Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Should we recruit, or should we wait?
It's that age-old question: do we recruit now to fill a potential gap in our team over the next year, or should we wait until we're under such pressure that the rest of the team can't cope any longer?
We don't have enough work to occupy a full-time person at the moment, but we can foresee needing an extra pair of hands some time over the next 12 months. And we also need to create opportunities for some of the younger team members to move off the bottom rung and start to take on new responsibilities. In the old days there would have been an annual cycle of trainees coming and going but these days people seem to be far more settled, and less keen to move on.
Perhaps it's the economic climate. Perhaps its a characteristic of the sort of people who choose the live and work in the West Country - and the relative lack of jobs down here compared with the big cities. Maybe we were too successful with 'Investors in People' and just treat them too well!
I don't have the answer yet. I reckon like most firms there's extra capacity here that we're not using. We could work on better deployment and use of our people, and improved productivity. With better time management and more delegation of admin tasks to non-chargeable staff we could certainly handle more work with our existing people. If we can achieve that and still have work pressure then it will be time to recruit.
At the moment we're still keeping an eye on the client list and wondering which clients won't be with us next year - if too many close or go elsewhere we won't have a problem. And at least by postponing recruitment we won't risk the problem of OVER-capacity.
Or could we leave it too late and find we can't get anyone suitable? Is recruiting part- and newly-qualified accountants a problem at the moment? It doesn't seem to be in this part of the UK, so there doesn't seem to be any hurry to recruit before our competitors snap up all the available people. On the contrary, I seem to be getting a steady stream of CVs from people looking to move. If you're recruiting at the moment, or have just done so it would be interesting to get your comments on the state of the market for accountancy staff, at all levels. Just leave a note in the Comments section below.