The accounting industry is rapidly changing.
From technology advancements and changes in clients' and team members' expectations to a new playing field for marketing and selling services via digital channels, our industry is constantly evolving. The traditional model of working partners with their ‘book of clients’ and their employees either happily grinding out sets of financials for life or forming the partner's succession plan is well and truly dead. Read on for your guide to the modern accounting firm structure.
Play by these five simple rules:
- Create a clear organisational structure and share it with the team.
- Make it visible so everyone knows who to go to.
- Create a job description for every role with agreed tasks and KPIs.
- Update the org. chart and roles annually (at least!) - as part of your performance review and goal setting process.
- Map out your future structure - your vision for two years’ time, so you make the right recruitment and promotion decisions.
Resource the 10 Hats correctly
There are 10 departments in every business - no matter the size of it. Each department has one leader who wears that department's hat.
For example, a marketing department is essential for every firm and there must be one person who is wearing that hat; the leader of the Marketing department is the go to person and the overall decision maker. This role is probably not full time, and the department may outsource or contract out some responsibilities. The leader of the Marketing department may also lead another department; but two people can't share the Marketing hat.
Size the roles for each department. Some may only be 0.2 FTE or one day per week. Be sure to clarify and document the expectations of each role in a job description (see rule three above).
Ensure no hat is neglected
The most commonly neglected role is that of the directors. There’s an important distinction here; directors work strategically. When a director is reviewing financial statements and tax returns, they are not acting as a director but as a senior employee in the Operations department.
Team members within the Operations department (even if they also wear a Director’s hat) are there to generate cash. As a director, your focus is strategy and you should spend at least half a day per month, one full day per quarter and two days annually reviewing and updating your plan and monitoring your progress.
Review your 10 hats structure and make sure that no hats are being neglected. Find people who like monitoring workflow, throughput and operational KPIs and put them in charge of the Operations department. If you don’t like marketing (or are not good at it) then don’t wear that hat - give it to someone with suitable interest and expertise.
Don’t wear too many hats
A major reason why hats are neglected is that directors typically can’t ‘let go’ of senior positions. In the modern accounting firm structure, you do not need a Finance Director, an HR Director or a Marketing Director. These roles are far better allocated to team members with the appropriate expertise. Wearing too many hats inevitably leads to poorly performing departments (and therefore poor results).
Get super clear on what your structure needs to look like in two to three years’ time. You might have to wear the Operations hat for the next 12 months but nominate an ‘Ops Leader in Training’ who you're grooming to take over this role. When someone leaves your firm, look at your structure to determine if you still need that role (perhaps you can outsource). Planning ahead gives you a model to work towards that ensures no hats are neglected and that no-one is wearing too many hats.
"Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people."
- Steve Jobs