They say that professional services firms are nothing without their people. It makes sense that, for us at AdvanceTrack, the same saying rings true.
Quite rightly, we spend a lot of time talking about our operational excellence, and focus on processes, security and scalability. But these are underpinned by the technical expertise and work ethic of our people – without whom we wouldn’t be here.
With that in mind, MD Vipul Sheth discussed with managers in India about a plan to reward and recognise some of our longstanding team members. A five-day trip to Dubai was then organised for 2021.
Covid got in the way of that plan, while Dubai’s global expo during 2022 meant that we had to hold off the holiday until 2023.
“The team never bugged me about whether the trip would actually happen, but there was no way it was going be off the cards,” explains Vipul. “We just had to be patient.”
And so, in April, some 37 of the AdvanceTrack team went on holiday together. And for 32 of these people, it was their first time abroad.
“When it was announced we were all very excited – a great treat,” says AdvanceTrack’s Mohit Soni. “It wasn’t in our hands so we couldn’t assume anything about it. But it was fun, and no – I didn’t think I would have to work while we were away!”
The itinerary was a full one. There was a desert safari, cruises and city tours, along with free time for them to go shopping.
“They didn’t want me to have them in a conference room,” adds Vipul. “They chose to go to the waterpark instead!”
Aanal Shah has a young daughter, and was therefore reticent to travel. “But my colleagues said: ‘You must come. Don’t stop yourself.’ Everyone supported me on the holiday with her, and she enjoyed it too.”
“I would say that this is how it is working at AdvanceTrack. All the small things are taken care of for us – we don’t have to ask,” adds Mohit Soni.
Rajni Patel is one of AdvanceTrack’s longest-serving team members. The manager says there were “just a few of us here”. “It’s amazing to see how we’ve grown.”
“I’ve been here eight years and it feels like family,” Aanal Shah adds.
Vipul explains that he wanted to do something that “made us stand out as an organisation”.
“Part of that comes down to us giving opportunities that individually they might otherwise not have done,” says Vipul.
“The fact that we were able to offer that life-changing experience is really what it’s all about. It was an important thing to do.”
Ultimately, without good people, AdvanceTrack doesn’t have a good business – and that is the same for all businesses. “Sometimes that gets forgotten in the world we live in,” explains Vipul. “Profits are one thing and, of course, we operate ‘as a business’, but the long-term wellbeing of our people is a great investment.”
So, what next? “Hopefully something similar for the next group,” replies Vipul. “And then we’ll speak to the long-serving team about what they want!”
AI, outsourcing, automation, the future of accountants… and everything else in between
This article isn’t about technology… no, really. OK, I will talk about technology, but more as a scene-setter than anything else.
Instead, this blog is about you and me. Humans. Or to be more precise, humans that undertake accounting and tax work (and the subset that provide broader business advice). But the tech first.
The world’s largest technology players have invested in proprietary AI – or are looking to implement versions into their offering. Whereas a lot of the chatter around automation has been focused on easing the burden of rudimentary tasks that accountants undertake, discussions around AI have been around replacing accountants. ‘If the data crunching can be automated, and then next steps of the conversation handled by AI, then why accountants?’
So, is that it for the accountancy profession? Certainly not. Is it the end for it in its current iteration? Perhaps yes.
AI works by aggregating data and making a ‘best fit’ case for a request from us, humans, to provide us with an ‘answer’. This data is quantitative or qualitative. We have seen AI tools produce some very clever ‘scripts’ upon request though, in truth, most of these don’t quite fit the bill – and require us humans to further interpret and edit.
Perhaps the ‘clear-cut’ nature of numbers will be a different story then? Well, we’ve had computational equipment for decades, and the profession is still alive and well.
Technicians and advisers
It could be argued that the profession is evolving – that as tax and accounting becomes more complex, and businesses require more hand-holding and advice, that we will see a greater distinction between ‘technicians’ and advisers’. This is true, but there is a tension – that relationships have often been borne from initial compliance work. In other words, for the technician/adviser distinction to be made, there will have to be changes in practices’ structure and approach.
The other thing to consider is: micro and small businesses are messy. They’re driven by people with skills and ambition, for whom the numbers, marketing and ‘rules’ get in the way of what they really want to do. They also operate in subtly different ways to each. That’s a lot of lifting and transactional automation for AI to comprehend.
Finally, and back to us as humans doing business. It can be very lonely. And accountants are in a wonderful position to not only manage compliance, but to provide insight on all the information that automation and AI has formed on OUR behalf. Business owners want advice and support. Ideally, from a wise head (that has the rest of a human attached to it). That wise human could (and probably should) be you.
FAQ: TELL US ABOUT YOUR INDIAN TEAM
You’ve read a bit about the AdvanceTrack team already – this FAQ gives you more detail about their day-to-day work (and their working environment). MD Vipul Sheth explains why they’re critical to our outsourcing and offshoring offerings.
In 2005 we had five people operating in one of our locations – now our team number is in the hundreds. One of those original five was Rajni, who has been a constant for us and has helped to set the culture and tone of our much-enlarged group – hopefully in my mirror of being honest; decent people wanting to do a good job.
It’s also a place where people must feel safe to make it their own – certainly when you don’t have the big boss watching over things every day.
If any of our client firms had an office like ours then I think they’d be proud to call it their own. It’s spacious and paperless (the exception being HR’s printer – some formal documents HAVE to be printed). It’s contemporary and modern.
We have meeting rooms, smaller breakout spaces and canteens across all our four offices. We want our people to step away from their desks during breaks – we don’t want too much of a production line-style way of working.
No mobile phones are allowed in the office for security reasons – that even means guests. Recently the IPL cricket was reaching its crescendo, and people on their break would watch it in the canteen and relay the scores when back at their desk.
There are metal detectors to pass when you arrive, along with lockers for valuables (such as the mobile phone) – for visitors and staff.
We have very happy and productive teams, and recently we took our longest-serving members to Dubai.
Even though our team numbers are growing quickly, we have plenty of people to help them settle into our way of working. It’s incredibly calm, and make sure the work’s done. But it’s important to appreciate and represent the social side of things too.