To find and retain great staff – it starts with a blueprint. An idea what your ideal structure will look like.
How to Find and Retain Great Staff
Here are some tips and tricks from Ed Chan, co-founder of WIZE Mentoring and founder and non-executive chairman of Chan & Naylor, to find and retain great staff. Honed over decades of trial and error.
Here is what we learned from talking to Ed Chan but please listen in as Ed explains all this much better than we ever could.
To listen while you drive, walk or work, just access the episode through a free podcast app on your mobile phone.
Wrong Way Around
To find and retain great staff is probably the biggest challenge most accounting practices face. And it is their biggest challenge, because they do it the wrong way around. And when you do it the wrong way around, you end up with the wrong type of people.
A lot of practitioners run their practices on the basis of needs. When they need someone, they hire someone. They throw people at the problem. And they think that the more people they throw at the problem, the less of a problem they will have. But if you hire the wrong people, you actually end up with a bigger problem.
The Other Way Around
So you need to do it the other way around. You have to create a blueprint of the ideal team structure. Once you have that blueprint, you can find the right people. With the right blueprint it is easier to find the right people ….and they stay longer. And the reason they stay longer is because they are in their flow. They are working in their flow.
If you put people into the wrong seat on the wrong bus – for example a grinder into a minding position or vice versa – they are not in their flow. They might be able to fake it for a short time, but eventually they will burn out and leave.
If you do not have a blueprint of your ideal team structure, you end up hiring all sorts of people all over the place and they are just reacting to your workflow. It is like building a house without an architect’s blueprint. So to find and retain great staff start with the blueprint.
Needle in the Haystack
When you run a very flat team structure and don’t separate between minders and grinders, you are really looking for the needle in the haystack. It is very hard to find people who are great grinders but also have the interpersonal skills to be a minder. Not many people are like that. They are hard to find.
And when you do find them, you got to pay a lot of money. And to retain them, you got to keep paying them a lot of money, so that recruitment agencies can’t take them. You start feeling beholden to your staff. But the problem is not your staff. The problem is your team structure.
With the right blueprint you can hire the right people. The client manager needs to have a different personality to your production manager. Just as the assistant client manager needs to have a different personality to your grinders. If you look for people with your specific blueprint in mind, it is easier to find them and they stay longer.
The ratio of grinders to minders is 5:1. Minders aka client managers are much harder to find than grinders. But now it is just one position that is hard to fill and no longer 6.
So if you have three teams to manage $1m in fees each, you have three client managers which are hard to find compared to 15 grinders which are much easier to find. So now you have reduced your hard-to-find staff from 18 to 3. Finding staff and then retaining them becomes a lot easier this way.
So it all comes back to your blueprint and how you hire to match this blueprint.
Less than $1m Revenue
To manage $1m in revenue, you need 6 to 7 people. The client manager and the assistant client manager talking to clients. And then 5 grinders doing the work, of which one is the senior production manager and one does the bookkeeping.
But what do you do when you have less than $1m in revenue? The smaller your practice, the more you as the owner will have to hold those 7 positions. But as you grow, you need to have the discipline to gradually withdraw from them.
The first thing to withdraw from is the grinding. When you are very small and doing everything, the first person you bring on board is a junior grinder. That takes some grinding off you so you can focus on the minding (communication and relationships).
As you get bigger, you hire a more senior grinder who might eventually become your senior production manager. Then eventually as the fees get larger again, you hire an assistant client manager to help you with communication to C and D type clients. And so you gradually replace yourself from all 7 positions hire by hire.
In an interview look for three things.
Start with attitude because you can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude. Look for interest in your firm. Do they ask questions about your business? Do they talk about how they can add value to your business? Or is the focus on how you can add value to them? That is the first thing.
The second thing is whether you like them and how you get along with them. That is important, but not everything. We all have our quirks. And we all get on each other’s nerves at times. So liking someone is less important than productivity.
And that is the third thing – productivity. Productivity surpasses everything. Someone with great attitude and popular among staff, but slow in production versus someone with an okay attitude but highly productive – who would you choose? Ed says hire productivity. Productivity is above everything.
So make sure they have a good attitude. Make sure you like them. But then the most important thing is whether they can do the work and the best thing to test that is by giving them something to do. If you are hiring them as a bookkeeper, give them some books to do. You can then measure how quickly they do it.
Once you find the right staff and put them into the right team structure, you have to provide training and leadership. You can get the best staff in the world but if you don’t lead, you lose them. As the owner, you need to lead. You need to motivate and encourage, You need to train, educate and help them with their careers. Without leadership you lose them.
If you hire the wrong person, you need to constantly motivate them. But if hire the right person and put them on the right seat, they motivate themselves. The kind of people that you want are the ones that are production oriented. What motivates them is doing the work and getting things done.
And then to top it off you need to reward achievement. But not everybody is after the same thing. Some people want more free time. Some people want more money. Everybody is different. You need to work out who wants what.
To hear more of Ed’s business growth strategies for accounting firm owners, please visit www.wizementoring.com/taxtalks where you can download a copy of WIZE Mentoring’s free eBook – The Accountants 20 Hour Workweek.
Disclaimer: Tax Talks does not provide financial or tax advice. All information on Tax Talks is of a general nature only and might no longer be up to date or correct. You should seek professional accredited tax and financial advice when considering whether the information is suitable to your or your client’s circumstances.
Last Updated on 29 April 2020