more-arw search

Q&A Forum

Changing structure of our finance office

The company I work for owns multiple businesses located across the province. In 2012 we transitioned from separate bookkeepers in each location to centralized accounting. We employ 4 bookkeepers who look after multiple stores from start to finish, AP/AR/Payroll/GL/YE working papers, with me doing the final review prior to sending to the auditor. With an employee leaving, we are now in a position to make some changes and gain some efficiencies. While helpful having an "expert" in each store and 1 person to contact with any question about that store, I can also see the value of have task based roles (one person doing AP, one doing payroll, etc., one supervisor looking after the YE working papers and myself). Has anyone done a change like this and do have any advice on how to structure the analysis to see if this is the right decision for our company? Thank you

Answers

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Anon

One aspect I would advise you factor into your deliberations is your internal customer base - the store staff, their area managers and others in management.

The resignation is maybe not just about efficiency changes (i.e. save dept costs) but value additions (i.e. what more can you do for the store operations as a business partner). The tasks you listed above likely mean little to the stores.

How are you and your team viewed? Are you the bookkeeping dept or a valuable business partner that helps them?

Ask them what would they like you to:
-keep doing
-do better/start doing
-stop doing

Hope that helps:)
Len

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

With your current size and number (I am assuming 4 stores), the numbers/analysis will NOT be as evident as you would like. Right now, your store-employee ratio is not much different than your employee-task ratio. The main variable here is your GROWTH PLANS. The more you add stores/businesses, the easier it is to prove/show the advantages of your tasked based structure.

The tasked based structure is also in tune with scaling up the organization.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

In company I previously worked for, we when back and forth on this many times over a couple of decades. In the end, it seemed like we always lost something by not having a location structure versus task based. However, we did gain some cost efficiencies by going to regions.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Thanks everyone for your feedback. We actually have 10 stores plus 2 holding companies that we take care of. Each bookkeeper is tasked with a couple of stores to look after so our task to bookkeeper ratio is quite different from our store to bookkeeper ratio.

We are already at our space limit and can't add another body without moving locations (which takes us out of one of the stores, which has it's own dilemma as well). At this time, I also have ladies employed who are more than just data entry clerks too. Changing them to task based may result in so,e upheaval.

The bookkeeping department is sort of viewed as the department that makes everyone's jobs a pain in the butt. This is mostly because the stores are all over the province and most of the stores have not met their respective bookkeeper. It's hard to respect the voice on the phone asking questions when you haven't ever met them. Granted we can change that by taking the staff out on "tour" but that isn't really a feasible solution.

I have asked each of the ladies to provide me with a rough time audit to tell me how much time they spend on each of the core tasks their job requires. We've also addressed the fact with them that if someone is sick, or goes on holidays, we don't have the body (haven't ever had the body) to pick up the slack and get their job done while they are away.

Thanks again,

Erin

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Have you employed technology to bring efficiency to the accounting process and therefore lessen the tasks (even near eliminate) the need for bookkeepers? Aside from inventory and sales (which are technology addressable), I do not see much day to day (core tasks) need for "assigned" bookkeepers. Now would be a good time to include this in your analysis.

For now, all you are doing is rearranging chairs. So your analysis (cost) will be the same (or almost) between the options.

John P. Hart
Title: Vice Pres - CFO
Company: Nova Pressroom Products, LLC
(Vice Pres - CFO, Nova Pressroom Products, LLC) |

You should move to task based roles. Each employee will be more efficient concentrating on repetitive tasks. There will be complaints, but you could consider rotating tasks periodically - at least for cross-training purposes. Secondly with a bookkeeper on a store-based assignment I'd worry about the opportunity for fraud. Separate tasks reduces that risk.

You will probably end up with a more efficient office, and perhaps even some spare "bodies".

There will always be the issue of "us v them" with the sales/operations and accounting departments.

Michelle Rogers
Title: Principle
Company: MR Consulting
(Principle, MR Consulting) |

I agree with John regarding moving towards task based roles. Sounds like you have the volume to make this shift and gain some efficiencies.

A number of years ago, I lead a similar process and, as part of the execution plan, a skills and capabilities inventory was taken of the team with the goal to take this opportunity to realign skills with responsibilities so that we are leveraging our staff and they are spending more of their day at areas that they excel.

What resulted was some roles which had a larger 'administrative' component to them, supplemented with intermediate level tasks such as account rec's and simpler variance analysis. These team members processed data, ensured compliance, completed basic account reconciliations and basically prepared up to trial balance.

Those with loftier aspirations and more advanced skill sets spent more time on more complicated analysis (i.e. trend comparisons) and were the go to person for detailed inquiries. These staff members took over from trial balance to adjusted trail balance/draft financials, were the lead for process improvement projects and completed a draft of the financial narrative which accompanies the financial statements as well as prepared the financial components of our quarterly board reports.

We are experiencing another 'wave' of growth which necessitates us to go through this process at the division level. Our key objectives are to realign staff again to leverage their strengths, provide growth opportunities for those who want to stretch and look at efficiencies through a rigorous 'pruning' of reporting as well as systemizing manual processes such as rolling out EFT payments for AP and using a web based expense claim tool which integrates into our financial system.

Hope that is helpful. I'm more than happy to take this discussion offline if you would like to reach out to me directly.

Gildon Pamittan
Title: n/a
Company: n/a
(n/a, n/a) |

The date that you've transitioned from Separate bookkeepers to Centralized Accounting was 2012. Right? If you're asking about on how to structure such analysis, try to review the Internal Audit report of that particular change since Internal Audit Services of your company plays a vital role in evaluating changes. Maybe this suggestion depends on the availability of the report because they might not consult the IAS of your company when they did such transition, but I doubt if didn't do such.

I just based my answer purely to the situation. I don't want to have an over assumption. I hope this helps you.

Gildon
BSBA-MA

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Thank you all again for your feedback.

I am leaning towards task based. My current staff is highly skilled, but I'm thinking that I can have them doing the task based role for all stores but at the same time finishing up the month end processes for a couple of stores. That should provide some variety while getting some efficiencies. I'll be honest, while you think of fraud and the way to minimize it, it never crossed my mind with this decision, likely because I trust everyone. Thank you for that angle John.

I would love to refer to the IAS, but we don't have that. We started out as a very small company and grew very rapidly, very quickly and we are trying to correct some inefficiencies in the way we were set up now.

We had this discussion of task based vs an expert on the location when we centralized, and decided at the time that having one person as the contact for all of the stores was the best. It does have it's challenges though.

Erin

Robert Neyens
Title: Finance Manager
Company: TITAN Containers A/S
LinkedIn Profile
(Finance Manager, TITAN Containers A/S) |

Consider a few things more.
First how people contact each other. consider using modern tools like Facetime, skype. As long as you have decent internet + wifi connections you can actualy do face to face conversations with everybody. Invalid because the unspoken facial expressions reveal much more info then a normal phine call. Much cheaper then doing a tour around all your stores. For me in 1 day I visit mutiple countries.
Secondly : consider specialist and sharing. Like you indicated 1 accountant for 2 stores, allow + organise time for the ahring of info, best practices etc... Meaning that if 1 of your team is absent for whatever reason you are not blind.
Write up 'to do tasks' for let's say month end and year end. Like a checklist. Your auditors will love you!
Draw up a competence matrix of all members of your team. I'm sure some of the work your accountants do could (with a bit of training) be transfered to other staff.
Thirdly, a checklist of things that cause(d) a lot of issues, get them sorted out, organised to avoid them from happening again.
Finally, invest indeed in visiting the stores and get to know them, try to explain why hings need to be done in a certain way and above all LISTEN to them because they often come sith problems and solutions you never heard or thought of
regards

Pamela Wise
Title: Director/General Accounting
Company: The E.W. Scripps Company
(Director/General Accounting, The E.W. Scripps Company) |

I am currently changing my department to task-based roles. The big thing I know I need to be aware of is the workload. I don't want to put too much on one person and not much on another. This is difficult as we are doubling the size of our company at the same time.
One point to note is even though work will be allocated based on task, there still needs to be cross-training in case you have someone leave and/or allow for growth opportunities for the staff.

Colleen MacRae
Title: CFO
Company: Cambridge Family and Children's Service
(CFO, Cambridge Family and Children's Service) |

This is very helpful to me because we are doing the same type of thing. The added crease is that we are a not for profit organization. We are currently task driven. So we have someone who does a/p another a/r etc. The issue right now is that we have someone retiring, another going out on maternity leave and no one is trained enough on our 30 plus contracts to just walk into the job.

At this point I am seriously considering going in the opposite direction so that we never face this problem again.

Mulekye Mukoko
Title: President
Company: Uzima Int'l, Inc
(President, Uzima Int'l, Inc) |

Professionals,

I need to know:"File or not to File" this a question...
Last year, we started a venture registered in the state of Delaware. Today as we speak, we are in the process of structuring the new venture. Our business plan is its final stage meaning we are not ready yet to talk to investors.... But we have a bank account, a federal tax ID, a physical location ( collection of company mail). We carried only one expense which is virtual office rent. Money for this expense comes from board of directors pocket on monthly contribution basis.
However, there is no payroll or other administrative expenses to report to IRS. My concern is do I have to file the 1120 Form? and what to report also to Delaware state level...This is not a full operation of the corporation. I will appreciate any input I can get form your professional views.

Maria Marsala
Title: Financial Advisor Coach, Speaker, Author
Company: Elevating Your Business
(Financial Advisor Coach, Speaker, Author, Elevating Your Business) |

Before I'd change anything, I would take a step back.

I would first look at the overall vision of your firm. Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, at the CEOs retirement.

If that's bigger than what you are now, and you'll need more space, consider that as you restructure the processes, systems and space you use in the strategies part of your plan.

I would also (before you change anything) look into why your area is considered a pain in the butt instead of the area that catches problems. That alone may give you a better idea regarding the systems that would work best for the client.

There is so much that can done virtual these days.

While I'm a certified consultant for the One Page Business Plan and my clients use software to create and monitor their overall firm plan. You can purchase the consultants version (better for you than the financial version) of the book on your favorite online book store

Mae Perez
Title: Manufacturer
Company: OFS
(Manufacturer, OFS) |

Agree with you Robert.

6435 views
Topics

Get Free Membership

By signing up, you will receive emails from Proformative regarding Proformative programs, events, community news and activity. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact Us.

Business Exchange

Browse the Business Exchange to find information, resources and peer reviews to help you select the right solution for your business.

Learn more

Contribute to Community

If you’re interested in learning more about contributing to your Proformative community, we have many ways for you to get involved. Please email content@proformative.com to learn more about becoming a speaker or contributing to the blogs/Q&A Forum.