How Summit CPA Became a Distributed Accounting Firm
Overcoming our fears and transitioning from a traditional brick-and-mortar office to a remote team.
Accounting and finance professors Charles J. Coate, Mark C. Mitschow and Michael D. Schiniski conducted a survey in 2003 about the perceptions people have about accountants — both from inside and outside of the accounting world. Results from this survey indicated that accountants are believed to be “less imaginative, changing with difficulty and reliant upon established norms.”
“Accountants love change!” …said nobody, ever.
Imagine how my office of 18 people, mostly accountants, reacted when I suggested that we close down our brick-and-mortar office and start working as a distributed company. In short, it wasn’t well received.
Here are some of the excuses they gave me:
- “We won’t be able to collaborate.”
- “We can’t meet with people face-to-face.”
- “I’ll be distracted at home; my kids are around.”
- “I don’t have office space.”
- “My internet at home isn’t good enough.”
You name it, I heard it. So I caved. Instead of forcing everybody to do something they did not want to do, I decided to focus instead on the building we were already in. I thought if we weren’t going to leave the office, I was going to make the office really cool. I was going to make it a space that we could grow into as a company with room for up to 30 employees, nearly double our size at the time. Ultimately, my real goal was to make the environment a great place to work, and if that meant a brick-and-mortar office space, so be it.
The renovations were going to take six weeks. I had to tear down the walls and there was going to be construction everywhere — how else could we get a $100K 250-gallon fish tank inside? So I asked everyone to appease me and work from home for just that short period of time so we could complete the project and then we’d all be back in our fresh, new offices. Guess what happened after six weeks?
When it came time for those 18 people to return back to the office, 12 of them came to me and asked if they could work from home. Turns out, they really liked working from home once they had gotten used to it. What it really came down to was a fear of change or a fear of the unknown, but our temporary time out of the office helped give us a new perspective on our ability to work remotely.
Here’s how our perspective on remote work changed:
- Collaborating Remotely: We found out we were able to collaborate when working remotely just as much as, if not more than, we were when we were in the office together by using tools like Sococo and Slack.
- Remote Meetings: We were able to conduct face-to-face meetings using video conferencing tools.
- Working at Home with Kids: The employees with kids realized the kids could still go to daycare or they could bring someone into the home to babysit while they were working.
- Home Office Space: Those without office space in their homes were able to come up with creative solutions. We realized one of the main keys to being productive when working from home is to have a door so you can close yourself off and focus on your work.
- Internet Speed: And those with concerns about internet speed were able to contact their internet companies and upgrade their service or change to another ISP in order to meet the minimum upload/download speed requirements for running the video conferencing tools and cloud-based programs.
After all of those renovations, only six people were left in the office. Now we’re down to just four, and we’ve grown to employ about 40 people who are distributed all over the country! If we had stayed confined to our brick-and-mortar space, we would have outgrown it by now, and I believe we would have had to make some tough business decisions that could have significantly affected our ability to grow.
People may perceive accountants as being resistant to change, and I can’t argue with that, but I can say that I do love being a part of our mission here at Summit CPA: Changing the way people think about accounting!
Summit CPA is a distributed accounting firm with a non-traditional approach to accounting. We have an amazing team of CPAs and accountants who provide professional Virtual CFO Services and 401(k) Audits for companies all over the United States — many of which are remote companies as well. We fully understand the accounting, bookkeeping, cash flow management, and business tax nuances that come with being distributed, and we love helping our clients overcome these challenges through our own experience and expertise.