When I was a kid in school, I remember a story that was told by our teacher after an event at recess. You know the kind, an allegory. It was very short story and it related to an incident that occurred when a group of kids ignored someone in a game under the assumption, they were not capable. And truth, not to nicely either. By not thinking that this person was worth including what was the whole group missing? I am not sure what others got out of the story but what I got out of it was that it takes all kinds, and it takes a team effort to get something done. I will say that there were other factors in my existence that pointed me in this direction, but this one allegoric story often comes to mind when I hear those oh so common words, “I don’t have time to…”
On that day, after recess, Sister Ann sat all us six graders down and told us a story of an accident. No one was harmed, this was a sixth-grade Catholic school the only person harmed was you if you were out of line. Heck even if you were not out of line and just the closest one to the nun ready to strike. But Sister Ann was different, she told stories instead. Anyway, I digress. She told the whole class about a delivery truck driving under the bridge down off McGrath highway where it crossed into East Somerville. We all knew the spot, that bridge had been renovated a few years prior. It was too low. Well on that day, as Sister Ann told us, a truck that was too tall attempted to pass through. Yep, it got stuck. (This was before OSHA and height warning signs). So, this delivery truck was stuck and the driver, a police officer, and two other men walking along the road, all looked up at the place where the truck was hitting the bridge scratching their heads on how to get it out. Just about that time a small boy, all of ten years old walked by. The boy takes one look and says, let the air out of the tires.
My takeaway? Well, there were several, 1. It does take a team, 2. One never knows where the sound of logic will come from, 3. Perspective is everything and 4. Adults should listen to kids. Now that last one was not, I am sure, an aspect that Sister Ann intended, but hey, like I said each person discovers their own moral to a story, do they not? And I was number 6 of 7 and learned to duck quickly at a very young age.
When I wrote my book on CFO services for an accounting firm in 2013 the first step in the book was building your team. That team includes not only people and applications which deal with debits and credits. We asked people in the firm to look around and to discover what they really liked verses what they did not like to do, and to ask EVERYONE. We put in team building discovery tools and made it step number one. Seven years ongoing and several times in the last year alone, this topic has had to be covered with quite a few client firms. Primarily because of those dreaded words, “I just don’t have time for this.”
That was not the only reason that prompted this trip down memory lane. This morning’s read in INC was a story of how Google builds teams that reaffirmed those takeaways and the need to assess everyone as possible members of a given team. When you build your team these five non-technical, non-accounting aspects are critical to success:
• Psychological Safety
• Structure and Clarity
Including non-accounting staff into the team can be beneficial for their perspective and diversity of thought on the process of getting the work done. And for getting things done that another may not have time to do.
Many firms have administrative staff. These folks do not perform any accounting, bookkeeping tax, audit or advisory service. Rather they are a support team to make sure the lights are on the phones are answered, the break room has snacks and drinks, the doors are locked and unlocked, etc.
Consider adding them to your tasking application. When a bookkeeper or account manager gets bogged down because they don’t have time to get the data from client, assign the task to the admin. Even make it part of the overall workflow to always assign those tasks to an admin and make them part of the onboarding. Have them take the time to teach the client how to use the apps that are client facing. Include the front office in your team make them part of the workflow to free up time for those that really don’t have time to hunt down that missing source document, or never get around to teaching the client that new shinny app that was going to revolutionize how you interact with the client. How many times have you signed up for an app with intentions of getting all your clients on it and then…? nothing?
When the time comes to discuss how a client’s work is moving through your firm, and that time should be more frequent than you probably are doing now, listen to the admin staff that was the first point of contact. They may have some useful insight as to the pressure gauge on the tires.