Interview with James Buckley, Managing Director, EMEA at Tax Software Provider Sovos
Sovos is a global indirect tax software and services provider. Our job is to help companies with the technology and services they need to not have to think about tax compliance. No one starts a business to pay tax and we’re in the business of solving tax for good. At Sovos, we make sure firms can pay the right taxes which then flow back to the communities that we all live and work in. Everyone talks about the world going digital. And tax is no exception. Around the world we see governments implementing new digitally mandated compliance rules to increase the amount of tax they collect.
The most mature of these, particularly in Latin America, Turkey and increasingly across Europe and Asia, enable governments to record and in some cases clear every business-to-business transaction in their economy. It’s clear that this digitisation of tax, what’s known as e-invoicing or continuous transaction controls (CTC), is inevitable and we certainly believe that the pandemic will only accelerate that as governments across the world seek to increase their tax take. Sovos is uniquely positioned to help companies prepare for and live in this new paradigm. We bring together the world’s most extensive CTC capabilities and combine that with periodic reporting software and managed services.
What is the idea and drive behind Sovos and what role do you play in this?
I used the term already, but we think about what we do as solving tax for good. It means we enable our clients to pay the taxes they owe with as little friction as possible. It doesn’t matter whether they have an in-house tax team and require our technology or want to outsource altogether, we provide that peace of mind. Put simply, we sell sleep.
The pandemic presented us with a unique challenge that really did test this idea and us as an organisation. We talk about collaboration and agility as core values of our company and those were tested in a way none of us expected – making sure that real time CTC solutions would have the support and security our clients and governments expect. Like many companies, the pandemic meant we went from an office-based to remote working configuration in two weeks.
In our compliance services practices this presented unique challenges in terms of shifting paper-based processes as much as we could to digital, even where we knew tax authorities still required paper filing in some cases. This tested our organisation’s core values and our people’s resilience. My role in that was to lead our European team through this period, trying to make sure people stayed focused on our clients and critical operations while taking care of themselves and their families.
What advice would you give to other aspiring business leaders?
I worked for a CEO once who used to say: ‘it’s never the fault of your team, it’s always the fault of management’. I think that’s true. Leadership is about accountability first and foremost. That means figuring out how to build a team you can trust to deliver while making sure they have the tools and support they need to be successful. I take inspiration from Jim Collins, his book ‘Good to Great’ is worth a read. His definition of leadership in that book and the case studies he goes through are a great basis for thinking about leadership.
What can we hope to see from Sovos in the future?
Sovos is in a race. We need to keep ahead of an accelerating and increasingly complex regulatory landscape around the world. In order to do this, we will continue to acquire great companies and build out great products and services. We know that for us to actually deliver what our clients will need from a financially successful position to ensure sustainability, we can’t stop. In fact, we need to move faster. Our owners Hg Capital and TA Associates provide a huge amount of support and encouragement that will enable Sovos to continue to deliver more capabilities at greater scale around the world. From a personal perspective being a part of this market at this time and working with the team here at Sovos as well as our clients is a unique privilege.