by Pramod Mishra 27 August 2020

Adoption of Technology Helped this CA Firm with 100 Employees Thrive

Setting up my own CA firm and leading it to where it is now! I started Neeraj Bhagat & Co. in 1997 immediately after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. I started with a single-room office and with two employees, desperate for revenue…. trust me it wasn’t simple at all! What kept me going? Passion and determination! I knew that if I was able to manage my growing pains and stick to my guns, I would last the longest and shine brightest and here I am now, having 4 Branch Offices with more than 100 representatives in total….so yes, I have come a long way! Did this happen overnight? No! Rome was not built in a day…and it took me more than 20 years to reach this position, so patience is the key. Dealing with challenges and emerging stronger In my practice of more than 2 decades, I have faced many challenges, but my attitude has always been – to stay optimistic and see opportunities in adversity. Some of the challenges faced by me were:

How do I measure the health of my business?
What are the three most important metrics that I can use to confirm that my business is successful? Am I hiring the right professionals? How do I retain my clients? (Learning what to do to retain my clients for the long term – this was my biggest challenge!) However, these 3 qualities have really helped me succeed:

  • Taking Ownership: Most people who perform well take complete ownership of what they do. They take initiatives. I too did the same and still do!
  • Managing Cash Flow: Successful businesses understand the importance of cash flow and make sure to keep a healthy cash balance to address any unexpected expenses or situations. This ability to have a good cash flow has helped me today!
  • Positivity: Successful people focus only on positives; they don’t complain or criticize. They don’t talk about problems but about solutions. They focus on Positive ENERGY. I always keep myself motivated by not worrying even during tough times…I try to think outside the box for solutions for any problems.
Adapting to ‘Work from Home’ for a team of 100 employees
When we first got to know about the complete lockdown because of COVID-19, it didn’t scare me at all as we all know it’s a short-term change.   Also, most of our team managers and article assistants work remotely whenever they are on audits…so they are used to working remotely.   With the help of technology, they are given remote access to all the software, online subscriptions, access to dropbox, zoom, etc.   However, transitioning to working 100% remotely from home (not clients place) that too in a short span of time did come with its own challenges.   But we knew the only way to succeed in a situation like this is to ‘Adapt Quickly’. Also, this experience will open doors for new and better strategies of collaborative working and some successful mergers!

Practices that helped us cope in this tough time:
  • Good Communication  
We ensure that our interaction with our team has not stopped. Instead, our Managers talk to their team members on a conference call every morning and update them on pending work, daily routine, issues faced by them. With my team standing with me in this tough phase and working round the clock, operations are very smooth and functional.
  •  Collaborative Working  
All Article Assistants, Managers, Senior Managers are working in collaboration on WhatsApp Groups, be it their respective teams, inter teams, escalations, resolutions, guidance, solutions. Our Team has been collaborating through Zoom Audio & Video Conferencing, WhatsApp calls, and WhatsApp groups. All documents are being shared on Dropbox to facilitate remote document sharing.
  • Understanding and trusting each other  
Though we are used to working remotely, working from ‘home’ is not the same! Many of our team members especially article assistants and the junior team members do face challenges because all homes are not great workspaces. With the entire family in lockdown within the house, it can make working difficult, but all our managers are supporting and helping them to come out as real soldiers. Extra Tip: Trust your team.
  • Establishing a remote leadership team 
All the leaders and managers at Neeraj Bhagat & Co. have established a remote leadership team. This team ensures daily calls in the morning, guiding their teams throughout, strategizing their team members’ daily plan and responding to all requirements through calls and emails! So, in a way, we can say that we are walking the talk and leading by example when it comes to remote working.
  • Adopting and Adapting to Technology
One of the main reasons we have been able to withstand all of this is because of ‘Technology’. But we did not do all of this overnight. Back in early 2011, we decided that ‘technology was the way’. Whenever there is a new technology in the market that can benefit my firm, my team and my clients…we do not wait, we adopt the same! To give you an example, we follow the practice of giving laptops to all new hires…we have no desktops in our office! We have ‘no knowledge banks in the form of books’ instead we have a digital knowledge bank. We have online subscriptions and we keep adding them on a regular basis to keep it updated and useful for all. We use Dropbox for all documents to be in the shared mode for years now. Be it zoom conferencing, skype video calls, or WhatsApp Groups, we have it all. We also encouraged our clients to opt for Cloud Accounting (which has been a boon in times like this!) Extra Tip: Please adapt to Technology as this is something with which your team can work regardless of location…be it home, be it office, be it a park it’s always there!

Do you want to start adopting ‘remote work’ as well? Here are a few pointers.

1. Communication through technology  
Real-time communication is very pertinent to a daily routine for any business. Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp have helped us transforming in-person meetings to dynamic video conference calls.

2.  IT Backup and support 24*7  
Remote Desktop and Net Extender has helped all our 100 employees work remotely! (A big Thanks to our IT team who have been working day in and out so we all can work!) We created an open remote desktop to ensure that we all were helping one another always. Our IT team has made this possible for us in the current situation. Also, we always had ‘Team Viewer ‘and ‘Any Desk’ to support the team members.

3. Partners and Top Management
All the partners and top management are continuously communicating with clients and Managers. They are guiding them on problems faced, guidance on resolutions, and giving them the necessary motivations.

4. Remote HR
HR Manager has been calling employees and asking about their wellbeing and that of their family members, continuously motivating them for collaborative working. We are strong believers in Remote Empowerment! A few words to conclude… All I can say is, what we are facing now in the form of lockdown is a tough phase but a short one. However, we can adopt a new style of working with a new style of communication.   Let’s drive this cultural change on a long-term basis. Let’s contribute to the remote working model by trust, support, communication.  

Most importantly, I would like to thank all my articles and junior staff whom I consider as silent heroes in this hour of need. Their contribution to the smooth working cannot be ignored and they are the real soldiers on the ground.