What can we learn from Accounts teams about navigating change?

How do you juggle suppliers, occupiers, clients and your own business needs at a time of unprecedented change and upheaval?

The past few months have been full of lessons: opportunities to trial new things, to see what works, what doesn’t, and what we should have been doing a long time ago.

Right at the heart of MAPP sits the Client Accounts and Central Accounts teams. These 60+ people manage and solve client issues, keep suppliers operating effectively, and provide valuable insights that impact the way we operate on a daily basis, as well as plan for the future.

Everyone from property managers on-site, to surveyors, and external clients with property portfolios, rely on their proactive knowledge to take care of every aspect of financial management for their buildings.

But when everything turns upside down, how do you keep all those plates spinning?

Here are some of the lessons we can learn from the accounts team about adapting quickly and communicating effectively.

 

Manage expectations and stick to promises

Finding the right balance, and ensuring that you take a holistic and true assessment of everything that is going on across the business means that your communication can be authentic. Knowledge is power. It enables you to manage expectations confidently, and be sure that you are able to deliver what you say you will.

And that’s critically important, as your valuable suppliers’ businesses may depend on it.

In particular, the purchase ledger team at MAPP on the ‘frontline’ of supplier management required the right information at the right time, as well as clear lines of communication with key suppliers.

Martin Holland, Senior Exec Director, Client & Central Accounting said:

“They are the unsung heroes, in a way. The purchase ledger team was able to maintain that confidence from the outset, and ensure everyone knew what was happening throughout. This level of support was game-changing. Not only did it build trust with our suppliers, but it meant they could put their own survival plans in place too. It was a truly excellent team effort, and I am very proud of them all”.

 

Don’t get distracted by the short-term

When things really began to change towards the middle and end of March it was tempting to bunker down and look at just the next few steps ahead. To try and not think about what might happen for the rest of the year, let alone the next quarter.

The accounts team at MAPP were not afforded that luxury. Instead, thinking long-term was what enabled them to build a strong foundation for 2020, and even surpass expectations when it came to June quarter day.

There was, of course, a need to manage cash flow, but longer term planning meant that any consequences were dealt with in a way that didn’t impact negatively on the business, clients or suppliers.

It also meant that dialogue with clients could be informed and open. Having tough conversations early on, rather than putting things off and hoping for the best, instilled confidence instead of causing problems further down the line.

Long term thinking also comes into play with the operational management of internal teams.

Knowing what is coming next, and how you can best react to it, enables employees to plan their own lives around ongoing change. At a time of uncertainty, this has had a huge impact on individuals in different personal situations across the business.

 

Nurture an agile structure

If you are able to develop an agile and flexible way of working, when unavoidable change happens, you are in a stronger position to adapt and thrive.

Making a quick and realistic assessment of priority meetings and points of contact for team members creates a framework for productivity that isn’t reliant upon traditional timetables.

Enabling a whole variety of communication channels to suit the team, the topic and the importance of the message also allows people the opportunity to own their own style of work, and hold themselves accountable. So, email, WhatsApp, Zoom, RingCentral, Beekeeper and a range of comms channels were brought into play.

How, when, where and why we are communicating doesn’t need to be set in stone, and an agile structure serves to empower employees to get work done in a way that suits them.

The core MAPP team had already built an agile way of working on the foundation of collaborative openness. Unusually, the accounts team at MAPP sits right alongside the surveyors. This creates a culture of participation that helps in times of crisis, as the systems of dialogue and relationships are already in place. Everyone is already tuned in to what the problems might be, and how to overcome them. 

It is a disaster recovery policy that thrives on flexibility and teamwork. Everything is everyone’s problem, and we are all equipped to solve it.

 

Build on relationships with better communication 

It seems an unusual thing to suggest that moving people physically apart has brought them closer together.

But, in fact, the MAPP accounts team has developed better and closer relationships with clients over the past few months, and in turn, their work is increasingly valued and appreciated.

Making the extra effort to support clients with the questions and concerns they have had whilst navigating their own paths through change, has given the accounts and client services team the opportunity to really demonstrate their worth.

Whether that’s providing daily or weekly insights and update reports, or simply being on the end of the phone whenever they were needed.

Approaching all of these challenges with a positive outlook, and sharing the responsibility of adapting, means that there is no drop in levels of service, and instead, a sense of resilience and efficiency that strengthens a team as they emerge from the other side.

 

So, what lessons will we keep from the past few months?

Adaptability, certainly. 

Fluid, honest and open communication, across internal teams, and with clients, occupiers and suppliers.

A sense of resilience and achievement that comes from overcoming adversity, by being level-headed, courageous, forward-thinking and positive.

And, when it comes to spinning plates, look to the Accounts team. 

They know how to keep business flying.