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Episode 10: What is the Role of a Senior Production Manager in Managing your Traffic Flow?
In this episode of The Wize Guys, Brenton Ward and Jamie Johns talk about the effects that hiring a Senior Production Manager can have not only on your workload as the owner of the accounting firm but on the growth of the business and satisfaction of customers.
Also, find out the role of the senior production manager in managing the traffic flow to scale your accounting business.
0:35 - What are the issues and challenges when structure and processes are not in place?
1:44 - Understanding the traffic within your accounting firm
2:19 - Different types of clients traffic
2:49 - The importance of hiring right people and delegation
3:06 - How to structure a team
4:05 - How to deal with the chaos
4:43 - The roles of grinders, minders, and finders
5:09 - The concept of a quadrant traffic
6:02 - Ways to check traffic flows
6:33 - The importance of having the senior roles in place
8:12 - How to promote people matching their best skill
9:27 - How no bypass policy impacts the role of a senior production manager
“..the context of this whole discussion is around team design. When we all start as I did, we start by ourselves and we do everything. We do everything.” - Jamie Johns
“Now we'd look at the traffic flows is one of the biggest issues that firms face when they're growing.. we do that by starting to build out this ideal team structure, but the ideal team structure and getting the resource mix, right. It doesn't happen overnight.” - Brenton Ward
“..each one you go to depends on who you've got in the firm in terms of the resource mix... So don't promote them into a seat that doesn't suit them.” - Jamie Johns
“If you don't put these senior roles in place, you as the owner or the partner can start getting out of control, losing clients, getting chaos, and you stop growing.” - Jamie Johns
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Download the full transcript here.
“If you don't put these senior roles in place, you as the owner or the partner can start getting out of control, losing clients, getting chaos, and you stop growing.”
Brenton Ward: To set the scene and give us a little bit of context as to how we've come up with this role and what importance it plays in the ideal team structure. Talk to us a little bit about the issue that we face when we don't have this role in place and when we don't have the structure in place.
Jamie Johns: I'll probably quote what Mr. Ed Chan said. Ed always says ‘We need to set the context would need,’ Brenton. So, the context of this whole discussion is around team design. When we all start as I did, we start by ourselves and we do everything. We do everything. And back in the old days, always the receptionist, the accountant, the client manager, literally everything. And then once you scale your practice to a hundred thousand and fees, 200, 300, 400, 500 things have to change. Because if they don't change, you'll just end up in hospital as all did. I shouldn't laugh about it but do end up in the hospital from stress.
You can just get out of control and you get out of control. We thought all the traffic and all of us watching know what that traffic is and what the traffic is particularly the communication with the clients. The traffic with the clients comes in emails. It comes in appointments, it comes in sales meetings. It comes in telephone calls. I used to get traffic and I think the guys get traffic in the sky, even on Facebook messenger, text messages. So you're just bombarded with this traffic. The more clients you get, all of us like to keep clients, and we never liked to stay no to new clients. So we just kept getting all this traffic and then that's traffic from the clients. But once you've, once you've won the client and then you have to do the work, getting the work done is doing the bookkeeping, doing the bank rec, doing the payroll, the pairing, the financial statements, doing the tax returns. And that's, that's the type production work. And so what's your following is if you don't hire people and delegate effectively, you will get out of control. It'll be chaos. And a lot of us have been there and done that. And again, that's where I got to the point where I reached out to Ed, six years ago and said, ‘Ed, how do you do this? How do you structure your attain so that you get your life back?’
And what you do Brenton is you get to the point where you hire people, but then the question becomes, ‘Well, how do I structure that team?’ Like, do I just keep adding accounts? And so we'll keep on one after another because I've got more work. And I ended up with these tight this flat sort of talk team. And in the early days, like, it'd be almost like every accountant does the same thing. So every account that I hired, yes, they communicated with the clients and I did the work. And so they're almost like a clone of me. That didn't work because the communication traffic ended up sort of going over the place. There was no sort of a rhyme or reason around who looked after the clients who had the portfolio clients who did the production work.
So even though you add more people, I can still end up in chaos. You end up with Brenton at what eight says is, is a really wide and, and flat team. And so there's no leverage in that. So everyone has to know everything. So every accountant or every bookkeeper has to know everything about bookkeeping and everything about tax because that's what the client demands, but then they also need to know have all the production skills and the knowledge to get the work done and also the sales skills.
But we all know that we're not all wired like that. We're all different. And then that's where Ed comes back to the context of grinders, minders, and finders. Each person plays their role in the team, which is what we developed at Wize Mentoring, branching after lengthy discussions, where they're around this whole concept of a deep and narrow team and where the traffic goes.
So in terms of today's discussion, when we look at that traffic quadrant. We're talking about the top right-hand corner, the senior client manager, and you can see there that the traffic complexity is high-level traffic. It's more complex torture traffic, but we also see then on the vertical access is that it's production traffic. And if f we zone in on that senior production manager, it's all about production-type work. They deal with production work, but they deal with high-end work in helping the production team, get the work done. And that's where I see on the team. From that, you can tell the type of traffic and the questions and the, and the work that they need to do.
Brenton Ward: Okay. Now we'd look at the traffic flows is one of the biggest issues that firms face when they're growing, because of all the things that you've just mentioned there. And then we decided that, okay, we're going to get our traffic flow in check. And we do that by starting to build out this ideal team structure, but the ideal team structure and getting the resource mix, right. It doesn't happen overnight. And it's not something that we can just automatically fill the seats in this idea of team structure straight away because it's going to depend on our fee levels. It's going to depend on the people we have, the resources we have at the time.
So talk to us a little bit about getting this resource mix, right. And then moving towards understanding. Well, when does the senior production manager role come into play? Even in the sky, you guys are working for your teams out.
Jamie Johns: Yeah. It's a great question. And there are a lot of questions about this they send the was trauma on Facebook. And just to explain it, what happens is depending on your field level. So if you're at a field level of say 3, 4, 500, then often the senior accountant is the senior production manager. In that sense, you might have someone else who is a budding or up-and-coming assistant client manager and a senior accountant because of the personality, because we know that the finders have to have that high-end interpersonal skills. So you're not going to put in place a senior production manager or like an assistant client manager until your fee level warrants. It starts kicking in at a random about 600,000 in fees, which Ed has always said, and we know from 600,000 to a million is where the barriers to the growth are that if you don't put these senior roles in place. That you, as the irony or the partner, can start getting out of control, losing clients, getting chaos, and, and you stop growing. That's the best way to explain it.
I've had countless conversations with accountants over the years that they've been at 600,000 or 800,000, the same level for 20 years, even. Yeah. So the key is to recognize that in the early days, the senior accountant, for example, or the senior bookkeeper is also the up and coming senior production manager, or even assistant client manager. Now each one you go to depends on who you've got in the firm in terms of the resource mix. And if you've got someone there who's a senior accountant, right. Brenton and they're fantastic at talking, they've got really good interpersonal skills, social intelligence, they call it as well. Then your next step might be, what their best to be the assistant client manager. So don't promote them into a seat that doesn't suit them.
Whereas you might have someone on your team, who's a senior accountant, you've got $500,000 in phase or four 50 say, and you know that you're growing quite fast. And, and you're thinking ahead, okay, well, this person doesn't have that good interpersonal skills. They're not really in that sales type person, but I'll tell you what, they're output people. They don't talk much, but because they just get the work done and it ends up on my desk, 95% are done. Now, they don't fulfill that role totally and just do review work until you get to six, seven, 800,000 a phase. And then they pushed the work down.
So you hire another accountant, you hire another bookkeeper. They slot in underneath the senior production manager. Then they start instead of doing the work Brenton, they start reviewing the work, right? And then it's really important for the senior client manager or the partner who, or the owner not to bypass them. Right? So this bypass policy comes into play again, on that minder level because you don't want to undermine them in what their role is. What's their role. Their role is to review the quality of the work and help the senior accounts are saying your book covers do their work and manage the production team.
At the end of the day, depending on the fees that you've got, yes, some people do have to wear two ads, but as you grow and add more fees, then you promote that person fully into that role. And you tell them, you guide them and you show leadership of what their role is. Now, what are the no bypass policies in what they're accountable for, and what their KPIs are?