Talent Attraction and Development with Brad Ebenhoeh at AccountFully

Great leaders have intentional strategies for talent attraction. In today’s war for talent, you have to get ahead of other employers. It takes more than just more money. Talent attraction and development are essential if you want to compete for the best and brightest. Today’s guest is Brad Ebenhoeh, Managing Partner at Accountfully. Inc Magazine ranked his company #1819 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Accountfully is your fully outsourced accounting team. Brad shares his strategies for talent attraction and development. We discuss what it takes to create a place where great people are seeking out your company. Brad will tell you the things he learned the hard way too.

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Brad Ebenhoeh: The Transcript

About: Never one for suits and ties or long days in windowless offices, Brad Ebenhoeh abandoned the world of corporate accounting to found Accountfully, a modern outsourced accounting firm that serves modern brands and businesses. By challenging the traditional accounting firm model, embracing technology, and emphasizing the importance of a work-life balance for himself and his entire team, Brad has proven that with a little imagination and a lot of hard work, accounting can be as cool as the clients he partners with.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Brad Ebenhoeh: I think, you know, it starts with, you know, good sourcing, good, you know, talent attraction. Right. You know, and it’s just good recruiting of understanding kind of who you are as a business and making sure that there’s an alignment between the, you know, the employees you hire, in terms of their values and their needs and wants as well as, you know, the business and what does AccountFully need.

Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: You know, your people are essential to the success and scalability of your company. Your people define how your whole company gets to where it’s going, how they serve the customers, how they make money. When you think about the people inside your business. Are you thrilled that you have selected the right people? My hope is you are, talent attraction is a really important thing. You also want to make sure that you understand talent development today. We’re going to talk about talent attraction and talent development with the co-founder of AccountFully. They’ve been on the Inc list two times, possibly three times coming up, but that is a great conversation that I’m excited to have with you. We were talking with Brad Ebenhoeh. He talks about talent attraction in a different aspect than you’ve probably heard before. There’s some details inside here that you can carry forward with you to understand what it takes to build the kind of engine inside your company, the systems if you will, that allow you to attract talent that moves the business forward.

We talk about coaching them, which is about talent development. We talk about some of the other aspects that will help you become a better leader. Today’s interview will help you really shape how the company is perceived. Not only internally, but externally in the world to bring in talent attraction. My job is to help you be the best leader you can be. If you want to hang out with other founders and CEOs of fast-growth companies. You think you would be a good fit for the fast-growth boardroom that I invite you to apply to. All you have to do is check it out. If it’s a good fit for you, just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com and you can apply right there. We’ll have a conversation to make sure there is a fit and I’ll answer all your questions. Look forward to seeing you.

Now here’s the interview with Brad,

Brad, how are you?

Brad Ebenhoeh: Good Gene, How are you doing today?

Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. Excited to have you on the Growth Think Tank podcast.

Brad Ebenhoeh: Yeah, I’m excited to be here. , looking forward to chat.

Gene Hammett: Brad, you have been the co-founder of AccountFully before we dive into the topic today. Tell us just a little bit about what the company does.

Brad Ebenhoeh: Yeah. Constantly. We’re almost 10 years old. We’re headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. We are a, I would say a modern accounting firm. , we basically for small businesses, the majority of our clients are, say zero to 5 million in annual revenue. We are their accounting department. We basically are their bookkeeper controller and CFO. So, we have clients all across the nation and work with the basically, all industries and the majority of our clients are inventory-based clients. But, but yeah, when you can come to AccountFully, we’ll, implement the accounting infrastructure, weekly bookkeeping support, monthly financial, support, to help you in your business.

Gene Hammett: You mentioned that I’ve got a referral I needed to connect you with there in the Charleston area. I think it’d be a good strategic partnership.

Brad Ebenhoeh: There you go. Everybody needs an accountant.

Gene Hammett: What, what got me on that is you specialize in inventory. , I found a lot of accounting companies don’t specialize that much, but you mentioned that that that’s, that’s one of the factors of your companies that have in common.

Brad Ebenhoeh: Yeah, it’s fascinating because when we launched the business in 2012, January 2012, the first, you know, 1, 2, 3 years as we were refining the business model, we were like, let’s, you know, let’s try to find companies that we can set it and forget the accounting bookkeeping needs and just let it roll. You know, kind of in the whole four-hour workweek model. Right. But then you realize that those. , you know, they can do a lot of that stuff themselves. So the selling is a bit harder. So anyways, we stumbled upon it and inventory-based client, here in Charleston, gosh, probably in 2014, and realized that they need more help than a digital agency or a tech startup, or somebody that is just more expense tracking, right. Or it can automate things more. So we ended up, diving into it. And have gotten into that market. And now 70% of our clients are inventory-based. And I would say that that’s probably the number one reason why we’re basically almost 50 people and, you know, on the Inc 5,000 list for two years and hopefully, you know, the third year. So, so, so yeah, so we, we, Oh, you know, we, we, we, we switched the, that the hypothesis or the mission and, and, and iterated, I guess, the business model and, and it’s worked well, of course,

Gene Hammett: I’ve always been fascinated with business models and focusing on the right client for businesses. I’ve done a lot of interviews around that, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. Brad, we’ve done some research on your style of leadership and your approach to growth. And what we’ve come up with is that you have a keen sense for really understanding employees and making sure that their client focus. How would you add some depth around that concept?

Brad Ebenhoeh: Yeah, I think, I think, you know, it starts with, you know, good sourcing, good, you know, talent attraction. Right. You know, and it’s just good recruiting of understanding kind of who you are as a business and making sure that there’s an alignment between the, you know, the employees you hire, , in terms of their values and their needs and wants as well as, you know, the business and what does AccountFully need. So I definitely think it starts there and I, you know, we, we’ve kind of targeted ourselves as a cool, modern accounting firm. Right. There’s a ton of accountants in the world that, you know, don’t want to work the disease, you know, the big four 60 hour week tax season or audit seasons, but one at a very challenging working environment where there’s a ton of business, you know, career development opportunities, in the client service role. So we, we found those folks, and then we basically set them up for success. You know, our, we have a very hands-on onboarding process, but then when they come in and they’re working on anywhere from, let’s say eight to 25 clients, depending upon the staff level that is on, you know, we, we focus on the client relationship and we coach them, you know, how I operate as the kind of managing partner and co-founder of the business.

Is one way, whereas my, my wife and business partner, Meredith Moore, the COO founder coach a different way. Right. And then we have some other strategic leaders that are kind of do a different approach. So what’s nice about it is we’re very, hands-off. We give you the tools to, to, you know, exceed and Excel. But we always have an open-door policy. So I think just kind of helping building that trust and empowering our team to, to do what they do and then provide them, right. Your level of support in terms of just any type of answering questions, walking through training, et cetera, has really helped them on success.

Gene Hammett: I want to break that up into a few pieces because, I think a lot of people right now are struggling with talent attraction, a lot of core factors around it. And you, you mentioned having a cool, modern place that may be different than traditional. , what else do you think plays a role in you attracting the right talent to your company?

Brad Ebenhoeh: I mean, it’s a completely different world now. And it was 18 months ago for talent attraction. That’s for sure. , I would say that, you know, branding’s huge, right? Like we, we have a great, great contact, great marketing that we target, you know, for our brand and clients. Right. But also a huge part of content marketing is talent attraction, you know, like, wow. AccountFully looks cool on Instagram. Maybe I should work there. Look, they have people that look like I would like to, you know, be, be with, or hang around with. Right. I think that’s number one. And then number two, is, you know, is, is ensuring that when I guess. One of the other things is physically just, you know, we’re located in Charleston and Nashville and we still want the physical face-to-face environment, work office, not full time, five days a week, but there’s a ton of people moving to Charleston, Nashville. So it helps out, you know, in the day and age we live in right now. But I think, I think just understanding that you have the market to talent, which is just as important, almost more important than marketing to clients to be a hundred percent. Frankly, and I think we were really focused on that.

Gene Hammett: That’s not a new concept for marketing to talent, but is there anything specific that you do that you’ve found that works for you?

Brad Ebenhoeh: I think, I think it’s, I don’t think we do anything crazy. I think that our branding, our marketing for an accounting firm is a little bit more proactive than other accounting firms or space or the traditional ones. Right. I mean, our names AccountFully, right. Were not the traditional Johnson and Johnson, and we’ll see, right. We don’t do our core focus is on audits or taxes and we don’t have busy seasons. Right. You know, those types of things, I think help from the accountant level standpoint of understanding like, oh, I’ve come from this world, this looks like a much better fit for me or a better culture situation. Right. We promote culture. You know, we have employee spotlights department spotlights on social media and stuff. I would say that I don’t have to do anything crazy. I think it’s just a, more of a, we’ve, we’ve taken a, a, an inventory of who our competitors are within our, you know, the accounting firm space.

Clearly, our competitors are also any company that has an in-house accounting department, but just trying to differentiate ourselves from a more of a branding marketing, you know, fun play in terms of, you know, a work environment

Gene Hammett: One last question in this area of talent attraction. Do you have a favorite interview question or process that they go through?

Brad Ebenhoeh: No. I, I only now interview like the managers that are above, I guess my team, HR and my wife Meredith kind of handle all the interviews. I always like to the one question I always like to ask is where do you see yourself in five years? And if they’re like, well, I’m gonna open up myself, you know, open my own business. Bruh. I can’t wait to just be a stay-at-home. Mom. There’s like those specific answers. You’re like, okay, so you don’t plan on being here for five years. So depending upon your answer to that question, I always kind of laugh because I’m like, okay, so you’re looking for a different job. You’re looking for this job, you’re at AccountFully for you to take to the next level. But just those things of the understanding, it’s kind of like a self-awareness thing for an interviewer or the, you know, the interviewee just being like, okay, do they really understand that we’re listening to these, these answers.

Commentary: Brad, just talked about interview questions. One of the great things you can do about interview questions to help you and your company hire and select the right people is to make sure that you understand the questions that are aligned with the values of the company. You want to make sure that you have a way to determine are they a good fit for the culture and the values that are going on that you find important? Because if they’re not a good fit, you’ll find it frustrating and you’ll probably end up parting ways. And it would just be a lot of unnecessary pressure, the details behind putting questions this set of values is what question gets to the heart of that value? Do they already possess that value naturally? Or is it something that they would have to work on? And if you have things like, you know, integrity and honesty, you can ask questions, they help you determine that, but you know, those might not be the best that you have to be a little bit, kind of stealthy around this. You want to make sure that you ask this one question. I love to ask when I’m talking to people about, you know, people that take ownership for a project is when something goes wrong in a project, what did you do next? Because if they start talking about blaming others, then they’re not taking ownership for this. They didn’t really rise to the occasion. You want people that are willing to fix their own mistakes and really rise to the occasion and take ownership of the project work in the client experience. That’s important to the success of the company and my business. Hopefully, it’s important to yours as well, but you want to make sure you have questions aligned with the values of the company to make sure there’s a culture fit every time you’re on the hunt for the right person, for your company. Now, back to Brad.

Gene Hammett: I appreciate that when you talked about, you know, bringing them onboard, I know that onboarding for most people is here’s a laptop. Here’s, here’s your form that going to fill out all the little details behind it. And you guys are found that you do a different process that allows you to onboard people the right way.

Brad Ebenhoeh: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve, you know, we’ll, we have, for all of our team members, we have kind of a, you know, a, more of a step by step approach or task list and training lists where, you know, week one, week, two, week three, but also you have each team member as their, you know, their, their manager that they report to that manager checking with them every day on, Hey, are you leveraging and understanding the systems we use? Are you getting the training done? Do you have any questions? And just kind of creating the relationship, but helping them along that journey of, of getting their things done, but also learning. Then they have the other training. Or they have kind of a mentor relationship as well, or like a buddy, right? A new hire buddies. You have somebody at your staff class that’s been here for a while that can walk you through the things that can help. You mentioned the dumb questions, right? From an aspect of, I don’t, I don’t want to ask this, my manager, because it’s a stupid question when there are no stupid questions. And then outside of that, then you have a team member comes on board and works on eight clients or five clients and start with, right.

So then they have their account team that they’re working with, that the middle learning their business, the client’s business, working with the two different people, the manager. Senior that they may not be working with on another account. So then they have these different layers of onboarding and training of, of that helps them kind of, you know, it’s, it’s very fast-paced. There’s a lot going on, but by being a month, they’re like, wow, I feel good because I know the different aspects of what I should be learned and, and, and, what I should know by now, but also I’ve been exposed to 20 or 30 people that has helped me understand, like how to work better or how to be successful at counseling versus just having that like one or two-person approach where you just interact with them all day long.

Gene Hammett: What I hear and all that Brad is that you have thought through some of the gaps in the hiring process, you filled them with processes and steps. Even the buddy is a very interesting aspect to make sure people feel connected to, to the work you’re doing, but also the culture of the people. I did. You, , you learn that over the time of, of building this company or is it something that you guys have, , really focused on in a hard way?

Brad Ebenhoeh: We’ve definitely learned that over time. So as we’ve grown our business, and dived to a point. So there was a year where basically my wife and I, when we were growing, I would say probably four years ago, three years ago, she was kind of the COO right. Leading kind of more of the operations, even though she sells clients. When we, we, we always implemented like an annual review process. And an engagement survey from our team, right? Well, she was spending so much time in that, and that was much more of kind of her direction or decision or kind of, you know, bringing input into the space with that. But then we were getting feedback from our team and, and realizing that this was a huge aspect and also getting feedback from other people like yourselves and other people, successful entrepreneurs. Hey, you need to focus on HR and you’re focused on humans. You need to focus on talent, management. So we hired a director of HR who was really probably three, three and a half years ago has really helped us refine our processes. Get more feedback from our team in terms of what they like, what they don’t like, was this onboarding process is good or not?

So I think a big part of this is bringing professional a professional end of the space that can focus on this, but also getting that data from our team that went through the process and being very specific on that and that aspect of getting that data. Hey, how was your onboarding? And then as well our annual engagement surveys, what’s going on? What was good? What was bad? We can continuously improve and enhance that process and provide a great experience for everybody.

Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious, you were about 10 years old, right? Give or take. And you, you did that three and a half years ago. Was it the right time to bring that person on or would, do you wish you would’ve brought it on earlier?

Brad Ebenhoeh: I think it was the right time. Because we got to a point where before that it was kind of unnecessary. It was unnecessary. From a time standpoint, we had the time and availability and in a leadership role to execute that, I would say that it was also the right time, because I think we got to a point where we understood our shortcomings as founders, as Co-founders of where we were like, okay, now it is time to bring somebody else on to focus on this aspect of the business, because we’re better at these three points. Right? So it kind of forced us to move, you know, to pigeonhole ourselves a little bit to what our real core competencies work. , and, and then, you know, we, we, you know, we have a really great partnership or some partnership. With other kinds of accounting firms, finance firms, et cetera, , that we’ve developed within this last decade. And every one of them said, we hired our HR or our VP of talent too late, or is that, that specific role? Right. But that was always like a couple of years after we did it. So we felt comfortable afterward and like literally like three months in, we were like, okay, that was completely worth it. I understand why people say things like, you know, don’t, wait to hire that specific role.

Gene Hammett: I want to switch gears to the thing you mentioned at the very beginning about coaching people and which is really about development along the journey, your employees are critical to the success of your company. And you know that, how have you learned that coaching works to develop the kind of employee that you expect.

Brad Ebenhoeh: Coaching is interesting because you do want to have this kind of blanket approach to coaching and these processes and systems in place, but everybody needs to be coached individualized, in terms of how they learn or what they learned. Right? So like a big aspect of the kind of what we preach is, you know, to our managers specifically who have direct ports, right. Or whatever of saying, Hey, like understand what call they learn or understand what makes them successful. Ask them about questions to, to, to our team members. So, you know, one person may be just like, you have to show them face-to-face or share screen or whatever. Some people are like, cool. Let me know. I’m going to try to execute myself. You know, so understanding how people learn like number one helps you listen to them. You build trust, right? In terms of that whole employee engagement, which that trust is great for feedback. Right? Cause again, feedback’s a different thing where like some people don’t take it very well, but if you can build that trust, listen to how they actually are able to learn better in a more efficient manner.

Then we can go ahead and execute that. So basically customizing that onboarding or training experience that each employee is going to help. I think that the whole process will include

Gene Hammett: Do you encourage collaboration across the company. , how is it that you do as a leader?

Brad Ebenhoeh: I would say just kind of at a high level, we’ve created a very open culture, you know, and, and we’re very approachable as, as owners of the company. And we’ve always been right. Like, you know, we, we always liked stopping by and, you know, a big part of now that COVID is kind of re you know, what it is, it’s a phase, you know, we officially reopened our office last week and, you know, in, kind of are requiring employees to come into the office Tuesdays to Thursdays. They can work on other days. So it’s a much more kind of flexible work arrangement that we have before, but it’s like those things of developing that trust face-to-face Hey, I have an open-door policy, you know, Hey, you know, managers walk around shaking hands. Asking people, how they’re, or their weekend when it’s creating that kind of friendliness in that, you know, approach and, and at the end of the day, like be there when they need it.

And when they make a mistake, Hey, it’s all good. Let’s move forward. I make mistakes. You know, it’s kind of personalizing it and being empathetic as well. And I think that that creates that whole, you know, full engagement slash culture that we’re looking at AccountFully.

Gene Hammett: He didn’t say these words, but Google had done some study on what makes a high-performing team. And one of those is a sense of psychological safety. You talked about not, you know, being harsh on mistakes because everyone makes mistakes and whatnot. Have you thought about that sense of safety inside of your workforce?

Brad Ebenhoeh: Yes. Yes. We talk about that a lot, right? There is a specific way that people and employees and various individuals accept feedback or take feedback. So you have to be very conscious of that, but none of the days, you know, we’re, we’re doing a very important task for clients dealing with cash and payroll and paying bills and finance and things that are very sensitive to people. Right. And, and so it’s, it’s hard if you miss payroll to somebody, cause then you can empathetically empathize. Say, oh, I missed, you know, skip payroll or 10 employees and my clients are going to have to get paid one day late. Well, how bad do you think the employee feels already? Do I need to go and parade them like, or say, Hey, that’s fine? Let’s move forward. How can we improve this process? How do we not miss it next time? What did we learn from this? Clearly, if you do it four times, it’s like, there’s a completely different role here. Understanding that and saying, Hey, I messed that forward. It’s okay. Let’s just, what are the solutions or systems or processes that we can put in place to not let this happen or the review checkpoints we can do.

So I think that aspect is really number one at the end of the day, you know, we go back to four questions ago about talent recruiting and talent management. Bringing people in, well, if you already have them in like, try to nurture that relationship, you know, cater to them and try to help them grow. Some people grow a little bit slower. Well, it’s more best employees took a little bit longer to grow. It had more mistakes now they’re bad-ass so do we want to berate them and have them quit by month two, and then act to hire somebody again? It just doesn’t make any sense. So you have to kind of watch that process and just make sure that they’re, you’re there to support them in a very, you know, this is an efficient, supportive manner as you can.

Gene Hammett: Fantastic, Brad. I really appreciate you being here. One final question that kind of wraps this up. What is one area of leadership that you’re working on now that you’d be open to sharing with us about, you know, where, you know, you could improve as you move forward?

Brad Ebenhoeh: It’s a great question. I think for me, and you know, we’re talking about people here, right? And I mean, we’re almost 50 people. We’ve been through the ups and downs of the growth. We’re continually growing. For me, like, you know, I can talk about like being more strategic and get out of the day-to-day as the leader of the firm, which I think I’m moving forward into. But also I think for me, it is continually like understanding being, you know, empathetic for our team and really understanding people’s reasons of why they act or why or how they act by that. I mean, clients and our team, right? So clients is like, you know, inclined service ship, a couple hundred. 10% are always pissed at you for some reason, right? It may be your fault and maybe their fault, maybe the fact that they don’t understand what’s going on or aren’t listening to what you’re saying or didn’t read what they signed.

But for me, it’s like, do we just say, well, that doesn’t make any sense like that wrong versus just saying, well, well, should I actually look at this a little bit differently and say, how can we be better in terms at being better at communicating to them or understanding why they’re frustrated, the same thing on the employee side. So I think for me, that’s kind of what I’m really focused on in the next year or two as we move forward because as I’m getting out of more client work and, and getting into strategic roles, I think listening becomes key on all parties and understanding why are people frustrated? Because at the end of the day, our most important kind of assets our clients and our team. And so how can we kind of keep them happy? Because if we keep them happy and support them, that’ll kind of keep creating that referral engine in that growth engine that we’ve had at AccountFully that we want to keep.

Gene Hammett: Fantastic, Brad. I really appreciate you being here on the show, sharing your journey of leadership and growth

Brad Ebenhoeh: Thanks Gene, I really enjoyed the chat. , Thanks again.

Gene Hammett: I wanted to wrap this up while Brad listening in to us here because I want to make sure you understand what I’m taking away from today’s interview. There’s a lot that goes into talent management. First of all, you’ve got to make sure you’re selecting the right people. There’s got to process behind that. You’ve got to also make sure that you are onboarding them correctly. They don’t start off strong. You really won’t have the kind of connection in a relationship you want to. And then finally you want to make sure that you’re continuously developing those employees. You really have the empathy that’s necessary as a coach slash leader to really develop them moving forward. Now, if you have any questions about what your next step is as a leader, make you checkouts and go free resources at Growth Think Tank. And if you want to have a conversation with me about what it takes to grow, just go to GeneHammett.com. You can schedule a call with me to talk about where you want to really focus next. When you think about growth and think about leadership think about Growth Think Tank, think about all the things that you can do to be the best leader you can be always lead with courage. Will see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




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