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Feb 09, 2021

Jimmy Sheehan, Managing Director at Teams PLUS, discusses the not-so-secret weapon used to drive efficiency and profitability in accountancy practices and finance functions.

According to Teams PLUS Managing Director Jimmy Sheehan, there is a word which every accountant, whether working in practice or as part of a finance team in industry, knows. “It’s a word that divides opinion as cleanly as Moses divided the Red Sea. It is a word that held many negative connotations until recent years when it became more acceptable as it became more understood. I’ll come back to that word shortly.”

Anyone currently recruiting will agree that the war for talent in the professional accountancy arena continues, and competition for both trainee and qualified accountants has never been more intense. This is a natural consequence of a growing economy and a real shortage of professionals in the market.

“In 2007, the number of students taking accountancy exams peaked,” notes Sheehan. “That fell off quite dramatically during the financial crisis and has never fully recovered.”

Established in 2019 as part of the Contracting PLUS group, Teams PLUS offers a solution to accountancy practices and organisations seeking to expand their finance teams but encountering difficulties finding the right candidates in Ireland.

“Not only is there a shortage of qualified and trainee accountants, but employers also have to deal with heightened career expectations,” Sheehan explains. “Today’s trainee accountants want to move up the career ladder quite quickly. They don’t want to spend all day doing menial, repetitive tasks but want to spend more time involved in higher-level work instead. The recently qualified accountant wants to be right in the thick of client meetings, managing relationships and improving their business skills and acumen. This is great for the companies they work for, but it leaves the obvious question: who will do the actual accounting work? Our service allows employers to meet those expectations while finding the people they need to do that very important accounting work.”

Extended Teams is a core offering of Teams PLUS. The basis of the offering is providing clients with dedicated accounting professionals based on their work requirements. “We find the best people to do this work,” says Sheehan. “We hire them as our employees, looking after all the legal and HR requirements, but they are dedicated to the client. They take direction from the client, do whatever work the client needs them to do, and work the hours that suit the client. There are no recruitment costs, no need to purchase laptops or phones, no hidden extras. The client pays an affordable monthly fee for a dedicated worker, which is substantially cheaper and easier than finding and hiring their own employee.”

Sheehan, who successfully sold his own practice to a Top 10 firm, says: “I tried outsourcing when I had my own practice – there’s that word I said I’d come back to. It didn’t work for me, but the fault lay with me. I look back today and see why it didn’t work. I also spoke to dozens of accountants I know and tried to understand their views, good and bad, on outsourcing. Armed with that information, we have developed a perfect service for accountancy practices and finance teams in Ireland.”

Teams PLUS grew out of the Contracting PLUS umbrella company provider, which has operated in India for 12 years. “Contracting PLUS was founded in 2002 by Michael Dineen,” says Sheehan. “It is a specialist accountancy and tax service provider operating in a very narrow but very deep niche. The company provides invoicing, payroll, bookkeeping, accounting and tax services for independent professionals and contractors across various sectors, including IT, pharma, engineering, and project management. Companies or recruiters typically hire these individuals on a project basis for six or 12 months. We offer a full suite service for them.”

The Indian connection came about by chance. “Back in 2010, one of our IT team members was getting married back home in India. Our founder, Michael Dineen, went to the wedding and was very impressed by what he saw in terms of accountancy talent. That was the start of the Indian operation. I visited the office in January 2019 when we had about 100 people in the office, which is located in the Kerala region on the south-west coast. I was blown away by the whole operation. State-of-the-art offices, high-tech security – but most importantly, the quality of talent.”

On his return from India, Sheehan used his experience of outsourcing to restructure the Contracting PLUS business and built Extended Teams behind the client-facing staff in Ireland. More focus was put on building client relationships and acting as an advocate for clients.

“This is time-consuming for the person at the front, but the Extended Team model allows the repetitive but important work to be done in the background so the value of the client relationship can be enhanced out front. The model is so simple, yet so effective. I wished such a model existed when I was in practice, so we decided that’s what we’d do.”

Teams PLUS is growing slowly – but that’s deliberate. “We won’t work with everyone who approaches us,” Sheehan explains. “There are enough outsourcing firms in the market offering a quick fix. Tread cautiously! I consider our approach to be better than outsourcing. I prefer the term ‘outsharing’. By sharing the workload, you can dedicate more time to your clients, create more space to expand, and ultimately have more success. The work may be done by people in a different country and time zone, but they are part of the same team. Work is not being outsourced; the team is being extended.”

He emphasises the point that Teams PLUS is not displacing Irish jobs. “Our service does not replace local accountants; it complements them. It allows them to climb the ladder faster. They are less likely to leave as they are doing higher-value work and supervising the extended team in India. That’s how Teams PLUS works.”

Naturally, security was one of the biggest concerns when developing the Teams PLUS offering. “As accountants, we’re naturally cautious,” says Sheehan. “But with so much regulation now, we need to be more than just cautious. We need to be bullet-proof. We have ISO 27001 (Information Security Management), ISO 9001 (Quality Management System in Financial Management). We’re fully GDPR compliant. We don’t need or ask for access to client servers. We’ve built the perfect solution for accountants, and it’s working. We’re up to almost 150 people in our India office now, and I’m excited about 2021 based on current conversations I’m having.”

The pandemic and the resulting restrictions slowed things down somewhat, but the company has ramped up operations again of late to a very positive reception in the market. “COVID-19 has shown that it is as easy to work with colleagues located at a distance from the office, as it is with people in the same building or at the next desk. We offer clients substantial cost savings, guaranteed security, and the comfort of having a single point of contact here in Ireland to ensure the extended team performs to expectations. If you need accounting work to be done but have difficulty in finding people to do it, we have people who can get that work done for you.”

Jimmy Sheehan is Managing Director at Teams PLUS. He can be contacted by email at jimmy.sheehan@teams.plus.

This article is sponsored by Teams PLUS.