- The Shape of Firms to Come
- Setting Sights On Cross-Border Expansion
- Europe’s Drive For Social Responsibility
- Managing The Great Data Dilemma
The right support is critical
By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
Good businesses start with an idea that skilfully and efficiently connects supply with demand. But while every business needs one, even the best idea will not, on its own, develop a healthy and regular turnover.
That is because starting a business is so much more than just inspiration. It is notoriously hard work. You need to research everything, from the market opportunity to applicable tax laws. There are endless decisions to make and forms to fill in and the following are just some of the questions you will ask or be asked:
- How will you access company formation advice?
- How robust is your business plan?
- What licences or permits might you need?
- What happens if you want to export goods or services overseas?
- How much do you know about employing staff/managing payroll?
- If you intend to store customer information, what are the rules around that?
- How will you fund your business?
Suffice to say that none of this is easy. Many entrepreneurs are so unprepared for the set-up phase that they never make it to the good part, when they can actually start selling goods and services.
They underestimate start-up costs, or decide the potential rewards of starting a business do not outweigh the risks. Sometimes, they just become swamped by bureaucracy.
The good news is, entrepreneurs do not have to do any of this alone. If you have a business idea, the very first thing you should do is look into all the advice and guidance that is readily available in your own country or region. Wherever you are in the world, there is likely to be a lot.
A good start would be to review a UHY ‘Doing Business Guide, readily available, and free, on UHY.COM
HELP WITH STARTING A BUSINESS
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy. They contribute up to 45% of global GDP and employ up to 60% of the world’s workforce (as reported by Gitnux in Small Business Statistics and Trends in 2023).*
Unsurprisingly, governments want to encourage this essential sector. Economies thrive when people turn good ideas into growing businesses.
That is why, in many countries, governments run schemes to help people start new companies. This help is often in the form of a website or helpline. It can also include local hubs where start-up specialists offer personal support to new businesses (or prospective new businesses) in that region.
Government small business information websites may give you all the information and contacts you need, but try local authorities, chambers of commerce and business associations too. If they cannot help you directly, they will be happy to introduce you to someone who can.
This government-backed support should be the first port of call for any new business owner. The advice is likely to be free and will be given by people who know local rules and regulations and have a solid overview of the local business environment. They can also introduce you to local small business networks, a valuable source of on-the-ground advice.
ASK A PROFESSIONAL PROVIDER
The other place to seek tailored, relevant advice is from professional service providers, many of whom are business owners themselves and will be familiar with the challenges, regulations and pitfalls. If your business is going to be bigger than just a sole trader you will probably have to partner with an accountancy firm anyway. An added reason for doing so is that good accountants now offer so much more than just ensuring your financial compliance.
Good accountants can be trusted sources of business advice. For new businesses, they can highlight potential funding streams, or offer advice on applicable tax or business rate incentives, which can be generous for companies in their first year of operation. They might be able to tap into their existing connections about affordable premises and equipment.
In addition, professional service providers are often active in regional networks of business angel investors. They are the people who make the introductions.
An experienced accountant is likely to have knowledge of the market you intend to operate in, and to understand its opportunities and pitfalls. They may have clients in the same sector, or might have done in the past.
Accountants are at the business coalface every day, which makes them a rich source of advice and information for new business owners. They can offer both practical experience and a specialist view of the wider economic environment.
Accountants are also familiar with processes you would otherwise have to learn to streamline your workflow – cloud-based systems for storing documents and files, smarter invoicing, cashflow control, efficient payroll and automatic receipt saving. They know local tax and labour laws in detail, and how these rules may be applied to your business. If you want to sell abroad, now or in future, a global accountancy network can help you move across borders in the most efficient and cost-effective way. With our considerable sector and country expertise UHY member firms can deliver timely advice to help new business owners make the right decisions at the right time.
Starting a new business is exciting. But it can also be daunting, thanks to the volume of information new owners have to take on board. A mix of government help and professional advice is the best way to ensure great ideas become good businesses.
A valuable route to business success
By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
How do you ensure that people in every part of your organisation have the knowledge they need to do their jobs well? The short answer is, with difficulty.
A lot of information is documented. It is written down and stored in files and folders, on paper and digitally. In this case, sharing knowledge is a management challenge.
- Is it easy to find?
- Do the people who need it know it is there and have access to it?
- Can it be easily revised and updated over time?
- Where does the responsibility lie and who has ownership for updating these documents?
- What governance is needed?
There need to be formalised processes in place to make sure all this happens, or the risk is, that it will not. Often, there are legal requirements around storing and sharing certain types of information.
THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE
Sharing knowledge is not easy because knowledge is, by its nature, diverse, fragmented, always changing and often inaccessible. For example, if a nugget of relevant information about a great promotional opportunity is hidden away in your lead partner’s mind, what happens when they retire?
These informal, undocumented and often highly valuable tips and tricks evolve organically and in response to real business challenges. They are the value of experience, tested by time and proven to be effective.
What kind of knowledge do I mean? It might be knowing the time of day when a major client is most receptive to a phone call. It might be an effective exercise for promoting remote team engagement. It might be insight into the nuances of business culture in a cross-border market.
This is the kind of information that lubricates the cogs and wheels of business and is easily lost when employees leave or retire. Even if they stay, too often organisations do not have processes in place to share this kind of applicable insight across departments or teams. That limits its effectiveness. It may be highly valuable, but if it is siloed it cannot be put to wider use.
As a global network, we understand the complexities of sharing knowledge across an organisation, and we know its benefits. We distribute more formal information, such as the kind of technical knowledge a professional services network must continually share and develop, in the usual ways, for example through a comprehensive digital archive available on our intranet. We also organise a calendar of national, regional and global meetings at which expert speakers from inside and outside the network share specialist knowledge. We run a yearly timetable of educational webinars and internal newsletters.
It is fundamental to UHY that our member firms share insight across borders, allowing them to serve international clients more effectively.
We use mentoring to disseminate the knowhow that is accumulated by experience. We encourage secondments across the network so that individuals get to try new ways of
working, experience business culture in other countries and bring that knowledge back to their firms.
We work to promote continual communication, within and between the member firms in our network. Regional and international events create a collaborative environment. Special interest groups bring together colleagues with similar specialisms. We hope and expect that conversations which begin when colleagues come together, continue, in other forms, when they return to their firms.
Sharing knowledge and knowhow can be complex, and requires different channels for different kinds of information. Do it in the way that best suits your circumstances – whether through digital knowledge centres, informal chats, training sessions, secondments or anything else – but do it. The continual communication of knowledge is the key to success.
In the third of three blogs exploring personal success, Rhys Madoc looks at ways to manage your career path.
By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
The last few years have raised some challenging questions about how we work, where we work and why we work. I have discussed some of the challenges in previous blogs: for example, issues around recruitment and retention, leadership, and the role of lifelong learning.
But on an individual level, one thing is sure – more people than ever are choosing to re-evaluate their careers. Am I enjoying what I do, and where I work? Is it time to look at alternatives and, if so, how?
Career planning has always been integral to a successful working life for ambitious professionals, but seldom on such a wide scale as we see today.
EXCITING AND ENTICING PROPOSITIONS
The first thing we should note is that developing a career plan is not the sole preserve of a school leaver or graduate just starting out. It is as relevant and beneficial to anyone at any stage of their working life. As industries, commercial environments and technologies evolve, so do opportunities for personal and professional career development.
As an example, consider our profession. The career ladder for the accountant of previous decades was fairly predictable, with a likely progression from newly-qualified CPA, and with hard work, to eventual partner or managing partner in an accountancy firm, or a chief financial officer in a commercial enterprise. While this is still a laudable ambition, there are today many more options to pursue along the way that will appeal to those starting off in the profession, or those seeking to join it from elsewhere. Furthermore, as our profession continues to embrace and adapt to new technologies and ways of working, re-evaluating your career path can be an exciting and enticing proposition.
- The rise of accounting technologies (cloud-based services, blockchain, and AI-based analytics to name a few) fuels demand for those passionate about IT
- In a noisy and competitive world, there is an increasing need for clear, articulate communicators in the accounting profession including those specialising in financial marketing, business development, investor relations, and corporate communications
- Clients want sustainability expertise from their professional advisors. A specialism in ESG (environmental, social and governance) audit and non-financial disclosure is very likely to become a sought-after credential.
Accounting professionals at any stage of their career can benefit from numerous options such as these. I would recommend taking a look at the new ACCA career navigator,1 a useful framework which maps experience to competencies and potential career destinations in the profession. ACCA professionals practice across the globe.
REMEMBER YOUR TRANSFERABLE SKILLS AND STAY FLEXIBLE
For anyone planning or reviewing their career in accounting, many factors come into play, from reward and motivation to ability and self-fulfilment. The most important step to take, I would say, is finding time for an honest and objective self-assessment of your skills and capabilities, your motivations and what you believe in.
Evaluating your options within our profession could offer pathways to even more enriching prospects. The proliferation of opportunities for personal growth in accountancy means that skills such as negotiation, leadership, communication, people management and coaching (see my previous blog about intangible skills for more on this topic) are valued as much as complex technical expertise in the workplace and play a prominent role in UHY’s continuous professional development programmes. In UHY, our member firms continue to invest and participate in UHY’s own bespoke development programme for our future leaders developing such non-core skills to ensure continued added value for our clients and colleagues.
Whatever your experience or specialism, my advice would be to stay flexible and keep an open mind.
Job security and fulfilment are the results of working hard at finding or creating opportunities, and being prepared to keep learning: technical and soft skills training is available to support most requirements.
- A successful career strategy will identify the skills and experience gaps between what you have now and what you need to fulfil your ambition and achieve your goals
- Filling the gaps becomes your career plan, and might include additional training and qualifications, job shadowing or finding a mentor. A number of member firms in the UHY network also offer their staff opportunities to experience other environments such as voluntary or not-for-profit work and to support their local communities.
- These principles are relevant whether you are looking for progression within your current employment, or outside of it.
I acknowledge these are challenging times for career professionals and recruiters alike, but I also believe they are exciting times, full of opportunity and potential for all.
1ACCA is the global body for professional accountants, and their qualifications are recognised and respected across the world https://careernavigator.accaglobal.com/gb/en.html
Commuters (B/W). Photo by Craig Ren on Unsplash
Options. Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels
Engineer on laptop. Photo by ThisisEngineeringRAEng on Unsplash
In the second of three blogs exploring personal success, Rhys Madoc looks at the importance of intangible skills.
By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
If someone asked you to describe the skills you need to do your job, what would you say?
Many of us would probably talk first about the ‘hard’ skills (also known as core skills) our jobs require, whether that is in-depth knowledge around tax, audit or IT, or the ability to write a plan or analyse a set of figures. Hard skills are the technical proficiencies and subject-specific knowledge our clients expect. You will not go far as an accountant without a technical mastery of accountancy rules and standards.
You might stop there, but that would be only half the story. We all use a set of more intangible skills in our day-to-day working lives as well. It is increasingly recognised that these skills, also known as soft skills or power skills are just as important as technical ones.
In fact, the balance between hard and soft skills – once weighted firmly in favour of technical ability – is shifting towards the interpersonal side. It is an important shift, one that can make a difference between a good employee and an outstanding one.
WHAT ARE SOFT SKILLS?
The terms soft or power skills describe a series of mindsets and behaviours that can elevate our abilities beyond technical competence and into much more rounded, effective performance.
As Eric Frazer, assistant professor of psychology at Yale University School of Medicine, recently told the BBC1, what soft skills really means is people skills.
“Some examples of soft-skill mindsets might be someone who is a continuous learner, or someone who is highly resilient,” he said. “Many behaviours – critical thinking, active listening, imaginative problem-solving to name a few – are soft skills.”
Research by LinkedIn2 found that people skills – those skills by which we interact and encourage the best from others – are in high demand and that the four most in-demand soft skills are leadership, communication, collaboration and time management.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR INTANGIBLE ASSETS
It is easy to see the importance of these skills. Understanding a client’s tax situation is essential. Being able to communicate your knowledge to the people who need to know – in a clear, concise, insightful and even thoughtful way – equally so.
Increasingly, successful business is based on the collaboration of teams rather than the labour of individuals, so knowing how to cooperate and delegate is essential.
Leaders can no longer expect to inspire employees by lecturing or cajoling from on high. In a candidate’s market, where open positions outnumber qualified applicants, successful leaders will be persuasive, inspiring and open-minded. Their people skills have to be second to none.
FINDING THE RIGHT BALANCE
A successful career requires a mix of hard and soft skills, of technical ability and more intangible, human competencies.
To a large extent, technical skills can be taught, assuming a basic level of education and aptitude. But softer skills are at least partly innate.
That is why some recruitment strategies now prioritise the identification of able generalists over limited technicians. You can train someone to use a new accountancy software platform. It is less straightforward to teach them leadership skills or the best way to communicate difficult information.
It is not easy, but it is not impossible. Some candidates are helping themselves, taking courses in skills including public speaking or remote team management. Organisations that place a high value on communication and teambuilding offer training and development in the softer skills that clients increasingly value, alongside technical learning opportunities. We have run a series of soft/power skills training for UHY member firms for a number of years.
Accountants should grasp these opportunities, because we work in a profession that is already witnessing the encroachment of automation. Entry level technical tasks are regularly performed by AI-driven algorithms. As the technology advances, more of the technical skills we use every day will be rendered either obsolete or of lesser importance.
By contrast, those with highly developed soft skills are already on the front foot. Critical analysis, creative problem solving and communication skills will all be in high demand as accountants transform from back office technicians to front office advisors. Technical skills will always be needed – but they are becoming a given. It is soft, or power skills that will mark us out from the crowd.
In the first of three blogs exploring personal success, Rhys Madoc looks at how to maintain both team momentum and work-life balance.
By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
It is fair to say that the modern workplace is facing multiple challenges. Despite many accelerated post-pandemic benefits such as remote working and investment in automation technology, some businesses are contending with staff burnout, anxiety and overload which feed into an uncertainty around workplace performance and functionality.
In 20211, research published in Human Resource Development International found that the pandemic left us with a range of confused feelings about work-life balance. The shifts in work and non-work patterns have influenced employees’ work-family balance, which, in turn, have affected employees’ adjustment to and satisfaction with remote work.
TAKE A BREAK
One solution to the work-life balance challenge is to develop a culture that prioritises ‘healthy’ separation. This might mean actively encouraging employees to block their work communications outside of work hours, such as encouraging colleagues to take proper breaks and not respond to emails at the weekend or during holidays.
However, this approach is not always achievable, and critical to implementing good work-life balance is understanding what works best for you and your team. Research from the University of Sussex2 suggests that blanket bans on out-of-hours communication can be actively harmful to some employees, particularly those with anxiety or control issues.
Some people use work email to manage their tasks and work flexibly and conveniently, while others find it disruptive to their workflow. Understanding how and when your team use email is important, but email policy is also governed by your corporate culture. In striking a balance between organisational need and employee preference, flexible consultation is key.
The pandemic has demonstrated that in some working environments there may not always be a pressing need to be in the office every day. Scrapping core hours can mean less time wasted on the daily commute and, ultimately, a smarter way of working. Meeting client needs and building client relationships are essential and a Harvard Business Review study3 found that flexibility impacts the bottom line by encouraging employees to be more results-driven.
There are also talent-attraction benefits to be gained by offering a more adaptable approach as many jobseekers are demanding more flexibility post-pandemic.
ALL ON THE SAME TEAM
However, getting the balance right between looking out for employees’ wellbeing and recognising work-life balance, while also ensuring they remain connected to the organisation and its services are valued by clients is an ongoing challenge. As a network, UHY embraces enthusiasm, integrity and teamwork, and offering opportunities for collaboration is central to maintaining these values – you can read more about the way UHY embraces collaboration in my recent blog on the topic, Collaboration Works.
Research shows that collaborative teams are more innovative so fostering connectivity is another key way to keep employees engaged. UHY’s internal collaboration channels offer multiple ways of sharing best practice and accessing wider knowledge.
Whatever your approach, significant challenges – and opportunities – lie ahead. Work-life balance and team engagement are both important.
1 Werner Pfennig on Pexels
2 Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
3 Christina @ wocintechchat.com
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