BTCSoftware on remote working, tech for accountants and company values
BTCSoftware’s CEO and co-founder Rob Ellis pulls back the curtain on how his software company has managed the impact of the virus and the remote working lessons he’s learned along the way.
In June, Rob Ellis took some time to talk with me about the impact of the pandemic, how BTCSoftware handled the switch to working from home, employee wellbeing and the future.
Sadly the pandemic has not abated since then and the country has returned to lockdown for at least a month. I sat down with Rob (over Teams, of course!) to revisit some of the same issues and cover new topics. Here’s what he told me.
The second lockdown is ending today in England. How has BTCSoftware’s leadership team supported its employees during the restrictions?
Rob: There was definitely a different feel to this lockdown. Perhaps it’s because it had a projected end date or simply because we’ve done it all before. That said, the support we needed to give hasn’t changed and we continued with our program of weekly “all hands” meetings with both fun and work elements.
The introduction of MS Teams has also brought us closer together because it’s much easier to have quick informal chats with people now (although I do think Zoom is still better for larger gatherings).
The most important thing for me is making sure we all have an environment where we can split our work and home lives and don’t fall into the trap of working 24/7 because it’s there all the time. We actively encourage everyone to have a dedicated workspace which they can leave when the workday is over. Where that’s not possible, then it’s important that work kit is switched off and moved aside to ensure it doesn’t encroach into personal time.
There’s a lot of talk in the accounting community about the pressures of extra work in supporting clients with things like furlough and SEISS. Work-life balance is an important topic. How do you switch off and keep home and work separate?
Like many business owners out there, I’m not sure I ever switch off from work. However, I am very lucky that I live in the middle of the Surrey Hills so my escape is to get out on my mountain bike as often as I can. I also like to cook at the end of the day which is a great way to switch from work to relaxing in front of the fire with the latest Netflix series.
Are there any key features of BTCSoftware’s solutions that accountants should know about right now?
The most important feature right now is the cloud extension to Solution Centre. If your team are working remotely it’s perfect for making sure they have efficient access to all of their data without having to re-learn the product in a different setting.
BTCSoftware has been working remotely for most of 2020, so have you got any general technology tips for accountants who are finding working from home tricky?
I guess this depends upon the size of your practice. If you have a team you are trying to keep connected, then Microsoft Teams is definitely worth a look. I didn’t like it when we first tried it in March but they have definitely invested a lot of time and effort into improving the platform and even though we only officially adopted it six weeks ago I don’t think we’d be without it now.
As I said earlier, I still prefer the quality of Zoom’s video conferencing over Teams, so for a sole-practitioner wanting to keep in touch with clients, that is the platform to look at.
Either way, make sure that you (and your staff) have the same tech set up at home that you would have at work to ensure you keep your productivity level high, For example, if you use two or three monitors in the office, then make sure you do the same at home.
One last thing; if and when you do use video calls, make sure you set a virtual background to hide what’s behind you in the room. I’ve been in many a call where people are sitting in front of an unmade bed, messy home office, empty wine bottles, or where their partner or roommate (or in one case their mother) wanders into shot. It’s very easy to set a virtual background and can range from a corporate logo to a picture of a beach – either way it’s much more professional than the alternative.
Could you give us a sneak peek of what’s on the horizon for BTCSoftware?
All I can say right now is that we are working very hard on making remote working much easier for the future, whether enforced or not.
That’s a teaser to look forward to! How about this year, what’s your biggest success or highlight of 2020?
Keeping everything together and growing! Like almost everyone else back in March we had no idea what was going happen over the coming months. We could have panicked and laid people off but that’s not what we’re about. We stood by and trusted our workforce with a real “we’re all in this together spirit”, and that trust has paid dividends. Not only have we managed to keep everyone at BTCSoftware, but we’ve increased the headcount by 25% since March and are in the middle of our best financial year ever. It’s not about the numbers, but the numbers do show how mutual support and trust lead to bigger and better things all round.
Back in June you said that “togetherness” is the most important company value – how are you continuing to promote that value?
The weekly Friday afternoon all hands company meetings continue to be a big part of this. Run by our SMT, they are attended by everyone who isn’t on annual leave and are a great success. In addition to the more mundane work related items we also have quizzes, games and well-being items too. It’s hard to get everyone involved every week but once a month we have a round-robin “How Full is Your Tank” item where everyone takes a turn to give a work highlight of the past month, a personal highlight of the past month and to state how full their personal tank is on a scale of 1 to 10 – it’s a real eye opener and a great way to get a feel for how people are doing.