Freelance-accounting Startup Paro Raises $10 Million

Paro, considered a matchmaker for freelance accountants and mid-market companies, has raised $10 million, led by a Silicon Valley venture fund called Sierra Ventures.

The Chicago-based company plans to double staff in the next year to provide corporate clients with on-demand experts across a range of financial functions. The company, which started three years ago, has grown to 65 employees from about 25 a year ago, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Founder Michael Burdick, a former Deloitte consultant, says the company has thousands of freelancers and hundreds of clients, mostly middle-market companies looking for particular expertise. Paro handles billing for the freelancers and provides software to help them manage their businesses.

“Professionals want flexibility, but it really sucks to freelance,” says Burdick, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. “You spend 40% to 60% of your time doing business development, invoicing clients.”

Tech Crunch reports that Burdick calls Paro “a freelancer operating system.” Burdick says that Paro focuses on elite financial talent, leading to higher margins.

Online labor marketplaces targeting business functions have grown dramatically in popularity in recent years, observers say.

BKR Survey: Full Adoption of Remote Work Slow, but Possible

Aiysha (A.J.) Johnson

Aiysha (A.J.) Johnson

By: Aiysha (A.J.) Johnson, BKR International

Professional job posts have a newer feature. It’s called “remote,” and it proactively tells applicants that the physical location of their work is negotiable. Depending on the job search site, applicants can find 30,000 to 60,000 listings for remote work at any given time. It is defined as employees working in a physical location almost exclusively outside of the company’s offices – even another state or country. And it’s not limited to sales positions.

Although remote work has always been an option in some industries, the accounting profession is moving slowly toward this option as a way to retain and attract the best talent. For the industry’s more consultative future, will remote work become the norm rather than the exception?

To get a pulse, BKR International asked member firms about their expectations for remote work arrangements in the near future. Their responses indicate that full adoption may be slow, but possible and attractive. Here are four real scenarios to consider for your firm.

Scenario 1: It is a unique situation.

Some firms adopted a remote work arrangement years ago in order to employ a professional with a special skill set. At Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Company, one employee has worked remotely for two decades.

“She lives in Maryland and works on government entities on the audit side of the practice,” says Kenneth Laks, a partner at AVZ and a BKR Americas board member. “Around six times a year, she will come up to New York, but most all of the work is done remotely from her home,” Laks adds. “It has worked out very, very well…but again she is known and trusted from building a confidence with us over time.”

Many firms note that a remote work arrangement is still considered on a case-by-case basis rather than as a general opportunity available to anyone. While firms have written policies regarding flexible scheduling arrangements, including occasional work-at-home options, a true remote work arrangement is still tailored to the needs of the firm and clients as much as for the employee.

Scenario 2: It’s a method to keep key talent.

For Gumbiner Savett of Santa Monica., Calif., (FY18 net revenue of $21.1 million), a formal work-from-home policy for qualified individuals as well as one full-time remote employee communicate options to candidates — as well as to current staff.

“We are open to remote work options with existing staff we want to retain,” says Irene Valverde, director of human resources and practice development. “We are a digital office, so everything is accessible to employees via our network. Our phone system also allows for forwarding of outside calls so that communication is seamless.”

Although Valverde doesn’t see remote work as a possibility for all positions, the firm evaluates the option based on individual talent and responsibilities. “We have no formal plans right now to hire remotely, but we are open to it,” she says.

Scenario 3: It’s a method to hire needed talent.

Now that more firms have adopted cloud-based technology and mobile devices, openness to remote workers has improved from just a few years ago. Still, few if any firms actively advertise for remote positions.

“When we hire, we are hiring for specific talent. So, for the right talent, we are willing to consider remote work arrangements,” says Mark Thomson, managing director of Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams of Chicago (FY18 net revenue of $29.5 million). “We currently have four remote employees,” he says.

Technology has made remote work easier and more secure, but firm leaders don’t focus on the tools alone. “We believe that the key to hiring great remote talent is to set expectations at the outset – outline key performance indicators, goals and communication standards to set remote workers up for success,” Thomson adds. “You still must meet with remote employees, and outline their specific arrangement, so that everyone is on the same page and the employee understands expectations.”

Scenario 4: It’s a business strategy.

Performance is paramount whether an employee works in the office or remotely. However, the firm leaders interviewed on this topic agree that the hunt for talent necessitates alternative ways of thinking about service delivery and growth.

“We also recognize that, as the market for hiring public accounting talent continues to be tight, firms will need to search outside of their geographic location, whether it be outside the state or even the country,” says Thomson.

Remote hiring becomes more of a business strategy when it’s about how the team can best serve clients, too. For example, a coastal, mid-sized accounting firm focused on alternative energy may establish a “wind power” team in the Midwest. Maybe the talent is more available there. It’s cheaper for younger professionals to live there, plus it’s also near clients. To adopt this mindset as a growth strategy will take time, policy and technology. But firm leaders are certainly discussing and preparing for their options.

A.J. Johnson is executive director of the Americas Region for BKR International, the global accounting association with 160 independent accounting and business advisory firms in over 500 offices and 80 countries.

Study: HR Leaders Identify Finding, Hiring Quality Employees as Top Challenge

The third annual Paychex Pulse of HR Survey shows that talent and technology are the two primary factors impacting HR leaders this year.

The report says that a tight labor market, fast-changing legislation and an increasing reliance on HR technology all play a role in how HR is evolving.

“The strategic contributions HR leaders make are bolstered by innovative technology solutions that not only dramatically reduce time spent on administrative tasks but can also provide valuable insights on their workforce and the business overall,” says Leah Machado, Paychex senior director of HR services. “With more time, information and resources, HR professionals are better positioned to successfully address the evolving, complex HR needs of both employees and the organization.”

Some highlights:

  • For the first time, attracting talent surpassed regulatory compliance as the top HR concern. More than two-thirds of HR leaders say it’s difficult to find and hire quality candidates, up from 59% last year.
  • 87% of survey respondents agree HR technology has strengthened their contribution to corporate success, up from 75% in 2018. For the first time, 100% of respondents said that they rely on HR analytics in some capacity.