What must it be like for the leadership team of an accountancy firm to be seriously confident about the future stability of their firm?
You're about to hear Suda Ratnam of Raffingers (a 70 person, 11 partner firm on the outskirts of London) share what they as a firm are doing to humanise the numbers in their firm, based on two things...
Firstly, their mentoring program and secondly, a quarterly review process with their team. These two things ensure that everyone in the firm is on the track to progress, to be doing the best work they can do, and to feel as though they're very much part of the progression of the firm.
So please, why not join me and Suda Ratnam at HumaniseTheNumbers.online for this podcast discussion that ultimately sees that Raffingers invest in their people - significantly.
This fits very well with the message around 'If you don't grow your people, you won't grow your practice'. But if you do grow your people, you will grow your practice fees, profits, capital value and cash. And also that sense of pride and enjoyment of running a humanised accountancy business.
"We have a very good training programme here. We ask people what are the areas you'd need to improve?
We don't hold back on that.
We train people, whatever they want. We give them the necessary training because
1) It improves their skill set
2) It helps everyone - they become more rounded people by getting the training. When I say training it's not just accountancy training, also there's management training, marketing training. We do everything here..."
Connect with Suda
Connect with Paul
TRANSCRIPT - unedited
[00:00:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:00] Welcome to the humanize, the numbers podcast, series leaders, managers, and owners of ambitious accounting firms, sharing insights, successes, and issues that will challenge you and connect you and your firm to the ways and means of transforming your firms results.
[00:00:21] Suda Ratnam: [00:00:21] We have a very good training program here where, you know, we, we find out, we ask people, you know, what are the areas you'd need to improve?
[00:00:29] We don't hold back on that. We, we train people, whatever they want. We give them the training necessary training to number one, improve their skill set. And then number two, you know, helps everyone, you know, they become. More rounded people by getting the training. When I say training is not just accountancy training, you know, it's, it's, eh, you know management training, you know, marketing training.
[00:00:50] We do everything here when
[00:00:53] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:53] ask accountants, what's going to change profoundly over the next five years. It's not uncommon to get [00:01:00] technology as one of the responses. But it was interesting when I asked sudarat Nam of his firm ravages, the same question what's going to change most profoundly over the next five years, he gave me two answers.
[00:01:12] One was technology and he's the technology wizard in his firm. The other was people and culture and Suda goes on to describe what's changed in his firm over the last five years around people and culture. And what's coming. Today, I'm joined by Sudor. Ratnam from ravages in Romford, in Essex, on the outskirts of London.
[00:01:34] So pseudo, would you please introduce yourself and give us some background on the firm and we'll see where we go on this humanize the numbers discussion.
[00:01:42]Suda Ratnam: [00:01:42] Thanks for having me, Paul. My name is Sudan Ratnam. I am one of the partners at refuges. We are a firm based in just outside of London and also.
[00:01:52]If you want to call it outside, as well as sort of somewhere in between London and Woodford green it's a Lebanon partner [00:02:00] practice. We employ approximately about 70 people. And we have a outsourcing setup, which is managed by us both in Philippines and and, and India. In terms of the practice we are a general practice.
[00:02:15]We have clients ranging from, you know, your usual mini cab drivers to companies that turns all hundreds of millions. Yes, that's the kind of yeah, from we. All
[00:02:26] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:26] right. So real cross-section. Yeah. Real cross section. So how many business clients do you reckon you've got across the firm?
[00:02:33]Suda Ratnam: [00:02:33] It's a, it's a bit of a hard question.
[00:02:35] Other people keep asking us. Most of them will keep asking me how many clowns, even the partners you're asking me. Cause I, I run a lot of data to get this number. I'll probably say about three and a half, 4,000 clients, I would say. Right. Okay.
[00:02:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:51] Three and a half to 4,000 clients. Brilliant. So 11 partners, 70 people.
[00:02:58]How do you keep a [00:03:00] firm of that scale feeling as though there's a sense of humanity? There's a sense of togetherness Sudoko is a big big number of
[00:03:08] Suda Ratnam: [00:03:08] people. Yeah. So what we do is we have a, a structure where. The partners take responsibility for different departments. So within the practice we split the practice into various departments.
[00:03:21]For example, I oversee the compliance operations and also I'm involved in a lot of the it stuff as well. And for one reason or another, they get asked for my opinion on some of the things that we implement in terms of it. Then, you know, we have other departments like cloud. We have a cloud team which deals with the management accounts and bookkeeping side of it.
[00:03:43] We have a payroll department and also a tax team here being an accountancy firm, obviously, you know, the largest and the biggest section of a biggest part is our auditor and the accounts team. So they're our partners. You always see these as a department wise they oversee it and [00:04:00] we Worked closely with the managers who are under Russ and PA to the partners as well.
[00:04:04] Yeah, yeah,
[00:04:05] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:05] yeah, yeah. How many, how many managers across you've got 11 partners? How many, how
[00:04:09] Suda Ratnam: [00:04:09] many managers? That's that's a good question. I think we have about seven managers here, but I, I haven't, I haven't counted it because since the logged on, I haven't seen most of them. So I think we have seven managers here yet.
[00:04:22] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:22] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So what, what do you think is it has changed significantly at refugee. I'm thinking over say the last five years, rather than thinking about the last 12 months, which has obviously been radical for everybody. Yeah. What have been the big two or three lumpy changes for the field?
[00:04:37]Suda Ratnam: [00:04:37] I'm very passionate about technology and I think the biggest change is the people.
[00:04:43] People's culture and technology technology is even before this pandemic, COVID you know, things were changing behind the scenes for the accountancy practice in general. You know, the, the, all the bookkeeping work was gradually going away and the [00:05:00] compliance work. The day-to-day compliance work was mostly done by you know cloud-based software or I think they call it smart software and yeah, th those are the two big changes, the culture, the people, culture, and the technology as hugely changed regulations to a certain extent.
[00:05:18] I think it is as changing the change as well, you know? Most of the regulators going online has helped firms and even smaller practices and larger practices as well. So those are the three things I would say that the major changes as far as I'm concerned for me. Yeah. Yeah. And
[00:05:32] Paul Shrimpling: [00:05:32] so the, the regulation thing of that applies to every single firm, doesn't it?
[00:05:35] Across the UK. Correct. But let's dive into that people in culture shift, what, what, what are you see? What have you seen? And we're going to pursue too. Two strands of this. What have you seen and what are you expecting to see in, in, in, in the times coin? So let's deal with the past, first of all. So if there's, if the two big areas of change of technology and that people culture, what, what have you seen change and what have you driven as a firm to change the culture
[00:05:59] Suda Ratnam: [00:05:59] of your firm?
[00:06:00] [00:06:00] W in, in terms of what we see, and one of the things I. I do within the firm is the recruitment side of things, as well, as I said, in the interviews. Yeah. For recruiting, cause I'm one of the trainee partners here. So when we take on trainees, we do the, I signed their training every six months and sign off their training at the end of the training as well.
[00:06:19] So yeah. Recruitment has changed in terms of getting either graduate recruits or. Or even, even people who have who have up the ladder a bit in terms of semi seniors and seniors in the old days you know, I go back a long way. It was fairly easy. You look at the CV and, you know, you call them for an cold called a candidate for an interview and you offer them the job.
[00:06:40]That's it these days the candidates are interested more in, you know, what we offer as a package rather than I think, I don't think salary doesn't play a big part these days as they used to in the old days you know, they are, they want to overall package, you know, what's, what are the benefits that we offer?
[00:06:59] They want to know about the [00:07:00] holidays, pension, healthcare what about work life balances? So it is changed massively in that, in that. Okay. In that instance, and also, you know, these days it's a bit like everywhere else. You need to put an arm around the the team here to say, you know, we love you and you know, you have to look after them.
[00:07:19]Unlike the old days, you know, you walk into the managing partner's office and, you know, the, you know, it's a lot more difficult. Yeah. In the old days.
[00:07:27] Paul Shrimpling: [00:07:27] Yeah. When they will not, will not dig up that obviously painful history for you sooner. We won't. So, yeah. So it sounds as though, almost as if candidates for new jobs are interviewing you, they're interviewing the firm to determine whether they're right for them, as opposed to the other way around or.
[00:07:43] Probably a blend of the two. I would
[00:07:45] Suda Ratnam: [00:07:45] agree with you there. Yeah. The tables have turned a bit, you know, they, they tend to ask us you know, what are you, what are you, what do you offer us? Yeah, it is turned. The tables have turned quite a bit. And,
[00:07:57] Paul Shrimpling: [00:07:57] and, and you talk about the benefits package. What [00:08:00] else are they asking you about?
[00:08:01] What else are they interviewing
[00:08:02] Suda Ratnam: [00:08:02] you about? They asked one of the interviews I was doing last week. They asked, what do we do to the local community here? You know, social side of things. I was a bit surprised. I wasn't surprised. I was surprised because that is something that nobody's ever asked me when I'm doing interviews.
[00:08:20] And this is a. Graduate trainee play placement we are looking for. And one of the things they asked was what are you do in the local community? And luckily I actually do a lot in the local community. Weiss chairman of our local multi Academy trustee. It's I think he's one of the largest in terms of pupil numbers is one of the lighters schools.
[00:08:40] He is, I work closely with them and I go and do I talk to the A-level students about accountancy, how it works? So luckily I could, I was able to answer some of those questions that he's questioning have brilliant, which is very, very surprising. Yeah. And is that,
[00:08:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:08:55] is that something that the firm is take seriously that community element?
[00:08:58] Or is that just a [00:09:00] personal piece for you?
[00:09:00] Suda Ratnam: [00:09:00] It's firm-wide we take it seriously. I mean, if you if you come across, if you, if you meet the partners that we are all working you know, helping local charities here and involved in any community activities we were all, we all got responsibilities and we do a lot within the community here.
[00:09:17] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:17] Okay. So, so that, that cultural shift is what has that developed or has it always been the case at
[00:09:24] Suda Ratnam: [00:09:24] refugees? It's been the case and ravages. I mean, we are you know you know, we are humanizing the humans here, you know, so we, we love, we love doing that. There's always, the case was wrapping as we always did.
[00:09:36] And then we continued to do, I think we do a lot more than we used to. Yeah. That's always the case. We always, you know, work closely with the local community here, do a lot of
[00:09:45] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:45] stuff here. So what, what's the driver behind that then sooner? It's
[00:09:49] Suda Ratnam: [00:09:49] I wouldn't say, I mean, some people call it. Yeah. Brand awareness is nothing to do with, I think it's more to do with the, you know, we want to be helpful.
[00:09:56] It is, it is where we are and this is our [00:10:00] community. And we want to, we want to make this a better place for the people who live here. Is there any benefits to that for us? Well, if it comes our way, it comes our way, but that is not the key here is to help the people.
[00:10:12] Paul Shrimpling: [00:10:12] Yeah, it's not, it's not a commercial driver.
[00:10:13] I don't notice when, when check out your website you got five values that you communicate on your on your website. And one of them is ma making an impact, which seems to connect with this community piece. So it's, so you you're endeavoring to make now I'm putting words in your mouth. I should be asking the question shouldn't I, so is.
[00:10:32]Yeah, I've I made a, a leap of faith there. I was there is that very much part of the remit? What, what, what's this making an impact piece actually mean at because sooner I see value statements on websites at firms or from all over the world and, you know, some of them are real and some of them are just marketing BS, if you'll excuse the expression.
[00:10:53]So, you know, making an impact what's what does that really mean? So
[00:10:57] Suda Ratnam: [00:10:57] that that's actually making an [00:11:00] impact. It's a, it's a massive issue area, not just within the community is also for the clients who are based in these local areas as well. So if you look at our clients, a lot of them are within the M 25 the circle.
[00:11:13] So making an impact means we, we are part of their family, was most of the companies. We do. We look after our family run businesses. So making their lives better by helping them we don't. We don't believe we don't, we don't treat the clients like a commodity. You know, we treat them as they are a part of us and it is a big family, you know, everything, they do.
[00:11:33] We, if they go through some difficult times, we actually go through the difficult times with them. That is the impact that we make with them. We just try and, you know, work with them because we are business. We are business advisors on top of that. We have run businesses ourselves. Well, we run our business, so we feel the pain when they go through.
[00:11:50] So there's empathy that we try and try and help them go through that. Yeah. Yeah,
[00:11:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:11:55] very good. Very good. And what about how does that make an impact [00:12:00] piece actually apply to the team?
[00:12:01]Suda Ratnam: [00:12:01] Team going back to the, the team is very, we, we are opened up we changed our culture as such, you know, the recruitment helped us as well.
[00:12:11] So we changed our culture within the team where people, one of the things we did was we were, you know, we, we don't wear suits us or. People feel comfortable coming to work. You know, they feel like that it's just an extension of their home. They come here, we are a professional firm, but it is an extension of the word home they live in.
[00:12:29] So they come here as you know, a lot of people will say, it's kind of a cliche. If you're happy at home, you're happy at work and you're happy at work. You're happy to work. That's the culture we are bringing, you know, making people feel, you know, get up in the morning and say, you know, I want to go to work today.
[00:12:42] You know, I love this place. So that's what we're trying to do here by what are we doing? We have social events before the COVID COVID lockdown happened at every quarter. Every month, every quarter, we have a social event and we all go out, you know top golf ping pong, all those things. We go out [00:13:00] every quarter, have a team get together outside of the office.
[00:13:03] We don't stay in the office because if you stay in the office, you still think about the office culture. So we go outside. And once a month we run we have lunch provided for the staff. So we all gather in our Bain office and lunch is provided to the staff. So we all chat and get to know each other is a, it's a, it's a, quite a massive place here.
[00:13:23] So sometimes you don't see people for a long time, so we kind of have a chat with them and yeah, we pretty much know every. Member of staff. Yeah. As a person, you know, I pretty much know every member of staff and what they do and you know, their family history. So that's what we bring, bring them to our families.
[00:13:42] So it's not just the staff, the clients, everybody is part of the big refuges family. Yeah, brilliant.
[00:13:48] Paul Shrimpling: [00:13:48] Brilliant. I'm just going back to that graduate trainee that asked you that community focused question sooner. I'm just wondering, do you think that was a genuine question from them or is that something that they'd picked up that they [00:14:00] should be asking?
[00:14:00] You know, they've been trained to ask that question by the university or the college. Have you got any sense of
[00:14:05] Suda Ratnam: [00:14:05] that? I think it's a, these days. I think they are trained to ask that question. I would say, cause you know, wherever you see it, you see these social responsibilities. Yeah. Every company's kind of yeah.
[00:14:19] Looking into that. So I would say I'm not sure. I mean, this is the first time I've been asked. I've been doing recruitment for a long, long time. And this is the first summer I interviewed for graduate trainees last week. And this only one person asked me, so. It might be something that's coming more and more, but this is the first time I've been asked that question.
[00:14:41] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:41] So it's early days to jump to any conclusions on that, but it does lend ourselves to the, what what's coming. Do you think in terms of that, you know, peop people and culture shift over the next two, three, five years, what w w what are you expecting to see that you need to prepare the firm for
[00:15:00] [00:15:00] Suda Ratnam: [00:15:00] what are you, what.
[00:15:01] I think is going to happen is people are going to look at work-life balance even more than what's happened in the last five years or six years. What will happen is that people will say you know, the COVID kind of helped that as well. Working from home you know, people are, if, if you're working from home, a lot of people tend to be more relaxed working from home.
[00:15:23] And that builds something that will. Come into play more and more, I believe going forward. I, in terms of the benefits that we have to offer our team again I wouldn't say that the, the, the, the financial benefits or that, you know, that people will look for that more. I think people look for more, an overall package you know time to travel it all.
[00:15:44] I've had a graduate training asking me, you know, can I can I have a year off traveling around the world or traveling? So that's one of the things that they will, we will have to get used to it. The other things, you know time off for any time off for things they want to [00:16:00] do is something that's going to come up as well.
[00:16:02] So, yeah. Well, so,
[00:16:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:16:03] so the, the, the, the team member that asked for a year off, did they get it?
[00:16:06]Suda Ratnam: [00:16:06] No, he didn't get the job or he didn't get the, it was just a question that he
[00:16:10] Paul Shrimpling: [00:16:10] was a Christian, right. Okay. Okay, because interest that I worked with a firm and they they, they've got a a program that, and she'd been with the firm for 10 years, then you get a sabbatical and you choose the length of time of that sabbatical.
[00:16:22] And I think they've got a time limit on it. I can't, I can't recall exactly what it is, but it's a minimum of three months. So you can go and have a timeout three months having invested 10 years of your life in the firm seems like a really neat piece. But I think for a graduate. He was coming in like 10 years, looks like a lifetime away.
[00:16:38] Doesn't it? So I'm not sure that's actually going to stack up. But you're saying you think this the, the trend towards a greater sense of balance between home and work, working from home, working from the office is going to be a bigger, have a bigger part plate. So how are you preparing the firm for that
[00:16:54] Suda Ratnam: [00:16:54] then?
[00:16:54]W we, we were regularly doing things already to help, like, you know, working mothers. We [00:17:00] allow them to. Leave work early to be there when their children come from school. We've already done that even before, you know, all of these logged down. We, we you know, as I said to you earlier, I'm passionate about technology.
[00:17:12] So one of the things that we looked at is allowing people to work from homes or that is one of the things that you're going to get as the, as some part of the population gets older. They would you know, having families. They would want to spend more time with their children and especially the working mothers.
[00:17:29] And you would find, we are prepared for you already do that, that they would want to spend more time with their children, which means they will want flexi working hours. So they would, they wouldn't want to do the usual, you know, nine to five or nine 30 to five jobs. They might want to take a couple of hours in between often they want to my work a little bit later from, you know, I have a break and start from seven to eight or nine again.
[00:17:53] Do you think? So we do allow that to people here
[00:17:56] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:56] already. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's interesting. My team [00:18:00] I've got to to work in mobile in the, the in the team and they have different working hours for term time and non-term time in order that they can you know, juggle what's important in their lives.
[00:18:10] And they always say that, look we're unemployable anywhere else. Cause they've never seen anyone. Who's actually been. Appropriate term times different from non turn time for parents, mothers, and fathers. So I think, I think you're right to think there's that balance piece, you know, there's that more rounded picture is is here to stay.
[00:18:27]For sure. So This people culture piece is clearly important to you and the firm sooner. And that camaraderie piece is part of that in terms of, I love the, the the, the monthly team lunch. There's when you look into the derivation of the word company, you know, you run an accountancy company.
[00:18:44] When you look at the derivation of the word company it's to break bread. And so actually as a team, and it sounds like that's gotta be one hell of a lunch if you've got 70 people or, you know, some chairs at the same time, but I
[00:18:58] Suda Ratnam: [00:18:58] love that idea. When you say [00:19:00] lunch, it's not a three-course meal.
[00:19:04] We have to watch our diets as well. It's not a three.
[00:19:09] Paul Shrimpling: [00:19:09] I've got, I've got someone coming on the podcast in a few weeks time. And they, they, they do things with the team in and around like the cake baking and, you know, and, and so on. But they also do that as well.
[00:19:20] Suda Ratnam: [00:19:20] there's one of the staff members of the pack that pancake day, he brings all this stuff and we make pancakes.
[00:19:25] Yeah, we can do things like that as well. Yes. I could sit here and talk about what we do for the team.
[00:19:31] Paul Shrimpling: [00:19:31] So it's clear, it's clear that you've got that camaraderie piece working well. And, and that sense of wanting to build that family that, yeah,
[00:19:39] Suda Ratnam: [00:19:39] it's humanizing, humanizing the humans, you know, we, we take time to talk to people here.
[00:19:45] When I say people, we call them team, we don't call them employees. We take time to have a chat with them, you know, go through if they got any issues. We try and sit down and talk to them and resolve it. And, you know, if they want time off for one reason or another, we allow them to go. We don't, we [00:20:00] don't, you know, that is not a big issue for us.
[00:20:01] This is one of the things, you know you know, the recruitment side of it. That's one of the things that, you know, we do to make the team feel at home. As I said to you, you know, you want to get up in the morning and say, I want to go and work for these guys. You know, I want to see me. I want to see the partners.
[00:20:15] I want to see them. Team. I want to see the managers. That's what the culture we need, where we are bringing in. Yeah.
[00:20:21] Paul Shrimpling: [00:20:21] Brilliant, but there's, there's a balance to that though. Isn't there that's required, which is this, you you've got things that have to get done. There's so I now want to sort of turn the conversation from, yeah, you've got this camaraderie piece working well, you've got this emotional connection with the team and they feel that towards the partners in the firm and their colleagues clearly.
[00:20:39]What about the sense of achievement? Where do your team get a sense of achievement from. Excellent. How does that work in ravages?
[00:20:44] Suda Ratnam: [00:20:44] It's a feedback from us, you know, if somebody has done really well, you tell them, you know, you have done really well. Excellent works or it is, it is always all. You have to give feedback to people otherwise, you know, they don't get the confidence.
[00:20:58] And as you know, confidence [00:21:00] is a massive thing. If people have confidence, they can literally do anything. You know, so feedback is the key. You have to give feedback to people how they are doing. And we actually encourage people on training. We have a very good training program here where, you know, we we find out, we ask people, you know, what are the areas you'd need to improve?
[00:21:19] And you know, we don't hold back on that. We train people, whatever they want. We give them the training necessary training to. Number one, improve their skill set, skill set, and then number two, you know, helps everyone, you know, they, they, they, they, they become more rounded people by getting the training.
[00:21:36] When I say training is not just accountancy training, you know, it's, it's, you know management, training, everything, you know, marketing training, we do everything. Yeah.
[00:21:46] Paul Shrimpling: [00:21:46] Oh, okay. So, so you've got a healthy training budget then?
[00:21:49]Suda Ratnam: [00:21:49] Well, I wouldn't say a healthy I'm not sure how we compare with the other firms back.
[00:21:52] Yeah. We have a. We have a very good package.
[00:21:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:21:55] Okay. So skills training, not just attached to accounts, the tax [00:22:00] and the so on, there's actually soft, soft skills training. Yes. Yes. Okay. So tell me a little bit more about what's what's going in. What's going on in the firms systematically, periodically around skills training.
[00:22:11] That's got nothing to do with numbers. It's got to do.
[00:22:13] Suda Ratnam: [00:22:13] It was one of the, one of the things that we do is we look up. So we have a mentoring mentoring program here. So staff member is allocated a partner or a manager. They mentor. So if I have a meeting with a client, I can actually take one of my team members.
[00:22:30] One of the people I'm mentoring. With me and they can see how I am managing the client. Not just numbers, you know, the way we we communicate we do things with them. So that is one of the things we do for the seniors and managers. We sometimes have external people, people coming and giving them you know soft skills basically you know, so yeah, so the, the, the, the, the, the key thing we do here is we Encourage staff to come with us to meetings, meet clients and wherever [00:23:00] possible we take them with us.
[00:23:01] So they learn not just, I mean, if we have a client meeting, we don't, you know, there's a, there's a joke here. We only talk about numbers for 10 minutes. The other two hours is, you know, we, we talk about everything else around it. So that's that the skill skills are, you know dealing with human people is what we.
[00:23:18]Try and deal with them, teach them, train them. Yeah, yeah, yeah,
[00:23:22] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:22] yeah. Yeah. So, so you've got this mentoring program. Is that just for the junior team members or
[00:23:28] Suda Ratnam: [00:23:28] it's across, across the firms, across the firm? Everybody everybody's as, as a mentor.
[00:23:33] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:33] All right. And is it, how often does that mentor change or do they stay?
[00:23:38] Suda Ratnam: [00:23:38] They stay, they stay, but if somebody asks to be changed to be changed, but normally they changed. Yes. Normally they stay the same. Yep.
[00:23:46] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:46] Everyone in the firm has got a mentor, correct. In order to encourage and support them. So if you were mentoring someone someone's mentoring, you. Yeah,
[00:23:54] Suda Ratnam: [00:23:54] I got that, right?
[00:23:54] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there's nobody mentoring me, but yeah, there's a mentor below me on one of the [00:24:00] partners or nobody.
[00:24:02] Paul Shrimpling: [00:24:02] Well, it's, you know that I know a lot of partners, you've got mentors, not necessarily in the firm.
[00:24:08] Suda Ratnam: [00:24:08] If, if I have something that I don't know, that's, that's a great thing about having a practice of this size.
[00:24:14] You know, if I don't know anything, if I know if there's an area that I need help, you know, I can go and see my managing partner. He's always. You know, th th th we call it here, the door is always open. And so, or one of the other partners, I can go and speak to them and say, look, I've got this case here. And not just not just to do with numbers, you know, I've got a, you know, difficult situation here, how do I manage it?
[00:24:34] And they, you know, we always help each other out. So it is not about numbers. You know, we don't say, Oh, I've got a problem with that, you know, treatment or this or that. It just, you know, we have, we have to deal personally with a client be going ask, you know, one of the other partners is, Hey, you know, what do we do in that instance?
[00:24:50] We just have a chat about that. Yeah. So when I say we don't, I don't have a mentor. I have actually 10 mentors. To be honest with you. Yeah. 10 of the 10
[00:25:01] [00:25:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:01] could escape there sooner. That was a
[00:25:02] Suda Ratnam: [00:25:02] brilliant response in case they, you know, they don't listen to this anyway. So I'll have to say that.
[00:25:10] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:10] Yeah. So it's it's interesting, isn't it? So you're, you're, you're mentoring and building knowledge skill, and your team because you're taking them to client meetings.
[00:25:17] And obviously the, the value equation for clients happens as much in that client meeting as it does in any other aspect of the business. But if you take two people to a meeting like that, doesn't it make the job. Less efficient and the recovery rate much lower because you got two people involved.
[00:25:35] How do you square
[00:25:35] Suda Ratnam: [00:25:35] that circle? We don't take TUPE. We only take one person
[00:25:41] that is part of the, you know, the development of the other team member. And that is something you know, we are happy to do that. No, we don't feel like that. You know, it is. It is, it is part of the, part of the culture we have here. And we don't, we don't, we don't say okay, if I take another person we're going to lose out on chargeable time, we don't [00:26:00] look at it like that.
[00:26:00] That is, you know, that's not the way we do things here. Okay.
[00:26:05] Paul Shrimpling: [00:26:05] So do you, what, what pressure comes to bear in terms of driving the recovery rate on jobs Sudan?
[00:26:12] Suda Ratnam: [00:26:12] We're fairly flexible here in terms of recovery rate for jobs. I wouldn't say we don't have anything. We do. It is, it is fairly flexible. If there is a, this comes under training.
[00:26:24] When you take somebody else with you, it's got, comes under mentoring rather than recovering a job. It is not, it is not part of a job costing this, you know, taking a, another, another person with me. It doesn't come into that at all. We got different ways of reporting the time, and that is not part of it.
[00:26:42] Right. It's very different. Yeah.
[00:26:43] Paul Shrimpling: [00:26:43] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Brilliant. So we could and often it's better to do it this way is actually, you know, identify one individual and within your team, for example, without naming names and just go ahead. How do they assess their own sense of [00:27:00] achievement in the role that they're doing in the firm?
[00:27:02] I'm wondering, what, what, what, what do you do? What processes do you have or. Well what's going on so that every team member themselves feel as though they've got a sense of achievement on a weekly or daily
[00:27:14] Suda Ratnam: [00:27:14] basis We, what we do is on top of the mentoring, we have a quarterly meeting with the team members.
[00:27:21] Yeah. So that is documented and we it's a two way conversation. It's not, you know, I am sitting on this side of the desk as a partner and talking to them, it's more of a. We let them talk to us and say, look, you know, how do you feel? So that's where we get feedback from our team to say, you know, how are we doing?
[00:27:44] How are we doing it? How, how, where do they get the sense of achievement by, you know, what's happened in the last quarter and we try and put it right in the next quarter. And then we catch up again in the quarter after that to see, you know, whether it be. Done everything we just [00:28:00] said we would do to get you there and achieve what you wanted to achieve.
[00:28:04]So that's, so it's a quarterly meeting. Every, every staff member it meets their their. Manager for a quarterly meeting, that meeting is documented and that, yeah, it's documented on that. It goes through our HR and we look at it, we review it. If there are anything that we need to bring it to the attention of the whole practice we do.
[00:28:24] But yeah, that is the quarterly meeting is where we have a communication with them.
[00:28:28] Paul Shrimpling: [00:28:28] And is that the manager different from the mentor every
[00:28:31] Suda Ratnam: [00:28:31] time they are different? Yes. And the mentor has a meeting and the manager has a meeting as well. They are different the managers, but the mentoring meetings, sometimes the sorry, the managers meetings, the mentor sometimes participates as well.
[00:28:43]So for the, for the, for the people who are on a training contract who are not qualified, the board will sit together in the meeting.
[00:28:53] Paul Shrimpling: [00:28:53] But they've got a different role each in
[00:28:54] Suda Ratnam: [00:28:54] terms of got different roles, correct? Correct. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The mentoring meeting the managers it's there and listens to what's [00:29:00] going on the other and the, and the quarterly meeting, the, or the partner or the mentor sits there and listens to what's going on.
[00:29:07] And it gives a bit of input every now and then if, if there is an input
[00:29:11] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:11] required, And it's, there's a nice balance to that, which sounds great. So what about the, I'm still not getting where I want to go on these numbers. They get terms of sense of achievement. So it's interesting. I asked you what, w w w where do your team get a sense of achievement?
[00:29:24] Well, we meet quarterly and there's, and, and, and you want to talk about feelings, which I think is fantastic from an accounted, by the way. What I want to talk is the numbers. How do you determine and assess whether someone's performing their role? Well, enough.
[00:29:35]Suda Ratnam: [00:29:35] How do they F well, you could, we, what we do is we have a staff assignment form for each job they do in terms of numbers.
[00:29:44] If you want to know how they, how they are performing, and we have a staff assignment form for each that'd be it. Sorry.
[00:29:50] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:50] Would that be a team assignment?
[00:29:51] Suda Ratnam: [00:29:51] Yeah, it's a team of Simon. I should know this stuff.
[00:29:56] Yeah. Team assignment, form B D. [00:30:00] So that. We'll there are marks their scores. So you, you can, we can get in terms of looking at the number side of it, we can get that from that, how they are scoring. Just going back to the quarterly meeting that staff assignment is actually reviewed at the quarterly meeting as well.
[00:30:15] So we look at that. So, you know, we look at the staff assignments returned for the previous quarter and go through that. Do,
[00:30:23] Paul Shrimpling: [00:30:23] yeah. It's interesting. Language is always a giveaway as in terms of yeah, we, we, we, you know, we, we w w we relate to our team, they're not. You know, not employees, but I just find that staff word, an interesting one too.
[00:30:36] That's maybe something you want to do a log. So the team signed that form that is now known as so you've got that balance. It sounds as though you've got that balance Cedar in terms of the humanity piece, how people are feeling, but actually how they're performing and what, what mentoring support, what management support do they need in order to get better next quarter which Hey, if you've got a team who've got 13 weeks, they S you know, review step up 13 weeks review [00:31:00] stay the same, but we've got another review.
[00:31:02] Maybe they can step up the next quarter. It sounds like there's a hell of an investment in time, though. It
[00:31:07] Suda Ratnam: [00:31:07] is, it is. This is something we brought in. I think that the COVID has delayed a bit. And then this is something we brought in about two years ago. So yeah, it's been going on for two years. So one year under COVID and one year prior to that.
[00:31:19] Yeah. And how do you know its
[00:31:20] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:20] working sooner? How do you know it's working?
[00:31:22]Suda Ratnam: [00:31:22] How do we know
[00:31:23] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:23] it? So before you asked that, before you asked that before you did quarterly, what were you doing?
[00:31:26]Suda Ratnam: [00:31:26] We had a six monthly review. Okay. Yeah.
[00:31:30] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:30] So it was historically six monthly. Then you made a decision for some reason to go quarterly.
[00:31:35] What prompted the shift?
[00:31:37] Suda Ratnam: [00:31:37] It was a complete changing the culture. The way we work, we thought we we sat down and worked out how to make you know people more involved in what we are doing and them giving us the feedback as well. So the best way to do is have a Not a monthly meeting would be too much on a regular basis, but quarterly was deemed the right right gap to have [00:32:00] meetings with them.
[00:32:00]So yeah, that's, that's what we went with in the old days. It used to be the team meetings used to be six months and sometimes yearly as well. You know, when you have a review, that's what happened that the team meetings changed about two years ago, probably say that. 2032, two, two, two and a half years ago, we changed it to quarterly meeting.
[00:32:18] Paul Shrimpling: [00:32:18] So your, your partners or managers are involved in a lot of court reviews every quarter. Yeah. So there's a real serious time investment there. How do you know it's working? How
[00:32:27] Suda Ratnam: [00:32:27] do we know it's working? Right. So what we do is we have a reporting system to see whether you have the meetings or every every month.
[00:32:36] There is a board meeting here in the board meeting. It's reported. Who's had number one, we need to know these meetings are going ahead. Nobody's canceling it. This is just one of the big problem, you know, in an accountancy practice, like always will have, is people will cancel it. They have a client meeting or some, some training.
[00:32:55] So we make sure we document that by reporting. Who's had the meeting and who has another [00:33:00] meeting. So that's number one thing. So that's, that's monitoring the meetings are going ahead in terms of, in terms of how, whether it's working or not, how that. That is a summary is done every, every quarter. So once the meetings are done, once we know the meetings, I've gone ahead, then a summary is done by our HR team to see, you know, as a, to say to report to them.
[00:33:23] The board, how the meetings went. Is there anything that we need, they need to be aware of the culture needs or something needs to be changed within the practice because the team have requested it or what not to members. That's how we, we, yeah, that's how we know. It's it's really what sort of
[00:33:39] Paul Shrimpling: [00:33:39] things have been reported up from those quarterly?
[00:33:42]Interactions with the team, what sort of things have comfortable the board because of that that quarterly review, that you've then changed as a firm
[00:33:48] Suda Ratnam: [00:33:48] sooner in terms of things that are come to us, we've made changes that you want to know what changes we made
[00:33:54] Paul Shrimpling: [00:33:54] and what what's, you know, so we've got these managers and partners have been in these quarterly reviews of the team.
[00:33:58]HR has pulled that report [00:34:00] together. It's come to the board. So all the partners are reviewing the content of that and you're making a decision. What sort of things have you decided on. As a consequence of your quarterly check in with your team.
[00:34:10]Suda Ratnam: [00:34:10] One of the things that'd be brought right at the beginning of this process started was the the monthly lunches that we have.
[00:34:17] Right. If that is one of the things that were brought and the training is one thing that has changed a lot since we started having these meetings training some monthly now so the, the, the financial training is a monthly monthly process. We do training for the. For the team on a monthly basis, it used to be on an ad hoc basis before.
[00:34:38]I'm trying to think top of my head, all the other ones on the spot. I mean, there's plays doesn't, you know, it's changed a lot since, since it all started.
[00:34:47] Paul Shrimpling: [00:34:47] Right. Okay. So it, and that's just me doing a sense check. It's one thing to get these monthly things going, but actually, unless it influences the decisions and actions, then you know, what, what ROI are you going to get?
[00:34:58] And, you know, it's [00:35:00] okay, don't get me wrong. There's. I applaud the efforts to invest in the team on that quarterly basis, as well as having the mentors in place. I think that's outstanding. But the fact that actually at board level there's decisions to be made as a consequence of the feedback you're getting from the team.
[00:35:15] So you've got that sort of 360 degree thing taking place there.
[00:35:19] Suda Ratnam: [00:35:19] I think couple of weeks sorry, a couple of days a week that I think the team wanted fruits and. Fruits delivered. I think that's happening because of course that's not happening because you normally from home, that's another thing.
[00:35:31] And there are some major client facing changes, which is been dealt by our client facing team. I am, I'm not sure whether I, I can, I can list them out, but there are a lot of changes. Right. The client experience side, things are changing as well, which is brought about by the team. Cause you know, the team say, you know, can be do this.
[00:35:52]So yeah, which is kind of the idea from the team that's been implemented by the yeah.
[00:35:59] Paul Shrimpling: [00:35:59] Yeah. Very [00:36:00] good. Very good. So How do you know it's paid off financially pseudo all his investments in
[00:36:04] Suda Ratnam: [00:36:04] quarterly reviews. It's, it's hard. We don't, we don't look at it like that. Paula, you know, it's a bit like marketing, you know, how do you put how do you.
[00:36:13] More inside. How do you put a monetary value to do something you're doing? It's harder. We don't do that. We don't look at the financial, this is a conversation we have, you know, when we have our strategic meeting you can't, you can't put value to it. It's really hard, you know, to, to put a financial, but I guess the,
[00:36:31] Paul Shrimpling: [00:36:31] you know, the, the, the, the, the obvious potential payoff is stability of the team.
[00:36:36] Suda Ratnam: [00:36:36] Yeah, that is, that is the key in terms of, if you look at the, the staff turnover here, you know, everybody here everybody is being more than two years. I don't think I con top of my head out of the 70, we probably only have about handful of them who joined us in the last year. Everybody else has been here, here for more than two years.
[00:36:54]And even the ones who have been here less than a year probably are the trainees. Yeah, I'm trying to think [00:37:00] yet, but we, we have, you know, and I started back in 1999, so,
[00:37:04]Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:04] So let's. Let's turn to your subjective passion. Now. So technology, as we know, is shifted massively in the last five years for the accounting profession.
[00:37:12]And rather than review that, what I'm really interested in is now what, what, what, what do you think is going to change over the next five years? So, given that you've got a real zeal for this subject, what's coming, what is it that's going to have a profound impact on the way accountancy firms work, the way ravages work in your team works with clients and, and, and the nature of the work that they're doing.
[00:37:31] Suda Ratnam: [00:37:31] I think the, the compliance side of things are going to change massively because of technology coming in in terms of you know, if I'm going to give you an overall picture of it there are things that's coming on the way, which is going to make life a lot easier for people to people or making a life middle easier or harder for people because of technology.
[00:37:52]You know, filing, if you take. The, the, the mundane things like filing accounts at companies I was at [00:38:00] present, you know, we sit there, somebody presses the button, it goes to company's house that I believe will come to a stage where it will be automated. You know, you sit there and, you know, as soon as the accounts is finalized, it.
[00:38:13] Publishes, it will probably pop up with a question to ask you, do you want to publish it? It will get published. As I said to you earlier that the bookkeeping has changed. You know, we don't get too many people that sit in there and, you know doing double entries, posting the bank, the transactions they're all you know, smart software.
[00:38:30] Cloud-based, they've taken all of that. You can set up rules to do the same thing again, you know, so that, that that's, that's gone as well, going forward. That's actually even get even better. And what you will find is this the same smart software will produce the final accounts for you as well. You know because what will, what I think already with the micro and macro accounts, you don't really need to have it in North steward.
[00:38:58] You know, the notes are very minimal. [00:39:00] So the solvent, the smart software that's producing you, the accounts can, you know, spit out a accounts that can be filed at company's house. So, you know, so we at present, we have a two different system. One is the smart software that runs the bookkeeping. And the other one is the one that prepares the statuary accounts.
[00:39:19] So the statuary accounts that the link between the two will disappear. They will go from the smart software straight to the company's house. I think that would be done. And I think tax returns is going to go, you know, you know, there's already plants about that. Payroll is another thing that will, you know, and there was, I don't know whether you remember this Paul about five or six years ago, the revenue.
[00:39:42] Had a, had a paper discussion paper that they wanted you to send the money to them and they will prepare the payroll and they will they will submit everything. I think that was, that was the plan. I think that that got shelved, I believe. So. Yeah. Things, things will change in terms of what technology is going to do on the compliance side of things.
[00:39:58] Paul Shrimpling: [00:39:58] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And [00:40:00] what about in that, in the audit field? How well do you think w H S tech gonna have an,
[00:40:05] Suda Ratnam: [00:40:05] we already do a lot of analytics work on auditing, you know, we don't sit there and try and go through invoices to see, you know, why the sales, for example, sales have gone up. Going up or down if the data is on there on a, on a, on a, on a software.
[00:40:19] And we can explore that to either Xcel or one of these analytics software that we get. You know, you can, you can see the sales go up and down every month for the last five months, five years. And you can pick out an, ask our clients to say, you know, explain to us why it's going up or down. Rather than you going through several number of pages and, you know, flipping them through and finding out what's happened.
[00:40:39] So that's changed a lot in terms and, you know, even, even drilling into data because it's on a software and if you export it to a data analytics package or even XL, you can drill into the information without asking the client to help explain to you what's happened. You can have a look at that yourself.
[00:40:59] You don't [00:41:00] really need the client to explain to you. You can get the answer and then, you know, you cannot speak to the client at a higher level that kind of helps you with the other side of it as well, in terms of advisory, you know, you can, we can see things, you know, what's happening and go to the client and ask them, you know, are you aware of this?
[00:41:16] And they might say, no, we're not aware of it. So that's an advisory. Service comes, kicks in there as well on that side. Yeah, well, that,
[00:41:22] Paul Shrimpling: [00:41:22] that, that's the lead into the next question, which is what, what, what's the impact going to be on the team with this? You know, the, the technologies, if you want to be relevant to your clients are going to be inevitable.
[00:41:34] Isn't it? You, you you've, you've got very little choice, but to embrace it. Okay. We've got to be smart and clever sensible in terms of which. Bits of tech we adopt. So there's some care required there, but what's going to be the impact on the team and the night, you know, the nature of the work's changing and therefore the nature of the people is going to change as well.
[00:41:54] Suda Ratnam: [00:41:54] it? It's, it's, it's, it's changed. You know, we, we have a advisory hub within the practice or [00:42:00] what's happens with that is the, the, the team that does the day-to-day you know, the, the team within the cloud department. They see things happening on a daily basis because they have this smart software and they can see things happening.
[00:42:14] So at that point, we can jump in and say to the client, you know, you have an issues here you know, cashflow problems or somebody is not paying you on time. Rather than finding out in two months or three months or four months or even something in the old days at the year end, you know, they only find out about the year end.
[00:42:30] You know, your client doesn't pay for 12 months. Now we can see this because of this smart software and with the smart software that our team can see it. And then, you know, speak to the client and say, look, you, you having a problem this this customer of yours haven't paid you you know, for more than 30 days you know, what do we want to do?
[00:42:48] But our technology comes in is the reminders for that could be sent by it. Send by emails. Technology can play a part or, you know, we, as advisors, we can say, look, do you want us to do your credit control? That's that? That's [00:43:00] where the technology has changed because information is live. You can see it instant, you know, the client can see it.
[00:43:06] We can see it. We can tell the client, you know, jump in and have a look. You know, a limited haven't paid your bill and they say, yes, they haven't paid rather than we wait until the month, you know, 12 months after the year end and say, look, this guy, hasn't, you know, this client hasn't paid you. Yeah.
[00:43:19] Paul Shrimpling: [00:43:19] So this is back, isn't it to the, you know, your, your comments earlier about you've got this training.
[00:43:25] A commitment to training in the firm. It's not just the accountancy piece, correct training on other skills because the technology is going to reduce the technical number, crunchy work and, and free up time. Is it freeing up time?
[00:43:39] Suda Ratnam: [00:43:39] The technology we'll free up time? I wouldn't say please. I wouldn't say it'll free up time.
[00:43:46] But we will find time to do the other things from the time that technology frees, you know, Hey suitor,
[00:43:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:43:51] there's only 24 hours in the day. You can't, we can't make time. Can we free up time? Well, it's are we going to be doing less of one type of work and more of another time? [00:44:00] Correct?
[00:44:00] Suda Ratnam: [00:44:00] Absolutely correct.
[00:44:01] Absolutely. Correct. You know, just going back to the training with the. But the advisory side of it, that is something that we invested in the last 18 months on training the, the, the, the team on the advisory time, in terms of picking up stuff, you know, when things, you know, things are not looking the way they should they are trained.
[00:44:18] They've been trained to pick up and say, look, you know, this is not happening. And they know the key things for them to look for. So yeah, that, that's another part of the training that we do is just not about numbers. It's it's other things as well. Yeah. Well,
[00:44:33] Paul Shrimpling: [00:44:33] I think what I've found Most valuable about this conversation sooner is that, you know, we started off asking you about, you know, w w where did the changes lie?
[00:44:40] And you say, well, it's people and culture and technology, and actually it it's, it's actually those two things together. Isn't it? What you would sound you're doing as you very much folding those two things together. And you, what's the point in investing in technology. If you don't also invest in the training a
[00:44:55] Suda Ratnam: [00:44:55] hundred percent.
[00:44:56]Paul Shrimpling: [00:44:56] Yes, I think that's a fabulous insight to take from this discussion [00:45:00] sooner. It's been a great pleasure to chew the fat with you about humanized and numbers that I feel as, almost as if it's you telling me I need to humanize it almost rather than the other way round or rather it's been a good chair about a subject, which is close to my heart.
[00:45:13] So I really appreciate you investing the time today. Thank you very, very much. Thank
[00:45:16] Suda Ratnam: [00:45:16] you, Paul. Thank you for having me. Thank you.
[00:45:24] Paul Shrimpling: [00:45:24] You'll find more valuable discussions with the leaders of ambitious accounting firms at humanized, the numbers.online. You can also sign up to be notified each time a new podcast is made available. This podcast series humanized, the numbers has been made possible. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, my work papers, advanced track and VFD pro.
[00:45:50] Visit humanized the numbers.online, click the logo of each sponsor. And you'll hear what our podcast interviewees have to say [00:46:00] about the sponsor services. .
Changes in culture and recruitment
Making an impact
Team/family and their sense of achievement
Changes made based on team feedback
How will technological changes affect the accountant?
Click the play button below and use the slider on the audio below to get quickly to the chapters in the podcast.