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Accounting Firms and Bring Your Own Team to Work

I have worked with a few dysfunctional teams over the years. It’s the worst. But, it does make you appreciate the occasional dream team that jives together like magic. Tasks get done easier because the group functions like a well-oiled machine.

Unfortunately, groups that work together seamlessly are rare and take awhile to develop. You know, you have to push through those group development stages proposed by Tuckman in the ‘60s — assuming the group even survives the storming phase intact without too many ruffled feathers.

By working with a familiar group and skipping some of the potential dysfunction, not only does it make collaboration more bearable, you avoid working with someone you think is “a really nice person” but otherwise incompetent.

Hiring molecules, not atoms

With this in mind, Stripe is trying something unique to tap into well-functioning teams. The company seeks to hire groups, ranging from 2-5 people, that are raring and ready to go. Stripe calls it “Bring Your Own Team” and, if you ask me, it’s kind of genius.

An April blog post by Avi Bryant makes a compelling case:

Maybe it’s your old co-founders, your college roommates, your collaborators on an open source project, or even your siblings; whoever it is, you’re stronger as a team than you are apart.

He goes on to say:

[T]he industry has always focused on hiring atoms; we’d like to try hiring molecules.

If you build it… they will come:

One startup out of Seattle leverages the idea further — offering a platform to pitch your rock star team to a corporate hiring smorgasbord.

The website proclaims Elevator is:

The world’s first team-based hiring platform. Assemble the best colleagues you’ve worked with and receive full-time job offers together.

The platform is still in beta — so it’s hard to say if it has made any successful pairings so far.

Too idealistic, not practical

Recruiters at accounting firms are aware of the high demand for CPAs and resulting talent shortage. Some could argue that wooing one capable person is hard (read: bring on the accounting swag and fancy lunches), let alone 2-5 people. Is the whole idea too idealistic?

Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff rained on the BYOT parade, playing devil's advocate by bringing up issues with compensation and termination:

What if Stripe loves only one person on the team and really wants to hire him or her? Will it make an offer to the duds just to get the star?

How will this affect salary negotiations? Will Stripe be forced to offer everybody the same salary and — particularly important for a fast-growing startup recently valued at $5 billion — equity? What if one team member tries to negotiate outside the rest of the team?

What happens if one team member doesn't work out? Will Stripe be able to fire one teammate and retain the rest of the team?

All valid points. It reminds me of pop music group. What happens if someone wants to go solo? Let’s ask Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake…

Stripe admits in the original posting that “this is an experiment and we’ll tweak it as we go” and while I haven’t seen an accounting firm try this technique yet, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a shot. The intangible value of finding a stellar pre-fab team might be worth the extra effort — and risk.

What do you think? Is this idea worthy of a test run in public accounting or should we stick with the status quo of climbing the career ladder solo?

Image: iStock/Ivanko_Brnjakovic