Following our shortlisting in the AccountingWEB Accounting Excellence awards, we spoke to Richard Sergeant about the Learning and Development element of our application. Read the full article here.
Towards being the best
2018 Accounting Excellence shortlisted firm Green & Co provides a more detailed case study on the dynamics at play.
Given the focus on cloud and digital tools within the firm, it’s surprising to hear that some 50% of their clients are within the farming community, a sector not naturally thought of as being at the forefront of technology. A myth that office manager Sonia Board is quick to dispel:
“Farming has developed a lot over the years, with a huge focus on technology, and a diversification of services – I would disagree that they are not at all tech savvy. But it’s true that some don’t necessarily need to be”.
What is clear from the outset, however, is a strong team ethic driven by a focus on communication and a commitment to L&D drives the firm to help clients from all sectors.
“The firm’s ethos, driven by the partners, is that they want us to be the best – and not just in service we provide, but as individuals”.
Clear objectives, transparent progress
The partners very much set the tone.
“They have a lot of time and commitment to communicating out what they want Green & Co to be, and what it is there to achieve”, continued Board. “The detail of our one-page plan is a crucial piece of information and an important way of communicating out. Everyone is aware of the firm’s KPIs like monthly income and what targets have been set”.
It is not all one way though, with the communication element evident right across the business – not an easy feat to achieve when the number of people in the firm starts to increase.
“Input from the staff is encouraged at every level, and not just at review times. We have staff forums, and regular staff consultancy sessions, but more generally, there is a high degree of communication and sharing of information.”
Board emphasised that this extends to clients too:
“Input is encouraged and feedback from clients is an important part of this.”
The output is that “it creates a high degree of trust. Not only between the partners and staff, but between colleagues, and this translates directly to our clients”.
L&D builds on this platform
With trust and communication high, it helps to see how personal skills then drive expertise and service, but this again is not a simple top down exercise.
“L&D is vital – it has been very important to invest continuously here. Staff are actively encouraged to identify training needs, and there are also formal personal development reviews twice a year. The third prong is formal training via SWAT – and through the new course releases each year, core needs are identified and block booked”, explained Board.
“Training also extends to our clients, including GDPR, tax, MTD and of course our bookkeepers help with hands on training on software. Staff also attend, so there is a further opportunity for them to meet as well as learn together,” she said.
Regulatory and process change has also been embraced with the same spirit.
“We went to auto enrolment two years earlier than required, and used it as a training opportunity so we could all learn and help define our processes and guide clients.”
Clear objectives, effective communication and underpinned by a clear commitment to personal and professional development is a platform for building their commercial success,
“It is central to our brand and the way we do business,” said Board. “Clients know they are going to walk away with quality information, and this trust extends to enhance our reputation and fuels strong organic growth.”
But the effect is stronger than just on the commercials:
“Staff turnover is very low, and satisfaction is high. With additional benefits such as refresh groups and confidential health assessments, we all sense the importance of work-life balance. Happy staff can only better serve clients,” she said.
Much of Board’s experiences echo both the findings of the ACCA investigation, but also the experience of the Accounting Excellence entrants this year, and indeed provided much food for thought for firms of all sizes.
Green & Co specialise in business growth and tax minimisation for businesses across Wales and the South West of England.
For proactive advice, contact Green & Co Accountants and Tax Advisors on 01633 871122, follow @Green_and_Co on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.