The biggest issue facing accountants in practice these days isn’t the rise of robo-accountants, AI or cloud computing. The challenge that seems to hold many firms back is the same old chestnut it’s always been. It’s the difficulty in finding good people to join the firm.

Almost every week I get approached by the owner or managing partner of an accounting firm asking if I know of anyone suitable in my network. Or they want tips and advice as to how they could attract the right sort of people. I have addressed these issues before on my blog.

Today I’m focused on a different solution to the same problem. Before I explain my thinking, let me first remind you of the options for firms (large and small) who have more work than available staff and partner hours. I explained these in an earlier blog post here >>>>

In summary I suggested that your options are:

  • Recruit a full time employee, a part-time employee or an apprentice
  • Engage an independent contractor on a regular basis
  • Engage an independent contractor on an hourly/daily basis
  • Engage a reputable outsourcing company
  • Source a specific individual with specialist skills to complete a specific project

I am finding that an increasing number of firms are exploring the outsourcing option. The more I talk with accountants about this, the longer my list becomes of reasons for outsourcing (to a reputable outsourcing company).  Obviously there are occasions when you need more people in the office but this isn’t always the case. It’s simply what we’ve always done in the past.

I recently went on record to say that: “If I was starting an accountancy practice today I would look to adopt an outsourcing model from the outset”.

Why do I find the concept so attractive?

There are 3 headline reasons and I expand on these below:

1 – No recruitment challenges

If you already have staff you know what a pain it can be trying to find the right person. And if you don’t have any staff you may be deliberately avoiding having to run a payroll and open yourself up to all the obligations imposed by employment legislation.

Outsourcing means you only need to talk to the outsourcing company instead of to recruiters and to prospective employees.
You don’t need to spec out a specific role or try to find that ideal candidate. You don’t need to sift through CVs, make time for interviews, make job offers, wait to find if they’ve been accepted, negotiate salaries, rises or promotion. You also don’t need to spend time inducting new recruits nor do you have to bear the cost of paying staff to rectify the mistakes they make.

2 – Significant time and money savings

Outsourcing means there’s no recruitment fees, also no need to provide a desk, no indirect employment costs, no holiday pay, no employment law obligations and no employers’ NICs. There are also significant savings in the costs of performing the jobs that you pass to the outsourcing company. When the work is being done on the other side of the world you can also achieve faster turnaround times as the outsourcers are working while you sleep.

3 – More interesting work

The more compliance focused activities you outsource the more you can focus your own time on client development, building up your practice and delivering valuable advice to clients. I know I went into accountancy with the intention of doing these things rather than sitting around preparing accounts and tax returns. The less compliance work you have to do yourself, the more you can focus on providing the services you enjoy.

Sometimes I come across accountants who tell me they’ve tried outsourcing and it didn’t work for them. That’s a bit like saying ‘we’ve tried recruiting staff and it didn’t work for us’. Despite repeated recruitment errors, employers continue the search for the ideal candidate. There are many reasons things don’t always work out as you would hope. You can give up or you can look to learn from your past experience and do things differently next time.

Sometimes the problems are as much due to over-optimism, poor communication as to what you need or not choosing who you engage with sufficient care.

My friends at Global Infosys, who have a team of account managers based in North London, seem to satisfy my tests as regards being a reputable outsourcing company. They have a huge team in India and are celebrating their 20th year in business in the UK. If you want to test an outsourcing company on one or two jobs, as a first step in that direction, do give them a call.

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