A story of success that has to do with time: Unija Smart Accounting
Unija Smart Accounting, d. o. o., boasts the largest and widest network of establishments. They have 300 employees in 14 markets across Central and Eastern Europe, providing the company’s customers with solutions in three key areas: accounting and payroll, consulting in the field of taxes, law and finance, as well as IT-services (cloud infrastructure, inventory applications, server setups, IT infrastructure maintenance, etc.).
Over a decade ago, they started merging various independent accounting firms from Slovenia and other former Yugoslav republics to provide services that meet the highest standards and form a one-stop-shop for expertise. They will continue to do so in the future – they are gunning for the best people and the best customers.
We spoke with Blaž Kržišnik, a partner and sales manager at Unija, to find out how they manage to remain one of the most successful Slovene companies, what their goals are and how they help their customers, partners and coworkers grow.
Blaž, what is Unija’s mission?
In addition to providing our customers with solutions in the three pillars mentioned, we are constantly striving to develop state-of-the-art technologies that would give our customers a significant competitive edge. This means we have to stay on our toes and be ready to quickly leverage the information we receive to produce reports in less than 24 hours. Our goal is to utilize technologies that would allow us speedier turnarounds – to be able to transform data from submitted documents into in-app reports and forecast business results all within one minute.
How does this fast information processing help your customers?
It allows companies to make decisions about business processes quickly and efficiently. As they expand, companies eventually outgrow small, local or in-house accounting departments, which struggle to match the speed of services provided by Unija thanks to digitalization and automation. This way, each business knows exactly “where it stands”, and no longer has to wait a month or more for their business results.
What are your short-term business goals?
To obtain all information as soon as possible, forward this information to the management in charge of decision-making, and hold consultations with them. We believe that, in the future, people will no longer be necessary in accounting because technology can do it more efficiently. We see ourselves as consultants and interpreters of data, which we process by means of technology. This allows us to help our customers with their decision-making processes.
How do you get your executive staff? In these times, many companies are finding this to be a challenge.
We find it just as challenging. It is difficult to get a good employee capable of bringing together all three of our pillars. This is why we invest in fostering our own talent. Each year, we identify five to eight individuals at the School of Economics and Business in Ljubljana, and we grow about three of them into leaders within five years.
How do you retain them?
By providing all employees with a business environment and organizational culture that they can be proud of. We are always looking to make changes s for the better. What do I mean by that? Our company has 69 in-house standards that lay out certain rules. If anyone thinks a rule is not good, they must change it. We are also ISO 27001 certified. But we do not have it solely for being able to say we have it – we employ it as an approval mechanism for our internal processes. If it should ever happen that the only reason we have the ISO standard is to brag about it, we will get rid of it.
How do you go about increasing productivity and efficiency?
Mostly through digitalization and automation. We want to be a one-stop-shop, which means we want to be able to provide our customers with all information or 90 percent of all services that they need to run their business. We either do it ourselves or in conjunction with our business partners, such as Spica International, whose employee time and attendance system we gladly offer to our customers. In addition to this, we also let various licenses and provide accounting services, financial services and paperless administration services.
Let’s discuss electronic employee time and attendance tracking some more. Recently, your company began using Spica’s employee time and attendance tracking solution – All Hours. Which features do you use? How did employees react to All Hours? Have you received any negative feedback? Is it helping you increase productivity?
We are a modern company, meaning that we do not force our employees to be in the office nine-to-five. The thinking behind using Spica’s solutions is not to keep track of employees clocking in and out, but rather to track attendance, holiday leave, sick leave and remote work, and also to help properly administer payments for travel expenses. This allows us to process the payroll for all employees in the region with one simple click. As I have already mentioned, Spica’s solutions allow us to secure larger deals because we are able to provide our customers with a comprehensive solution for gathering information (Špica’s employee time and attendance tracking solution – AllHours) and preparing data for automated payroll calculation.
And as for the feedback – none of the employees have voiced any concerns. They like the new solution. A significant improvement was reported by managers, who are able to approve their coworkers’ absences. Using AllHours, each manager can immediately identify who is on leave.
What does time mean to you?
On the one hand, time is essential for quickly transforming information into useful data, which allows us to make fact-based decisions. On the other hand, automation with electronic and automated processing can save a lot of time, which we can better spend on addressing strategic questions. Personally, time is a great responsibility for me. I believe that being responsible with time allows you to better manage your priorities and cope with stress. If you are irresponsible with time management, then you end up arriving late to your meetings, making phone calls to inform people you will be late, and arriving at your meetings with a bad feeling – these inconveniences affect you and others as well. Also, if you do not know how to manage your time, you miss out on spending time with your family and friends, being outdoors or enjoying physical exercise.
Prepare your payroll data like Unija
Do you ever advise your coworkers or friends on how they should better manage their time?
In our company, we measure the time each person spends on our servers. This is not because we think employees do not work enough, but because it allows us to identify those employees who are on the verge of burnout. When someone enters the orange phase, it means they spent 20 monthly hours too many on their tasks. Anything above this number means that the person is already in the red phase. If someone has been in the red phase for more than two months, their managers have to adopt certain measures and redefine priorities together with the employee. Certain people believe that things cannot be postponed. But it you take one step back and try to see the bigger problem, you realize that it is not as big as you may have thought. Sometimes, an employee fails to realize this on their own, so managers have to step in and help them. Everything can wait. Now, during the pandemic, this has become even more apparent. Things that we thought had to be done tomorrow can be postponed for 14 days.
How do you measure your employees’ productivity?
Especially now, when we are working from home and have no physical contact that allows us to see when someone leaves the office, it is essential to know when someone is working too much. Our primary means of addressing productivity is by planning how many hours we will dedicate to a certain company. Based on this, we measure the deviations for each customer separately. In other words, we try to pinpoint the reasons why we spent more time on one customer than we did on another. In the end, we also measure the hourly rate based on productivity. After all, we know exactly how high the target hourly rate for each employee class is. An unhealthy ratio between productivity and the hourly rate can mean either that the service is too cheap, that an employee is spending too much time on a task, that there is a lack of automation, or that something has to be changed.