In this episode of the BKOT podcast, Chris has discussed with Will Hill about managing and executing through change.
#BKOT 49: BUILD A KICKASS OFFSHORE TEAM
MANAGING AND EXECUTING THROUGH CHANGE
Hosted by: Chris Rivera, Director Client relations, Entigrity Offshore Staffing
Guest: Will Hill, Business Owner, Will Hill Consults, LLC
Chris: Hello everybody welcome to episode 49 of #BKOT build a kick-ass offshore team. And so we are very excited to have with us today Will Hill and he's an expert and he will explain why? Now we have a great conversation about managing and executing through change. That is a scary word for sure but in all actuality is it, so we will get into some details here but first off well thank you so much for taking time out to join us today. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Will: Well thanks Chris I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Yeah my name is Will Hill and if you are thinking about it carefully yes that does rhyme, but I have been serving the tax and accounting profession for over 20 years and I just recently launched my own consulting firm Will Hill consults and we really work with firms on everything around client relationships and making sure that the firm is maximizing those and really helping the clients to the best of their abilities as their they stay on top of their clients goals, hopes, and dreams and look to be a valued partner in that process.
So that is what we do with will hill consults as I mentioned been in the profession for over 20 years. A lot of time implementing new business processes and tools at various accounting firms of all shapes and sizes across the US and just done a lot of speaking as well and I just thoroughly enjoy accounting firm owners. I think that generally they have the hearts of teachers they are people that care about their clients and their team and they want to succeed and those are just fun people to work with Chris so.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely I mean they are vital apart to in an everyday small business corporation and so but recently with as we head out of this pandemic and a lot of change has happened and it shook up the industry.
But the thing is that I believe in I mean change is constant it's just a matter of when not if and but it could be folks that I work speak with that Entigrity they have been doing the same thing for 20 years or 30 years and nothing's changed but all of a sudden we are here. And so there is a lot to a lot to consider before they move into this offshore stocking but the biggest and most pressing change that has happened is this remote environment that we are in and with the workforce as well. So yeah can you share your thoughts about that?
Will: Yeah, definitely dealing with different types and levels of staffing and staff interaction has come center stage. I think it's one of those things that was lingering out there it was in arm's reach for a number of folks, but it was far enough away from the shoulders that you could ignore it if you wanted to but now you can't. And it's a reality of where we sit and for many firms I think it's opportunity beyond just reality.
But some of the hurdle there is it is a big change and I think you are right Chris we are there is always change going on but there is something inside of us that when we approach a change of some kind of size we tend to really bucket it right and say okay we are now embarking on change and I think that is one of the things that we have to think about as we consider, how do we execute in the midst of change is a little bit of recognition that things are always moving and while we have defined a particular change or something that needs to be done differently that doesn't mean everything has to come to a hard stop and we have to feel out of place and so I think as we approach the subject of change say how do we really excel through it the first thing we have to do is we have to get our mind right and say look things are always different.
Well we may have very similar processes we have got different tools we have got different business environments that we have operated in over the last 20 years. Regulations have shifted and moved those things are changes, therefore we have been through change and now some firms would say yeah we have been through change and it hurt and that is why we don't want to do any more than we absolutely have to.
But I think we have got to see it for what it is and where is that opportunity and when we look at what's in front of us to change we think about it from the staffing perspective. We can't you have a choice about which pain you want to consider do you want to consider the pain of a prior change that didn't go well or do you want to consider the pain that you are in right now, that this change is designed to alleviate and I will tell you Chris wherever you choose to put your mind, that is going to dictate where this change project goes. If your mind is all around the pain of everything that happened you are going to miss opportunity, if your mindset is around we are solving a problem here and we want to solve it well then you've got your mind set to opportunity and you are going to focus on the right things.
Chris to me it's my kids play baseball through the summer and softball and I just talked to them about everything is about your feet right wherever your feet are that is where the ball is going to go when you hit wherever you step and point your toe that is where the ball is going to go when you throw and to me the mindset about change is the same as feet in baseball right that is going to point you in the direction of where you are going to go so I think that is where it really all starts there Chris.
Chris: Yeah I love the sports analogy I mean that correlates to all sports so you think about football, you got you could throw the ball with your back foot it's going to be intercepted right it's all about speed placement basketball you got to move those feet as fast as you can.
Baseball same thing be placement boom home run. And so what that means is that they are in the mindset of whole process of course but they are going to hit that ball throw that ball right make that basket and so in relation to the accounting world okay identifying the issue right and then saying how can we change how can we make this aspect better and involving everyone. I think that is a very important mindset yes but then involvement.
So for example I would say about three years ago I have been doing this with Entigrity for five but three years ago let's say a firm had 100 people and 10 partners, guess what I had the call with one partner. So I am thinking one where are the other nine what I mean and so nowadays same example 100 person firm 10 partners there is eight partners on that call and that is amazing and that just happened out of the blue like.
We didn't market or promote that it's just awesome that folks are all getting on the on the same page and this is where when you are going through a process that everybody on the same page all right then the next step is to find you know the right partner like yourself and working with a firm staff like us right and then understanding what they do to help you with your vision goals and your mission for the firm and so bad experience or not right this is what we are focused on now.
Will: I think you make an excellent point about involving others and as I was thinking getting ready for this conversation I wanted to make sure we talked about involving others and where I have seen firms fall down in change, is by not involving enough people internally right.
So sometimes the firm leadership makes the mistake of saying if I am going to be in charge. I have got to make all the decisions and I am sorry that is just a bad plan right, one it's not a great use of your time and two you are missing on the talent, awareness and knowledge of your team that is a valuable asset that is sitting right in front of you. And so yes you are going to have to set the direction right so let's say that the change that we are making is we are going to offshore staffing maybe we will use this company called Entigrity right, but we are going to make this change the leader needs to set the direction, they do have to set the direction say look this is where we are headed this is the direction.
We are using offshore staffing for the production of we are going to start with our bookkeeping work. We will start there we will figure it out and then we will see if it makes sense to move on from there. So as they set the vision notice a couple things they point to the destination and they show opportunity from there. So we say hey this is where we are going it may not end there but right now we know where we are going, this is where we are going.
Now we have got to say to our people that would normally do that bookkeeping we are going to do a couple things with them one say hey I believe in your value to do other things so when we are talking about change that results in staff role and responsibility adjustment. We have to make sure that our team members do not equate their personal value with their production, their value is different than their production their values their experience, the relationship, the skills they have in analysis, communication, maybe their empathy that they have with clients.
These are the things that bring them value and make them valuable to the firm to their client not recording entries! That is not the value piece, that is just the production piece so when we are looking at shifting roles and responsibilities the leaders got to make sure that the team understands where the real value is and there is a good awareness there and then they are ready to have that team come in and say okay we are going to shift these duties from you to somebody else. Let's map out what that looks like why don't you take the charge sally jimmy whoever you are you are going to take charge on making sure that our most recent documented processes hint firms if you don't have document processes now is a good time.
I don't care how busy you are but let's take our documented processes and say what are these elements are we going to shift over what are we going to keep and let's talk through what does that look like are we ready from a digital perspective and a paperless component of data, input data receipt, communication back to our customer so we want to then let them work on the day-to-day stuff because as the owner of the firm how you communicate with the clients about status on the job or internally the bookkeeping department debates decisions that needs to be made that doesn't sit at the owner's level. So why should the owner be the one making the choices for what's going to happen.
That should really come from the level where it impacts and the reality is that people are more committed to a change when they are part of the decision process not just the execution but the decision process of how this is going to work and flow through so that involvement piece is super critical. That the other the other side of involvement Chris is I have always thought that this profession was a very collaborative one and I have seen and in talking to other industry consultants they are in agreement with me they show our name but they are in agreement with me that through the pandemic we have seen nothing but a heightened level of cooperation amongst firms and collaboration.
There is no shortage of work out there the clients need services of CPA firms their compliance and advisory services very desperately and so I have seen a great amount of collaboration. Collaborate with your peers so you got to involve your staff collaborate with peers find out who else has done offshoring. Tell me a little bit about how you got started it doesn't mean you have to do everything they did but what I want is I want some awareness of roadblocks of challenges up front.
When we talk about executing through change it isn't about how do I not have problems basically problems are going to occur we are involving and three different sets of people customers our firm plus whoever's involved with this change right in our example here the folks that are coming from Entigrity right so we have got three different groups of people we are going to have miscommunications, we are going to have struggles, we can't avoid it but we are going to excel through change we have to plan for that and say if we have a good strategy on what's moving and we have involved the right people on communicating and planning for that when there is an issue it's going to be seen faster and when I have involved my team and they discover an issue they are going to own and bring that up and say oh here's something we didn't think of or wow that didn't quite go as planned how should we adjust we didn't either we did talk about it but didn't think it would happen or we didn't even talk about it let's have a quick pow-wow but since they have already been in those conversations we are able to get into that faster and it's not a personal failure issue it's a “Hey we own this change together issue let's go tackle it” does that make sense Chris.
Chris: Yeah spot on it's just in this in this example right it's like all of a sudden right Monday morning you have on your T.V. in your office there is a brand new associate in India and your team is just meeting them, it's going to rub them the wrong way honestly right if they had been part of this process and working together and then they see them on the screen right they'll be excited let's do this we are going to implement it let's go, but all of us if you don't involve and you just someone shows up on a T.V. screen in your office people are on LinkedIn looking for accounting job nearby I mean it's just going to not go so well.
Will: There are a few of those out there right now accounting jobs nearby.
Chris: I have seen it happen and it's just like it's not the best way to approach it and then taking a step back you were talking about you know the current staff in place and I think too in identifying some leaders within the office to kind of spearhead a new project and help you with this change so and there is always a misconception that the best preparer the best account, the best bookkeeper, your leader that may not be the case right and so you find this out when you have like one-on-one meetings and evaluating your staff and catching up after the busy season. And then you could ask that you know I am thinking I feel that you have the right skill set the soft skills would you think about spearheading this new project we are about to undertake and then not rather than just assuming putting them on the spot and it continues with more involvement with the team because I find that to be to where there is an issue that is assumed you know now their best one they are obviously going to lead the team so that is not a way to approach it especially when you are looking to reskill and upskill you have to dig a little deeper and ask questions.
Will: So let's sit on that for a moment because there is another key area there is that if you are going to have someone lead that charge or some people lead that charge, you have to communicate a shift in expectations to them. Especially if they are heavy producers in the firm or if there is bonus and compensation based on production and now you want some time for them to be thorough.
So you've got to account for that and say hey what are some of those hurdles to their commitment that we are not even thinking of that is what I think of when I think about the bonus compensation areas is like all right hey for the period of these three weeks while we work through and iron out this process and nail it down.
I am bringing down your items or after you complete this as long as you are at a certain amount of production I am going to inflate the rest of the you know the rest of it and capture that or there is a project bonus that is here beyond just a production bonus whatever it may be you've got to really shift those expectations to give that person the freedom and feel like okay they are committed. If you do not alter the expectations of the rest of the work on the plate of those taking charge here and just think well they can work a couple extra hours they'll just be more efficient and get it done you are not empowering them and teaching them leadership because another part that comes from leadership here as you get into a new project like this and helping run a change program in a firm is I have got to work on my prioritization skills.
So Chris if you come to me and say Will you got to take on this change project even if even if your next statement is tell me the three things that have to come off of your plate as long as we follow up on that give me a date and time. Say hey two days from now we are going to meet again I need you to tell me the three things have to come off of your plate to execute this well. So I am not saying the leader has to decide what comes off the plate what a great exercise for me as a newer leader in the firm a younger leader to go and say hey here's what I think should come off of my plate in order for me to put this on and do well with it helps me prioritize and if you just give it to me Chris, one it doesn't give me a chance to practice prioritization but two you miss an opportunity to read into how I think about priorities to the firm maybe, I am going to give you the things I hate doing the most and you have a great opportunity to learn what is my passion and what drives me and those are important things when you think about staff satisfaction employee satisfaction that can really lead to a longer retention period as well so a great opportunity as you shift those expectations to do that with excellence.
Chris: For sure and then so this is going on you know staffing is always an issue in general across the board has gotten to be a little bit more we are much more in a worse condition now because of the reshuffle, the resignation, redo, rethink, remake everything right as folks are evaluating again. So now there is a new workforce here right and I am an elder millennial that is what's coined by LinkedIn but the new workforce they want opportunities, they want to see that it's just not dead injury because the profession's not looked at in the best of life nowadays either which is which is why there is not you know replacements you know ready in line for everyone that resign.
So now as you are as you are building out this new process in place or identifying leaders and now you have job openings but it's not just to prepare taxes maybe it's consultation or resolutions or tax planning and then you know training provided you know so it's more the workforce nowadays is more about what can your firm do for me and not working 90-100 billable hours a week anymore so to bring in new staff during these extremely challenging times becomes a lot easier when you have these awesome positions because the accounting profession there is so many different positions available out there people just don't reel it they just assume it's you know deadlines tax preparation data entry not for me so I think that benefits folks.
Will: Yeah and the firms the firms that are tracking with the trends have started or have fully shifted their mindset from managing work to managing client relationships and they are approaching some of their hiring and work flow decisions based on that and there are some great places out there that different people someone reach out to me.
I will give you a couple off air but places that'll train your new people on accounting and tax work for you so that you say hey I got someone who's a great communicator someone who is hyper aware of their environment and can spot opportunity they may not be able to execute on it but they can spot it, hey we can teach some of the execution piece we can teach some other background to shore that up there is places that'll do that we have to relax a little bit on trying to find a specific technical set and really look for how do we hire the right types of people to fill those needs that are in there and the other thing we have got to think about we have got to think about the client in all of this.
And you know I think one of the most underutilized assets in a firm is the trust bank with their clients, there are many clients within a firm that the firm has I don't know is the phrase save their bacon still cool or am I showing my gen x age I don't know but the wonderful things for these clients and as a firm sometimes we tend to operate out of fear of losing that trust instead of operating out of courage to say I am going to go use that trust so Chris if you are a client of mine that we did we did great things for you and helped you turn around your cash flow and you went from barely having it month to month you've got six months of expenses in the bank you are able to make some investment in your business and you are growing, your family loves you more now all that kind of stuff right I am going to go to you and instead of being fearful of what's going to happen when we make a process change I am going to go to you and say “Hey Chris we are doing something new I want to use you as one of the first ones that we are doing it for and I would like you to provide some feedback for me on how this is going?”
Will: Now we are going to use the trust and even if the process adjustment doesn't go well I have set an expectation with you that it might be bumpy but in return I have already communicated up front and said hey I want feedback if you do say you want feedback please give them a chance to give it even if things go smooth because you did offer the chance to give that feedback and now I can relax a bit and say I may not have to have this perfectly ironed out, that gives me courage to roll this change out a little bit faster and then be able to scale more quickly after that.
So don't forget about your clients and all of this they are a critical part you've got a trust bank go out and use it the clients want to do business with someone who's trying to improve their business. Business owners know that if I am doing some business someone is trying to improve theirs that is going to rub off on me and their business may have nothing to do with anything that is offshoring and they may not be able to offshore anything, however they are intrigued by the fact that you are looking for improvement and they know that you are a key advisor and say hey if you are going to see those things in your business you are going to see opportunity in mind too and I am going to be more engaged with you so I think there is great benefits of making sure the clients are aware of change and being involved through the change process with you.
Chris: Yeah it's so easy to start with your current client base especially if you are changing your pricing model you are changing the different services that are available or whatever it may be yeah and then don't ever act in fear right, it's focus on the positive I think so in general if everyone just always like just gravitates towards the negative in any aspect and so I am a big believer on the positive side.
Things are going to go wrong it's guaranteed right so but if you focus on the positive it's not what's the saying it's not a it's not a problem it's simply a new solution that is on the way or whatever the cliche's saying is and everything will be fine I mean and then you are just asking for the feedback and so you are not implementing anything you are just you know kind of experimenting because you they you guys trust each other and so I think that is very important especially when you've gone through the exploration phase, you've gone through the whole testing and now it's that you know let's do it the implementation phase so I agree.
Will: Yeah and you know if you are a firm owner and you are sitting there thinking wow that level of transparency with clients or with staff has me nervous that concern is going to limit the growth of your firm and you need to address that concern right, whether it be with coaching with somebody who knows but there is something that is driving that fear of transparency and whenever firm leadership is hesitant to be transparent and I am not saying tell everybody every financial detail of your business right I am just talking about transparency if you are wrestling with transparency you are going to struggle growing period and so you've got to win that battle it's a critical battle.
Chris: Yup! spot on well I mean we could keep going for another hour or two on this awesome conversation today. We appreciate you coming on here and because this is exciting times to me right the profession is ready to kind of take the next step and not be looked at for it and for a new workforce says like ooh accounting no, it's like oh accounting let's do it. So it's going to take time staffing will the will ease there is global resources there is resources like yourself I mean things will be fine focus on the positive right. So any final thoughts before we wrap up today?
Will: No I think that it's been a great conversation, I am happy to be part of it and if anyone wants to have a one-on-one conversation with me about working through change feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn or email me at will at willhillconsults.com glad to have a conversation.
Chris: Yes awesome and for our folks out there listening in we will be back soon with another episode, do not miss other podcasts like-subscribe-follow and we really appreciate you taking the time out as we are here always to bring in folks like Will today to help you through the from now and into the future. Take care, Well thank you so much for taking time be good.
Entigrity™ is a trusted offshore staffing partner to over 600+ accountants, CPAs, and tax firms across the US and Canada. Our flexible and transparent hiring model helps firms of all sizes hire staff for accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation, or any other task for 75% less cost. As a firm 'run by accountants, for the accountants', Entigrity captures the hiring needs of accounting firms most precisely, providing staff that works directly under your control and management, still, you are left with least to worry about compliance, payroll taxes, overheads or any other benefits.