AdvanceTrack MD, Vipul Sheth shares his journey from a start-up to becoming a larger start-Up! He explains why they weren’t going to be a “me-too” opera on and their goal of being recognised as the best accountancy outsourcer in the world. How? By building technology and a culture of excellence within their teams…
I recall my first trip to India when I was exploring the idea of setting up an Outsourcing Company. This was shortly after leaving KPMG back in early 2002.
It was an exciting and scary experience as whilst I had family in India, they weren’t involved in the business (deliberately).
We did an analysis of the companies providing outsourcing services and concluded, we could do it in the same way, but chose not to. We concluded that there was a lack of process and limited professionalisation within the industry, but doing it their way would mean there would be no differentiator between us and them, except they were already big companies! Why would they choose to use our service if we were just a smaller version of them?
Our first group of staff consisted of just 5 staff. Even they didn’t have enough work to keep them busy! I could have completed the work myself, there was that little work. I did however, need a team of people ready for when the work did arrive. We needed to build a business with a team with passion to deliver amazing service. That ethos has allowed us to continue growing our teams ever since and we’ll add 100 Xero certified members in Q1 of 2018.
Our initial analysis of the industry identified that Security, although important was not consistently managed.
We systemised our approach to working with firms building our first version of our AdvanceTrack system in 2005-6. We removed the need to communicate using the insecure method of e-mail and allowed job tracking from that day. We rebuilt our entire platform in 2017, pushing AdvanceTrack 2 live in readiness for the new GDPR regulations (for those who aren’t aware, these are Europe-wide Data Protection Regulations).
Culturally, security is part of our DNA. Only this January, A client visited us and was politely asked to leave his smartphone with security. Why? Because we don’t allow smartphones in our offices. This is just part of the multi-layered security protocols in place to protect your client data.
Our ISO27001:2013 Information Security certification provides an external audit of already strong protocols we have put in place.
We are a technology driven provider of services, having had high-end developers as part of our business as far back as 2005 (We started in 2003). Our teams also adopt technology to drive our processes to be more efficient.
The most telling part of our culture is our team culture. They work together as a team and also spend a lot of social time together. We have a team building trip annually for all team members to have time together to celebrate how hard they work together.
As a management group, the most noticeable aspect we see is, that it is not one or two team members, but a collective group pulling together to deliver client work as client demands require.
The most enjoyable part of my trips to India is to see the enthusiasm of our young team members working for us. Their willingness to learn and deliver a better service is a key part of the culture of society and the wider team.
We also award monthly individual prizes to reward exceptional work.
We briefly touched upon our AdvanceTrack system. It is one of the reasons as senior management, we can have confidence that our teams deliver consistently.
Having worked with a Regional Accounting firm and two of the Big 4 firms, I obtained an understanding of the need to control the process regardless of who is working on the project. If you think of the number of staff who join and leave Big 4 firms, the clients are handled consistently, meaning that clients do not as a matter of course leave when a staff member leaves. It is a rare occurrence that a client follows any individual leaving a big firm.
Our systems allow our teams to deliver a secure, consistent service, so regardless of the team working on the files, there is generally a consistent service. This is borne out by the client service scores that firms provide feedback on all work delivered across the business.
The aim is to increase quality and service consistently over time, even with testing growth targets that the business has set. This is audited annually by BSI as part of the company’s ISO9001:2015 certification.
That was the start of a journey that brings us full circle to today. We still run the business like a start-up as our mantra is to do Outsourcing, but not as you know it.
Having a group of talented young men and women in our team reminds me of how managers in my training firm thought of us trainees. They bring energy into the organisation and questions that keep challenging the status quo. We’re not standing still and are adding to our professional and technology teams.
Our joint aims are to delight our clients. If you’re ready for the challenge, join us on our journey.