Managing Your Firm with Remote Staff
Your accounting team is now working from home. Great, now what? How does managing your team change and how can you be more efficient while dealing with new distractions? Join Accountingfly CEO Jeff Phillips, who has managed a virtual company for years, as he shares his best practices to make remote accounting work productive while reducing the stress your team is likely facing trying to manage at home. Sponsored by Bill.com.
How to make remote accounting work more productive individually for managers and individual contributors
How to manage your remote team by implementing communication plans; management by objectives; running remote team meetings.
How to lead your team while they are dealing with distractions in the new normal, including kids being at home, distracting news, and being physically away from their team.
Speaker(s): Jeff Phillips, CEO, Accountingfly
Good day everyone, and thank you for joining us here at CPA Academy. This is Maureen Dudley. I'll be your moderator on today's webinar, Managing your Firm with Remote Staff. I'm going to go through just a few little quick technical checks before I turn things over to Monica Ortiz of bill.com.
So first, if you haven't done so already, please go over to the go to webinar control panel, open up the Q&A section and let us know that you can see and hear. Thank you so much. People are saying you can see, you can hear everything we need to know. Appreciate it. We have people coming in from all sorts of places. Cincinnati, and Florida, and New Jersey. Thank you so much.
So now that we know that everything is working well with the technology, please just keep in mind that I will be glad to help you throughout this webinar if you're having any problems with your tech. Go ahead and just shoot me over a note in the Q&A section.
Please do keep in mind however, that there are hundreds of you on this webinar and just one of me.
As far as CPE credit, if you're here for that, this session qualifies for one credit of CPE, and in order to get that you will need to remain logged in for at least 50, five-zero minutes, and answer the polling questions.
The polls will pop up on your screen periodically. When it comes up, the slides go away and they will be replaced with the 'go to webinar' poll box. All you need to do is select your answer and hit submit. If you do have any technical difficulties, we are offering one bonus poll today, just in case.
So we here at CPA academy will process your CPE credit by the end of the day. That will be made available in your CPA academy account within about 24 hours, where you'll also find an archive recording of the webinar and a copy of the handouts.
Handouts are also available on the left hand side in your 'go to webinar' control panel. Any problems downloading those, just go ahead and go to your CPA Academy account.
Well, I think that is plenty of housekeeping, so I'm going to go ahead and turn things over to Monica to introduce herself, and then our speaker coming up. Thank you so much, Monica and everyone.
Thank you, Maureen. Hi everybody. I am Monica. I'm director of event marketing at bill.com, and I'm so pleased to welcome you today to the third webinar in our Automating Success series.
And today we're talking about managing your firm with remote staff. For those who aren't familiar with bill.com, we are a leading provider of cloud based software that simplifies, digitizes and automates complex back office financial operations for small and mid-size businesses.
Our customers use our AI enabled platform to manage their end-to-end financial workflows, process payments, manage cash flow and create connections between their businesses and their suppliers and clients.
We partner with several of the largest US financial institutions, including the majority of the top 100 US accounting firms, and we integrate with leading accounting software providers.
No matter what success looks like to your firm, technology and automation have become a necessary part of the equation, so we created this masterclass program to introduce you to the industry thought leaders who have adapted and thrived. Together we will walk through what it takes to redefine your business for today's world.
It's my pleasure to introduce Jeff Phillips. Jeff is an entrepreneur and an accounting industry leader. He's been recognized for the last four years by Accounting Today as among the top 100 most influential people.
He co-founded Accountingfly, the accounting hiring platform for remote talent, and is CEO of Padgett Business Services, one of North America's largest accounting service and business consulting providers. So please join me for Managing your Firm with Remote Staff with Jeff Phillips. Welcome Jeff.
Thank you so much, [inaudible 00:03:56]. I appreciate the kind words from Monica and Maureen at CPA academy. Jeff Phillips here. Just do a quick sound check. Either Monica or Maureen, can you just confirm that you can hear me okay before I keep going?
All right, great. Okay, thank you. Welcome everybody. And I'm going to turn on my webcam because I just feel like if it creates any kind of an issue, then Maureen will tell me, we'll turn it off, but I'm more comfortable and I think it's more effective if you can see me.
So all right, there we go. Hey, Jeff Phillips here. I'm calling in from Athens, Georgia today, but I live in Pensacola, Florida. I'm actually doing a little business travel, which is kind of a new thing, considering where we are in the world today.
So we're going to be talking about remote work. I think, from what I understand about most of the firms, those of you in public accounting, you probably have been suddenly forced to work remotely, and suddenly, I mean in the last six months. That's what happened to us, and we're all struggling on how to deal with it.
So I think what I hope you get out of this is, one, remote work can actually lead you down a path of being a far more productive firm, far more productive team. I think you're also going to see that remote work is not really going away, even as we recover from the pandemic.
First, I just want to say to all of you who are in public accounting, I really appreciate you being here. And in the last six months, since the pandemic hit our world, those are of you who are in advisor roles in public accounting, you've really been on the front line.
And many of you were business first responders to an insane, chaotic issue and time. So many of you really leaned in on the PPP. You're giving fast answers, answering questions about technology, about HR, things that you probably weren't even trained to do.
And I hope that, as things have gotten a little more normal, it's resulted than deeper relationships with your clients. So shout out to all you guys who have been doing that. We congratulate you.
What's probably happened is you've gone remote. You're either back in the office a little bit, but still probably doing a hybrid thing. I want to give you some tools today that will be useful to you today and tomorrow, by just working with a remote team.
I want to thank bill.com. So let me explain a little bit about who I am. So I started a company called Accountingfly. It's a recruitment platform. We match up remote CPAs and bookkeepers with accounting firms and their clients.
Now, I founded that company, but recently made a job change. I'm the CEO of Padgett Business Services, as Monica said. So that's an accounting firm that does small business accounting, so now I'm a practitioner, but still help Accountingfly as an owner.
And then bill.com is our sponsor that brought us together, and my company is that actually a client of bill.com's. And we're all in GoToWebinar here today, so everybody in America is using their home based internet, it seems like, so there's occasional blips. Bear with us. We're all doing the best that we can.
All right. So just a little personal note. These are my children, Jack... He's 12... Francis in the middle, who's nine, and [Mallie 00:07:40] is five.
Speaking of remote, from March until last week, so for six months, I was working from home and they were in the house with me. My wife actually got to go to an office. So I'm so grateful they went back to school last week.
And you can see what the objectives are here, is let's just work on remote work, how to make it more productive, how to communicate better, what do you do with security? How do you deal with team culture?
I really want to make the case that this thing isn't temporary. You're going to be dealing with remote work for years. And if I can get your buy in on that, which I really hope I do, then what I think you're going to be convinced of is, you should be hiring remote talent. It's a really easy way to make a hire in a day when it's hard to hire people, and you can be really, really productive with it.
Please fire away with questions and answers. While we're doing the polling questions, if there are questions, Monica is going to chime in and give me a question, and we'll leave a couple minutes at the end.
You're going to get four polling questions. You're going to hear some information about bill.com, and I hope this is really useful for you.
So let's just jump right into it. And I think we're going to bring Monica back in for a quick word on bill.com. Before I get into the deep stuff here.
I actually covered all of that in my intro.
Okay. So check. Let's roll on. We're just going to go straight into the polling question then, right?
Okay, I'll do that. But before we do, I do have to make a comment someone sent in. They said, "Your kids are so cute, but how could you put a Krispy Kreme picture up, Jeff? Now everyone wants one.
What you don't know is you're going to have Krispy Kreme donuts delivered to your home office in the next 30 minutes, courtesy of bill.com. Monica, can we make that happen?
I'll get right on that.
All right. So you've got a minute for the question. How has the move to remote work been for you and your team? What is it like? So you got about 60 seconds to do that.
And do keep in mind. You're going to of want to vote. If you're here for credit. Just pick the closest answer, and then you do need to answer the polls if you're here for credit.
So Monica, I assume there's no questions on the first polling question. So sorry for the miscommunication. I was all geared up to hand it back to you, and I had my notes that's when you're hitting that. So my apologies.
We should have looked at this one.
Well then if that's the case, I think I'm going to get ready to close this down, if everyone's ready, in 3... 2... 1.
I hope we see the results here, but I'll tell you what they are.
Would you like me to share those results?
Oh yeah, that'd be great. Let's do it.
There you go.
Oh, thank you. So whether it's up on your computer or not, I'm going to just read them off. 39 said I love it. I may never return. I love hearing that. 21% said frustrating. We didn't have a work plan. We're going to talk about that. 6% said negative. 34% been working remotely before for the pandemic, so it is all good. I love it.
All right. Let's get back into this. All right. So let's talk about remote work. And I want to show you a slide that cracked me up, that I think almost summarizes our lives since the pandemic began.
And I hope I'm not offending anybody. This was given to me by a friend of mine that teaches Sunday school, but I saw this and had to laugh, and wanted to share it with you because this is what my life has felt like for six months. Zoom.
There's even a phrase now called Zoom fatigue, because we are all on these webinars all the time. And it's our world. I mean, we're in the middle of a political convention and everything's been on remote video chat, but it's because we're living in this remote world. So I love the fact that somebody took DaVinci's The Last Supper and broke it into a Zoom call.
This is where most of us on this call are living right now, is in this remote world where we're at home. We're dealing with distractions with our kids. Our kids are at home. We've got repair man ring in the doorbell. We've got constant Zoom calls.
How do you make this work? And if you're a manager, how do you make it work, trying to direct your team? So I hate the phrase 'the new normal', but it really is.
I want to make an argument to you that you're going to working remotely long after we recover, or you're going to hire people who are going to work remotely even if you go back to your office. And so I want to lay the case out why that is, and then try to give you the best practice to thrive with that.
Why is remote work going to be here after we stay? It was already on its way. The story of our staffing company... The reason why we got into remote work isn't because we wanted everybody to sell their offices, or kill their leases and buy cloud software, and just travel the world in a camper, doing tax returns.
We were so struggling trying to fill jobs at our CPA firms that remote work ultimately became our answer. And we realized it was an answer for a lot of clients.
So for example, I've got a client in San Francisco, in downtown, on Market Street. They've been there for 30 years. They're a tax firm, two partners who left the big four, now they're running an accounting firm.
They've been wanting to hire a tax manager for a year and we were trying to hire it. We were failing. And every time I'd call them, I'd say to the managing partner, "Try remote hire."
After 12 months and a lot of pain for them, they finally did ask us to hire a remote tax manager. We made that hire for them in three weeks. They made the hire in three weeks. That person is in Philadelphia, on the other side of the continent.
But because this firm had cloud accounting software, because this firm is investing in automation, they were ready for this hire. That person, that manager in Philly, will one day be a partner at this firm.
And it's a fantastic example of, look, if you're willing to make the change, you can make the hires and you can, you can deal with remote work if you just embrace in things.
Why is remote work going to be a big part of your future if you're operating in an accounting firm? Long story short, Korn Ferry, which is a massive global executive search firm, did a study.
Probably going to give you some information you've heard before, but there's more knowledge worker jobs than there are knowledge workers to fill them in the globe. And by 2030, there's going to be 50 million more jobs than there are people to fill them.
So even though we are in a brief period of higher unemployment, here in August of 2020, generally speaking, there just aren't enough people to fill the jobs at your businesses. So what used to work for you in the past probably will not for you in the future.
Just a couple other points here to lay the case for, you should pay attention to remote work beyond this pandemic. Going into the end of 2019, right before all the COVID started, we were at peak unemployment. So overall, the whole industry, we were at 3.8% percent.
Now, the Beatles were playing together the last time our unemployment was at 3.8%. And I get it, it's gone up. But generally in professions like where we all work, in accounting, it's still very, very low.
So going into the end of the year, accountants and bookkeepers and auditors were between 1.5% and 1.8%. So what that means to you is if you're in a city like Toledo, Ohio, and you want to make a hire, everyone's already employed.
So when you go and you post a job on indeed or monster.com or Craigslist, and no one applies, or no one relevant applies, this is why. And furthermore, our friends at Boomer Consulting tell us that when people do leave an accounting job, about 30% of them would go from a firm to another firm, and 70% go outside of a firm.
So in other words, if you're trying to fill a job in any market, it's like finding a needle in a haystack, of haystacks, of haystacks. And so it's just time to embrace this other concept.
And according to New York State Society of CPAs, firms with less than $20 million in revenue are having a 25% turnover among their accounting staff, and the number one reason why staff's leaving is work-life balance. People are getting burned out, fed up with the lack of flexibility inside the public accounting world.
And every time I say that, the public accountants on the call tend to disagree with me, and don't want to hear it, frankly. So do with it what you will. Thems the facts.
The other thing is just, the evidence to support this is that millennials who now make up the majority of the workforce... So there are more millennials at the big four than any other group, including Gen Xers like me.
They've come along and said, "I'm going to just go ahead and choose a flexible job over an inflexible job. And I will leave my employer when I know that employer doesn't give me the flexibility I want."
And so they want to work where they want to work and when they want to work. And so all this leads to this whole workforce saying, "I need flexibility."
I was talking to an accounting manager at a firm in Chicago yesterday. She's a mom. She's got three kids. She's a star accounting manager at this firm. She works remotely. She told me that being remote allowed her to not have to choose between having a career in accounting or being a mom.
And she said, "Look, if I was pressed to choose one or the other, I would choose my family every time." Her name's Catherine, and I think Catherine summarized the way a lot of people feel. By the way, she said, "I don't have to commute two hours a day either, so I'm more productive." And she just makes it work.
So long story short is, you can fill jobs with remote talent, and you don't have to wait. And it prevents staff burnout. And it really changes your employment brand because the firms who are doing it right, and really trusting their staff, and focusing on productivity and outcomes rather than face time are having a lot of success.
They're becoming well known employers, employers of choice, and getting applicants. On our side at Accountingfly, we get 10 times the applicants for the exact same job if it's remote. So if it's posted in Atlanta or remote, we get 10x the applicants. So just keep that in mind. I think it's here to stay, and it's not going anywhere.
So I think a lot of accountants get very scared about remote work, and they think that this is what it looks like. Some millennial on a beach, drinking a chocolate martini, maybe having a Krispy Kreme donut, and not really being productive.
I want to dispel that conception. That is not the case. Remote work, as we all know, because we've suddenly been forced to work remotely, looks like this.
According to Buffer, 94% of remote staff are actually working at home or in an office that they rent themselves, or in a co-working space. So no longer need to be afraid of remote work. In fact, 47% of the finance industry already works from home at some point in time. So primer on remote work. I hope that gives some background.
I want to tell you about Klein, Rowe and Company. So bill.com, our sponsors for this event, is running a series called Automating Success. And they're going to be bringing you teachers on various topics around running a better firm.
And we're all going to be helping solve problems at a fictional case study firm called Kline, Rowe and Company. So I'll tell you a little bit about them now, and at the end of my presentation, I'm going to come back to what I would recommend them as a consultant to them.
Because I think some of the challenges they're facing are very similar to what you're facing in your business. But Kline, Rowe, KRC. So two partners, Martin and Martha. We've got two leaders on the staff... So one's a CPA, one's in operations... Three team members in the accounting and tax group, two bookkeepers, one support person, and they have three contractors come in on a seasonal basis.
So this is a 10 person, full-time firm, facing common challenges around, they're struggling with business development and growing the firm. How do we attract new leads? They're struggling with pricing for value. They feel like they're under priced, and not sure how to raise their prices to reflect their value they believe they have.
They are doing just fine with compliance work, but they're not going after high value project work, what we call advisory work. So they're stuck there and they're confused what to do.
They're struggling with team structure and their organizational chart. They're wondering, when do they make the next hire? They're not sure when, but everybody seems to be feeling stressed and overworked. And they're asking, "How do we recover from this crisis?"
Couple things that are just specific challenges from Kline, Rowe that I want to lay out, is they don't feel like they're offering enough team care and training to their team. I think there's some frustration there.
And due to the pandemic, everyone's working from home, and they did not feel prepared for this. Like many of you, they didn't have a written work plan for flexible work. I'm going to really encourage you to consider that later in this call.
They feel like they need to hire, but they're not sure what position to hire next, and hiring has always been a struggle for of them. All right. So that's Kline Rowe. That's where they are.
We're going to hit a polling question. Then I'm going to give you my seven steps to managing remote teams, and then come back to Kline, Rowe and tell you some things I would suggest them, and try to teach some best practices through them as a case study.
So I wanted to tell you what we would do with, with Kline Rowe, and give a few minutes to think about how we address some of these challenges. But before I do, I'll bring in Maureen. We'll hit polling question number two. All right, Maureen, take it away.
Yeah, there it is. And while people are doing that, people want to know, do you ever get compared to Jason Bateman?
I do. Well, I'm a big fan of Ozark. So I appreciate the shout out. But I have a friend in Pensacola that says it a lot, and now he's really going to feel confident that he's not the only one that feels that.
Best Jason Bateman show's arrested development, by the way. And Ozark is a close second. But if you disagree, you can fire away in your question panel.
And we do have a lot of questions. I know Monica, you're going to maybe do some of those during the polls, but we're actually almost ready to shut this poll down. So I think I'll shut it down in a few seconds, and then you can decide whether or not we're going to take some questions now.
I think we've got one question that we can take right now while we're shutting this down.
People are asking, how do you vet remote employees? How do you know if someone is as good in person as they are on paper?
That's a great question, and I think I'll give you a quick highlight level first. One, you have to have a technical resume that matches expectations. So if you're hiring a tax senior, there's got to be tax on the resume, and you want an accountant to verify that they know what they say.
They know there's a lot of, "I know ProSystems fx," but you really don't. And so we suggest running them through tests, especially if the software has a test. I see a lot of lying on the resume about what I know, what I don't know.
But for remote work, the best predictor is that they've worked remotely before. Because there is a lot of people who want to work remotely. We placed a lot of remote hires that didn't work out at the beginning, because it's so popular.
So you are looking for traits like self-starter, high level responsibility, high level of actually a person that has a ton of responsibility on their plate currently is usually a good indicator of someone that can handle a remote job.
So I hope that helps. And by the way, 29% offer some advisory already, which I thought was kind of interesting. All right, Monica. Thanks. I'm going to keep moving along here.
Yep. Sounds good.
Okay. Thank you. So seven steps here to run a remote firm. We're going to cover the basics. We're going to talk about you as a human being more patient and flexible, because it's so different. We need to automate our work. We need to automate with technology.
So you can read them. I don't have to read them to you, but I want to walk through a lot of these. But managers and partners, keep a couple basic principles in mind here.
With the remote work, you lose the spontaneous relationship. You can lose the personal side of work, the side where we talk about our work project, we work together. We have meetings. Then there's the side conversation where you get to know the other human beings next to you.
So it's really important, as we start this, is you're going to have to be more intentional. You're going to have to be more intentional in how you communicate, because you lose all this context, the water cooler opportunities. You lose body language.
Does that make sense? So you have to over communicate. And I think these seven moves help to do that, but if you come back to it, it's just being intentional about how we communicate, be incredibly clear, finding ways to connect with people on a personal level.
And that's what we're going to spend a lot of the time. And I'll hit some softwares and things like that, that we care about as well.
So the basics. Oh, and one other thing, if you want to learn a little bit more about KRC, Klein, Rowe and Company, you were just sent into the chat a link to a case study, kind of a background on them. So you can meet Martin, Martha, and learn about their story.
So the basics. How do you structure remote work? And who this is for is for accounting firms who are forced to go remote, and are just trying to figure this out, and still scrambling, and they're frustrated because they were not able to make a solid plan, and you just need a plan right now because you're frustrated. You had to weather the storm of busy season. Now you're regrouping.
It's also for anyone who... You might not have anybody in remote staff, but you're probably going to hire somebody remotely at some point in time.
And I think who also is for is everybody. I want this to be about better management. Because really, all of the questions you're going to ask me about remote work, I can turn around and say, "If you manage better, if you're a better manager in the truest sense of the word, you won't have these problems." So I hope that some of these things will help there.
So how do you structure remote work? First, we're going to start to focus a lot more on results than hours at work and hours of face time. We're going to worry about results and objectives, not, are you here?
We're going to change our level of trust with our team, and communicate that trust, and kind of let go, start to trust people who work for you. And instead of thinking, "I can't see my staff, so how do I know they're working?" We're going to trust them. And if they aren't worth trusting, honestly, everyone, they shouldn't be on your team in the first place.
Then you're going to tell them that what you care about is getting the work completed. And you're going to manage all your projects in project management software. You're going to get your whole team to commit to project management software, following your company's unique process.
You're going to let your team have some balance in their lives. Take care of their personal items, while they understand that getting the work done is the most important thing. We're going to stop caring as much about sick kids, and doctor's appointments, and vet appointments, and repairman visits.
You're going to say to your team that you need them to be available for their team members and for their clients, and that you're less worried about when they get work done and how they get work done.
The basics. I would advise you to write a flexible work policy for your firm, and not just stop there. You want to systematically improve this plan over time with your team. They're going to help you create it. They're going to help you fix it. It won't be perfect when you start.
So a little bit about flexible work policies. Firms that had one of these in place in March of 2020... And I know these firms... They had a seamless trend from everyone being in the office to everyone going home.
If they had a written flexible work policy they were addressing things like, what's our home office set up? When are you available and accessible? How do we show up to a video meeting? Things like that.
Other basics. You're going to need to have remote access to your accounting software. You're going to have remote access to your tax software, payment solutions, AP solutions like bill.com, which my company uses. And you're going to want to have those things in place so that your teams can actually access your accounting information. So those are basics.
Next what we want to do is talk about what you need to have inside your office. And I'll be quick about this. So speaking to the managers here, or partners, your team's going to need to have a dedicated home office. I'm going to talk about what to buy for that.
But before I even go there, as managers and partners, I want you to make some decisions. Do you want your team to have dedicated hours, or just give them complete flexibility, and be results first? It's up to you. I'm going to suggest a guideline.
And we're going to put this in writing, but you're going to tell your team what you care most about is getting the work done, that you're available for your clients and your teams, and the rest is up to them.
That trust and that statement of trust will go a long way in decreasing the turnover or accounting firm staff that you would lose under normal circumstances.
Remember earlier, when I said firms under $20 million are losing 25% of their accounting staff every year? So this trust, how we communicate it and how we model it goes a long way to keeping them.
If you want to pull back a little bit, be a little specific, you want to have dedicated hours. You might say, "Hey, from 9:00 to 3:00 every day at our firm, we are available to be reached." So more on that later.
You want to dedicated office with a door that can be closed. That is best. You're going to want to set up your home office and have the right things for your team. So they're going to need a headset.
This is a Jabra, J-A-B-R-A, Jabra Evolve 40. It costs a hundred bucks on Amazon. It reduces distracting background noises, dogs, kids, airplanes, yard crews.
I once did a webinar like this one, with a guy blowing leaves right outside the office, and no one heard it because I had a headset on. And I know I look like a fool with it on, but it is what it is.
A great chair. We have a list ready. If you want email me at the end of this, I can send you the list. You want dual monitors. You want a laptop riser. This thing the laptop's sitting on, it's a $30 laptop riser we can sit a laptop on.
What that does is it puts the camera up at eye level, so that when you're having meetings you're not looking up anyone's noses, or down on them. It's a flattering view of people so you can see them straight on. They're probably going to need a scanner at home, and definitely a printer.
So whatever's behind you is important. I'm actually traveling today, so I don't have my typical home office setup, but most people working from home right now, you don't want the kitchen sink behind you or the garage.
This is how we present ourselves to the world now, is whatever's behind this camera. So make it professional. Put something on the wall. It needs to be something that looks like an office.
I'm going to encourage you to have Zoom meetings with your clients. And so this is a professional image. You want to look sharp. And you definitely don't want your background to be in the car while you're driving. Definitely not a good look and not safe either.
One of the frustrations I hear all the time from remote work is, "My team member's home internet stinks. They can't access our VPN. They can't access our tax software." Tax software's very, very heavy. It's very complicated to access. So you're going to need a big wifi to reach that.
We're on GoToWebinar right now. We use Zoom for our one-on-one meetings, our personal meetings. If you have people in your house with an average wifi, and somebody's streaming on a phone, streaming a movie on your TV off Netflix, and somebody's searching the web in another room, there's a really good likelihood you're going to have a glitchy conversation. It's really frustrating.
I don't want your clients to experience that. I don't want you to experience that with your teams. I've talked to a lot of clients and firms who are now offering stipend to their team members to increase their home internet to the max bandwidth they can get.
I just think it eliminates a lot of frustrations, and is not a bad policy to have as a perk and the new normal. So something to consider.
Something, a trick, that I do at home is I have a little sound machine that we used to use for a baby, and I have it running at a low frequency, low volume in my home office. And so that way, I get easily distracted. If I hear somebody in the background that's distracting me, it's not as much a distraction. Helps me pay attention.
So those are the basics. Couple things about just dealing with human beings. There's just been so much change in our world. Every person has unique situation. You're never going to make it better, if you're a manager, by being a jerk to your team, or your partners, or your clients now. Just give them grace. I know they'll appreciate it.
I have a client who has a person that runs his tax department, who had to run outside for every call when they were on lockdown. And it was frustrating because, but the tax manager did not want to be inside, because his kids were loud, and it was just difficult.
But the quality of the call was bad outside, so it was frustrating for the managing partner, it was frustrating for everybody. The managing partner just called him and said, "Hey look, no big deal. We're in a tough time right now." And that just went a long way.
None of this is ideal, but it is what it is. So be patient. Deal with everyone on their own terms. And if you're a leader, try to fix the issue.
I don't know where you are in technology. You really can't be successful in remote work without it, especially without web-based access to technology. If you want to go remote, you're going to need to be in the cloud.
I mean, tax software, like I said earlier, is large. It's heavy. It's hard to access. So there isn't, to my knowledge, a big tax product that's just available on a web, so typically you're accessing that through VPN.
So that can be complicated. You're going to have to deal with outages and downtime. Downtime was frequent in the July tax season that just ended. It is what it is. It's probably not going to change anytime soon. There's two major tax software providers, and they don't seem to be in a hurry to put their products on the web.
But what you can do is have a, have a checklist of how you and your team members could maybe download instances of the tax software, and client files, periodically, like once a week, once a month, so that if there is a downtime or a slow time, then are ready. You can do the work on your local machine.
You know when it's going to be busy, right? It's going to be busy around the 13th, 14th and 15th of every month. So be mindful of that. But for everything else, accounting software is cloud. It's cloud ready. You can get to all of it through the web.
I've mentioned bill.com. They're our sponsor. Just wonderful web-based tools that they provide, making a lot of the payment side and the back office side just pretty much streamlined.
Be mindful of ways you can automate your work. Where can you collaborate on documents in one document, so that you don't have to send multiple versions back and forth to each other?
Google Docs and Sheets are wonderful here. You've got Microsoft 365 and their product, Teams. You really can't run firm remotely without being in one of these two camps. So 75% of the market uses Microsoft. So just if you're an Outlook user, make the move to 365.
Absolutely essential, project management software. You're managing by objective now, so that means who's doing what by when? And you can't really pull this off without a good project management software.
I recommend doing your workflow. So taking your workflow in your firm, documenting it in a spreadsheet or on a Google Sheet, working with your team, looking at those work cues that will trigger people to know they have to do the next step, and actually flowing it out as a spreadsheet.
And then once you feel good about that, purchasing a project management software that you can then manipulate to reflect your process. So Xero has their product, XPM. Karbon with a K is an excellent tool. I would look that up. So is Jetpack Workflow. These are products designed to be small accounting firm project management solutions.
There's non-accounting related, like Trello, T-R-E-L-L-O. I use that for my tasks. It's a board where I can share tasks, collect information, save information, drag tasks from one category to another.
But the point about project management is that it gives visibility into every project that's happening inside the business. It allows for distributed work, and it really gives you a sense of who's doing what by when. You want to know if a remote employee is not carrying their weight.
It should be clear in your project management software deadlines. If are getting dropped, if people aren't available and issues are piling up, that data ought to show you that you've got a problem on your hands.
That's a lot better from my perspective of knowing, is of the work getting done, yes or no, rather than, am I seeing somebody in the office? Where they're just as likely to be unproductive as they are at home, by the way.
So we have a saying that in Accountingfly. Stop doing work about work. And what I mean by that is, when things change... And we've all gone through this change... We spend a lot of time kind of playing business, don't we? We've got to figure out how we work at our company. What are our new rules?
So you had the honeymoon period of the pandemic, where you could just run on adrenaline, but the honeymoon period is over and it's time to decide, how do we operate as a remote company?
And so this is about making policies and new rules. I mean, what if Jennifer on your team has four kids at home but you're an empty nester, and Jennifer's going to ask about picking up her kids at school, that just started, at 2:30. But you know Jennifer works for home and doesn't have childcare. Don't make that decision after the fact. Get ahead of it.
When do you meet? When does your leadership team meet? When do you have one-on-ones? How do you do quality check on the work that's getting done? It's time to just make some firm decisions, document them, and move forward as a team, and have a systematic way of getting feedback.
You doing work about work instead of driving projects forward is slowing down your business. It is making you not productive. It's not allowing you to be present in your business either.
So now is the time to create simple routine and systems to get your project work done. Every project has an owner, every project has a deadline, and every project has a crisp, clear description of the task. And so if you just follow that principle, you can start to create rules and how your work's going to get done, so that you can move forward.
So this is a big one for me, and I know I'm being vague, but really it's just important to just take the bull by the horns now, and set up the new rules for your business. And I hope a lot of these included things like project management software.
So communication plans, for example. Decide when you're going to have your meetings. Decide how people show up to the meetings. Let Fridays be the day, just for example, that the team updates where they are on your project.
So the Friday morning at nine is your project update, and the only thing on the agenda is where are we in the project, what's holding us up, are you waiting on something? You do this on Zoom.
Decide when you have your team check-ins. Decide when you have your one-on-ones. Think about just making the steps now to have a game plan, and writing it down.
And starting is so valuable, because if you just start and document, put this out to your team, let them give you feedback, you've got a management plan.
We don't know how long we have to work from home, but we know it's already been six months, and it's looking like it's going to be another six months. So let's not waste any more time.
How do you have culture and trust when you work remote? I think this is one you could tend to lose the quickest, so it's a real concern. So let's talk about trust.
The big trust inside a working team is that the managers and the partners worry that they don't have a good enough sense of what their direct reports are working on, how hard they're working, and when they're getting things done.
And then the direct reports, the team, they're worrying their manager doesn't know what they're working on. They worry that their manager doesn't know how hard they're trying, or they're worried their manager and themselves don't agree on what the priorities are.
So trust comes when we have more visibility into our work, and that the manager sees what's happening, and the direct report sees what's happening as well.
So you create trust between managers and teams, through communication. And there's two aspects of communication that I care about here. One is weekly updates on projects, over Zoom, so you can see each other's faces, just specifically to cover the updates, roadblocks on each project.
Over update. For those of you who are on a team, you're not managers, over communicate your status. If you're managers, over communicate what you're looking for and build into the system time to check in with each other.
But the other way you create that trust is, a minute ago I said project management software. Really clear writing in the project management software, that documents where each project is along the way is so critical. You do that, you start have a lot more trust.
Culture part of remote... The gains of remote far outweigh the risks of the issues of culture. If you can get the team together in person, now and when you have remote staff, get them together. Fly in the remote staff so they can have a check in.
Maybe you hire somebody that's remote, that doesn't work in your city. Get them in so they can see the people in person.
Something that we do at Accountingfly is we have bimonthly coffee breaks. It's over Zoom. So Friday's at 9:00 every other week, the leadership team, we get together and we have coffee together over Zoom, and we do not talk about work.
I find out how my team members' kids... Beth's sent somebody to college. They haven't heard they're even going to have college yet. Liz has three kids in daycare. We're checking on that. And I'm getting to know the people on my team. As a leader, that's just incredibly important.
So this is a great way to just build relationships. That's really what culture is. And just believe me, you can have a remote team and have an incredible culture.
There's so many articles on the internet you can look up to just check that out. Water cooler talk before your business meetings, we also do that at our company. So the first 10 minutes of every meeting, it's water cooler talk. No business is discussed.
It actually accomplishes two things. One, it allows a little flexibility to run late into the meeting, it allows us to deal with technical issues, and I'm getting to know the human beings on my team.
So that's I think that's four or five of the issues. We've still got to talk about how deal with distraction, security and documents, but I'm going to take a quick break.
And we're going to do a polling question. And I think on this one, we're going to show the results. So I'll pause and let's run polling question three.
And we'd be happy to share the results. Just keep in mind, we do have about 10 minutes to wrap up. If people are sending in questions, we obviously won't get to all of them today. We will be passing those on however, to you, Jeff.
That'd be great.
I just want bunch of a couple of big things here. We have gotten requests to get your list of project management tools, and what you think about them, and any suggestions for office setup. So I think that's something Jeff, we can help get to everybody here after the event.
A lot of the questions are really about how to train junior folks when they join. If a junior employee, who's new maybe to the industry, and new to the profession, joins during remote work, how do we actually connect with them to get them trained, to make them feel included? How do we keep people from feeling out of the loop?
Great question. And Maureen, you interrupt and we need to jump back in. But the fast answer is, I know top 10 firms that are doing this already, and the youngest people at your firm are the most savvy for remote work, remote learning, and distributed work. They're on the team. It might be you that's not.
And so the screen share in Zoom is one of the greatest ways to teach somebody something. You can look them in the eyes, but also show them inside an accounting software, bill.com or whatever.
And so we're just moving it onto Zoom, and every other principle remains the same. Monica, honestly, it should be something... Maybe we just spend an hour on a future webinar, just talking about remote training. Because I think if you just apply every instance, but it's all distributed, and then you try to get together periodically, it works the same way. Why don't we quickly do the results and I'll wrap up?
Okay. Let me share those with you. Do you want to make any comments on those or would you like me to hide those results?
I do have one more question that's kind of related to the last one, if we can cover that really quickly?
Let's do it.
How do you convince your employers to buy into remote work? I think there was a question about having an old school type of employer who's... This is not the norm for them.
Yeah. Hey, the pandemic has helped a little bit to soften up the opinions, but I think the two biggest convincing factors to investigate this, Monica, are... You saw the numbers and you saw the polling numbers on this webinar.
People are saying, "I'm not coming back to work if you're going to make me come into the office all the time. If you're not willing to flex, I'll just find an employer who will."
Number two is, you are not likely to make your next hire in the market you're looking for. Unless you hire remote staff... Then you have to be a remote employer, a flex employer, just to make that next hire... Unless you are willing to hire and stop caring where they live, it's very doubtful you're even going to make a hire, especially if you're talking about a tax role or high end bookkeeper, and even a lot of audit roles.
So I hate to thrive off fear, but that's true. And Monica, before I proceed, would you like to comment on this or not here? The results. Are you good?
[inaudible 00:52:50] I think we're good to go.
Okay. All right, let's do it. I want to talk about communications plans in the last couple minutes that I have. We need clarity now more than ever before. So much of your work now is over video or it's over writing. Chat, project management, email.
So just over communicate. Provide context. And this is a time to show up and be a very, very good writer. Part of what makes remote work work well is if you're really clear on what it is that you and your team are doing. Without that sort of coordination, it's really hard to really be productive.
So prevent ping pong. If you send an email, think about how you could send that email in a way that only one more email needs to be presented to solve whatever the issue is.
"Hey Monica, could we meet next Thursday at one? If that won't work for you, I'm available next Friday, between nine and five. Could you send the invitation for the time that works best for you?"
Or if you want to get a gold star, just send her a Calendly link or a HubSpot meeting link, and she'll set the meeting, and you save one email as well.
So be real clear in your writing and provide context. Help your teammates understand what they're talking about. Zoom meetings are the new norm. Clients... I'm telling you, I don't care if you have old school clients or millennial clients. Clients are getting comfortable with Zoom. Boomers are getting comfortable with Zoom.
Get your clients into video chats. It saves them commute time. They don't have to dress up. They can do more frequent check-ins with you. You get them comfortable with this, you are going to save yourself and the clients a lot time.
And by using screen share, you could show them reports from your software, for example, and even have a more useful conversation, because you're showing your computer and having a conversation at the same time.
I'm not saying it's all virtual. Making real eye contact is very important, but not for every meeting. So have an annual review in per person with your clients, but otherwise do video.
And for your teams, I think it's important as part of your work flex, your work policy. They need to show up dressed to fit your firm. If your team's meeting your clients, they need to be dressed to meet the client's expectations.
Think about the rules you want on a Zoom meeting. And the best Zoom meetings are when you actually have an agenda sent out before.
One thing I'm going to say here, then we'll just jump to the last polling question. So back to Klein, Rowe, couple of thoughts. How I would advise them is first create a flexible, written work plan that organizes their team and that states very clear expectations about their rules for remote work or for flexible work.
I would then advise them to document their workflows, then purchase a project management software, like the ones I mentioned earlier, and then take the training. And make the team buy in and commit to using this. No exceptions. Reinforce it over and over and over again.
I would then advise them to set up a communications routine for their team, for their projects, for their leadership team and for one-on-ones. Same agenda, same time every week. And they use Zoom with the video turned on for everything. And lastly, I'd tell them to get slack for team communications.
And give them just a flexible work environment, and they can put their flexible work arrangements and their calendar on a shared team, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook Calendar.
And lastly, of course, a shameless plug. I would convince them to hire remote staff for freelance projects or full-time hires.
Sorry for the rush job there at the end, but we will follow up on a couple things. I'm going to do initiate the last polling question. You don't have to share the results, but essentially, would you like to ever hear from Accountingfly about remote work? If you would, just hit yes, and if you don't, we won't take it personally. You can call us if you ever want to talk to us, right? But hit that last question, and Monica in the minute we have, why don't you do one more question?
I just want to answer a couple questions, actually. We will be sharing a recording of this video with the slides and we will be making sure that anyone who had a question that went unanswered, we will get to it. I promise.
Part of what we're hearing across is, is there something that you can show as a flexible work plan type of template? Is there something out there that exists to help, from the very beginning, create a successful remote work situation?
There is. I have a template that I would be happy to share. If we could coordinate, Monica, to the audience as one of the follow up items, I could share it with you. I'll need about two days to modify it. But I'd love to get that in the hands of the people on the call.
Yeah. We can make that happen.
[crosstalk 00:58:31] I'm just going to close down this poll.
All right, so Q&A. We're going to do a Q&A by follow up. So thanks for the opportunity to do that. And Monica, why don't I hand it back over to you? Because I know we've got a couple other exciting sessions coming up through bill.com.
Yeah. So as we mentioned earlier, this is a series. We have about two of these a month. So next one up is Jason Blumer, The Strategy to Change your Firm's Business Model.
And we'll send everybody the links to this webinar so that you can watch it on demand later, as well as all the project management tools, et cetera. But join us for the next one on September 2nd, and we'll send you some info on that as well.
And Maureen, I'm going to hand it over to you, but I wanted to just say one thing. Look, I'm not afraid to put my email address or phone number on these webinars. If you have a question about a remote team, and if I have an answer for you, I'll get back to you. It's jeff@accounting fly.com. There's my cell. That's me. I just sent a link. If you want to set a meeting just to chat, please reach out.
The bottom line here is, be intentional, over communicate and make a plan. We'll send you an example plan through bill.com to all the attendees. And if you have questions about it, I'm an email away, and I'd be happy to support you, and happy to help. So Maureen, with that, I know we have just a second to wrap it up, but take it away.
Sure. Thank you very much, Jeff, that had some wonderful information. And by the amount of questions we know that people were engaged. Thank you, bill.com, for sponsoring us today, and Monica for all your help with everything.
For those of you that are wondering, we'll be processing your CPE by the end of the day today, and that will be available in your CPA Academy account. We'll also be putting an archive recording of the webinar there, and there's now a copy of the handouts there too.
So everyone will have the opportunity for an evaluation. Thank you so much for attending. We hope to see you on future webinars. Have a great day, everyone.
Bye. Thank you.