Leading and managing change is tough. The bigger the team, the bigger the challenge.
So how do you transform an old-style, partner-led, multi-office firm into one that's strategy and corporate-led with crystal clear functions, roles, and responsibilities for everyone across the firm - that fully engages with (or is it at least on the journey to fully engaging with) everyone in the team?
In this podcast discussion with Marie Pegram of UHY East, Letchworth in Hertfordshire, you'll hear Marie share the insights about the journey that UHY East have been on from partner led to strategy/corporate led and some of the challenges and difficulties they've experienced on that journey.
And ultimately how vital, how important, how fundamental it has been to put the team first. In the balance between team and clients, Marie states plainly that the team come first in their development and the change they've achieved in their firm.
I hope you'll join me and Marie in this podcast discussion, I found it profoundly insightful.
"I think accountability is something that crops up a lot.
"Actually when we've done our workshops and when you're getting feedback from people, how do we hold people to account?
"How can we be better at it? How can we constructively hold people to account as well to bring them along rather than losing them because 'values' are being used as a weapon?"
Connect with Marie
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TRANSCRIPT - unedited
Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Humanise 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.
[00:00:21] Marie Pegram: [00:00:21] I think accountability is something that crops up a lot.
[00:00:25]Actually when, when we've done our workshops and you know, when you're getting feedback from people, it's, how do we hold people to account? How can we be better at it? How can we constructively hold people to account as well? Because you know, the last thing you want people to do do is use values of the weapon.
[00:00:40] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:40] does a substantial accountancy firm with multiple owners and dozens of team members make the challenging shift from a partner led accountancy firm to a more strategic corporate led business. Marie Pegram on this podcast, shares insights on the journey that you H Y east in Letchworth have made on that partner led to corporate journey.
[00:01:06] Some of the challenges and difficulties they've experienced, but also some of the successes they've experienced to.
[00:01:12] Marie Pegram: [00:01:12] So my name's Marie Pegram and I'm a partner at UHY hacker young east. We're affirm around 70 people with a turnover of around 5 million pounds with about 2000 clients. The firm has written been around for about a hundred years.
[00:01:27]And I've been there for 13 of those hundred years. And we joined UHY hacker young, approximately 10 years. And this is the national network that allows us to sort of plug into their expertise and also use that international reach as well, which has been great for us. We've so I joined straight from university, trained with a firm and worked my way up.
[00:01:49] And now I head of strategy within UHY east. I also specialize in the equipments. So do the BD for that sector. And then I'm also on the UHY east board and the national board as well.
[00:02:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:03] Right. Okay. So head of strategy, what exactly does that mean for you? Head of strategy.
[00:02:12] Marie Pegram: [00:02:12] Okay. So hetero strategy is a, it's a commercial role.
[00:02:15] So it's looking forward for you H Y east looking at how we're going to grow as a business and how we plug into the national UHY strategy.
[00:02:25] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:25] Modica. Okay. So it's specifically about new client acquisition, client returns.
[00:02:33]Marie Pegram: [00:02:33] Yep. Prime retention also looking at acquisitions as well. So, you know, we've gone through a couple of acquisitions as a firm.
[00:02:41] It just ways to grow or maybe possibly diversification. So, you know, potentially looking outside accountancy and maybe exploring something like that. Right. So does
[00:02:52] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:52] your, your focus, your role in that commercial approach to strategy? Is that, is that the overriding view of strategy at UHY east or is there a broader, bigger perspective of what strategies does.
[00:03:04]Marie Pegram: [00:03:04] Well, that's a commercial strategy for UHY, but we also have a cultural side of things as well. So as you age, yes, we have a commercial vision and a cultural vision, and they're very much linked into each other one can't be successful without the other.
[00:03:19] Paul Shrimpling: [00:03:19] Right, right. So what's your, how do you then integrate to Maria?
[00:03:25] What, what, what what's going on between the two of you? Cause obviously there's someone else who's had.
[00:03:29] Marie Pegram: [00:03:29] Yeah. So we have a head of culture. That used to be my role before I moved into head of strategy. And we very much work alongside each other in terms of the commercial strategy and the cultural strategy of.
[00:03:42] Paul Shrimpling: [00:03:42] Brilliant. Brilliant. Okay. So that, that's quite neat in terms of fitting in with this, how do we humanize the numbers in a better, deeper, more meaningful way so that the firm is more effective because you've got the cultural strategy, which is team people focused by the sounds of. And then you've got the commercial strategy, which is numbers focused, or be it, you can't avoid this people in there cause they call clients aren't they?
[00:04:05] So you've got that blend and balance between the humanity and the numbers, but interesting that you've got this balance between culture and clients and fee growth. Have you, or is it weighted one way?
[00:04:17]Marie Pegram: [00:04:17] It's tricky because I think it's weighted more cultural than it is commercial. Just because we find if we get the cultural elements, correct.
[00:04:24]And we get the team working in, in the way that they want to work and how we think will be the most successful way, then the results will follow.
[00:04:34] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:34] Right. So we there's that old, it's a bit hackneyed, but I think it's really powerful is if you treat your team like Kings and Queens and they'll treat your customers like Kings and Queens and we'll all live happily ever after there's.
[00:04:45] Marie Pegram: [00:04:45] yeah. Yeah. So how, how, how are
[00:04:47] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:47] you embedding this cultural focus then this cultural bias into the firm? Because it's, what the heck does culture mean
[00:04:58] Marie Pegram: [00:04:58] for culture? For us? So it's the way of how we interact with everyone. It's how we behave. It's our values. It's why we go to work every day is all of those things. So for us, it's the DNA of the business. It's the lifeblood that goes through the business. And we've been on quite a journey over the last five years.
[00:05:20]And if, I think back five years ago, we had a terrible culture at UHY. It was very much a partner. It was, the partners would make all the decisions sit around a table and do it jointly, which you imagine the time consuming that can be. We also didn't really have a defined culture. It was very much work long hours.
[00:05:40]We're not hitting results, hit people with a stick type culture. Maybe I'm probably over that adept of it wasn't quite that bad, but we had, you know, had high staff turnover as well, which kind of implied that our culture wasn't right. And since then I also don't think we, we prioritize culture either.
[00:05:58] You know, it wasn't even a word that came up five years ago. And since then we've completely changed the model of the business. So we're not a partner led firm as such now. We're more of a corporate, so we have a managing director and we've passed down roles and responsibilities throughout the firm, giving people more autonomy.
[00:06:16] To take ownership of, you know, drive things forward and, you know, initiatives and programs and things that they want to make it a better place to work. We've also been on this culture journey, so we've defined our values and behaviors and that wasn't defined from the top down. That was everyone included in defining what, what are our values?
[00:06:36] What do we want to represent? And how do we want to behave as a firm? And that's, you know, with each other and also with our client. And then we literally on a on a, as part of the journey, we're working on our purpose now and she will know and that's very much, you know, why does you actually exist?
[00:06:52]You know, why did we come to work every day and why do clients want to come work with us?
[00:06:58] Paul Shrimpling: [00:06:58] So can, can you give us one, possibly two examples of where that cultural focus has worked well and paid off?
[00:07:09] Marie Pegram: [00:07:09] Okay. So if I take quite a few weeks ago we did a whole staff away day and that was mainly around our purpose and the feedback that we get from that.
[00:07:20] And it wasn't just the feedback from the day. It was the feedback from the journey that we've been on for the last five years was in a nutshell, this farm has changed so much by then it's changed so much better for the change for the. And when you get feedback like that, and you think that people actually like working here and, you know, want to come to work and, you know, really enjoy it and realize that they are listened to.
[00:07:43] And the things that they say are, you know, taken seriously and put into action that says a lot. And I think we're really proud of that.
[00:07:52] Paul Shrimpling: [00:07:52] And what sort of cross section of people are saying that, because sometimes it can be the more vocal ones which often Murray the more senior ones, or do you think you'd be.
[00:08:01]Curious as to whether that's, there's a bias attached to that. Cause sometimes we can be we find it easy to find the good things that we want to hear.
[00:08:08] Marie Pegram: [00:08:08] Yeah, I agree. And when we do a lot of feedback and surveys and we do a lot of them so we kind of give that people the option that they can put their name to things if they want to, or they, if they don't feel comfortable and really want to express their honesty, then they can do it completely anonymously.
[00:08:26]And genuinely overall, we get very limited, bad feedback. So it might be sort of one or two out of 70 people. You know, even if it's one or two and one or two, isn't sort of, you know, if you rate this out of 10, it's a one it's more like a five or six. And when you're constantly checking in with people, I think that really helps as well.
[00:08:47]And that's, again, some of the feedback that we've had from the team is, you know, you're, you're constantly asking us, you know, to be part of this, the journey that you're on you know, we're all in it together and you want to hear what we have to say, because at the end of the day, You know, when you have a top led kind of strategy or program or business plan or whatever it is, you're actually missing out on all the people that wrote the firing line, the front line, you know, those that, you know, even right down to the people that just picking up the phone and talking to the clients, when they call in through reception, you know, if you don't listen to what's happening there, then you're really not understanding the whole of what's going on in the business.
[00:09:28] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:28] You're not, you're not connected. Are you to.
[00:09:31] Marie Pegram: [00:09:31] No matter what really matters those people as
[00:09:34] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:34] well, doing the work, the clients responding.
[00:09:37] Marie Pegram: [00:09:37] Yeah. Yeah. And I think that, you know, everyone's got their own kind of importance of what their role is and how that impacts UHY and you know, our client service delivery.
[00:09:48] So, you know, what we may not perceive as important is actually really important for other people. So it's making sure that you understand that. It
[00:09:57] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:57] sounds that you've done quite a bit of work on getting clarity around roles and responsibility, this Marie in the business. So there's, there's, there's less ambiguity now than the walls in terms of why you're here, what you're doing, how it smells.
[00:10:11]So that the, my, my appreciation of that would be that you, you building a sense of achievement, which is stronger now than it was because you've got that clarity. Do you want to run us through what you've done and how you've achieved that clarity or I've misunderstood or misinterpreted what you're saying there?
[00:10:27] Marie Pegram: [00:10:27] No, no, we've, we've done loads of work around clarity of roles and responsibilities. I think we, as I said, we've moved from this part. Structured to actually a more functional structure, so everyone knows what they do. And so if you've got a an idea or you've got some feedback or anything, you know, exactly which person to feed that back to, and they take the responsibility to know that they're in charge of implementing that.
[00:10:49]You know, when you go back to the old model of, you know, a partner led kind of all sat around the table, no one's got roles and responsibilities. You all kind of just sort of feed off different things. And there's lots of, you know, doing the same job. So I think that's really helped with the team as well, because they know where to direct things and also succession, you know, so it gives people career paths.
[00:11:12] So for example you know, I'm a partner in the firm and traditionally partners normally have a client portfolio. You know, my role is completely different and it kind of opens up the world. You know, when I first joined U H Y I thought the career ladder was work really hard, you know, work your way up, have a portfolio of clients and you become a partner.
[00:11:32]Whereas that's not the case anymore. And it's about working to your strengths. And my strengths are strategy is business development is winning new clients. So let's hone in on that and make the most. I
[00:11:44] Paul Shrimpling: [00:11:44] did not feel scary though, Marie, you know, just offloading the historical raison d'etre for being here, which is this portfolio clients, was that not a scary thing to do?
[00:11:55] And presumably it's not just, you that's done that. Presumably there's others have done some of that. If not all of them,
[00:12:00] Marie Pegram: [00:12:00] it's very scary. I think because performance was just any measured by recovery rates. You know how well your performing portfolio is performing. Whereas my performance isn't measured like that.
[00:12:12] So I felt at the start, I guess, quite that I had to justify everything I was doing. And again, it goes back to numbers again. So you end up sort of saying, well, I've won this many clients. I've bought this much in, but now it sort of transitioned to, well, actually, You know, you look back and we've implemented these processes and what's the outcome of those processes that we've implemented, or once these initiatives that have done for the firm.
[00:12:37] And some of it's really hard to measure, you know, employee engagement is hard to measure. You know, customer satisfaction can be quite hard to measure. You know, how well you're reaching out to your clients and supporting and can be hard to measure.
[00:12:51]Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:51] So what, what have you done in that? And I know it's hard, but it's necessary.
[00:12:54] Isn't it? To some degree how, how, even if it's qualitative, how would you assess the shift? And you've already hinted at this already, but how would you assess the shift in levels of team member engagement within the firm during your time as head of strategy, both cultural and commercial.
[00:13:16] Marie Pegram: [00:13:16] Yeah. So if I take.
[00:13:18] The shift, people are taken on more responsibilities. So we have in projects, like if I, as an example perhaps ignition, so that's a project that's been going on that we've been using practice ignition the quoting online quoting software and implementing a three option pricing process for all of our clients and actually being more transparent with our pro.
[00:13:40] Now that project is been led by myself, but I've roped in a manager who's really keen to be part of that project. And he supported me with that and almost lead in some of the parts of that project himself. Now five years ago, that would have been solely partner. Whereas now you've got people that are sort of putting up their hands and saying, actually, I quite fancy that.
[00:14:05] And I think I can make a real difference and I'd like to get involved. And by all means, go for it. You know, we have that with the culture team as well. You know, we have juniors that are involved in the cultural team. Might not, if they're interested and happy to go for it, then they've
[00:14:21] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:21] got some skills maybe Then you're tapping into what is where I want to lead this conversation is what, what, what's your sense of the levels of initiative, self initiating initiative across the firm and, and genuine ownership and responsibility of roles and responses.
[00:14:40] Excuse my clumsy English, you know what I'm trying to say?
[00:14:45]Marie Pegram: [00:14:45] So we're very much a project focused firm, so yes, we've got the roles responsibilities. Do you have, like, you know, I'm, I'm responsible for this area of the business and this is what I need to do, but there might be projects that come out of that.
[00:14:57] So perhaps ignition is an example, that's a project that's going on. And Paul. What was the question?
[00:15:02] Paul Shrimpling: [00:15:02] Yeah, I'm guilty of confusing two issues. And I'm just thinking I've, I've asked of questions on the planet. I'm after two things, one is the uplift in a sense of initiative across you've got 17.
[00:15:17] You know, how do we assess whether there's more initiatives taking place now than there ever was, because that's what you sort of where you want to go from partner led to, you know strategy, lead roles and responsibilities, clarity sense of purpose is crystal clear, the values and behaviors are crystal clear.
[00:15:33] And so people know exactly where they stand. And so they're on solid foundations for actually putting their hands. I'll do that and putting the hand up and go doing something showing initiative without asking for permission. And just wonder if there's any sense that that showing up in north, in the firm.
[00:15:51] Marie Pegram: [00:15:51] Yeah. So I think moving towards having. Projects being run properly. And functionally has helped us put more initiatives in place. And it's not this chaotic kind of everyone getting involved and having an opinion you know, you have a project owner, project leader, and we have a process of how to run a project.
[00:16:11]And you you're always going to have in an organization, those that want to get involved in those that don't and that's okay. You know, this. The last thing you want to do is start forcing people to get involved for things for the sake of doing it, you know, that forced you know, that, that that's just as bad as, you know, having a poor culture.
[00:16:31] It's, you know, you're forcing people into roles that don't want to do. But as You know, I think, you know, I don't really want to Simon Sinek the the Y yeah. You know, he, he's got quite an interesting process in terms of, you know, you have the early adopters, you know, I have a similar thing in terms of aligning the people that want to, you want to align with get them going.
[00:16:54]And if they want to buy into these initiatives and move them forward, then the rest of them. And I think it's okay if that, if that's, if people don't want to get involved straight away and I take time to, you know, get adapted to a different way of doing things they'll come along eventually.
[00:17:10] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:10] Right. It sounds as though you're expressing quite a lot of patients there.
[00:17:17] Marie Pegram: [00:17:17] You know me very well.
[00:17:25] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:25] the challenge.
[00:17:29] Marie Pegram: [00:17:29] I think the good thing about the projects, as well as it kind of, you can break things down to bite size chunks. And I think what, you know, one of the things. You've spoken to us about really as well as the good to great, you know, the flywheel effect. And if we keep making these steps and we keep going in the right direction, we know where we're heading, we've got a vision.
[00:17:47]You know, we've got an idea of where we want to go, so let's keep going and hopefully we'll get the flywheel effect at some point.
[00:17:54] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:54] Yeah. Yeah. You get that uplift in performance. It trickles. And then in theory, then it then takes off. Eventually. You just don't know when you just got to keep on keeping on doing the goods.
[00:18:05]And it's, it's clear that you've got, you got that certainty around and clarity around the vision. You've got the certainty and clarity around the values. You, you touched on core purpose. What you H why is core purpose
[00:18:18] Marie Pegram: [00:18:18] helping you prosper
[00:18:20] Paul Shrimpling: [00:18:20] and how does that show up on a daily, weekly basis in the firm?
[00:18:25] Marie Pegram: [00:18:25] Yeah. So this again is, it's a new, it's a new We started a new journey with this, right? I think it's, it's something that we've had in a background. It's been a marketing strapline for many, many years, and that's not a purpose if it's just a marketing strapline, but over the past year, I'd say we started to unpack that and think it actually helping you prosper is brilliant.
[00:18:48] And it's something that we can really align ourselves. So I think we're very much at the start of this in terms of embedding that purpose. So we've spent some time with the team unpacking what prosperity means to the team and what prosperity means to our clients. The good thing about helping you prosper is you can be lots of different things.
[00:19:09]So you can be the client. You can be the team, you can be the firm, you can be the community and that's how we've broken it down and then perspective. Has been brilliant because it doesn't mean money. Whereas a lot of people initially go, we're helping you prosper. That just means making more money.
[00:19:23] Well, actually, no, it doesn't, you know, prosperity means lots of different things, you know? And that's, that was the beauty of the workshop that you did a few weeks ago with the whole firm where we started to unpack prosperity and we did individual prosperity. So we've got everyone to sit down and write down.
[00:19:39] What does prosperity mean to you as an interview? Yeah, you can't do all this and surprise, surprise the outcome. Wasn't I want more money. The outcome was actually I want to go and see my kids at sports day. You know, I want to have financial security. I want to be paid fairly for my job. I want to be thanked for the things and feel recognized.
[00:19:59] Recognize. You know, all these sort of things came out. I want to leave a legacy, you know, I'm retiring in four years time. I don't want to be forgotten. I want to have a positive impact in the firm and all this stuff come out and actually everyone was sort of felt really kind of, oh yeah. Prosperity means so much more than just a pay packet at the end of the month and okay.
[00:20:17] Right. How can we help people prosper then? And the same with the clients? And it's something that, you know, where we've got out of the outcome, that we've now got a client service commitment and the talent promise, which is based around helping you prosper. And then it's about implementing that as well.
[00:20:34] So when we've got loads of things in the pipeline about how to embed this to become a proper core purpose of the firm, right. We're not quite there yet, but we're on that journey and we're getting there.
[00:20:47] Paul Shrimpling: [00:20:47] And I know we've touched on previously, you know, there's those research studies from Gallup and from Bain and co that show team engagement, as it is at such low levels, you know, 20% or less of the people are genuinely wholeheartedly engaged in what you're doing as a firm.
[00:21:02] And then there's another 20% who are absolutely disengage and trying to derail a firm. And then there's the 60% in the middle often I think, seeing who gets all the attention And it's that. Wow. If the percentages are that low, in terms of the level of engagement, as opposed to, you could argue, we call it ambivalence as opposed to the, those that are trying to derail it.
[00:21:24]We've got to spend time haven't we, we're the ones that are really buying in, and we've also got to do a better job of actually communicating the clarity and depth of meaning behind the purpose, which it sounds as though is what you were doing on that workshop with your team.
[00:21:37]Marie Pegram: [00:21:37] Okay. I think also the pandemics changed everyone's perspective has, so
[00:21:42] Paul Shrimpling: [00:21:42] how's that, how's that play that then for you?
[00:21:44]Because that's, that's where I want to go is, you know, you've gone from partner led old style, old culture to new corporate style, clarity around strategy and purpose and values and so on. How has that played out for you as a firm with your team and with your clients, but let's, let's stay with that stick with that team focused on.
[00:22:05] Marie Pegram: [00:22:05] It was a game changer for us pandemic. So, you know, we were really quick to react. So as soon as things started to escalate around March time we knew, right, let's get this into play and we already had. The culture and the team ready to buy in and ready to go, which was fantastic. And that was all the foundation that we've been building up over the last few years.
[00:22:24] Anyway. So, you know, from stepping out of your comfort zone and really going for it, we were straight on with the webinars. We started know we'd never done webinars before we'd already planned to do them straight on and know we had people that really didn't do public speaking at all. We're like, right, I'm going to do a webinar.
[00:22:40] I'm going to stand up and talk to 70 people or a hundred people or whatever we got on the webinar. You know, the initiatives that came through were to better engage with our clients being, and everyone was really raring to go, which was fantastic. And also going back to the help and you prosper purpose, although we hadn't properly defined it, I guess at that time everyone cared about the clients.
[00:23:01] It was amazing how many were just like, right. We've got help. These people got help. These people, this is how we're going to communicate with that. You know, and everyone really mucked in and if you've got the cultural foundation, everyone got. You know, rolling up the street sleeves and get stuck in, get stuck is brilliant.
[00:23:15] Brilliant. Absolutely. Absolutely. And then off the back of it as well. You know, with the pandemic, I guess people reassessed, you know, what's important to them in their lives. And making sure, you know, things like work-life balance is healthy, you know, that becomes so much more important. You know, you start looking around and thinking, actually, I, you know, I, I spent a lot of time at work.
[00:23:37] Why did I do that? I'm missing out on all this stuff. Now, when I go, you know, when we sort of go back to normal, if there isn't ever in a normal, you know, I don't want to say. Yeah, I don't, I don't want to go to the office five days a week. I don't want to. And the funny thing is before the pandemic, so the 1st of January, 2020, we scrapped core hours.
[00:23:58] So we went fully flexible, but we hadn't quite got round to embed in it because I think the team were a bit like, oh, can we really work from home? Did we wait? Can we really turn up at mid day? Yes. Yes. Providing you follow some of the, you know, we had some rules around it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah.
[00:24:18] You know, the whole team, can't rock up at midday for clients calling in at half eight and wants to speak to someone. But we'd already started to implement that and I think the pandemics helped us to just really push that out and say, you know, we're fully flexible. We want you to have a really good work life plan.
[00:24:33]And understand what's important in your life. And we know full well sitting at your desk, you know, 10 hours a day is not a healthy work-life balance.
[00:24:41] Paul Shrimpling: [00:24:41] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's it it's, you know, w the work on helping you prosper has forced me to read broader around growth and, and, and, and be really challenged.
[00:24:54] So I've just been diving into this this piece by a guy called Tim Jackson, Jackson, press prosperity without growth. Hang on, how am I going to square that circle with all my clients? So I haven't quite worked that out, but what, what what's come through in and what is a very, very eloquent piece around prosperity and managing growth in a broader sense, not just financial growth in a broader sense, you know, respecting the environment, the planet, as well as, you know, wanting to see everyone benefit or more people benefit in a better way.
[00:25:25] It sounds a little bit socialist, but It talks about flourishing and it starts, you know, how do we help people flourish? And it's like, oh, what a powerful work that is? And it's like, ah, that just, it fits isn't it into that broader definition of prosperity and and actually taking the human stuff more seriously, which also means taking the future of those people more seriously as well, which is the point of the book in terms of the environment.
[00:25:51]It's it's it has proved to be a challenge in terms of some of the concepts, but actually some of the insights are just amazing in terms of what what's what's going on in terms of the trends shifts around. We've got to get more human. Otherwise we're going to disengage our team. And if you do a better job of being humanistic, On all sorts of levels with our team, with our clients, with our community, as you brilliantly point out, then we're likely to have a more enjoyable day today, week to week, as well as a more enjoyable long-term as well.
[00:26:21]So thank you for that challenge. That's that it drove my wife nuts on holiday. They absolutely did, because I was not reading that book again as this last brilliant, this so let's just turn this around a little bit. And I'm curious about, so you've got this. Very well-established long-term are going to say old firms.
[00:26:40] That's not fair, is it? But it's been around for a hundred years. It's gone from being partner led to being, you know, corporate or, you know, function normally led strategically led Where are the challenges at the moment Murray without, cause it's still, like you say, you're on a journey. What is it?
[00:26:56] That's frustrating the heck out of you that year, your impatience is I'm having you rattle the cage and shake the trees. I'm curious as to what's where, where you think that what, what are the frustrations? Where w where, where, where are the difficulties? I think that's really what.
[00:27:10] Marie Pegram: [00:27:10] Yeah, I think I'm an impatient person person, as you know, it's sort of yeah, I just, I, I suppose I'm a typical millennial, one things done quick.
[00:27:20] Where's my results.
[00:27:26]But I think the challenge for us. Getting the right people. And I guess that's the same with most accountancy firms or most firms in general, you know, and it's making that assessment. So I did an interview recently. It's a second interview and I thought I've only got two hours with this guy. How can I try and establish that he definitely culturally fits with UHY you know, And the other way round as well.
[00:27:53]And I think, you know, we we've put in place you know, sort of you have your probationary period within a firm. And part of that probationary period is we have a kind of assessments to make sure that you each wives right. For them, and they're right for you. H Y because cultural fit is just incredibly important.
[00:28:10] And I think the biggest challenge as you've gone through this cultural transformation is. Yes. Attracting the right people is great, but also the people that we've already got, some aren't going to come in the boat and go along with us and that's been a challenge as well. And yeah, and you know, you have to be honest that maybe UHY isn't right for them.
[00:28:30]And they need to move on because it it's so important to have the right people. In the firm with you, that's got the right attitude. And have, you know, that culturally fit, they, you know, they're aligned with your values and behaviors. They can see what you're trying to do and they're bought in and they're very into go.
[00:28:48] And if you don't have that, then you're just constantly an uphill battle.
[00:28:53] Paul Shrimpling: [00:28:53] Yeah. And, and it's, you know, it's a common challenge across lots of firms, whatever the nature of those firms is recruiting great people. But it's arguable, isn't it Murray that you make a rod for your own back. When you get absolute crystal clarity on your purpose and your values and your behavioral standards, you've just washed out another load of people you could have hired.
[00:29:14] It's actually even harder, isn't it? But as my brother would say, net worth having wherever easy. And so is, is, is that the better way to achieve your commercial strategic goals or would it be better to just hire. Less well-fitting culturally people and achieve your commercial goals. Cause you actually, I'm making it harder for you to achieve your role by only recruiting the people that fit.
[00:29:41]Marie Pegram: [00:29:41] I don't think so. I think, you know, I I've personally I get coached personally outside of UHY and one of the, the part of that, that coaching process is we've established people that. For me personally, who I'd like to work with and who I don't like to work with. And I think it's the same for everyone.
[00:29:59] You know, you know, the people that you want to work with, you know, how if you wanna drive initiatives, then product be successful, then you have to have the right people around you. Now, if it takes a while to get the right people around you, then so be it. But once you've got them fantastic and you're flying, so it doesn't matter how hard it is to recruit.
[00:30:18] The best people that culturally fit with you. If it takes time, it takes time. So what at least, you know, at the end of it, you're going to be more successful from,
[00:30:27] Paul Shrimpling: [00:30:27] so what I'm hearing you say there is in the short-term you're willing to take the hit on the commercial growth of the business to ensure that the long-term prosperity of the business is anchored to people that are gonna stick, stay, and really enjoy the UHY journey.
[00:30:47] So you, you compromising short time to him for about
[00:30:49] Marie Pegram: [00:30:49] a longterm? Yeah. So I think as well, you know, we've got We've redefined our recruitment process as well as part of the cultural journey because we used to recruit, you know, what degree did you have? What GCSE is if you got okay. Right. You're technically competent.
[00:31:03] Brilliant. Come on board.
[00:31:06] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:06] Come on. Yeah,
[00:31:08] Marie Pegram: [00:31:08] exactly. You know, you swallowed an accountancy book. Brilliant. That's what we want. Whereas now our current pace is completely different to the point that okay. Right. You didn't quite get the. Fine. Okay. Not a problem, but you know, I can teach you stuff, you know, I can train you on certain things.
[00:31:26] I, you know, technically I can, you know, get you up to speed, but if you're not, if you culturally fit then brilliant. That's the hardest tick in the box. I think.
[00:31:36] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:36] And it's interesting, isn't it? And it's tough. Isn't it designing a recruitment process? That actually, because it's so alien to how we've, you know, we were interviewed.
[00:31:45] And so, so many historical interviews that it's say, yeah, it's a tough one. So what, how do you do that? What sort of questions are you asking or scenarios? Are you creating? What, how do you do
[00:31:54] Marie Pegram: [00:31:54] that? So we've got some. Scripted questions. Which of, you know, that that's actually been defined by the head of culture at the moment.
[00:32:04] So shown is defined the recruitment process and those are around valleys. So what's important to you. What are your values? I'm trying to think of some of the questions really. I don't know them off the top of my head.
[00:32:15]Paul Shrimpling: [00:32:15] Great. What you just said is, so hang on. So you designed a recruitment interview process that references their values, your values, to see if the.
[00:32:24] Yeah, it's about, you know, or the firm's going listen to this guy. Well, I've never thought of doing that with my back. Well, you know, if you want to create the, from that true relives to the standards you set, which I was thinking is what values is about, what standards are we going to live by then? Only if you recruit in that way, are you going to achieve that?
[00:32:38] That just sounds so simple, obvious, elegant, but so rarely done. And you know, I'm sure you've got it wrong a few
[00:32:45] Marie Pegram: [00:32:45] times. Yeah. You learn from those mistakes.
[00:32:50] Paul Shrimpling: [00:32:50] Absolutely, absolutely. This conversation's reminded me of if we go back to that, you know, that there's 20% of the people who are completely engaged in a driven there's 20% who were derailing things and the other 60% in the middle of the ones we've got, how do we bring them along?
[00:33:04] Becomes a big a big challenge costs. This. You know, there's only a few that don't really fit. There's just some that haven't worked out how to connect the dots. And that's the leaderships challenge. The managers challenge, what challenges, difficulties or frustrations have you got in that space where you've got people who they're good people, you know, they really do sort of fit, but we can't quite yet fully engage with them.
[00:33:27] What, what, what challenges are you seeing in that space with that? You know, that type of person within the firm?
[00:33:32] Marie Pegram: [00:33:32] Yeah, I think the biggest thing, cause we're quite big on employee. So making sure that everyone has a voice and we try and include everyone within the big decisions. So, you know, we will openly share our business plans that we've done.
[00:33:48] We'll openly talk about purpose and we'll do a workshop to help everyone understand, you know, what the purpose is about and unpack it for them and make it individual for them. I think the big frustration is where. You think you've given everyone a platform and some don't use it yet. You think, I know they really want to use it?
[00:34:07] Why, why is that why they're not? And that's, you know, just one of those challenges, isn't it? That we're still trying to overcome.
[00:34:15] Paul Shrimpling: [00:34:15] Yeah. And it's, it is in inverted commas, just one of those challenges, but it's a key one. Yeah. And it's you, you remind me of this. There's a research piece around an organization in the U S called Delancey straighten.
[00:34:28] And whether we've talked about that before, but Delancey street have got setups in New York. She can go in a number of other major cities in the U S and they take a repeat offending gang land, drug, and violent crime criminal. And turn them into bonafide members of society with jobs and houses and, and so on.
[00:34:50] It's like, wow, when they've got this, this process, which takes two to three years, but they are entirely transformed. And it's, it's the most successful rehabilitation program in the U S better than any of the government schemes and another private schemes. It's sort of charity driven this one. And they talk about, you know, what we've got to do is get.
[00:35:11] The skill and will, right. You know, we've got influence best skill, what they know what to do, knowledge and skills and habits. And then we've also got to tap into and shift their desire, their will, which is the hard bit. And they talk about those two things are achieved through processes that are delivered and engage with the industry.
[00:35:36] Delivered and engage with the peer groups, communities within Galanti street and last but not least have the structures in place to support that. And it's not a six part grid. And what, what their evidence suggests is that unless you can tick at least four of those boxes, you know, the two by three grid, unless you can take four, at least four of them, you won't actually influence or change anybody in any way.
[00:36:00] And if you can get five, it might happen a bit. If you get all six, a bit, a bit quicker, but it takes two to three years. However you look at it and it's just, it's it really points to, you can shift people. It's hard, work takes time, but if we have the right individual community group, peer, and structural processes in place over that sort of timeframe, we will be able to shift.
[00:36:24] And if you can shift, and when, when I read the research that they'd put 16,000 through this program, success. You know, gang land, repeat, defend drug and violent criminals through this. And then they become drivers in delivery companies and chefs and waiters handling knives. And because it was an American book, they missed the irony of the fact that you've put these criminals in charge of delivery vehicles and criminals with knives in that.
[00:36:50] And it's like, I think they could have been a little bit more there, but they didn't do that. But it's, it changes how.
[00:36:56] Marie Pegram: [00:36:56] Yeah. Well, I think you, you, you know, you just said it, you know, it takes years. It's not, you can't get quick wins with any of this stuff. And it's what we found with the cultural transformation that we've done is it's only when you look back and you say, ah, Yes.
[00:37:11] We have changed quite a lot of business haven't we? And he starts really sort of think where we were before and this was happening and it's about, it's quite good to keep track of those things. So recording and doing an audit. So we've done a few audits every so often where we say right, where are we today?
[00:37:26] Right. Where do you want to go? Okay. Where are we today? Where do you want to go? And when you start looking back at some of that stuff, you think, yeah. Okay. We're in the long game, it's always a long game with cultural transformation, but you suddenly start to see. We really have changed a lot.
[00:37:40] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:40] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:37:42] But there's, there's gotta be some bravery in there. Hasn't been Murray to make that go. Right. We are going to go from being this sort of partner led partner cultural piece to a functional corporate strategy led business. Not an accountancy firm, it's a business drive, isn't it. So do you think that courage slash bravery is a big part of this or is it frustration and what have you, that's driven it, I'm curious as to which, which is the
[00:38:07] Marie Pegram: [00:38:07] brain driver.
[00:38:08] It's probably a mixture because if you think, you know, we've got people that have been part of the team for 30 years, they've been with us 30 years at this company, which says a lot really. And I've, you know, If you've been doing the same thing and working the same way for so many of those years, you've got habits.
[00:38:25] And by changing those habits and, you know, looking at a different way of doing things, it's, it's hard and you do have to be brave. You do have to sort of step out into, out of your comfort zone and start looking at different things and changing the way you do things. And I think, you know, if I look across the UHY team, we've got partners that have been with us for.
[00:38:45] Again, about 30 years and they've had to be brave and courageous and go, okay. Right. We're going to do it differently now. And this is, and I've, you know, as a leader of the firm, I've got to be in the same boat as all the other leaders and off we go from the front on that. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
[00:39:06] Paul Shrimpling: [00:39:06] in the conversation we've had, where you've been reflecting on the nature of the business and the strategy and the journey you've been on. What one thing that we've talked about today has stood out for you in terms of acknowledging or recognizing again, the progress you've made or made you think, oh, we need to look a little bit deeper into that.
[00:39:24] I'm curious. Is there anything that you've gone? Ah, that's a, there's, there's a nugget there and I want to pursue that. What is it that stood out?
[00:39:32] Marie Pegram: [00:39:32] Yeah, I think so we've, we've done a lot of work on our values and behaviors. And what's been successful is if you ask people what our values are as a firm, they know in Australia, Which is brilliant and it shows that that's been embedded in, it's not just a piece of paper that just says, oh, valleys on it.
[00:39:50] Yeah, exactly. But if you ask people about the behaviors behind the values, we haven't quite nailed that yet. And that's something that we're looking at to try and define a bit better further down the line. And then if I talk about our purpose in. Helping you process. We've done quite a lot of about around this to help start to embed this as, this is why you H why is here?
[00:40:13] This is, you know, this is why we get up every morning and I come to work. What's been really pleasing is we do a monthly. Newsletter. And as part of that newsletter, we do the UHY spotlight. We call it where we ask some questions about one of the teams. We just get to know them a little bit better.
[00:40:29]And it's normally a newer member of the team. And one of the questions is, you know what she loved most about UHY and the answers, a couple of the answers. And two 40 over the past few months to the answer has been quite similar and they. They want to help prosper. They want to help me prosper and they want to help the team prosper.
[00:40:48] And I was like, my brilliant, we've got it. I'm really pleased with that result. But then, you know, we've got plenty of other initiatives that we're trying to embed and they're not quite embedded yet. And you know, they're not embedded yet. And it just takes time. And it's constant kind of going over the same thing over and over and over and over again until it starts to become rinse and repeat and
[00:41:09] Paul Shrimpling: [00:41:09] repeat.
[00:41:10] Exactly. Absolutely. Absolutely. It sounds like if I'm, and I know we've had this conversation outside of this discussion, but as soon as you, you, you've got clarity on purpose. You've got clarity on values. Now you're going to get clarity on the behavioral standards that deliver on those values, which means you're moving into a space where you're going to hold people to account.
[00:41:29] That's going to take some bravery as well as neck. Cause if people are repeatedly misbehaving, according to your values and behavioral sets, there's a. You know, you're heading into three strikes in your act territory out here. Is that a conscious decision to be that deliberate?
[00:41:46] Marie Pegram: [00:41:46] Yeah. I think accountability is something that crops up a lot.
[00:41:50]Actually when, when we've done our workshops and you know, when you're getting feedback from people. How do we hold people to account? How can we be better at it? How can we constructively hold people to account as well? Because you know, the last thing you want people to do DVT is values of the weapon, you know, and it's becomes blame and things of that.
[00:42:07] That's the complete opposite of what we're trying to achieve. A couple of years ago, we did quite a bit of work on the five dysfunctions of that. Which is a fantastic book. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Brilliant book. And we, we recapped a bit on on the leadership program actually that we've just launched again, going over the five dysfunctions of the team.
[00:42:28] And one of those is accountability. And if you don't build trust in your team and you don't and you don't trust each other properly, then you can never get accountability. You can never get honesty amongst your peers and be able to actually pull people out without. Worrying or, you know they don't like me anymore and, you know, You know, we're going to have conflict and all this other stuff.
[00:42:50] So drivers and
[00:42:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:42:51] everything that matters to
[00:42:52] Marie Pegram: [00:42:52] them. Yep. Yeah. Yeah. So I think we, you know, we've already defined the behaviors behind the values. You've already done that work a few years ago. It's just not embedded. And it's probably to be honest, the document that we produced is one of those, that list, loads of behaviors behind the values.
[00:43:08] And if you have to quote it, remember it, you really wouldn't know. So we're just going to go back and revisit. And maybe a
[00:43:15] Paul Shrimpling: [00:43:15] filter filter. Some of them, you know, the, the way the mind works suggests that, you know, if you've got a three values you're in the right space, in terms of recall costs, the brain can recall 1, 2, 3, maybe four things.
[00:43:27] And so you've got three then relief. You've got maximum four out for behavioral standards against each of the three east and a really good chance of, you know, retaining and remembering and therefore as a consequence living them. If you've got more than that in each section, you're, you're you're lost at sea, you know, people will never record.
[00:43:45]Marie Pegram: [00:43:45] Yeah, so that's exactly what, you know, I think people have a good idea of what the behaviors are behind the values, but everyone say something slightly different.
[00:43:52] Paul Shrimpling: [00:43:52] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And, and, and, you know, that's, we live in the real world, so that's sort of okay. But as long as the fundamental standard that's at play against those behaviors and those values, isn't compromised.
[00:44:03] And if they are, then they need some help. And I think, you know, my biggest learning over the last couple of years is accountability is spelled as you know, for me, H E L P at that gets like, what do we do in order to help them? And then we're back into Delancy street territory. Cause it's, if we help them enough in the right ways in four or five or six of the different possible ways, then we'll get that transition will influence them in such a way that they'll become an intrinsic valuable, important.
[00:44:29] Loving, even part of the team so that it's, we've got a true humanized environment. Brilliant. So lots of, lots of, lots of, lots of steps to take yet then Marie,
[00:44:42] Marie Pegram: [00:44:42] there's always lots of steps to take.
[00:44:45] Paul Shrimpling: [00:44:45] Yeah, that's been brilliant. So anything else you want to chip in before we before we.
[00:44:52]Marie Pegram: [00:44:52] I was just going to say, as part of the accountability piece that we've been doing one of the big things that we do is make public things that we want to do.
[00:45:01] So as a, you know, we have top, you know, a senior leadership team and we tell the whole firm, right, this is what we're gonna achieve in this quarter. And this is how we're going to do it. And if we communicate to the whole firm or the limbic a bit silly, if we don't actually achieve it by the end of the quarter, Yeah, exactly.
[00:45:17] So I think we're quite big on making things as public as,
[00:45:22]Paul Shrimpling: [00:45:22] But, and if, you know, if you've got that one big thing every quarter that the leadership team is committing to, you're tapping into a substrate, a success strategy that Intel Google Microsoft have been using called the objectives and key results, quarterly objectives, and key results that fits with the vision.
[00:45:38] Plan and strategy you've got for the firms. So that's a, you know, piece of corporate genius that is you know, Google have dinner, right? Using that they have love or hate. Marie, this has been brilliant. I really appreciate you taking time out and and allowing us to have this. Almost fireside chat about your role, what you H why have done the journey you've been on.
[00:45:59] I've really, really enjoyed it. Thank you very, very much.
[00:46:02] Marie Pegram: [00:46:02] Thanks very much for inviting me.
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Whats stood out in our conversation?
Holding people to account
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