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Accounting excellence relies on a great team culture

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Last year’s Bookkeeping, Payroll and Tax Team of the Year Accounting Excellence winners reveal the secret behind building cooperative and enjoyable team dynamics.

4th Apr 2022
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While many firms have settled into hybrid working and video call catch-ups, the team dynamic has definitely been subject to drastic changes since the start of the pandemic. 

This struck a chord with the winners of the 2021 team awards on a recent episode of Accounting Excellence Talks.

Culture is key

A point everyone was in agreement with was the importance of culture within a firm and how a positive team can transform a business’ dynamic. And it is this focus on culture that caught the attention of the judges during last year’s awards. 

“You sometimes don't want to go to work. You don't want to be there. We never want our team to feel that,” said Jason Dalton, founder and business development director at Safe Hands Ltd and co-winner of the bookkeeping award with fellow director Mark Bonney.

“One thing that we decided is that we want to create a culture that we would want to work in if we were employees.” 

Bonney agreed wholeheartedly with Dalton’s points about the culture they both try to nurture at Safe Hands Ltd, adding that it's the work environment at their firm that helps to galvanise the team in a sector that can often become “mundane.”

However, both were keen to emphasise how team culture should be driven forward by the team rather than from the top, with Bonney noting that “culture is not driven by Jason and I. We create an environment so that people can live their own lives.”

Authentic values

While the panel believed that a positive culture run and developed by a vocal team is essential, there was also an emphasis on authenticity when developing values that resonated with staff, and that started from the top. 

“[Values] have got to come from your own standards and expectations of yourself,” Melanie Lord, director AVS VAT and Tax Team of the Year winner said. She added, “It would be no good sitting in a meeting room and devising a mission statement that sounded brilliant if it wasn't coming from your own motivation.”

Katie Sharp of Mazar's, who won last year’s Payroll Team award, took a slightly different approach when it came to her team’s values, partially due to the sheer size of the company’s payroll operations.

With 60 employees in the payroll department alone, Sharpe highlighted the need for honesty as well as authenticity, arguing that, in the end, “it's a business and we are here to make a profit.”

“Whilst it is fantastic to concentrate on values, we're very honest with [the team] about what we're trying to achieve in terms of profits and finances because it's important that they understand that goal.”  

Connectivity during covid

Like many firms across the country, the panellists felt the pandemic presented a host of challenges to the work culture that needed to be overcome, with remaining connected being one of the chief issues affecting team culture. However, the paradigm shift in working presented the Accounting Excellence award winners with unique opportunities that have since become ingrained in company culture. 

“From Mazar’s point of view, [the pandemic] actually helped and we found it a lot easier to create bonds during the lockdown virtually throughout the teams,” Sharpe admitted. 

“People knew each other very well within their own local office, but not particularly nationally. And something that we really did from the management team down was that we were being honest about how things were going for us personally.”

This focus on honesty during an unprecedented time for workers resonated with our other speakers, who found that by simply opening up with their team during lockdown helped to forge lasting relationships that have transcended the computer screen.

On the topic, Dalton spoke about the experimental nature of lockdown and how Bonney and himself had to consider what worked and what didn’t. 

“Some things have been a struggle to overcome, while others have become new ways of working that we’ve implemented. Simple things like our chat group helps our team to report that everyone is healthy, and talking about successes from the day before was a great way to keep connected and share issues.”

Continuous improvement

While the award winners were happy with the positive changes they had encouraged within their teams, all understood that continuous improvement is beneficial and necessary to a functioning team culture.

“The main thing we’ve committed ourselves to is that we will be together more,” said Lord. She’s now hoping to get her team back together in a physical space now that restrictions have been lifted.

“We want to get back to discussing where we’re going. It only seemed that when we were in the same space that we would have different kinds of conversations other than task-driven or client-driven.”

Focusing more on idea-centric growth, Sharpe was excited to ask her cohort of 60 payroll employees to bring forward new ideas that could potentially benefit their operations. “I want to have a continual conversation rather than once a quarter. I emailed my team at the start of the year asking how this team can improve. We’re going to pick a management team to get these new ideas implemented.”

Meanwhile, Bonney and Dalton circled back to the beginning of the episode by championing their desire to make not only their clients as happy and relaxed as possible, but also their team as a whole. 

“For culture, focus on the numbers doesn’t cut it. What does is asking how happy and relaxed our team is, and that’s what we want to improve on.”

Entries for this year’s Accounting Excellence Awards are now open - do you think your team has what it takes to win? With the Tax, Bookkeeping, Payroll and Auditing Teams of the Year up for grabs, as a well as a host of other awards, this could be your firm's year!

Start your entry now!

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Replies (1)

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By Paul Crowley
08th Apr 2022 22:16

It is just me, no team
So no chance of an award

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