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Nick Kozak for the Toronto Star
Case Studies
Posted: December 4, 2012
by Ryan Starr

NST Professional loses associate, needs HR plan to prevent disasters and grow long-term

Vital Stats
Adress:
71 Marycroft Ave., Woodbridge, ON
Contact:
Ph: 289-371-3080, Fax: 289-371-3081, http://www.nstprofessionalcorp.com/
Staff:
3 full-time, plus temporary and part-time workers
Years Active:
19
Offering:
Accounting, taxation and consulting services
Last year's revenue:
$300,000
Customers:
Owner-operated TSX-listed companies in mining, oil and gas exploration and software; small businesses and professional service providers

 

Things were humming along quite nicely for Nick Tsimidis’ accounting firm, NST Professional Corp.

 

The small, Woodbridge, Ont.-based practice, which he ran with help from one other accountant, was generating a tidy $300,000 in annual revenue.

 

But this past August, after almost a decade, Tsimidis’ associate and close friend suddenly announced he was leaving.

 

“He had a great opportunity elsewhere, so I was behind it,” Tsimidis explains. “It wasn’t good for me, but you can’t stop someone from achieving success.”

 

Suddenly Tsimidis, who has no other accountant on his skeleton crew of three to pick up the slack — the others work in administrative positions — was in a serious bind, and unsure of how to cope.

 

Without a proper disaster plan in place, Tsmidis has been forced to run himself ragged over the past few months, taking over the departed associate’s portion of the business to keep NST afloat.

 

“We had no capacity,” Tsimidis says. “So I’ve had to suck it up and work Saturdays and Sundays until I can find someone to replace him.”

 

Struggling to maintain the status quo has prevented Tsmidis from growing his business and pursuing new clients. And the staffing shortage has also exacted a toll on NST’s existing clientele — owner-operated TSX-listed companies in mining, oil and gas exploration and software, as well as small businesses and professional service providers — who have been told to adjust their expectations until things at NST get back to normal.

 

“Clients expect that when they call you, things get done, which happened before,” says Tsimidis. Now, he adds, “I’ve had to say, ‘I’m short-handed, it might take longer.’ Most of the clients have been OK though; they understood.”

 

Glenn Nishimura, a human resources expert who runs Nishimura Consulting, says Tsimidis’ plight is all too common.

 

“I’m not surprised at all that Nick finds himself in this situation,” he says. “Small businesses don’t give HR much thought.”

 

Tsimidis brought in a part-time accounting staffer for a few months to ease his burden, but he’s yet to find a permanent replacement for his lost associate.

 

It’s not for lack of effort. He’s been searching for candidates by tapping his professional network for referrals and posting online ads on the free classifieds site Kijiji.

 

“I posted something and got resumes back within an hour,” he says.

 

So far he’s sorted through about 50 applications, but few of the respondents are qualified.

 

“I need people with knowledge of how to use the accounting program QuickBooks, and the tax program, Taxprep,” says Tsimidis. “Someone who has worked in an accounting practice and has handled small companies, and who can multi-task.”

 

After a month-long search, Tsimidis has found five suitable candidates, and wants to make a decision before the holiday season arrives.

 

“We’re going into the second round of interviews now,” he says, noting his full work-load has delayed the process. “Hopefully there’s going to be a solution in the next few weeks.”

 

And, having learned a lesson from the disastrous staffing situation he’s been enduring lately, Tsimidis plans to prevent further such incidents by hiring a third accountant.

 

“I want to grow the company and get more clients, so I have to build in a redundancy,” he says.

 

Nishimura thinks Tsimidis should consider hiring a recruitment firm that focuses on accounting, rather than trying to handle staffing on his own.

 

“He’s got a business to run,” says Nishimura. “Yes, (a search firm) will charge you 20 per cent or more of a candidate’s base salary, but it would be a drop in the bucket compared to the business Nick could stand to lose in the future, he’s so pulled down in the weeds and stressed out with trying to find another associate.”

 

Plus Tsimidis isn’t just a chartered accountant; he’s a seasoned entrepreneur who has started several other affiliated businesses from scratch.

 

He’s president of Mortgage Cents Inc, a mortgage broker with customers across Canada. He is also chief financial officer of First Canada Capital Markets Ltd., a boutique investment bank that secures financing for private and public companies.

 

But Tsimidis’ accounting practice is his “bread and butter,” he says, accounting for 60 per cent of his service empire’s overall business.

 

Considering he has more than 25 years’ of business experience, Tsimidis admits he should have had a better HR policy in place to avoid the current mess he’s bogged down in.

 

“Unfortunately,” he says, “I never asked the question, ‘That person working beside me, what if he wasn’t with me, what would I do?”

 

EXPERT VIEWS

As Interviewed by: Tom Henheffer

Tsimidis obviously needs help, and he’s looking for credible accounting professionals. Kijiji is a big medium for job searchers, but I’m not sure it’s where the people he needs are. He might have better luck looking to professional accounting associations and on sites like Workopolis or LinkedIn, where the search can be a bit more targeted. I’d also recommend he look at some part-time workers and staffing agencies to fill his short-term needs. This can be a great solution because these kinds of workers often lead to long-term hires. And it may be worth bringing on an office manager to help both source staff and manage growth as time goes on. Finally, I think the business really needs to work on it’s web presence. Potential hires usually check out a company’s website, and it’s important to put forth a professional image. Rogers Outrank can help with this by boosting his web presence and ensuring the company has the right SEO. Plus, if Tsimidis has more staff he’ll need more clients, and the right website can help stretch his list of customers.

by Tisha Rattos - Rogers

I’d recommend Tsimidis use a temp agency to fill short-term needs, and look at potentially outsourcing work to other accounting firms. No one wants to give a competitor business, but when risking a permanent loss of clients, this can be a temporary solution. In the medium term, Tsimidis should think about minimizing departure risk. He could provide equity so partners have more of a stake in the company, have regular conversations and performance reviews to determine a staffer’s likelihood to leave, and initiate agreements to provide a minimum of six-months notice if someone does decide to move on. Adding a bit of depth to his bench can also help -- this can be accomplished by compiling a list of qualified, experienced part-time retirees available on short notice, and by associating with universities that have mature co-op students looking for work. My last piece of advice is that, to optimize his company, Tsimidis needs to expand. One person leaving is far less damaging on a team of 10 than a team of three, and more staff will give Tsimidis the flexibility he needs to deal with work spikes or unforeseen crises.

by Peter Conrod - RBC

To avoid finding himself in the same bind repeatedly, Tsimidis needs to ensure that whoever he hires is interested in being with his firm long-term. He should think about who he needs, not just in terms of skills, but also personality: leadership, client care skills, and professional career goals. He should communicate his expectations in job descriptions, and he also needs to make sure he attracts high-quality hires. There are many advantages to working at a small firm: access to files you wouldn't otherwise have, the ability to grow client relationships, career advancement, remote working — playing up these benefits can help him to engage a higher caliber of talent. Speaking of talent, I’m not sure that a lot of professionals look for opportunities on Kijiji and Craigslist. Tsimidis could more quickly and easily connect with the candidates he needs on industry-specific niche hiring sites such as cma-canada-jobs.com, or even by using Workopolis. On our site he can create a Candidate Alert that notifies him whenever a qualified candidate posts a resume. He wants professional people to join his team and expand his company, so it's crucial he look in the right places to find strong hires.

by Tara Talbot - Workopolis