Philip Fisher concludes his guide to staffing a happy and successful practice with the themes and takeaways learned across this series of articles. And more realistically, it may direct you back to some key points that could help you to improve your practice and its profitability.
The intention behind this series was to give readers an insight into several decades of practical experience in the accountancy profession and the issues that arise around staffing at any practice except the one man band.
Given the opportunity, the author can instantly become a bore relating dozens of horror stories, almost all of which could have been avoided using a little common sense and a modicum of luck. However, if nobody made mistakes there would be no stories and the world would be a duller place.
Ultimately, people are people and what works for one may have disastrous consequences with another. The key is therefore to find out what makes your staff tick and how to keep them happy.
Accountants are typically very poor when it comes to evaluating potential new employees and partners but also those whom they should value far more highly. This is just a fact of life and, while most of us try to delude ourselves, it is often worth getting help from an HR professional or a colleague with the knack of understanding people.
In any event, here are a series of basic thoughts to keep in mind when dealing with any staffing issue.
- Be decisive whether hiring, motivating or firing.
- If you make a mistake, accept the fact and take the necessary action.
- Small investments can give big pay-offs e.g. a one-off award.
- Small savings can prove very costly e.g withholding £500 from a pay rise.
- The cost of replacing an experienced member of staff could easily be a year’s pay or more.
- Recruiting people is almost always a nightmare, particularly in the current economic climate. Unless you enjoy meeting no hopers and those using you to gain interview experience, it is to be avoided wherever possible.
- In a tough market, reputation is important. Treat people well.
- Be open with people.
- Beware salesman with silver tongues. The silver far too often ends with the tongue.
- It may not be helpful to say this but often, the most significant factor at the inception of a successful working relationship is good luck.
Here is a final anecdote from outside our industry that says it all.
Recently, I was on the golf course with a friend who runs a small estate agency. His golf was terrible and the reason quickly became apparent.
An employment agency had identified and helped him to recruit a new member of staff, replacing somebody who had departed to get a slightly better paid job elsewhere. This new recruit had duly explained to tenants that they should make their deposit payments directly to him rather than the business, which many did.
£8,000 later, my friend has a lot of angry customers and, although he approached the police and his insurance company, has seen no action from either.
To add insult to injury, the employment agency is refusing to return the £2,000 commission that they claimed, even though this individual had a previous record of similar criminal behaviour.
If everything else in this series is not clear enough, that is why we should all take our existing staff seriously and treat them well.