Turning Creaseys vision into reality

CEO and Partner at Creaseys, Emma Roberts speaks to Zoya Malik, Group Editor, International Accounting Bulletin about her career journey and how she selects and inspires her team to be intrapreneurial and happy in the workplace

Zoya Malik: How did your ACCA training contribute to your career?

Emma Roberts: I was undecided about my career when I left school. I knew continuing my education would help and I chose the ACCA because it kept my options open. I thought I could pass the exams, the qualification was globally respected and they took people like me! It gave me independence to study and work while I decided what to do next, and flexibility to take my studies with me, wherever I decided to go.

Emma Roberts, CEO and Partner at Creaseys

ZM: Kindly outline your career journey to becoming Partner?

ER: After having a baby, I joined Creaseys as the office junior in 1991, part way through my Acca qualification. The business only supported graduates on the ICAEW route, so I continued my studies independently, concentrating on what I could achieve, gaining experience and a professional qualification. I was curious and saw myself as an equal, so asked about opportunities and how I could progress. Hard work and stamina won over and I was promoted through the ranks. It was being invited to partnership that made me pause for thought. I still didn’t know what I wanted but I knew I didn’t want to be a traditional partner. I was open with the partners and when I faltered, they asked me to reinvent the business and that captured my imagination. Over the course of the next year, I worked with a group of colleagues from across the firm and we created a corporate vision for the business, led by a CEO. I believed in the vison so I threw my hat in the ring for the CEO job, and to my surprise they gave it to me.

Emma Roberts, CEO and Partner at Creaseys. Credit: Creaseys

ZM: What are the challenges you face in your role as CEO in terms of winning business and client management and retention?

ER: The challenges of running a business is what makes it exciting. It gets really interesting when you add people to the mix.

Our vision is simple: happy clients and a happy team equals a great business. Everyone is different, and we all have different hopes and dreams. As a business, we want to help people get closer to where they want to be and achieve those dreams. We invest time listening to understand the big picture, so we can work together on a plan to make it happen.

We are all busy and keen to come up with solutions and answers so pausing for reflection and taking time out to ask some of the big questions is a challenge for us as a business and sometimes for our clients and team members.

How we create an environment and a business that supports our clients and our team to be masters of their own destiny and find their own happiness, is a life’s work!

ZM: Kindly outline your vision for Creaseys growth and company ethos? What qualities make for good and stable leadership?

ER: Good leadership requires a vision you believe in so much you want to use it as guiding light for all your decisions. We see everyone in our business as an ambassador for our vision and our values.

Holding everyone accountable to the vision gives us confidence to experiment and do things differently to get a different result.

This has taught us that our differences give us our strength, agility and stamina, and to value each other and our clients for who we are.

Different people want different things, being clear about what you want, what you are accountable for and what choices you have is a very powerful motivator.

Emma Roberts, CEO and Partner at Creaseys. Credit: Creaseys

ZM: What appeals to clients choosing Creaseys?

ER: Our clients want us to deliver value and we do that by helping make their dreams real. They want a close, collaborative relationship so we can get the stuff done and get them closer to where they want to be.

We base our fees on the value we deliver and if a client ever gets a surprise invoice, we ask them to return it to us.

ZM: What are your growth service lines? What are you seeing as emerging areas of advisory?

ER: We work with successful individuals, including entrepreneurial business owners, wealthy private clients, and private executives.

We lead on the questions we ask and the conversations we have with our clients. Understanding every client’s why and what their hopes are for the future is the first step. Next is to work with them to plan how they get from where they are to where they want to be and put a great team together who collaborate to deliver the milestones in a joined-up way.

The pandemic has made lots of us take stock. People are reviewing their business structures and ensuring profits, assets and wealth are earned and held in a tax efficient way, has become even more important for clients.

More than ever, an uncertain future means people want to live for now and even that takes some planning! Clients are doing things they have been putting off getting their financial house in order or planning their legacy to be free and enjoy life! Minimising risk, maximising return, and having as much certainty as possible has never been so popular.

ZM: What’s your approach to staff selection? What criteria are you applying for team fit? Are there specialist practitioners to satisfy new market demand? 

ER: We value our clients and our team equally and we work with them in similar ways. Our “People Way” includes our recruitment process that focusses on ensuring we are the right fit for our candidates and they are the right fit for us.’

We apply a mix of criteria; technical skills, experience and aptitude for the role, as well as how the individual fits with our business model, culture and competencies that are important. We use Profile Match technology to understand how their natural behaviours and learned skill set will fit with the role, the team and the wider business.

We work with specialist recruitment agencies to find the right people, and our People team use social media to connect with candidates.

ZM: What does it mean to be ‘intrapreneurial’ in one’s role? Why is this important and what traits does one need to have to execute in this manner? How does that play out at Creaseys?

ER: We work with our clients and our team to support them to find their own happiness by understanding the outcomes they want, the accountability they have and the confidence to understand and own the choices they make. Taking ownership of your destiny and your career creates intrapreneurship.

We promote a strong Creaseys community and actively create opportunities for the team to work on the business and canvas them for their thoughts and ideas. We encourage curiosity, experimentation, and the ability to see problems as learning opportunities.

It’s empowering to have a culture where everyone can bring their whole, authentic selves to work, and where they feel safe, and valued, to be themselves.

ZM: How do you mentor colleagues at work?

ER: Our structure creates opportunities for every team member to have various roles and accountabilities. For example, someone’s main role could be building relationships with clients, delivering their bigger picture Plans and providing exceptional client service as a Tax Manager. They may also have a seat in the Tax technical team and wear a Team Leader hat.

Team members have diversity in their work and their experience, and support and challenge from different people in the business.

The individual works with their Team Leader to create a plan to achieve their career aspirations and get them closer to where they want to be and achieve their big picture, similar to the way we work with clients. This includes SMART objectives to chart their development and progress. The Team Leader provides support and helps the team member collate all their learning and feedback, to celebrate successes and to grow and develop the way they want to.

ZM: How many female staff work at Creaseys? What incentives are in place to help them grow, reward them and to aid retention?

ER: We have 64 team members, 33 are women. We have a comprehensive reward scheme including contractual and non-contractual rewards. We call this Reasons To Love Creaseys!

Our reward and development opportunities are open to everyone and our business model, culture and values means that everyone is treated as an equal and has the same opportunities. We encourage our team to ‘bring their whole self to work’ because we believe a diverse workforce makes a great business.

ZM: How well does accountancy as a profession support women in the work place and for work-life balance? How is the profession changing to suit?

ER: Accountancy is a great profession for anybody. It is mobile, hours can be flexible, and you can work from home. All these characteristics suit someone who wants to own their work life balance.

ZM: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion look like at Creaseys? 

ER: Our business is designed to create traction and engagement with our whole team, and we have multiple channels to feedback, share opinions and get involved with the business and this gives us a diversity of views.

We are passionate that every client and team member has a right to dream and have their own dream. Collaborating to help achieve those outcomes has taught us that our differences are our strength and that working together is most successful when we understand and value what the individual brings to the table. Experience tells us, you never know where the next best idea is going to come from or who is going to solve a problem that will unlock an opportunity.

The challenge for us, as a business, is to think of different ways to encourage even more diversity in our team through our recruitment.

ZM: What formal DEI corporate policies do you think are needed to strengthen the firm’s proposition in the market and to attract talent to your organisation?

ER: We are passionate about DEI because it’s empowering for everyone in the business to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, and where we feel safe, and valued, to be ourselves.

We are early on in our DEI journey in terms of applying all the great stuff we do at Creaseys, to a DEI focused strategy. Valuing people because they are different is at the heart of what we do and encapsulates Diversity, Equity and Inclusion so to strengthen our firm’s proposition and to attract talent to our business, one of our first steps is to formally make that link and create a DEI policy and set about purposefully attracting more diverse team members and clients to the business, rather than waiting for it to happen.

ZM: How do you select your clients? What criteria do you apply? Why may this be important?

ER: We want to deliver value to our clients, in their terms. We invest time with people to understand what they want to achieve and put a plan together to show how we can work together to help them achieve their goals.

This gives both parties clarity on what success looks like and if the client likes what they see and we have the right chemistry they sign up to the plan and we start to make a difference!