Listen to this episode here: Be Brave and Go for Opportunities

Welcome to our blog for TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz. In this article, we wrap up our conversation with Adam Irwin, Chief Operating Officer and Partner of Pitcher Partners Sydney, Australia’s eighth largest accounting and business advisory firm.

The Journey So Far

Adam has been working for the firm for over 18 years and he has recently been appointed the Managing Partner of Pitcher Partner for the new financial year.

He started working for Moore Stephens in Sydney as a finance manager. Back then, the company was a five-partner firm with around 30 to 40 staff. In 2015, Moore Stephens and Pitcher Partners merged their Sydney operations, with the merged firm to operate under the Pitcher Partners name, and now they have 300 staff members and 31 partners. Adam believes the two practices were very aligned when two practices merged, and the key cultural issues are aligned, so the firm is in a great position to start the next stage of its journey.

Back to Basics

Adam thinks the last 12 months have been a ‘back to basics’ approach, because suddenly the fundamentals around productivity became the key metrics that you were looking at on a daily basis. People needed to come up with new ways of managing and keeping engaged with people to make sure that they were responsive to people’s needs and being agile enough to deal with issues as they arose.

For Adam, it wasn’t about making big changes all at once but a reactive transform. As the firm grows, the focus, attention might change with time too. Adam has a passion for technology and believes we can enhance how we work with technology. For him, technology and data insights have allowed us to develop, deal and manage relationship better, and it will continue to be a key focus for the practice. Moreover, he says that people are more conscious of wellbeing as the work from home scenario made it easier for people.

Technology Helps – Everperform

Before COVID-19, Adam’s team started working with an organisation called Everperform, which measures a firm’s performance data and provides personalised insights to help improve the productivity, wellbeing, and connections of people. The platform worked very fast to redevelop its tools to help Adam’s team. The team members could work from home, be comfortable with all the arrangements, and get the communications right. Equally important now is how to get people comfortable returning to the office.

Adam thinks it’s an important piece of tech. But it doesn’t replace in-person communications. He now looks into how to complement that personal pace by using technology to collect a multitude of data.

Take a Position

As another response to the pandemic, Adam and his team implemented the Management Committee, which was a couple of the senior partners and an HR. They were meeting every week, looking at reports and analysis from Everperform.

Now the things are getting back to normal, and they are focusing on getting people back to the office because they are very confident that the office structure is the best way to go for their business. Now they have been quite proactive around people returning to the office.

The data from Everperform helps them to get a handle on what people were concerned about. One of the things was, people wanted the practice to make a decision and give them the framework to work in and establish the boundaries for them

Adam thinks it’s important for a company to take a position when it comes to whether they should return to the office. However, a company should make sure the plan is well thought and considered. They should communicate and work with staff together to achieve the outcome. When people are concerned about going back to the office, Adam thinks it’s essential to work with the person, understand their concerns, and have a mechanism to give them the level of comfort or allow them to take their time

There were no fundamental changes for Adam and his team because they have always had flexible working arrangements. Adams cites that they have always had trust in their people to do the right things.

Key Risks

Adam says there are many third-party providers that now offer customised tech solutions, and it’s getting cheaper and simpler. He thinks there are mainly three risk areas in the cybersecurity space. First and foremost, clients’ data. As trusted advisors and accountants, they can’t escape from the fact that they hold significant data on clients. In some instances, they also have the ability to transact on bank accounts. As a practice, they are very deliberate around the value of data. They also invest a fair amount of time in staff education on cybersecurity.

The second risky area is third-party vendor threat, especially when dealing with tech and software companies. There’s an assumption made that because they’re in technology that they’ve thought through it all out. However, in a lot of instances, the reality is not the case. You need to communicate and understand how incidents and the implications are handled to protect the data.

The third one is the people, Adam addresses. He has been very conscious of making sure both staff and clients don’t get left behind. Education and communication can help them to be on the same page. Technology cannot replace people.

If there’s a breach of client data, Adam wants to control their responses to that breach to avoid a third party going out and contacting clients and informing them of what’s happened.

A Piece of Advice

Adam recalls in the past, it’s very easy for them to get caught up in servicing clients and making sure they have looked after. In some instances, the practice itself gets forgotten. He believes that it is important to make sure that the practice is not forgotten, and the people are taken care of.

He also wants to add that one of their value of the firm is to be brave. He believes it’s very important to be brave, put yourself forward and go for opportunities when they’re there.