they've gone remotely working remote they realized their current existing team they're not up to the par or the quality that they they had hoped they were in and so the same question about security goes in with the quality of work you're currently producing and there's a presumption that what we produce now is way better than what offshoring team is that's not always the case and that has become to light because of the current pandemic and then finally in terms of sustainability everyone has realized that look we don't know we're in uncharted territories things are going to change in the future and this is a time that you don't just hold on to what you got and hope that nothing changes. This is a time for you to make changes so that when things occur in the future you already have a system in place and you'll continue to you you're able to continue your business continue servicing your clients without a hitch without skipping a beat and that's where offshoring can actually help you establish those processes in place so that you actually become more empowered rather than feel like you're being restricted. So that's a summary of everything and I just want to leave it there and give it back to you Mike. I know we're over time so I appreciate everyone's input.
Mike: Yeah we are we try to keep it in 30 minutes here and so we're kind of doing so maybe since you had a nice little summary there I don't know if Chris and Shawn would like to kind of give a two minute or one minute just fine.
Shawn: I would like to thank Mike, Sia and Chris we have we are talking about things we usually don't at least in public forum so I'd like to continue this kind of conversations you know at the end of the day it is something which is real which exists amongst us so there is nothing wrong talking especially when it is for the larger good, so I'm thankful to every one of you that we are talking today about this topic and I love chatting with you again.
Chris: This needs to be brought to everyone attention that you know bottom line is a remote workforce is a global workforce however you look at it and it's just unfortunately it took unfortunate events to get us here but at the same time there's always opportunity ahead you have to look ahead I'll see you spot on right if anything comes if we have an invasion from mars or whatever's going to happen pandemic you just have to be ready for it and you can be everything is there right for you and we're only here to help.
Sia: Just one last quick comment Mike for anyone who's listening who's got their own stigma about things and would like to have a conversation. I would invite them to reach out to any of us because here would be happy to continue this conversation.
Mike: No problem yeah we're available at entigrity.com to connect with us and ask questions and continue the conversation so with that said I suppose we'll be signing off for today. Thank you all for being here and all those who checked in with us on facebook live. We hope to see you another time. Thank you very much