Your Firm Is Growing: Condolences About That Chaos in Finance

Jay Thompson, Managing Director Business Performance Improvement, Protiviti
Melissa Shipman, Managing Vice President Managed Business Services, Robert Half

It’s exhilarating when enterprises undergo dramatic growth. Whatever the reason – a favorable merger, a startup success, a product line that really takes off – team morale skyrockets, and everyone shares excitement over the organization’s victories.

But even as they rejoice, finance and accounting teams may already realize what’s coming: a sharp acceleration in workload. The business’s sudden rapid growth translates into increased transactions volume that soon outpaces the finance and accounting team’s capacity. Soon, leaders in these departments find themselves hiring people to keep up with the work. Sometimes, they’re forced to add these resources even before new roles can be defined. As a hedge against that risk, managers often hire highly-experienced finance and accounting generalists, hoping that seasoned, well-rounded resources will find their own way in a situation that may be tending toward the chaotic. Thus, the emergent situation is a team of equals, lacking any clear hierarchy, trying to apply processes learned elsewhere to address the backlog in an unfamiliar environment.

Finance and accounting leaders, in the meantime, need both the deep-thinking deliberation necessary to reshape the organization to support an expanding business, and rank-and-file staff to process payments quickly, make system entries and move things along. But because the needs are pressing and hiring takes time, management can’t always afford the time for a graceful onboarding. Training and documentation may not even be available to get new staff to follow a consistent process. Managers may be forced into a suboptimal solution: hiring only for their near-term needs and at a high price. As a result, they often find their future-state organization being designed in an ad hoc fashion.

Even senior, expensive and experienced resources will be inefficient in these conditions. A department in this situation will soon find that adding more people fails to bring relief.

How a Managed Services Firm Can Help

A managed services firm approaches the situation described above with both a practical and consultative mindset. Because these managed resources have extensive experience, work synergistically as a unit and follow a proven methodology – as opposed to each individual drawing on their personal experience – a managed services team can cover all gaps, from the lowest to the highest level, without conflict or need to reinvent the wheel. Such a team can satisfy the immediate need for more junior accountants while also working with the CFO to develop a clear direction toward the future state.

Such an experienced team, with access to more expertise if needed, can spot opportunities to improve processes and develop insights to anticipate upcoming needs. As part of its culture, such a team will also document processes, making it easier to train permanent, less expensive resources in the future. Immediate relief from the heavy traffic is thus accompanied by an efficient, high-quality process definition and documentation, which in turn makes it possible to staff the new organization with lower-cost resources in the future.

Resources on the managed services team are also equipped to work with the organization to shape its vision for the future. That vision would be informed by what the staffing resources are learning by doing, and by the improvement opportunities they discover. This would be the speediest way to move from chaos to confidence in a manner that is methodical, efficient and informed from the bottom all the way to the top. It is the best way to navigate the “hybrid period” for finance following a growth event, when finance goals both below and above the deck need to be achieved and coordinated with strong synergy between those efforts. We are strong believers in this model, and we have described the specific benefits that can be achieved by it on many other occasions. To learn how it works, visit our website.

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