This month, we are focusing on the noble profession of accounting, and in today’s post we’ll introduce you to Orla Linehan of Cork-based Fidelia Chartered Accountants who uses Teamwork.com in her company.
We sat down with Orla over a cup of coffee to ask her how accountants use Teamwork.com. In this Industry of the Month post, we’ll cover how the accounting profession has changed with the popularity of email, what she loves most about her work, and what elements help her and her team serve their clients better.
Then later this month we’ll have a second post about how she uses Teamwork Projects in her work, including fab tips from you, our readers!
Accounting as helpful problem solving
Orla loves the challenge of using math to solve problems or puzzles in her work as an accountant. Some may think accountant’s work might be boring, but Orla sees it as the client’s business and that they’re trying to make it work and succeed.
That fuels her interest in solving problems and overcoming challenges. Like many accountants, Orla is a bit of a financial reconciliation detective superhero.
What do you love about your work?
Orla: “The problem-solving side of things. I made a promise to my mother to never be a boring accountant and only talk about audits. It makes it easier to talk with clients. What we do for start-ups is we’re there all the time so they can ring us at any time without incurring a new charge. Sometimes they’re tax-related, sometimes business-related, and sometimes it is just to reassure them they’re on the right track. We enjoy being part of their advisory team.”
Work Anywhere, Any Time
Though most things can be done from anywhere and at any time, Orla admits she prefers to work in her office because of the focus. The team of three, Orla, Dennis, and Karen, at Fidelia Chartered Accountants, work together but also have their own focuses and specialities in the work. In their shared office space there is a productive dynamic that balances focused peace, collaborative discussion, and occasional silliness.
As long as the work gets done, the hours and days are irrelevant except at tax deadline time.
How do you decide when and where you will work so you have work-life balance
Orla: “The day does have to be nine to half-five. You can come in every day and if everything’s done on Thursday, the week is finished. As long as the work gets done, it’s ok.”
What’s it like sharing a workspace with two others? How have you made it work to have an open space office plan?
Orla: “There are three of us in the one actual office which is unusual since I was used to having my own space. It’s good to be able to ask each other questions, though we generally don’t because we wouldn’t get anything done. It’s nice to have other people there though for work or to have a laugh.”
It is now more than ever that the demand for immediate responses is relied upon with email. The sheer volume is astounding, and Orla says it often leads to an unproductive cycle of going back and forth when just picking up the phone could resolve it in ten minutes.
Her “Just Pick Up The Phone” policy is credited with increased office productivity. They also set aside specific times to check email and avoid peeking at it outside of those times.
How has technology changed the way you work?
Orla: “The biggest thing is the amount of email we receive. When I started off, we’d receive a letter and have three weeks to answer it. No one would bat an eye if it was four weeks. Tax returns needed to be prompt, though few penalties existed for late filing since it was done by paper and mail. Now almost all communications, either with Revenue or clients, is done online via email or online systems. What’s happening as a result is there’s a pressure to respond within five minutes.”
Do you find email effective or ineffective as a communication tool?
Orla: “We’ve had to implement limits to only check e-mail for five minutes at a time. We also have a policy called “Just Pick Up The Phone. You get stuck in an email nightmare where you think you’re talking about one thing and they’re talking about another thing, whereas a five-minute phone call would sort the whole thing out. I’ve had email threads where they’re 20 emails long and the two of us are talking about things that are completely different. It’s so fast people don’t always think about the content, but if you’re writing a letter you are more specific before you send it off.”
In addition to day-to-day time and task management, like limited email times, Orla and her team set a specific “Get Stuff Done” day when they have let their clients know the accountants are having an internal audit day and will respond the following day, but can be phoned for urgent issues.
She says it has been a huge success. They handle backlogged filing, ordering supplies, and any other tasks that do not get done because it does not immediately benefit a client so it gets put off a day then a week then more.
What are your biggest your time management demands?
Orla: “We have lots of deadlines to meet, and in some cases Revenue poses fines immediately with a late filing. We needed something to manage recurring returns and tasks. With 30 returns at a time it is a lot to manage. I really don’t know how they did it before technology.”
Are you as comfortable with technology as you are with numbers?
Orla: “Yes. We got our first computer when I was eight. It was the first computer in the town. My dad saw what was coming.”
Collaborating with clients
Orla believes her company is an extension of the clients’ companies. It is like being a CFO for multiple businesses, from fledgling start-ups to long-time large establishments. Clients can do their own bookkeeping and manage their accounts then the accountants review the shared accounts files each month to make sure they’re on track. This modern collaboration is made possible by the cloud, but grounded in good old-fashioned numbers and problem solving.
What is your work philosophy?
Orla: “We like to feel that we are part of the client’s finance team. Even if they only ring us a few times a year, they know there is someone who can help them with their question, whether it is tax-related or start-up business related.”
How has the cloud changed your ability to serve clients?
Orla: “A lot of the accounting software is going on the cloud as well so we’re able to collaborate more with our clients so we both can log in and see what’s going on with the data sets.
“We have clients who do most of the day-to-day bookkeeping then we log into the same thing to review it each month. It’s the way most accountants are working these days. There are so many software options out there now that we must know how to use them all. The IT side of accounting has changed so much.”
Now that you’ve met Orla and learned more about her accounting puzzle solving, we want to hear about your work in accounting because we are writing another post about how Teamwork Projects, Teamwork Desk, and Teamwork Chat Beta are used in the accounting process.
In our next post, we’ll interview Louise McLoughlin of e-BAS Accounts in Torquay, Victoria, Australia, about her experiences.