CASE STUDY - BREAKAWAY BOOKKEEPING AND ADVISING Glimpse into the Future of Accounting Work Post-Coronavirus
Embrace the new normal
Remote work has already been growing across most industries and now will accelerate and be widely accepted. Working from home has been on the rise since 2000 as technologies like cloud software eliminate barriers to telecommuting.
According to the US Census, 5.2% of workers in the U.S. worked at home in 2017, up from 3.3% in 2000. Then Covid-19 changed the world of office work overnight. It may never go back to how it was.
Global Workplace Analytics initiated a survey where they predict, 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021, even after the world recovers from the shock of Covid-19.
Kristen Keats, founder, and CEO of Breakaway Bookkeeping and Advising, is based in Portland, but that does not mean her employees have to work close by. With staff living across the world from Coimbatore, India to Salt Lake City - Keats’s company employs an all-digital model, which might provide a glimpse into the future of work post-coronavirus.
“We have been entirely digital for two years now,” said Keats. “The advent of cloud accounting, Quickbooks, and programs like it revolutionized the industry because they were able to connect accounting systems with banking systems and our team working completely remotely, not only that we went ahead and built our team Offshore in India”.
Entigrity: Scaling New Heights
But how did offshore staffing work for your firm? How should you go about the whole process?
- Gradual Transition: Just because the staff is available to hire at $9/hour, we didn’t jump all over it like shopping for a Black Friday Sale. We went with the slower approach where we started off with a single employee, which helped us understand the dimensional changes better and then added employees one after another until we formed the whole team. This way the transition felt easy to us. You will typically first try remote staffing in the States and then gradually switch to offshore staffing. In our case, it was completely the other way around, offshore staffing gave us the confidence that we can even go remote within the United States. That’s when we started hiring remote staff in the US and transitioned to working virtually.
- Local vs Offshore Staff: We discovered in the whole process that you shouldn’t differentiate between your onshore staff and offshore staff. Partners, like Entigrity, helped and advise that you should integrate your offshore staff with your team onshore and your system. The onboarding process didn’t feel like a hurdle and smoothly things were set in motion. The idea is for you is that all team members shall be treated equally as long as they are working for you, skilled as you may need, and are doing the job as required. When we talk about integration, they use the same software, same productivity tools, work on the same platform, and seamlessly communicate and interact with the team.
- Identifying Tasks and Reporting: While segregating tasks for local and offshore staff, we observed that around 80% of the regular tasks in our firm can be done remotely and if that can be done remotely, it can be done by an offshore staff too. What we did was whatever was repeatable, continuous, and recurring was first assigned to the offshore team and we mapped their report to managers in the US. So offshore staff was not reporting directly to the partner. However, we made sure that in our monthly meeting they report their work and KPI, and they are given the opportunity to share their feedback and concerns. I would also like to mention that Entigrity made sure to keep the transparency between the offshore staff and the client and aligned the offshore staff with the protocol/practices of our firm.
- Scale-up your business and make sure your team is on the same: Offshore staffing is usually perceived negatively by team and others as a means of replacement for the existing team. It’s not!
- Rather, it’s for the growth of your firm to take more work and expand your services. We just made sure that all our clients during the COVID pandemic were served, as most of them were small businesses, they needed immediate help with relief funds, grants, cash flow forecasting, decisions on future actions and many more.
- And, the offshore team complimented our local team. Expanded capacity meant reduced workload and more work-life balance. No more crazy working hours. We worked 45 hours/week on an average during Tax session which was a 35% reduction than what we used to work before i.e. like 65 hours/week, and even outside of tax season things were very much balanced.
- However it’s very important to get your onshore team on the same page and make sure they understand that this is the way forward, this is where the world is moving and if we don’t move, we will fall behind. Offshore staffing is like a stepping stone for the next levels and hence it’s a necessity. Also, it wasn’t like everything went smoothly, we did face some resistance from a couple of our old employees, but we made sure that they understand the end goal and get them on the same page. Otherwise, if the team can’t collaborate with each other operations won’t get you to the end goal. Consequently, we also made sure with a certain level of assertiveness that each team member understands that offshore staff is very much part of a growing business, it’s not just a one-time adventure.
- Gain a Competitive Edge: Accounting bookkeeping or Client Accounting Services (CAS) is not a very lucrative or high margin business, but what is sexier about these services is
- Recurring Revenue
- Its Scalability
Usually, you come across pricing pressure and increased overheads whenever you try to expand CAS; however, with offshore staffing stepping into the picture, the margins have surely increased and our pricing has become way more competitive. With us, we have a 12 member team onshore and we had to manage 300 monthly accounts. So, we assigned 2 offshore accountants to each of our Sr. Accountant onshore. The onshore accountant was responsible for client communication, review, and advisory whereas the offshore team did all the data entry, report preparation, reconciliation, and providing assistance and input to Sr. Accountant in client service.
Starting this approach over 2 years ago kept us ahead of the curve and it was an easy transition during this pandemic. With technological advances, I can certainly say offshore staffing is the future of the accounting industry and today we are working completely virtual. Every Accounting firm in the US and Canada should look at this not as an option to try for but as something that you should integrate as early as you can. Good luck!
Entigrity™ is a trusted offshore staffing partner to over 500+ accountants, CPAs and tax firms across the US and Canada. Our flexible and transparent hiring model gives helps firms of all sizes to 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.
This information was sourced from Oregon Business