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For this 4 Part Innovation in Accounting series, we spoke with Sean Duffy, Senior Manager, Accounting Solutions at Elevate by Welch, about his experience driving and delivering results through innovation. We understand that innovation is more than a buzzword. This is the reason why we wanted to highlight a true success story of someone who has embraced innovation, specifically in the accounting field, and has made it a mission to craft an internal company culture that fosters it.
In this interview, we asked Sean to discuss his experience driving innovation and delivering results with his global firm. Here’s what Sean shared about how you can drive innovation at your firm. Read along as Sean Duffy, Senior Manager, Accounting Solutions at Elevate by Welch LLP, shares his proven strategies for building a sustainable culture of innovation that drives results.
What is your organizational philosophy on innovation?
Sean Duffy: Our values at Elevate are: Care, Impact, Empower
With those in mind as we innovate, we put good at the forefront of the decision-making process. Our organizational culture inspires innovation by empowering and inspiring our people to see how their work can change lives for the better. We embrace new technologies and strategies with an open mind and an open heart.
Do you have any advice for a firm beginning its digital transformation?
Sean Duffy: Digital transformation is a common buzzword that many organizations throw around to make themselves seem innovative, but few have successfully pulled off. And while it might be tempting to take the complex path and try to implement technology for the sake of novelty, this won’t bring you any closer to innovation. Instead, you need to start with the people.
Introducing a new product or service is always an uphill battle so why not focus on making your existing customers happy? This will give you the time and capital necessary for planning your next steps towards innovation. In order to succeed, you must first understand your customers. What do they want? How much do they value it? Why do they value it?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help shape your product roadmap and make for a stronger organization. With a better understanding of your customers, you can create a more compelling experience that is relevant and useful to them. By making the experience meaningful, you create trust with your customer. And this is critical because word-of-mouth is still the best marketing strategy for most startups. This means that there are many opportunities for growth in both existing and potential markets outside of your organization through partnerships or acquisitions.
What strategies do you suggest for overseeing change management & innovation?
Sean Duffy: Initially, I think it’s important to define what innovation is. For the purposes of this post, let’s say that it means any new idea that is going to be accepted as part of company culture. Whether those changes are successful or not is up for debate.
A few other factors need to be weighed in when managing change in a company: What are your leadership priorities? Who does the innovation need to make happy? What company obstacles can’t it overcome?
To successfully foster innovation, the leaders of said organizations need to focus on changes that will help all stakeholders involved. There has to be a balance between keeping the organization’s mission in mind and considering all stakeholders’ needs.
Whether I’m dealing with changes in policy, training, or other aspects of the company culture, there is always going to be resistance from staff members. Especially when they are directly affected by the change.
It occurred to me that this is a really good thing. Without that resistance, there would probably be no change management to speak of. It would also mean that the change wasn’t seen as being vital or necessary by some individuals in our firm (like me!). I should also mention that if people aren’t happy with the change, they should be allowed to voice concerns, and then there is a chance that the change will be adjusted.
There are a lot of people in our firm who are really good at introducing changes. These are some of the people who I always take my ideas to. The debate is usually very civil. When I bring up an idea, though, it’s almost guaranteed that it will get shot down because it doesn’t line up with what somebody else thinks feels right.
Change isn’t an easy thing to do, even within a single organization.
Innovation is about looking at things differently. We are sure you can understand the value that innovation provides, particularly if you consider this.
Imagine the potential for innovation if we spent less time protecting our current business models and more time experimenting with new ideas and new approaches to work?
This is what Welch is committed to.