So much has changed in 2020. It’s been a rollercoaster of epic proportions for the industry. Accounting firms are facing challenges all over the place but there’s one in particular. Running your accounting firm remotely through lockdown. 

For some accounting firms this won’t have been much of a change to the normal and it may be Business As Usual. But for some firms the change has been more dramatic. In this Clarity/Futrli Facebook Live, we invited Duncan Lloyd from CloudAccountant to discuss how he runs his firm remotely.

Duncan setup CloudAccountant to be a digital firm.  This brings with it the challenges of running a remote accounting team. Whilst Duncan does have office space in Leeds, this is mainly used for collecting post and the occasional meeting. 

Over the last couple of years, Duncan has been perfecting how he can get the best out of his team, keep them productive and engaged, and look after their mental health.

Together with Sam from Clarity and Ron from Futrli, they came up with their top tips for running your accounting firm remotely through lockdown.

Running your Accounting Firm Remotely

Use the right technology

Because you can’t walk around the office and speak with your staff, check-in on progress and have face to face meetings, the right technology is critically important.

Duncan highlighted these tools as great options for letting staff work independently and autonomously. But importantly, still providing the owner or manager with the ability to oversee and manage as if they were right next to them.

  • Video tools e.g. Zoom – reliable video conferencing tools are vital for checking in with staff. It should be used for one-to-one catch ups or with the whole team. It is now a great replacement for face to face settings with clients too. Many firms have spoken about how they now have more client contact than ever.
  • Instant messaging e.g. Slack – a brilliant tool for building a remote culture beyond work. ‘I know the team has a channel where they just talk about dogs!’, Duncan remarked. It allows the equivalent conversation that you might have had around a water cooler.
  • Practice management software e.g Karbon/Accountancy Manager – essential for workflow, client communication and team collaboration. Trust in your staff is needed when working remotely. One way to keep an eye on productivity and output is through a good practice management software. 

Duncan added that using Clarity and Futrli has been massively useful too.

‘By using Clarity with my clients, I always have something to talk about with them about their business. It’s a great way to start the conversation. When they want more detailed reports, I can speak with them about Futrli. Some love to get into the detail. With these tools in my app stack, it has made my relationship with my clients ever stronger and the team loves delivering this added-value piece too.

 

Schedule daily catch-ups, encourage collaboration and communication

 Team ProductivityWorking remotely is no excuse not to check in on your team and clients. In fact, it’s a reason to do so even more.

Fine, a virtual meeting isn’t the same as chatting in-person. But it’s the best we can do right now. 

What works well at both Clarity and Cloud Accountant is:

  • Daily standup (15 mins) led by a different team member each day. The whole team is invited to succinctly share what they will be working on that day and whether they have any challenges that every team members can help with.
  • Weekly team meeting (15-45 mins): An agenda should be prepared for this each week. We call this ‘All Hands’ at Clarity. A chance for heads of department to share what the team will be up to and aim to achieve in the week and if there are any blockers. Share any industry updates, events coming up and some insight into strategy.
  • Weekly 1-1 meetings between manager and team members: these are more specific to the individual and what they plan to achieve in the week. A good chance to check in on progress on specific pieces of work that are due to be complete.

 

Look after your team’s mental health – and don’t forget your own!

This is brand new for many people. We don’t just have those who have always been remote employees or work remotely by choice. We now have those working from home for the first time. Everyone is operating in a climate of uncertainty and change. Fear can quickly manifest, and it calls on leaders more than ever to look after their staff.

What can you do for them?

  • Reassurance – your people must know you are doing the best you can for them
  • Patience – be patient with yourself and with your people. It can be frustrating when things don’t flow how they used to or how would you like. But be patient, it’s new.
  • Connection – engage and connect with your team. Find fun and innovative ways of doing so and make it easy to communicate
  • Motivation – it’s key they feel inspired to do their work. They may need some help to do this. Find out what motivates them and go from there.

Duncan feels he has a team of leaders. To motivate them, he has assigned them all a project or app to look after and lead on. The response has been a sense of purpose and excitement. They’ve been trusted with a key part of the business.

  • Empathy & Trust – Have empathy for your team’s situation and show some compassion for the challenges they face. Furthermore, remember to give people the space to deliver what needs to be done.

Remember everyone responds differently to these challenges. A one size fits all approach won’t work. The situation is the same but different for everyone, as will be everyone’s reactions.

What about your own mental health?

  • Acknowledge your feelings – we’re in this together. It will bring up challenges for everyone. It’s crucial not to hold on to them on your own.
  • Make your space – Create an environment to support your work and a nice little space for you to work comfortably in.
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Take regular breaks – catch your breath and energise. We’re in lockdown right now, but go outside and get fresh air. Go for a walk when you can.
  • Connect with your community, team and your clients
  • Exercise and be mindful of what you eat – look after your physical health. Walk, run, dance round the room like no one is watching. 
  • Finish on time – try and draw a line at the end of your working day. Turn off your laptop and switch off notifications and do whatever you need to do to relax.