I would say that easily 95% of the calls we receive at Clarity Street from prospective clients begin a little like this: “Hi, I’m having difficulties getting the answers I need out of the software we’ve implemented, I just can’t seem to get clarity on the reports and things just don’t seem to be working as well as they should”....
What’s interesting about this statement is that most of the time, the software element is only a small piece of the issue they are experiencing. Usually the software isn’t working because of the way it’s being used, which is related to the people and processes in your organisation. This either stems from how much research was carried out to begin with about the relevancy of the product or, how it was initially implemented and what training was carried out, that is leading to the software being a problem.
We’ve recently been talking a lot about App Advisory and obviously the App ecosystem associated with Xero, and how this impacts small business and accounting firms when it comes time to implementing or upgrading to the right cloud based application for your business. But what comes first, what’s more important when these considerations are being made, is it People, Processes or Software, and do you even consider the People and Processes when you decide on implementing new software?
We touched on this a few weeks back in our “You can’t be Half Pregnant” blog. The biggest take away from this was understanding that if you implement new software, you need to fully commit, by that you need to adapt your processes and procedures to suit the new software, instead of forcing the software to fit into your current way of business operations. Therefore, we know that adapting your processes is of equal, if not more importance than the software itself, to the successful implementation and full adoption of new software in your business.
But what about the People element of this topic? Although software and systems are becoming more connected and per say “touch free”, there will always be a need for people and therefor employees to manage aspects of your operation, especially in a service based business. Time and again though, in practically every business we walk into, there’s always at least one person that just isn’t suited to that particular organisation for whatever reason, be it a lack of technical skills or behavioural skills suited to the culture and goals of the business. But they are still there, either blissfully unaware that they are a problem, or know that they have downfalls in their employee status, but don’t know how to fix them.
Placing on your business owners hat, one step further to this is the awkward thought process of having difficult conversations with your Team. Per the above point in identifying an employee isn’t the right fit for your business, there is a distinct level of apathy in all small businesses around dealing with staff in the correct way. No one likes having difficult conversations, but not having difficult conversations is at a detriment to the future growth of your business.
Most businesses grow without too much thought around the type of employees that are required to service the operation. A lot of the time, the new employee is a replica of yourself (business owner) in some way but usually more junior in skill set depending on the industry, or because there’s a task or requirement that you either don’t like doing or don’t have time to focus on whilst you grow your business. The task list is drawn up for the new employee (or at least some thought is put into it), however a lot of the time these tasks fall short on being measurable for outcomes and are rarely monitored. The only behavioural skills that are considered, are if they come across in a lovely and presentable manner in the interview, no KPI’s are set around behavioural skills, nor are they measured.
When you’re a small business, it’s really difficult to think strategically around your staffing requirements, especially when you're starting out and getting pulled in multiple directions however, this needs to be addressed. The only way to fix this is to periodically look at your business from the outside in, ensure every employee has position descriptions and is clear on their objectives both from a technical skill perspective and their responsibility towards the desired behavioural outcomes they should be striving for. Then you need to meet regularly, more than once a year at a performance review, to touch on these objectives and ensure they are continuing to be of value to your business along with being happy within their role.
This isn’t rocket science, but if you don’t like the person/you don’t get along with them/they aren’t fulfilling their role to your standards, either do something about it to improve them, or have the right conversation after seeking professional advice, to exit them smoothly and find the right person for the role. Just because they are nice, or because they have been in the business for a long period of time, or because they have a certain level of knowledge about your business and client base that you value, doesn’t mean you need to keep them on when they appear to be terrible in all other aspects!
Rounding back to the topic at hand, it is VITAL that you have the right staff working in your business. Most of the reasons why a business isn’t functioning to it’s fullest extent is because of the people employed, not having clear direction or training on the new software, coupled with little or no consideration around the change in processes and the impact this has on their roles. People not doing what they need to, can’t produce the outcomes that the business requires, therefore the software implemented to “fix these issues” only exacerbates the people problems and the business owners don’t get the answers they need out of the software, that isn’t being used correctly. All you need to do is deal with the people issues first. At a punt, if the thought about one of your employees and an issue you’ve noticed in their role is a little uncomfortable, this is a clear indication that you should have a conversation with them about it.
In our opinion, People should come before the chicken and the egg, then processes and software. Getting these right will allow any changes to your processes and software, a much better chance at being implemented and adopted.
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Clarity Street was conceived from years of engaging with Accounting firms on a daily basis and a constant desire to make Accounting firms & SME’s more efficient and profitable.