Business consolidation provides exciting opportunities to drive efficiencies and lay the foundations for long-term growth. At Tenzing’s portfolio company, Gravita, this meant capitalising on successful legacy offshoring practices by extending them across the business. Gravita CEO Caroline Plumb brought in Sherpa Simon Gateley to accelerate the project under her direction.
Gravita provides accountancy, audit, tax, financial outsourcing and advisory services to help scaling businesses, small-cap listed companies and private clients achieve their ambitions. Following two strategic investments, the firm has grown from 120 to 440 employees and is headquartered in London with other offices around the UK. On a mission to become the leading tech-enabled accountancy partner for UK SMEs, Gravita is defining a new, relationship-driven era of expert accountancy for its clients.
Spurred by COVID, parts of the legacy businesses had already offshored certain activities to India and the Philippines. Due to the ongoing war for talent and increasing recruitment costs – as well as the potential to reduce costs and enable further growth – Gravita was keen to develop its offshore capability across the entire business. However, misconceptions about the quality of work produced by the offshore providers meant some business areas had concerns about the project.
With a bold growth strategy to deliver, Gravita needed to find new ways of working that would leverage the company’s scale through technology.
While the overarching goal was to use offshore providers to deliver Gravita’s usual exceptional service quality at a lower cost, there were also a number of secondary goals, including:
- Driving efficiencies and strengthening controls through structured processes.
- Enabling greater visibility and planning of the work being sent offshore.
- Setting up systems that would enable Gravita to scale effectively in future.
- Optimising the number of providers in place for the business and its growth plans and developing strong provider relationships.
- Freeing up UK employees to enable more value-adding client servicing.
- Gaining buy-in from the entire business to ensure offshoring was embedded effectively.
The project had three strands to it: work and providers, technology and processes and people.
Work and providers
Simon started by identifying the work already being completed offshore, establishing the number of providers and mapping out the processes in place.
A decision was taken to initially focus on offshoring year-end accounts and to set an onshore/offshore resource split goal for the organisation. This ratio would vary by grade, with more offshore resources at lower grades and more UK resources at higher grades. Ensuring Gravita could optimise the client management and delivery expertise of its UK workforce.
A vital part of the plan was setting achievable goals – in terms of the number of jobs and type of work being offshored – with a plan to ramp up over time. This enabled the UK team to get used to the new way of working and meant the offshore providers could effectively plan their resources to deal with the expected workload.
To address the perception that work completed offshore could impact quality, Simon:
- Shared information about the massive pool of talented, well-qualified overseas resources.
- Explained how offshore resources:
- Could be flexed to meet demand.
- Would free up UK employees to work on value-adding services.
- Enabled detailed reviews of the work completed by Gravita’s existing offshore providers so everyone could see the quality of the work.
Technology and processes
To achieve the consistency that would drive efficiencies, Simon standardised Gravita’s processes by:
- Introducing a single approach for offshore providers to query information and ask questions.
- Embedding new technology and a defined process to help UK employees review the work from offshore providers.
- Setting up a central management dashboard for at-a-glance reporting.
Gravita’s leaders now have visibility – on a month-by-month and annual basis – of every offshoring job and service. Both horizontally across providers and vertically within teams, throughout the business.
Bringing people along for the journey was a major part of the project. Not only were the legacy businesses used to operating independently, but there was also significant transformation taking place elsewhere within Gravita. So, Simon needed to ensure buy-in at all levels of the business.
He did this in several ways by:
- Clearly communicating why the change was needed and the benefits it would deliver. For example, by highlighting that UK teams would have extra time available for more interesting and engaging work and training.
- Understanding and solving existing pain points. By getting to know everyone on the teams already offshoring work, Simon uncovered and resolved a number of operational challenges. By ensuring everyone felt listened to and giving everyone a win, Simon built the trust and momentum key to delivering change.
- Translating organisational offshoring goals for individual teams. By setting meaningful targets for team leaders – in the UK and overseas – UK managers could outsource the right type and volumes of work at the right times. Specific targets also helped employees understand the role they would play in the transition.
- Ensuring high quality work by enabling consistent, constructive feedback. Monthly reviews brought the offshore providers and internal teams together. And the creation of a standardised feedback and rating system enabled the provision of consistent and constructive feedback. Enabling two-way conversations which ensured the offshore teams could also contribute to improvements.
- Making the offshore teams feel like an extension of Gravita. Including the providers in new training and systems rollouts helped integrate the offshore teams with Gravita’s ways of working. This supported teamwork, communication and collaboration – all of which were key to the project’s success.
- Engaging Gravita’s leaders in the change. Simon worked closely with one of Gravita’s partners, who’s experienced in offshoring. They played a key role in keeping the other partners up to date and bought into the change.
- Drawing on the expertise of Tenzing’s Investment Team. New ideas and strategic perspectives helped solve problems and move the project forward at speed.
One year on, and the project has been an enormous success:
- Gravita has streamlined the number of suppliers it works with, helping to ensure the consistency and controls needed for invariably high-quality work.
- With 12 months of historic data now in place, Gravita can accurately forecast its offshoring needs so its UK teams and overseas providers can plan more effectively.
- Offshoring is now carried out in an intentional way – with greater control and visibility, Gravita knows what kinds of work it wants to send and when, and it has sufficient offshore resources to flex in line with varying workloads.
- Each month Gravita is sending the majority of year-end account work offshore and has reduced its costs resulting in additional recoverability. With more work going to offshore teams in different time zones, Gravita is increasing its capacity, accelerating completion times and driving efficiencies.
- New software is driving standardised processes and automating audit trails, making it easier for Gravita to meet its risk and compliance obligations.
- Consistent processes ensure work has the same look and feel no matter where it’s carried out so clients continue to experience the excellent service they’re used to.
- Managers and UK employees are free to do more staff training and dedicate extra time to high-value activity, building relationships, enabling additional sell-ons and ensuring happier clients.
The offshoring programme has delivered three major benefits for Gravita:
- Gravita’s UK employees have more capacity to engage in the work that adds even greater value to their clients’ businesses.
- Profit has increased – cost of delivery is down, recoverability is up.
- Gravita’s proven offshore capabilities have the potential to drive value at exit.
But this isn’t the end of the story. Because Gravita is already offshoring other types of work, including audit and tax returns. As well as exploring new management and reporting software that will introduce automation and drive further efficiencies. By establishing the ‘Gravita Way’ of working, the business will be able to plug in additional suppliers as the business expands. Creating a virtuous cycle of improvement that will continue to fuel Gravita’s growth.