Tandem HR’s CFO – how we create exceptional workplaces, and grow with cloud financials

Creating great workplaces is not a topic I savor – maybe I’m too jaded by years of slathering talent hype. But at Sage Intacct Advantage 2017, a presentation on “Creating Excellent Workplaces” by Tandem HR CFO Tanya Yakhnis pierced my cynicism.

Prior to her session, Yakhnis, whose formal job title is CFO at Tandem Family of Companies, sat down with myself and Tom Dunlap of Computer Economics to preview her talk. She also shared Tandem HR ‘s journey from Quickbooks quagmire to Sage Intacct’s cloud financials.

Tandem HR is not your typical HR solution. They are a professional employer organization (PEO), or as Yakhnis more elegantly puts it, ” We are a high-touch customizable HR and payroll outsourcing provider.” As a PEO, Tandem HR becomes the co-employer of their clients’ employees. That means Tandem has the joy of filing all the W-2s and the payroll taxes. They are the largest privately-owned PEO in the Midwest U.S., with 10,000 thousand worksite employees.

Creating exceptional workplaces – tips and obstacles

As for that “excellent workplaces” thing – we all want exceptional workplaces, but how many of us experience them? Yakhnis previewed her talk with these keys:

1. Mission and values matter – ” It’s important to know what you want it to be and what you wanted to do and have a goal. That is mission, vision, values.”

That’s the easier part. Cultivating it is the trick:

It’s important to live and breathe the mission and dispense it throughout the company because if your employees don’t know what you want to be, but you do, they’re not going to help you get there.

2. Find the right people – Once you figure out the mission/values part, you’ve got to find the right people. Employees can have divergent opinions, but they shouldn’t diverge on core values: ” They should be part of the decisions you make. They should be motivated and engaged.” Sure – but how do you do that?

It’s a non-stop, continuous process. There’s lots of tips and tricks and everybody approaches it differently, but it starts at recruiting, onboarding, and goes on through their entire career.

Here’s where companies screw up. They hire for a job role, not for potential:

What I usually say is, you’re not looking for an accounting clerk. You might be looking at your next CFO and CEO or even whatever board level positions you have – this person might become that one day.

3. Show people what they can be – Not everyone has the confidence to imagine themselves running a company. You have to shine a light:

Good leaders don’t just motivate or push people to do what they don’t want to do. They show them that they can do whatever they never thought was possible.

Yakhnis speaks from experience – she started at Tandem HR seven years ago as an accountant:

My full-time job was customer profitability reporting. Because we were on 25 instances of QuickBooks and three versions of Peachtree, I had to consolidate that. That took hours and hours and hours. Let’s face it, it was an expensive report.

Yakhnis isn’t the only one – her company shifts roles, preparing workers for customer-facing positions:

We have HR assistants that start out and then they go into implementation, and they learn payroll or they go and do benefits. By the time they become HR generalists, if that’s what they want to do, they’ve seen it all and they can talk about it all. They can be super helpful business partners to the clients.

Of course, it’s not all hugs and rainbows. Sometimes things go awry, and tough decisions are needed:

That does not take away from the importance of making tough decisions early. Rob [Sage Intacct CEO Rob Reid] and I were talking about this last night and he said, “You know, we try not to fire people.” When somebody is not doing a good job, we look at, “What have we done? Where have we failed?” That’s what you should do. Oftentimes, you’re the ones that didn’t give them enough tools or training.

Transforming finance – the journey to Sage Intacct cloud financials

Yakhnis can’t just look at HR – she must also transform the role of finance. Yakhnis showed how finance must change/modernize:

You’re not going to become a “strategic enabler” if you’re buried in an a deluge of Quickbooks files. With seven hundred million dollars of payroll and tax payments, Quickbooks was creaking:

We got to a point where one of our files took 15 minutes to load. I would stand over that person’s head and pray it would load this time.

The search for a better solution began:

We were looking for an environment that could host a multi-entity situation, and give us proper controls.

Yakhnis’s team evaluated three solutions: Intacct, NetSuite, and Great Plains. Intacct’s ease of use, multi-entity capabilities, and price were the right fit. Queue the implementation:

I thought [the implementation] went great. I’m one of those people who likes to roll up her sleeves and get my hands dirty… I was up at three o’clock in the morning testing stuff. I like doing that.

After go-live – from report-making purgatory to real-time business

Six weeks later, Tandem HR was live on Intacct. Over time, they added integrations, such as Nexonia for expenses and timesheets, and, this summer, Adaptive Insights for planning. Finance life has changed for the better. Their ERP system is now fully integrated with Intacct:

Everything is dimensionalized. You can sort it, flip it, slice it and dice it any which way you want. It’s great.

No more report-making purgatory:

I used to spend about nine hours every month just creating time and labor costs. Intacct [does it automatically]. I don’t even remember how I set it up now – it works so smoothly I never have to think about it.

A real-time view of the business is the biggest win:

We’ve created different metrics and different reports that we look at in a month to month or quarterly basis, depends on what the report is. We are now able to make decisions looking forward.

Drilling into lines of business pays off:

We do client profitability down to every single client by line of business, and we can look and see what our money-makers are, and where they’re struggling. If a client’s gross profit all of a sudden comes down, we pick up the phone, call the client, and ask, “Is there an issue?” Intacct lets us be pro-active.

The wrap – forecasting on deck, and reactions to Sage’s acquisition of Intacct

Last August, Tandem HR went live with Intacct partner Adaptive Insights to better address their planning needs. This was another cleaning-up project too – with the elimination of 11-12 mind-freezing Excel spreadsheets:

Rolling forecast is the kind of state of mind I’m in. A budget is nice to have but what’s nicer is being able to adjust it, and know where you’re going to be. I’m a control freak, so I like to know where I am every week. I get into Adaptive, and I look at our forecast and keep making changes as we go along.

There’s work ahead. The Adaptive Insights implementation is ongoing; reporting integration is still being fine-tuned. Using Sage Intacct to automate PEO workflow is also on the list. Freeing up staff from tedious manual work is the obsession.

I promised Sage Intacct I would ask customers for their reactions to the Intacct acquisition. For Yakhnis, it’s largely good news, as long as the leadership team stays on as planned:

We were somewhat nervous when the acquisition happened, and I’m happy to hear that the executive management team is Intacct – pun intended – and that they will continue to work on the great tool. They have the right mindset and this is my fifth or sixth conference. The reason I love being here is because you get motivated and excited for what’s next.

As for the exceptional workplaces theme, some of these tips may come off as common sense. That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with it during the crunch of budgets and deadlines. I’ve rarely seen the information presented with such conviction, and that goes a long way with me.

Image credit – Feature image – Doctors and nurses in a medical team stacking hands,Medical team cooperation © praisaeng – Fotolia.com. Photo of Tanya Yakhnis at Sage Intacct Advanage by Jon Reed. Disclosure – Sage Intacct paid the bulk of my expenses to attend Sage Intacct Advantage 2017.


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