Best Practices for Building an Offshore Team for Accounting firms

By Julie Smith, Practice Manager for Harper & Company CPAs Plus

The talent shortage is the talk of the profession. And, it isn’t going away anytime soon. We needed a way to elevate our accountants to spend their time on higher value advisory conversations with clients. In order to do that, we needed a staffing solution to offload some of their work to someone with accounting knowledge and experience. 

We decided to utilize Entigrity, an accounting offshoring partner who could help us with our concerns. However, before moving ahead we needed to make sure they were a good fit for us. To do this we followed the best practices mentioned below.  

What is your goal?

If you are considering building an offshore team, first ask yourself, what is the goal? For us, we needed a way to serve our clients even more proactively. We also needed to create capacity to bring in new business clients that needed business advisory services. We couldn’t do that if our accountants were spending time on things that could be done by someone else who has some experience and accounting knowledge. 

Communicating this to your team

When you choose to add an offshore resource to your team for the first time, like anything else you change in your firm, how you communicate it to your team is imperative.

It’s critical for them to understand that you are empowering them by bringing in someone to help them have time to focus on more valuable conversations with clients vs. tasks that are weighing them down. Tasks that someone else could be doing. 

This is especially important if you are building your advisory services. Putting your accountants in the position to focus more of their time on proactive advisory work puts them in a position to enjoy their work. They get to develop strong relationships with clients and frankly, do more of what they became an accountant to do. Help them understand this, and they will be on board.

Create a process. 

Now that you have a plan, you need a process. How are you going to incorporate offshore resources to set everyone (your existing team and your need offshore teammate) up for success? What we did works well, and it is easily replicated.

Put one of your accountants in place as the ‘point person.’ Allow them to participate in the interview and selection process. Gain a commitment that they will assist with training this person on the firm processes and workflow, and in return, they get to choose the work to assign to this new teammate. 

Interview

Just like you would interview a local candidate, it’s equally important to Interview your offshore candidates. You want to find the best fit for the specific role you need filled, and you also must make sure you find a good fit for your firm culture. I am fiercely protective of our culture, and I advocate for hiring the right person to complement your team because they are going to be part of your team. 

Review their resumes, and consider multiple candidates before selecting the right one. Remember, to achieve your goals, you need to approach hiring an offshore resource as a long term commitment just like hiring anyone else.

Onboarding

Now that you’ve selected the right offshore teammate, it’s just like having a new local employee join the team. They need to have a good onboarding experience. The same accountant you assigned as the point person to help interview should be your offshore staff member’s main point of contact for initial training and onboarding. Having a single or main point of contact helps alleviate confusion for the initial 90 days. 

Onboard them just like you would any other employee. Give them access to all of the same resources and have the same expectations you would of any other employee. The communication and dialogue with them as an internal team member is important. We use Teams for quick internal messaging. 

Once they are completely onboarded, you may want to consider introducing them to other accountants who may have work to add.  

Set them up for success

I can’t underscore this enough. You have to invest time to train them on your firm’s processes and basic workflow, and you must give them feedback just like anyone else. Don’t assume they know! Think about them just like a permanent employee. 

Include your offshore team members in your firm culture

Culture is everything. Be intentional about assimilating your offshore staff into your culture. Include them as much as possible. They should have goals, regular reviews, merit increases and/or bonuses (depending on how this is structured in your firm), and regular accountability. They are part of your entire team.

Business Impact

At the end of the day, building an offshore extension of your team is good business. They are people, just like the people in your office. They have experience and personality and skills. The cost effectiveness of offshore resources builds a strong business case for your profitability and your bottom line as you scale your advisory services. 

Why Entigrity for us

Entigrity has been focused on providing offshore staff to accounting firms for several years. We chose to partner with Entigrity because it was important for us to find a person we could engrain into our team and our firm culture. 

We needed someone that would essentially be another teammate just like everyone else on our team. Entigrity offered just that. The opportunity to find the right person for the right role on our team who we could train to learn our processes, workflow, and how our team works.

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