Think Outside the Box to Engage a Remote Team 

by Carolyn Sechler, CPA 

My firm is very unique. In addition to exclusively serving not-for-profit clients and being a certified B corporation, my firm is also completely virtual. I have 28 team members across the country, all of whom work 100% remotely. I strive to inspire my team to be entrepreneurial so, while several members of my team are employees of the firm, most are contractors who have been with me for over ten years. This means that while I consider them a part of my firm, they are really running their own business and I am a large client of their business.

With a structure like mine, it is especially important that the team is consistently being engaged. We always need to remember that we are working together and continue to support each other so that we are providing the highest level of service for the clients we are serving. We have regular Zoom video meetings, so that the team is staying connected, and generally use that time to discuss client issues or challenges. We haven’t utilized Zoom for virtual celebrations yet, but plan to start doing that in the coming year. Though we have a group of self-contained and self-motivated employees, as we have grown there has been an increase in interest and requests for celebration and team building type events.

Creating Sticky Client Relationships
Because my firm serves the not-for-profit industry, it’s even more important that we are making a connection to the work that we do. I encourage staff to take an active role in any events that our clients may be having. We will volunteer time or resources to help make our client initiatives a success. I want us to strive to be as involved with our clients as possible and demonstrate that we are deeply invested in them and the work that they do. This can be especially important at the holidays. One annual tradition that we have for employees in our immediate area is visiting a local women’s shelter that we serve and carol for them. We actually just did our annual caroling last week. It’s always a highly rewarding experience for everyone involved.

In serving the not-for-profit industry, it’s also imperative that we are always working to stay educated and ahead of the curve on what is happening in this area. I encourage employees to seek out any external training that they feel will be valuable to their work, and will typically either cover the cost (for employees) or split the cost (if the employee is a contractor). The firm also offers a number of trainings for our clients and take every opportunity to help educate them on the technicalities of what is happening in their industry. We look at subjects that are relevant and important to our clients and provide in-house workshops for them and their teams. I allow and encourage any of my team to attend these workshops as well.

Finally, the firm also has a monthly web-based radio show that we produce.  The Nonprofit Journal has been in existence for about a year and a half now and it has been a real success. I encourage the team to take an active role in this as well. I ask everyone to take the opportunity to suggest a client they are working with to be featured on the show. That team member will also participate on the day that their client is being interviewed.

Exhibiting a Consistent Commitment to the Firm’s Mission
Dedication to employee engagement is a key component in firm performance. Creating a highly engaged team improves morale and retention, and promotes an understanding that we have a deeper commitment to our clients than just providing base level services. I want my team to strive to create ‘sticky’ relationships and always remain aware of what assistance our clients need, even if that is as simple as volunteers or donations. The niche we serve drives the firm’s mission, and has allowed us to build a team of individuals who are passionate about the work we are doing. That passion is who we are.

Carolyn Sechler, CPA is a sole practitioner based in Arizona.


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