27th May 2014
Cross border collaboration between accountancy firms, particularly those who are part of the MGI family, is proving increasingly valuable. Sharing expertise and contacts makes for a better experience all round and this has been highlighted by recent cooperation among MGI member firms from three continents.
Member focus on HK Finance, CBW, Copsey Murray and MGI Sydney, who together have worked on an international prospecting project.
It all began with Katarzyna Zdeb-Czupryn, partner at HK Finance in Poland, who was asked by a US client for help in a potential project. Access to MGI’s international members was vital as the company had a complex request involving several different jurisdictions: UK, Ireland, Australia and Belarus. “The client was interested in one global proposal,” Katarzyna says, rather than four separate briefs. Close cooperation was a must, as a unified proposal was required.
This was a significant client with the potential to generate substantial fees that would grow over time.
Quickly pulling together a proposal proved a challenge because the team of participating firms had to deal with different time zones, languages and cultures as they worked to draft a proposal that clearly illustrated their ability to offer coordinated coverage in the four territories.
Making the initial contact is vital
Katarzyna contacted partners from countries that were part of the brief. It was a relatively simple task of looking up the MGI Worldwide Directory for firms that she had made contact with at previous meetings. “I saw a great engagement from all members,” she explained after contacting Lisa Tesselaar, marketing director at CBW in the UK, who along with Malcolm Somerston was then able to seek out more members in Ireland and Australia - Tony Kenny at Copsey Murray and Matthew Moy from MGI Sydney.
The first hurdle was choosing a leader
As with any collaboration it’s wise to work out some ground rules for the process going forward. Picking someone to take the lead is a key moment and one that must be tackled early.
“The biggest problem in my opinion was to nominate a leader, someone who would be responsible for the proposal,” explained Katarzyna. Although it was an HK Finance client, she didn’t feel she could properly handle it because it was a US company with a very international focus.
Lisa at CBW in London took over responsibility for the proposal, while Tony in Dublin became the single point of contact, the coordinating person for the project.
Then it was just a matter of piecing together the proposal. “Through a series of emails and telephone conferences we eventually got the document into a shape we were all pretty pleased with,” says Matthew Moy of the Sydney office, who praised his UK and Irish counterparts for doing a “fantastic job” in getting everyone on the same page.
MGI can plug any gaps
While the main teams were in place in the UK, Ireland, Australia, there was a requirement for expertise in Belarus.
Alexander Kostin and the team at CSG in Moscow did their best to help locate a firm in Belarus that could do the required work. However, Belarus is a tricky market and it became necessary to look beyond the MGI members, although not beyond the organisation itself.
As Lisa at CBW points out, MGI World CEO, Clive Bennett proved invaluable in plugging the gap. With support from CSG, he was able to source an alternative and came up with a ‘Plan B’ for the Belarus side of the proposal.
Indeed as the MGI World CEO he is often the only person who knows the strengths and weaknesses of members firms from all over the world, which means he can help find alternatives, negotiate difficulties and smooth the process for cross border collaborations. “This project is a great example of where I feel I was able to add value to the commercial activity of our members,” he notes.
“Advising the MGI area coordinator too, so that they are aware of the job may also help. They do not need to be intimately involved as the job progresses but at least they can ensure it does progress in case there are any issues,” says Christine Greiser, MGI area coordinator.
A blueprint for similar projects in the future?
There certainly seems to be a chance to use the experience gained by the firms involved in this project for future international proposals. In particular, what the firms involved agree on is that there is an opportunity to create a single framework that could then be rolled out across the network.
It all depends on whether there is a client that requires that kind of geographical coverage, says Matthew. But “if the opportunity arises” then it could "definitely" be the way forward.
Katarzyna says MGI and its members could “work out a draft of a global proposal”, while Lisa notes that it was tricky to collate all the information and to present it as a ‘single offering’ from the four territories. “MGI could develop a template to help this process,” she suggests.
She adds: “We are aiming to win the client but if we don’t we still will have learnt quite a few lessons on how to put together a multi-country service proposal.”
Advice for other MGI members:
- Nominate a person who’s ultimately responsible and a single point of contact – the coordinating person. The best person for this may not be in the firm sourcing the business opportunity. Do this early on.
- Jump on to the possibilities as soon as you can, suggests Matthew, who also points out that you shouldn’t take anything for granted when dealing across frontiers.
- Respond to emails and requests as fast as you can - it only works if members respond quickly, says Lisa.
- Get the fee quotes in from all members quickly – you have to adjust the fees up and down so it looks appropriate across the offering. Bear in mind that you may need to charge more as there will be a lot more communication than a usual job.
- For a proposal involving several MGI Areas, keep the CEO in the loop, so he can help iron out problems with identifying and communicating with members around the world.
To speak to any of the firms involved, you find contact details on the MGI Worldwide directory member profile pages: HK Finance, Copsey Murray, MGI Sydney and CBW.