Front Line Leadership for a Back Office Lift & Shift

October 19, 2021
3 Minute Read

The trajectory of our Finance Transformation engagement with a global hospitality services firm took a sharp, unexpected turn before we even wrapped up the kick-off meeting. As we sat around our client’s conference table in Las Vegas, the Nevada governor appeared on TV to announce he was shutting down the Strip because of COVID-19.

The initiative we were launching would have had a lot of moving parts no matter what. After being acquired by a private equity firm and then going through multiple acquisitions, our client had inherited personnel in multiple offices around the US and had built ad hoc support functions for accounting, finance and IT. As part of their move to a new corporate headquarters, they wanted to improve efficiency by consolidating these back-office functions and implementing more clearly defined processes.

But what started out as a fairly routine “lift and shift” suddenly grew a lot more challenging. By the time we returned home on a red eye, the COVID-19 pandemic had landed like a ton of business-crushing bricks.

Our client’s customers—predominantly hotels, casinos and restaurants centered in vacation and business travel destinations—were locking down for the long haul. The result? An existential squeeze on our client’s budget and resources, as revenue plummeted 80% virtually overnight. Making matters worse, they lost their CFO midway through the transition, and with offices shut down, all of the work now had to be done remotely.

Transforming over Zoom

RGP brought in a cross-functional team led by VP, Finance Transformation, Mark Marmon. An experienced finance and accounting leader and former CFO, Mark was able to immediately step into that role in the interim. The rest of the team—comprising project management, change management and process design experts, along with a select group of accounting and finance professionals—back-filled open jobs while orchestrating the transition to a centralized hub and hiring new, more experienced team members.

“Frankly, they had many processes that weren’t supported by their existing systems, and their procure-to-pay process was broken. So that was one challenge,” Mark explains.  “How do you identify improvements in the process while you’re moving it? But then couple that with the fact that we couldn’t even sit down in person with the people who were doing the current work.”

Thanks to our agile, borderless talent model, Mark and his team were able to quickly pivot to a virtual environment that allowed them to continue working uninterrupted. “We had to do it all over Zoom,” Mark says, describing the system they adopted to observe and document the company’s current F&A processes. “During interviews, we had them share their screen to show what they were doing and recorded it so that we could document and then validate everything.”

What we did:

  • Identified and documented all current work streams.
  • Identified gaps and risk areas across accounting functions, notably accounts payable and reconciliations.
  • Identified redundancies and inefficiencies of current work streams, including automation of financial reporting requirements.
  • Supported and performed month-end close procedures during the transition while the client hired new shared services team members in the new location.
  • Developed a consistent month-end calendar tool (out of multiple ad-hoc checklists) to ensure reporting deadlines were met.
  • Provided training, including video recordings of remote work, for the newly hired team.

Rebuilding to Emerge Stronger

Over the course of our eight-month engagement, we helped our client to successfully lift and shift their accounting functions, including accounts receivable and accounts payable, to a consolidated shared services center with improved processes and reduced headcount.

By executing our recommendations and implementing revised operational procedures, our client was able to successfully move approximately 20 jobs to the corporate headquarters office and achieve new operational efficiencies with a smaller departmental structure. We also helped them recapitalize the business and rebuild to emerge from the pandemic stronger.

“Strange as it sounds, the pandemic almost helped us be more effective,” Mark says. “Because we didn’t just document processes, make recommendations and hand off to a new team—we actually implemented processes under the new scenario. And then, as new people came in, we were able to train them.”

It’s difficult to successfully rebuild when you’re standing on shaky ground. You have to firm up the foundation before you can successfully transform. In the end, Mark and the RGP team helped our client stand up a stronger accounting and finance function without having to undergo a lot of change once they built a new team.

“We were able to stabilize and centralize their business as they were growing back to their original half-billion-dollar revenue target and emerge from the pandemic stronger.”

The path from that Las Vegas conference table wasn’t always easy—and there’s always further to go—but our client’s business landed in a much better place, with a clear roadmap for the future.

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