Working with an accountant- how hard can it be?

As developers it is often frustrating working with someone used to a large institution culture and way of doing things. Our journey was no different.

You could say, they just didn’t get tech and the startup world!

Whilst we got there in the end as a team, the working cultural differences did cause a number of initial challenges we needed to overcome as a team. Looking back, it has made us stronger as a team. This blog summarises a few of observations during our early days of the business.

Our background

As developers we have worked with and created a number of startup tech platforms. This was the first time working with an accountant but we had experienced of working with people from large institutions before and encounter similar frustrating issues at the outset.

Accountants void of humour

As developers, our preconception of an accountant was corporate, slow paced, straight laced and void of any humour. Whilst some of the preconceptions were true others were completely unfounded.

What was clear from the outset is that we were from completely different working cultures. Our initial challenge was to ensure every team member knew the skill sets of every team member. Looking back, we should have spent more time at the outset understand the strengths of each team member which would have reduced duplication of efforts and increased efficiency. This was a big learning point and we would recommend teams of a similar make up take time to understand each others skill sets at the outset of a new startup project.

Inefficient enthusiasm

One benefit of working with someone from a large institution entering the tech startup world is their enthusiasm. Whilst this is great, it did also cause issues. People from a large institution will enthusiastically research and learn about various elements of a startup. Whilst this is to be encouraged it does create friction as they try to educate people who have been there and done it, not just read about it.

It is like telling Usain Bolt how to run after reading a book on How to Run!

We have encountered this on a number of projects. We are not sure you can every tackle the issue. You just need to be aware that it will happen and over time it settles down.

Letting go

The enthusiasm does also create problems in work load balance. As our accountant founder was new to the startup world, they wanted to get involved in everything. This meant they ended up taking on far too many roles which would have been better suited to other team members.

At the outset every startup has a focus on getting to market quickly. A leaning point from our journey would be to ensure adequate time was dedicated at the start to map out the journey and the roles each team member was suited to do.

Perfectionist

People from large institutions typically come from a background of perfection. In their world the company’s brand is paramount and therefore everything needs to be absolutely right before it goes out of the door.

A startup is the complete opposite. It is all about getting to market quickly to test the concept. As developers we are used to getting a beta platform around 30-40% right before market testing. Our accountant founder wanted perfection. This was a little bonkers as were only creating a Minimum Viable Product.

We settled on a middle ground of around 60% but this meant additional time and work getting our product to market. The perfectionist is something to remember when working with people from large institutions.

Solid foundations

A startup is all about being lean. As a team we have worked in a number of startups and found admin items are often ignored.

The IntroStream journey was refreshing in this area. The accountant brought rigor and documentation to the team. All team meetings from the outset were documented together with everything in relation to legals and shareholdings. It was so refreshing being part of a team where every key decision was agreed by every team member and formally documented.

A few of our previous startup’s would have benefit from this rigor.

Conclusion

There are clear benefits to working with someone from a large institution as their skill set can benefit the team hugely. However, don’t underestimate how long it will take before the team totally understand everyone’s skill sets.

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