Requested help to lift accounting firm into the clouds

The accounting firm was struggling to make its mark in an industry in upheaval, and needed a business developer to implement forward-looking measures for the company. From the pile of applicants, one candidate stood out by virtue of his sincere desire to make a big difference to a small firm.

The requirement: to transform the business from traditional to contemporary accounting services

In 2015, principal owner and general manager of accounting and consulting firm Enova Business Services, Iver Røskaft, realised that he desperately needed help to lift the traditional accounting business out of the doldrums. At the time, the company consisted of 11 employees across two offices, in Sarpsborg and Lørenskog. Iver realised that if his company was to have a real chance in the future, he could no longer stand by and watch new technology and more proactive players taking over more and more the jobs.

The accounting industry has undergone a revolution since Iver Røskaft started his career as an accountant some 25 years ago. A great deal has happened in the past few years, both on the systems side and in the definition of the accountant's role. These days, people expect financial and payroll systems to be web-based and in the cloud. Accountants and economists need to be both systems experts and strategic consultants for clients in matters concerning operations, efficiency and profitability.

Fruitless recruitment

Iver had long been looking for the right candidate to bring the firm into line with the competition and offer future-proofed finance and accounting services. His personal ambition to resign from his managerial role and spend more of his time as a financial advisor meant that, as well as a business developer, he was also looking for a future general manager of Enova Business Services.

“I was looking for a 3-in-1 solution: authorisation as an accountant, a thorough knowledge of ICT systems and good managerial skills. Chartered accountants are thin on the ground so, already at the first hurdle, I was faced with a real challenge”, says Iver Røskaft.

Also, management skills proved difficult to find in combination with the other two criteria. Several recruitment agencies were given the opportunity but were unable to find the right candidates. That was when Iver decided to consult Interimleder who he knew about through regular email newsletters.

Delivered 21 qualified applicants in a matter of days

Interimleder took the assignment seriously and assured Iver that they had suitable candidates in their database. A job description for project manager of business development was prepared and distributed to Interimleder's large networks, and within a few days they reported that 21 interim managers were interested in the post. Of these, Iver selected four candidates who he was interested in having further discussions with.

Three of the candidates had a clear affiliation with the accounting industry and were perhaps more obvious choices for the job that needed doing, while the fourth candidate stood out in terms of personal qualities. The latter was Lars Gotaas.

Too good to be true?

“Lars stood out as being the right person in terms of managerial skills and I thought he would fit in well with us. His CV was impressive but not that of a typical accountant. I was a little bit sceptical, truth be told. Why did this man want to move from a position of responsibility in a major group of companies to that of a hired project manager of business development at a small accounting firm? No, it didn't quite make sense”, relates Iver.

Lars Gotaas, for his part, had become tired of working in cumbersome organisations with long decision paths. He was ready to work more operationally, in a smaller organisation, where the road from words to action is shorter and, last but not least, where he could make a real difference.

In discussions about the position he had the opportunity to convey this, and Iver's scepticism evaporated.

“Wrong” candidate was the right one

“I was probably not the obvious candidate for the position. A typical recruitment agency would probably have pigeon-holed me so I wouldn't have been considered as a possible candidate but, thanks to Interimleder's candidate database, I was presented with the job description. I was immediately interested and decided to apply straight away”, says Lars.

Iver was equally interested in Lars as a candidate but had to go a few rounds with himself first. Basically because there was one glaring omission from Lars's CV: he was not an authorised accountant! If Lars were to become general manager, authorisation would be a formal requirement in an accounting business.

To date, Lars has passed one of three exams on the road to renewed authorisation, and is currently preparing for exam number two.

“The fact that Lars was willing to go ahead with renewing his authorisation gave me confidence that he was in this for the long haul, although initially he was on a short-term contract of employment”, says Iver.

From hired help to boss

Initially Lars was hired for a period of three months from January 2016. The contract was then extended to apply to the whole year. In January 2017, according to plan, he assumed the permanent role of general manager of Enova Business Services. He also went on to become a partner in the firm.

“Lars quickly showed that he has the managerial qualities required by the company. At an early stage, he was given free rein to tackle the business head on, applying cost-cutting measures and replacing core systems both in-house and on behalf of clients, with all the challenges that entails. It's not easy coming in as an outsider and making such major changes, but Lars managed to do this while establishing excellent relations with the staff – in the middle of the busiest time of the year with the annual report and accounts”, says Iver.

Interim management a good alternative for small businesses, too

For Iver Røskaft and his company, hiring a project manager for business development for almost a year has obviously been a significant additional cost. However, the cost has not been so great that he would not advise other small and medium-sized businesses to consider an interim manager when a job needs to be done. He looks on it as an investment.

“I never felt that I was running a big risk”, says Iver. “My contact at Interimleder was an excellent advisor throughout the process. I also knew, of course, that if it didn't work out with the candidate I chose, I could quickly release myself from the contract.”

Fortunately for both parties the collaboration has worked extremely well and measures adopted so far have already started to have a positive effect on the reporting figures.

“Beyond all expectations”, says Lars about the opportunities he has been given courtesy of Enova Business Services. “I found myself being thanked by Iver's wife for giving her husband renewed motivation to go to work. That's the best confirmation I could have that I'm making a difference”, he smiles.

Iver, Lars and the other 10 employees at Enova Business Services (as at October 2016) are now looking forward to facing the future as an up-to-the-minute, competitive business.