Flexible working has long been a hot topic, but the pandemic undoubtedly highlighted that many of us can do our jobs effectively from home. Now we are slowly making our way back into ‘the office’ what have we learned and what should we continue to implement?
As the founder of start-up business (that was born at the height of COVID) I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about what flexible working means to my business. Having always worked relatively flexibly myself, I have come to believe that embracing a flexible workplace culture is the key rather than focussing on the concept of simply working from home.
By this, I mean prioritising recruiting people that that can add value to my business and being flexible around our offering for how work and where work is delivered.
(Author: Nicola Merritt, CEO of Cortus Advisory Group)
Gill and Matt are two recent recruits to Cortus Advisory Group and their stories are below:
After following a traditional route into Audit with a top 10 accounting practice, Gill went on to work as a Financial Controller with one of her clients in golf retail. She left to have her family in 2014 and didn’t return to ‘formal’ work until she took on a non-paid treasury role for a domestic abuse charity called Behind Closed Doors in 2018.
She recently joined Cortus as an Associate Director in the Transaction Services team.
How did the opportunity to work at Cortus come about?
With my youngest child starting school in September, I had been keen to explore taking on more work however being accessible to home in order to do the school run and after school activities was a ‘must have’ with any role that I took on. I was introduced to Nicola (Merritt) who explained she was looking for someone with my experience who could simply get stuck in and help with deliver Transaction Service projects and help build the team.
I was very upfront about my need to work flexibly and was really pleasantly surprised that this aspect didn’t seem to faze Nicola at all, who went on to explain that with some careful management where I worked wasn’t an issue and ‘when’ I worked was also something that could be accommodated. For example, sometimes I move my work hours to the evening.
I also spoke with Jenny Kirkham, a partner in the Transaction Services team and it was refreshing to hear that she echoed Nicola’s comments and talked of her experience in working flexibly which gave me a significant level of confidence that this opportunity was right for me.
How does it practically work?
Honestly, we don’t completely know yet! But so far so good.
I.T. is obviously critical to this working well, so we have made sure the appropriate systems are in place. Careful planning is another key factor. On top of that some good old-fashioned give and take will no doubt be important.
Good communication will be needed in spades, but as a small team we are frequently in communication with each other.
How do you feel part of the team when you are not physically there?
It’s the simple things that make the difference – Nicola introduced me to the team ahead of starting, via an email, and I received some really nice personal responses both by email and phone.
Obviously, video calling means you can often make a better connection with someone compared to purely email and I’ve met the team through various Teams calls.
We also have a Cortus WhatsApp group which is more informal and often involves some office banter which helps me feel connected and start to get a feel for the individual personalities. And obviously, I’m looking forward to the return of the office Christmas Party (as I’m sure everyone is this year!).
Matt went straight from college into a school leavers programme with Mazars but after completing 6 of his ACA qualifications he came to a realisation that a career in audit was not something he wanted to pursue. Instead, he believed that an advisory role would suit him better. Although it was a big decision, he chose to leave and look for something that would fulfil that goal.
Matt has recently joined the Transaction Services team as an Analyst.
How did the opportunity come about?
I knew a couple of the Cortus team already from my own personal network, and I was pleased to be contacted by them with a view to learning more about Cortus. It sounded like they were really enjoying their new roles, were working with plenty of exciting clients and enjoying being part of a growing team. I was introduced to Jenny Kirkham, Cortus Transaction Services Partner who explained what type of work Cortus got involved with, what stage the business was at and what it might be like to work for Cortus. The conversation ultimately led to me going onto the office to do a capability assessment, further interviews and I also had the opportunity to meet with Dan Gallagher who was the first employee at Cortus to hear about his experience to date.
I was keen to gauge what the expectation would be from someone part-qualified and not necessarily looking to work full time but Jenny was confident that Cortus could be flexible enough to see how things developed and that we could make regular assessments of how it was working for me and Cortus. One of the key factors that attracted me to the role was being able to get a deeper understanding of M&A through working as part of the Transaction Services team but also being offered the chance to work within the wider service lines that Cortus offers e.g. business modelling and cash flow management.
What else attracted you to the team?
Being honest I didn’t fully know what I was going into, but I felt it would be good experience in a different professional services environment than I had seen before - for me - being part of a tight knit team where everyone was very much encouraged to look out for each other appealed.
How is it working out?
I didn’t initially have a plan of how many days a week I would work but it was put to me that 4 days a week was a possibility if that worked best for my current situation. As it has happens, I am generally working 5 and mostly I go to the office – although there is no issue with me working from home.
Being back in an office environment every day helps me ‘get into it’ and I find there is always someone to learn from. I feel like I’m absorbing lots of new experiences from seeing how M&A transactions work in practise, to the practicalities of being part of a start-up business.
The structure of Cortus is also something that I really appreciate with a lot of effort put in from the leadership to make everyone feel part of a team and the emphasis is on us all looking out for each other.
We regularly recruit across the Transaction Services and Corporate Advisory service lines.
If you would like to explore what a career at Cortus Advisory Group might be like for you, please email your CV to email@example.com