Element packaging, filling in the gaps worldwide. 

Element packaging, filling in the gaps worldwide. 

Element Packaging, led by Adam Petyt, manufactures and distributes biodegradable and compostable, environmentally friendly packaging products. They have a huge presence in the UK and European markets, and have recently expanded their business into a few Southeast Asian countries and the Caribbean. While the company’s main footprint is in the B2B market currently, a good number of their orders are coming from the online retail market as well. Moving to a scalable solution like Zoho has helped the Element Packaging team grow substantially and efficiently over the last three years. 

Boxed in by fragmented systems. 

Initially, when the company was in the growing stage, it was quite easy for them to handle the shipments and stock details for their UK warehouse using Excel spreadsheets. As they started expanding their operations, they opted for QuickBooks for their accounting system. However, its lack of inventory and order management capabilities meant that they had to supplement it with stand-alone applications, connected with third-party connectors like Zapier. The data flow was not really seamless, though, and there were serious issues with their inventory management, such as gaps between their accounting and physical inventory. The Element team also found it quite difficult to accept online orders and feed them manually into their accounting system. Some other major issues that the team faced include tracking shipped packages and order handling. They needed to keep their customers updated with the shipment details, maintain warehouse-based stock updates, and provide live order statuses for the sales team, among other tasks. 

Looking outside the box for the right solution. 

Adam and his team discovered Zoho Inventory while looking for a scalable and easy-to-implement inventory management system. They signed up for a free trial and found that Zoho Inventory solves a lot of their issues with inventory management, warehousing, order management, online Shopify store integration, and shipment tracking. The Element field sales team is now using the Zoho Inventory mobile app to 

check for current stock availability and punch in their sales orders on the go. The Shopify integration helps them bring all the online sales transactions from their Shopify store in to Zoho Inventory, further increasing the communication between their website and inventory system. Shipments are now generated using the shipping integrations and manual shipping options in Zoho Inventory, and tracking information is available using the AfterShip tracking integration. The Zoho Analytics integration within Zoho Inventory helps the team create powerful BI reports based on the data from all of their integrated platforms. 

The inventory system is now well integrated with Zoho Books for seamless handling of accounting data. This helps Element ensure that no orders are missed and that accounting is centralized for the company. Thanks to automation, they can now completely avoid manually entering accounting data as well. 

Putting it all together. 

Deploying Zoho Inventory in their organization has helped the accounts team stay well-informed about the inventory team’s work and the orders that come in. Shopify orders from their online sales platform now flow into Zoho Inventory automatically, eliminating the need to feed in orders manually. With these new workflows, the warehouse management teams and front-end teams now collaborate seamlessly using the cloud-hosted mobile and web apps. Orders created by the sales team on the go via the mobile apps are now being immediately processed by the operations team, improving operational visibility and order turnaround time. Shipment tracking and automatic notifications have made customers happier, resulting in better engagement scores and an easier job for the customer success team. The gaps between the inventory and accounting systems have been resolved, and with payment status being updated in real time, there are no disparities there either. 

The fabulous customer support that Element Packaging has received from the Zoho Inventory team encourages them to keep scaling higher. Adam and his team are now exploring Zoho CRM and many other apps in the Zoho portfolio and hoping to move further towards a unified business management experience for their company. 

Testimonial 

We have been using Zoho Inventory for a couple of years now, and it has been amazing for us to collect all of our online and offline sales in one place. It also synchronizes perfectly across our accounting and marketing systems. The Zoho Finance suite of products has turbocharged our ability to track real-time data about our business. Having all of our departments seamlessly integrated together allows us to respond quickly and make the right decisions every time” 

Adam Petyt Director Element Packaging LTD 

An electronics engineers choice. 

An electronics engineers choice. 

Out of a small village in Wales, United Kingdom runs The Debug Store, which carries everything an electronics engineer would need to build their perfect project. John Legg, The Debug Store’s director, noticed the lack of such tools and kits in the UK market while he was trying to pursue his passion of electronics developement. He realized that everyone with his similar interests needed to have access to the right equipment, which encouraged him to move into the diverse electronics market himself. John’s combined office and residence now deals with thousands of SKUs, managing online orders, customer relations, marketing, and much more, with guaranteed customer satisfaction. 

A quest for growth 

With the knowledge he had gained from working with multiple industries during his early life, and looking at the potential of this industry, John wanted to scale his business up. As his requirements grew, he felt a bit stuck with the tools he had been using for more than 10 years. It was then he realized that he needed to move to a tool that could help him scale better. Some of the problems he had included accounting tools like Sage, which lacked scalability and visibility. He wanted to ensure that his inventory and accounting would be well-connected to each other and available to him from anywhere. 

John receives a large proportion of his orders through thedebugstore.com, an online website powered by X-Cart, so a solution that integrated well with this shopping cart was a necessity. He had been evaluating a couple of order management solutions to ensure that his orders were fulfilled on schedule. 

Just the app he needed. 

John was introduced to Zoho Inventory while trying out Zoho Books as an accounting package. Based on John’s requirements and the technical workflows he needed to accommodate, the Zoho team felt that Zoho Inventory would be a good fit. As an inventory system with an integrated accounting solution, it was a game-changer for order management for him. The Debug Store manages numerous purchases and receives, so using Zoho Inventory helps John to keep up with his accounting as well. The accounting bills and invoices are now available on tap and it all works just the way he needs it to. 

In addition to all this, John now has an integrated system that works with his X-Cart-powered website, which is the lifeline of his business. Any online order that comes into his website is accounted in Zoho Books and guided through the packing, picking, and shipping stages via Zoho Inventory’s order management functionalities. Finding items from his warehouses has never been more easy for John. Best of all, the iOS mobile app for Zoho Inventory helps him stay updated on his business activities, even while he is on the move. 

Improving on a chaotic arrangement 

Zoho’s software has not only helped John refine the way he handled his orders, but also allowed him to handle all his accounts in one single space. Moving into the system has helped him explore solutions like Zoho CRM for customer relations, Zoho MarketingHub for visitor tracking and engagement, Zoho Mail for emails, and much more. Every day is a new day for John to learn about better technology for his business. Zoho Inventory is at the centre of my ecommerce business. I am now in complete control of all purchases and customer orders, far better than standard accounts software,” says John. 

As an active member on the Zoho Inventory forums and community, John also helps the Zoho Inventory team by providing suggestions for improvements and refinements within the system. He loves the way the team takes his suggestions and the amazing improvements they’ve made in the overall system during his time as a Zoho customer. Feedback like John’s helps Zoho Inventory uniquely understands its customers and be a part of their business success. 

Putting financial controls in place to successfully outsource the finance function of a PR agency 

This is a story by the founders of App Advisory Plus: Will Farnell, Founder of Farnell Clarke, and Frances Key, Client Services Director at Farnell Clarke.

Farnell Clarke is a technology-focused accountancy practice based in Norfolk. As we offer digital services our clients can be located anywhere, but most of them are based in Norfolk and London. This Chartered firm provides all the essential accounting services (such as payroll, bookkeeping, annual accounting, tax, personal tax return, management accounts and forecasting) but has quite a niche personal tax team as well. We also do software implementation, including training, and deliver consultancy to other accounting firms.

 

Essentials for outsourcing the finance function

Farnell Clarke has a lot of clients that have outsourced their entire finance function to us. We make payments for them and do their bookkeeping. This scenario absolutely demands a system which ensures that all proper approvals and controls are in place. For this, ApprovalMax is our go-to tool. It lets us collect client approvals for payments remotely and fully digital. Perfect!

 

Sorting out finances for a PR agency 

The first client who entrusted us their whole finance function is a PR and communications agency based in London. They spend money mainly on creating and placing marketing materials related to their customers, hiring venues as well as organising event catering. All these costs need to be assigned to the individual customers, in order to keep a close eye on the budget.

When we took over, our client was working with Access Dimensions – not a cloud accounting software. Someone from the accountancy firm they were using at the time came in every couple of weeks to do the bookkeeping and raise purchase orders. But nobody in the agency really knew what he was doing, or why he was raising those purchase orders.

 

Setting up an app stack for bill automation

It soon became obvious that the PR agency’s spend control process required optimisation. The company just had a credit card lying around in the office for everyone to use, so nobody knew who made which purchase. When Farnell Clarke had questions regarding who would approve payments, the client’s administrator was not always able to give an answer. They just didn’t have a spend approval process in place, and no tracking either.

To solve that, we replaced the credit card with Soldo and implemented Xero, Receipt Bank & ApprovalMax. This app stack became the foundation for building a transparent, convenient and efficient bill automation process for the PR agency.

There was some initial training required to get things going smoothly because, now, it’s the agency’s team who raise the purchase orders and they had to learn how to select the right codes and suppliers. But they soon got the hang of it. 

 

Spend control along with easy purchasing – a new era

With ApprovalMax, there is a streamlined and clear approval process for purchase orders that get authorised by certain employees of the agency, depending on which customer the purchase is for. 

Approval levels are based on bill amounts and particular managers on the client side. If a certain amount is exceeded, the director needs to approve. Their processes are also not linear because each employee can make purchases for different customers. 

This is where ApprovalMax is great – it adds the inventory element to Xero and enables tracking, which brings much better control to the approval workflow. It also enables matching of purchase orders and bills.

The agency’s director just loves the audit trail – if something is not quite right, they can easily find out why and get it sorted.

 

Top benefits achieved

For our client, regaining control is the key benefit. They can see what’s been ordered at any given time and have a clear policy of who can buy what, and when. ApprovalMax makes both this process and the rules work. Plus, the setup is very simple.

For Farnell Clarke ApprovalMax is truly awesome because it enables us to be an outsource function. We would not be offering clients supplier-payment services if we couldn’t get their internal approval beforehand. So, in this respect, it’s down to ApprovalMax that we can extend our offering. 

 

Powered by Spotlight: Two minutes with Gareth Bryant from Interactive Accounting

“On average, compared to using other tools or manual methods, we’d save at least 4-6 hours per year per client. Across a client base of 300+ businesses, that’s a lot of hours being used for other things.”

Gareth Bryant, Managing Director from ‘advisory first’ firm, Interactive Accounting, talks to us about their 2020 goals and ambitions, and how being powered by Spotlight helps their firm and clients.

Powered-By-Spotlight_Gareth-Bryant

To get us started, why don’t you tell me a bit about Interactive Accounting and your role?

Interactive Accounting is an ‘advisory-first’ modern accounting firm based in Sydney and Melbourne. We have a team of 16 across the two cities. We primarily work with high-growth small businesses and startups. We manage all our work internally (i.e. we don’t outsource) and leverage technology to deliver a high-quality client experience.

I’m the Managing Director of Interactive, and I split my time between delivering CFO services for various high-growth businesses and managing our fantastic team.

What does 2020 look like for you and the Interactive Accounting team?

We have big ambitions for 2020. We felt like we achieved a lot in 2019, with a number of clients completing capital raises, international expansion and successful exits, we feel this is just the beginning.

“We have big ambitions for 2020. Whilst we felt like we achieved a lot in 2019, with a number of clients completing capital raises, international expansion and successful exits, we feel this is just the beginning.”

Our goal at the end of 2020 is to be the go-to boutique accounting firm in Australia for startups and high-growth technology businesses. We have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal, but we feel like it’s well within our reach.

What were the major pain-points of your process prior to using Spotlight Reporting?

As a modern accounting practice, set up 10 years ago this month (yay!), we’ve always tried to leverage technology to enhance the client experience. Prior to coming onboard with Spotlight Reporting as a Super VCFO partner, we used a variety of other tools. We found them to be less than satisfactory due to being very time-consuming and delivering a sub-par product.

Pain points included using clunky, manual processes to compile data, needing to do consolidations across client groups via an Excel spreadsheet and various other headaches. I shudder at the thought of ever having to go back to that!

Alex, our Customer Success Specialist, mentioned the team at Interactive Accounting are Forecasting experts. What has your experience been like using Spotlight Forecasting?

We find Spotlight Forecasting to be a very useful tool. Whilst some of our startup clients require complex financial models that only Excel can deliver, a significant portion of our client base needs a smart, useful tool to help manage and forecast their cashflow position. This is where Spotlight Forecasting comes in.

With Spotlight Forecasting, with minimum fuss (but a high level of accuracy), we put together a financial forecast giving our client a level of insight and security they would not see otherwise. Because the application is intuitive, we can prepare this in a cost-effective way for our clients.

“With Spotlight Forecasting, with minimum fuss (but a high level of accuracy), we put together a financial forecast giving our client a level of insight and security they would not see otherwise.”

When it comes to preparing forecasts for your clients, do you secure regular engagements or is it more ‘one-off’ project work?

For the majority of our small business and startup clients, they are on fixed-fee annual packages which have an advisory element combined with their ongoing tax and compliance. We have a rule at Interactive for these clients: every one of them MUST have some sort of budget or forecast (even when the client doesn’t think they need one).

Without a tool like Spotlight, this process would be far less efficient and our fees would need to be substantially higher to fulfil this mission.

By using Spotlight can you measure any increases in revenue or growth, or time-saving?

We save countless hours in our advisory packages by utilising the Spotlight suite of tools. From setting up their initial yearly and rolling forecasts, to reporting on a monthly or quarterly basis, the savings are huge. On average, compared to using other tools or manual methods, we’d save at least 4-6 hours per year per client. Across a client base of 300+ businesses, that’s a lot of hours being used for other things.

“On average, compared to using other tools or manual methods, we’d save at least 4-6 hours per year per client. Across a client base of 300+ businesses, that’s a lot of hours being used for other things.”

What features do you enjoy the most, and which features make yours and your teams’ jobs easier?

Our favourite reporting feature would be the ability to consolidate multiple Xero files across multiple currencies with ease. It saves countless hours of manual consolidation work.

Another key feature that makes me smile on a daily basis is the customisable profit and loss analysis report. Without question, it is the page I spend the most time on when discussing financial performance with a client.

We also love, built in KPIs, Dynamic Rules in Forecasting and Custom Report Templates!

What would you say to someone who’s shopping around for a reporting or forecasting tool?

There are plenty of tools out there in the market, but if you need the ability to deliver sophisticated reporting to your clients in a timely fashion, you can’t really go past Spotlight. We’ve tried a range of tools for various specific features and functionality, but nothing else comes close. We love it!

Thanks Gareth and we look forward to seeing you and the team achieve your 2020 goals!

Armstrong Watson Case Study

Armstrong Watson is a leading accountancy practice based across the North of England and Scotland, offering a full range of services including payroll, RRI, financial planning and corporate finance.

Armstrong Watson faced operational challenges and time constraints relating to bookkeeping data entry of paper documents, including bank and credit card statements, receipts and invoices. In order to address these issues, Armstrong Watson partnered with AutoEntry. Since adopting the solution, Armstrong Watson has been able to systemise its bookkeeping processes, whilst significantly increasing productivity.

Automating its bookkeeping practice

Before automating its bookkeeping function, Armstrong Watson had been challenged in creating sets of accounts and tax returns for its 2,000 bookkeeping clients. The company receives more than 30,000 pages of bank statements, purchase and sales invoices each year which required thousands of hours to process by hand.

To address this, Armstrong Watson decided to automate its processes and following a marketplace review it chose AutoEntry by OCREX in 2017.

Toby Woodhead, solution architect at Armstrong Watson comments, “Before AutoEntry, we had over a 100 people spending hours each week to manually upload data for our bookkeeping clients, which was an impractical use of resource in the long term. We already knew OCREX and trusted the quality of its solutions, which led us to select AutoEntry in order to fulfil our long-term objectives. Since implementing the solution, we’ve driven productivity by almost 90 per cent when processing bookkeeping data entry – an incredible time saving which we can reinvest into the business.”

AutoEntry as a strategic business partner Armstrong Watson wanted to systemise the back oce in order to streamline services, whilst improving the quality of its data capture. By leveraging artificial intelligence and OCR technology, AutoEntry eliminates instances of human error arising from manual data entry, accurately extracting data from invoices, receipts, credit notes, purchase orders and more before posting it into a given accounting solution.

Tony Woodhead remarks, “We wanted to standardise our bookkeeping processes and improve the accuracy of our client’s data through automation, so our employees could focus more time analysing the numbers, rather than aggregating them. AutoEntry understands this both as a service provider and strategic business partner, supplying us with the technological support and functionality needed for us to achieve our goals.”

When choosing a new solution provider, AutoEntry stood out above the competition and we’re delighted with the business benefits secured since its deployment. The quality of the software is exceptional and critically, the platform can flex to accommodate fluctuating workloads without compromising on speed, or quality of the data yielded. For us, AutoEntry is more than a bookkeeping solution, the company is a valued business partner and we look forward to generating further efficiencies with them in the future.”
– TOBY WOODHEAD, SOLUTION ARCHITECT, ARMSTRONG WATSON

Driving efficiencies across the business

Armstrong Watson benefits daily from the intelligent suite of features uniquely oered by AutoEntry. For instance, data capture from scanned and photographed images of bank and credit card statements, as well as invoices, receipts, expenses, bills and other paper documents. When working with clients within agriculture or hospitality, the company can leverage the full line item capture function, which uploads the description, unit price and quantity of each line, so a user can accurately assess their VAT balance.

Elsewhere, the system can sync captured invoices to matching open purchase orders as and when needed. Armstrong Watson is Xero’s largest UK partner and AutoEntry enables users to post bookkeeping data directly into Xero, integrating seamlessly with the platform as well as other leading accounting solutions. Once AutoEntry has posted the data, it creates digital records so the company no longer needs to keep large quantities of paper documents in the oce, with client data stored securely in the cloud. As AutoEntry is available as a web or mobile app, it helps keep those customers based in more rural locations connected, enabling them to scan invoices remotely with their handheld device.

Preparing for MTD

With the digitisation of the UK tax system through HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ expected to come into effect over the next few years, Armstrong Watson is keeping ahead of these changes, preparing its clients through personalised consultation and training programmes as needed. As AutoEntry is fully compliant with HMRC’s forthcoming legislation, it will play a key role in supporting Armstrong Watson during this transition.

Toby Woodhead comments, “We believe MTD will force tax administration to become more efficient in turn giving our customers increased visibility into their accounts throughout the year, which will help us identify how they can become more profitable. We expect a surge of new clients as we approach the deadline, and AutoEntry will be key in helping us support this new business. As AutoEntry is so simple to use, we’ll also be encouraging customers to use the solution themselves when scanning documents and filing quarterly reports.”

Moving forward

Armstrong Watson will continue to digitise services in order to secure heightened business efficiencies and superior customer experiences. Toby Woodhead sums up, “Technology is disrupting the industry and driving innovation, and in response, we’ll look to further automate administrative and compliance functions in order to provide the best advisory services and digital experiences possible for our customers. AutoEntry will continue to help us achieve these goals as a core component of our IT infrastructure and a valued business partner in the years ahead.

Fruit People Case Study

This won’t be a big surprise… the fruit people deliver fruit to businesses around Dublin. The adage that “a healthier employee is a happier employee” is more than a popular line that we’re read 100 times… it is actually true. And as a customer of theirs the fruit bowl is usually pretty empty by Thursday afternoon, and so it’s fair to say that it is a success here in AutoEntry.

A classic start-up, they started in their grandfathers garden shed in 2013 after returning from Australia where the idea was born. The initial team was made up of just Barry and Brian; since then the business has grown to 30+. They moved from that shed to a rental property, and have now moved into their own premises that offers x4 the space they had before. They’re growing, literally and figuratively.

The Fruit People culture is legitimately centred around quality (Product & service).The produce is sourced directly from farmers (where at all possible) and that means that the fruit is not sitting around in a warehouse somewhere waiting for distribution. And that ladies and gentlemen, means that the produce is extra fresh!

The Fruit People team are often on first name terms with their customers and will introduce lesser known (in season) fruits that they discover in the markets. Talking to Clare Cramer (an early team member that has been on board since year 2) you get that sense of legitimacy when she tells you… “I absolutely love my job”. This is a great SME that is getting less “S” and more “M”.

Implementation

The Fruit People are unusual in that their decision to automate was responsive and not reactive. Their accountant recommended AutoEntry to them. Barry Dennis (co-founder) loves tech and was happy to trial it.

Clare Cramer (Head of Accounts) trialled the software by uploading some of their own financial documents. “I snapped a few receipts and uploaded a few invoices. Everything read perfectly and I was able to publish them into Xero immediately”.

Clare recommends that setup is key. “We implemented AutoEntry when the business was a lot smaller. Even back then, data entry was taking time, looking at the volume now I would hate to think how much time it would take to process all of that”.

‍Introducing Their Suppliers to AutoEntry

The Fruit People quickly realised that even more time can be saved if they ask their suppliers to email their invoices directly into AutoEntry (via a custom AutoEntry email address). “We were getting invoices in from suppliers in the traditional paper format. The number of invoices was increasing considerably and so I asked our suppliers to email their invoices into AutoEntry directly. This saved us even more time. Now I don’t even have to upload the invoices into AutoEntry, they are already in there. Now all I have to do is reconcile them and then publish into Xero”.

Benefits Of Using AutoEntry

  1. The gift of time
    “Time savings is obviously one of the benefits to using AutoEntry!” Clare Cramer, Operations manager. “I wouldn’t like to think how much time I would have spent on data entry if we hadn’t implemented AutoEntry”.
  2. Accuracy
    “There WILL be mistakes. We’re all human. Providing the document is clear enough to be read properly, the number of mistakes becomes negligible. Once the documents are uploaded into AutoEntry all I have to do is reconcile the entries; there’s very little in terms of inaccuracies that can happen after that”.
    “Another area that AutoEntry helps with is duplicate invoices. Anyone doing manual data entry will have come across duplicate invoices. You can’t have duplicate invoices in AutoEntry!”
  3. Kinder to the environment
    “We would like to be as paperless as possible. We are working with fresh fruit every day and so we are very aware of the health of the environment. We also like that the data is captured and stored safely so that we can destroy these important documents with the peace of mind that the data will always be available to us and that we can always print off whatever we need (if we need it)”.

How Specialist Accounting Solutions wins new business with the time saved using Fathom

Specialist Accounting Solutions (SAS) was founded in 2015 by Sean Hackemann, who has been a Chartered Accountant for over 10 years and has extensive experience leading the finance departments of SMEs and growth businesses, as well as providing business advisory services and corporate finance.

Highlights

  • Between three and seven hours saved per management report, each month
  • In the time they’ve saved, SAS use Fathom in conjunction with their video recording approach to design pitches to win new clients
  • More professional, easier to understand management reports that provide more detail

Specialist Accounting Solutions focus on primarily growth businesses in and around Greater London and the Thames Valley. They offer clients both business advisory services such as financial modelling, business plans and business valuations, as well as an outsourced financial director function for clients that don’t yet need a full-time FD, but do need financial guidance and management. Their typical clients range in size from £3m to £15m.

“I’d say, on average, we probably save half a day to a day’s work on a regular monthly report. Three and a half – maybe five, six, seven hours potentially – on just proofing and checking stuff that we now don’t do because we know the data is live. Multiply that up by the number of reports that we produce, and also the speed at which we can do stuff now, you can see it’s a game-changer.” – Sean Hackemann

The Challenge

The management report building process was time-consuming, laborious, and far from dynamic

Generating reports and management information is a key offering of Specialist Accounting Solutions’ advisory service to their clients. However, the process was time-consuming, laborious, and far from dynamic.

Producing reports in PowerPoint meant taking core tables out of Xero or QuickBooks and putting them in a table in Excel, then placing this (via a link) into PowerPoint. This raised all sorts of issues, such as the links being updated, and making sure file names are correct and so on. Sean had been writing reports for years, and assumed that was just the way you did it.

This method not only consumed resources, but it also meant that reports didn’t always contain the latest information, and were susceptible to potential errors. But more than that, it was a cumbersome and inefficient way to highlight detailed advice that would genuinely help clients grow their businesses.

Consequently, Specialist Accounting Solutions were looking for a solution to present granular-level management information to clients in a more useful, modern way, one that moved beyond 20th-century tools like slide decks and Excel spreadsheets.

The Solution

A saving of three to seven hours per management report and an end product that clients could easily understand

After encountering a Fathom-generated report by chance (see this Q&A for the full story), Specialist Accounting Solutions’ Founder Sean Hackemann adopted Fathom in his business and began using it to generate not only better looking and easier to understand reports, but ones with much more detail too.

Presenting highly detailed and granular financial data in ways that business owners and managers could not only understand, but also act upon, was a great benefit.

With his current clients reacting positively to Fathom’s suite of options and means of presenting, Sean began looking for other ways to use the software. He now offers a bespoke video run-through to clients, delivering his advice using Fathom’s suite of tools to highlight key areas, successes and potential problems. This personal video, bundled with the details and highly visual presentation of data in Fathom, has proved a huge hit with clients.

With Fathom, Sean estimates he’s saving somewhere between three and seven hours  on producing each monthly report. And those hours really start adding up when you consider that Sean might be producing several reports for various clients per month.

In the time they’ve saved, Specialist Accounting Solutions have used Fathom in conjunction with their video recording approach to design pitches to win new clients.

It’s not just about saving time and automating processes however. In the time they’ve saved, Specialist Accounting Solutions have used Fathom in conjunction with their video recording approach to design pitches to win new clients.

“In our experience, people are very, very, very enthusiastic about Fathom. It sells itself because of the level of management information you get, the different presentation of the reports, the way it looks. It’s so much better than any kind of Excel spreadsheet, so much more powerful. You can see so much more about what’s going on” says Sean.

Clarity Case Study – Nephos

Who are Nephos?

Nephos is a forward thinking, tech focused accountancy practice located in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. We have 7 staff and use many tech solutions including, Xero, Receipt Bank, Fathom, Clarity and Pleo. Our main focus in on providing real time, relevant and useful management information to clients to assist them to grow their business.

How long have you been using Clarity?

We recently added Clarity to our app stack around 6 months ago. 

What happened before Clarity and what challenges were you trying to overcome?

We needed a system which simplified the process of analysis key business metrics for our staff so they could identify opportunities for our clients to improve their business and also bring these issues or improvement areas to our senior team. We wanted to empower the team to be able to see the value they could add to a client. We also use Clarity at the onboarding stage to review the numbers to be able to offer suggestions to prospects and also put us ahead of the game. 

How long did it take you to get it set up & have staff trained?

Clarity is set up very quickly and can easily be integrated into a clients Xero ledger. We rolled it out to a small number of clients very quickly. Our staff have all been trained quickly as the system is extremely simple to use. 

What kind of support did you get in setting up and training staff?

Clarity have offered lots of onboarding and support calls to assist us getting set up and to train staff. They have offered as much support as we needed via zoom calls to ensure we  were completely happy with the system and answered any queries we had. 

What features do you like the most? (top 3)

  1. Easy of use
  2. Action plan can help more junior members of team structure calls/meetings with clients
  3. Easy to identify opportunities to assist business growth

What integration are you using?

We integrate with Xero.

Do the integration(s) work as expected? 

So far everything has worked seamlessly

Did you look at other apps and why did you choose Clarity?

Clarity does kind of stand in its own category at the moment as it doesn't quite fit in the reporting tool category as lacks in advanced reporting features. This was what drew us to Clarity though as we wanted a simple tool which the whole team could use and embrace. 

Was there anything the app didn’t solve that you were expecting it would? 

Nothing to name yet.

How do you use Clarity and what benefits have you seen?

As mentioned above we use Clarity to identify opportunities to assist our clients and also offer added value services where required. We wanted a tool the whole team could use and have found Clarity to tick these boxes. I would highly recommend.

Clarity Case Study – GT Accountancy

Introduction to GT Accountancy

Graeme Tennick & Co are a client-centric firm based in Newcastle.

Graeme and his team recognise that the accounting profession is seeing an unprecedented change with a heavily reliance on technology; but also acknowledge the importance of personal skills.

They have subsequently found a balance between being a firm at the forefront of technology; where possible, whilst retaining that personal touch to make the information generated by the software of value to the clients which in turn then makes a bigger difference than ever.

What happened before Clarity?

One of the main issues we had was not knowing where or what the problems were. There’s a complete overload of data for all our clients, via several support apps, and clients did not know what do with this data and were struggling to translate this into something concise but meaningful for them and us.

Graeme Tennick

Whilst receiving monthly management accounts ticked some basic boxes, so much value was being missed and the amount of follow up once these had been received was rare.

The three main battles most of our clients face are time, information and money.

  • They all struggle with time and in particular, focus.
  • There is a deluge of information; lack of or even confusion over what information clients have or need and then what to then do with it.
  • Lack of money. Which causes issues when trying to resolve the previous two pain points.

A lot of our clients have more than one of these three problems, if not all of them.

What challenges did you come up against when trying to deliver business advisory to your clients?

The first challenge was, (the one that most accountants need to accept) nobody likes the term ‘advisory services’.

It is a play on the simple and more honest reality of what this ‘new’ service is, which is really no more than ‘advice’.  Not as glitzy I know but let’s just accept this as a starting point.

Graeme Tennick

Once we realise this, then you can focus on understanding your customers and accept that they are not all the same.

[At Graeme Tennick & Co] We found that even when clients knew they had a problem, offering ‘advisory services’ wasn’t the right solution for them. Plus, it was a hard sell for our team.

The ‘new’ service offering wasn’t clearly distinguished from the compliance based services already offered, and therefore we didn’t stand a chance to charge a premium for it.

Then getting clients to pay for the new advisory services was the final challenge. We found it difficult to demonstrate the value of the advisory services, prior to doing the work. And in addition, clearly separating advisory work from what we were already doing only added to the issue and caused more confusion.

Why did you choose Clarity?

For us, Clarity is the perfect ‘bridge’ that brings our clients and us together.

The Clarity platform pulls in all of the key seven measures where we were trying to make a difference to clients. And these seven key numbers are displayed in a way our clients can understand.

The implementation was so simple and didn’t require a six-month training programme, and there isn’t a significant financial commitment or subscription contract before it would generate a return.

Graeme Tennick

Why is Clarity different from other business advisory apps?

There isn’t one piece of software out there that isn’t trying to do it all.

Once we had tried Clarity out on our firm first, it really brought things home for us.

The presentation of the data encourages all of our team to start having different conversations, and allows them to back-up their findings with a step-by-step action plan based on the same figures.

Clarity allows us to delve deeper and explore various metrics in a lot more detail using our own expertise, and therefore take better and more accurate action as well. Internally, it’s a starting point for conversation, which we can also translate across to certain clients of ours too.

Using Clarity has also made explaining and improving particular metrics to our clients easier.

Graeme Tennick

For example, the common issue of cash flow. Having seven simple metrics displayed visually, with a structured personal action plan attached, helps our clients focus on the solution (or outcome) rather than the issue (such as cashflow).

Clarity is the only software out there that puts the outcome first, that is benefit focussed. My team and our clients relate to this meaning that we are both engaged and invested in our professional relationship.

Clarity is different from the other advisory apps because it serves a dual purpose. Clarity is useful to both us and our clients. It’s something both parties can understand and commit to. It doesn’t require a degree to decipher and brings up quick, measurable results. Both ourselves and our clients can benefit and grow from using Clarity in no time whatsoever.

It is the easiest app I have ever introduced to my firm in terms of team training and implementation. Plus, the support and guidance from the team is excellent.

How did you use Clarity?

In the past, we have done things a little bit backwards when it came to software. Historically, we picked the apps which we thought were important to us, assuming they would be equally as important to clients, and then built up our own ‘tech stack’.

Subsequently, we then struggled to bring all the various apps together and found it even harder to position and strongly market the tech to our clients. We always felt we were missing something just to bring them all in.

I believe Clarity should get commission from various other advisory apps in the eco-system as it positions them so nicely, and really is a gateway for them!

Graeme Tennick

We also made the huge mistake of trying to market the other apps themselves, rather than the outcomes. But the outcomes are actually much bigger and easier to discuss with the client, and simultaneously much easier for them to commit to as well.

Clarity is the glue that pulled it all together. Without having to convince them, the quality of our initial conversation with clients from the seven key numbers partnered with the future outcome and action plan, means that the software sells our packages for us before we even propose them.

Clarity allows us to draw out more information from the client and helps us understand their needs and goals. We as a team engage with them better right from the beginning. We can measure their needs, and on top of that, we can measure the difference we’re going to make too.

We have found just by starting with Clarity we can cover so many issues from one simple starting point. Clarity breeds so many variations in conversation. Time, information and money problems can be so far reaching and can touch on so many different business areas such as cashflow or staffing etc. But just by starting with one piece of software you can draw out the core issues, find their origin, and, from there the conversations expand very, very quickly.

Ultimately, our clients can now see the difference that we are going to make to their bottom line when we’re working with them. And, they understand what they have to do to get there.

Graeme Tennick

Everything that happens underneath, buried within the proposal and quarterly meetings, is almost irrelevant to them. By focussing on the end outcome, Clarity really brings everything together for us and our clients.

What happened as a result of using Clarity?

As a result of using Clarity we have been able to offer a premium level of service never before offered that commands fees far exceeding those ever charged before. For which, we are adding value to our clients they could only ever have dreamed of.  This happened within weeks of committing to this software which just caps it all off.

I’d encourage others to use it on their own business first, as it costs you nothing in the free trial other than a bit of time. Invest a little bit of time, the on boarding is so easy, and really work through taking the deals through to the finish for your own firm. Revisit and hold yourself accountable to the action plan and be strict with it over the course of your free trial. If that hasn’t added any value at all within that fortnight, then there is something seriously amiss.

Ultimately, before I had officially committed to the software I added and spoke to my first six clients and raised an extra £42,000 in recurring annual revenue with no cost to Graeme Tennick & Co other than our monthly Clarity membership.

Graeme Tennick

nettTracker Case Study – Norwich FoodHub

Introduction to organisation 

Norwich FoodHub is a Community Interest Company that manages the collection, sorting, and redistribution of food that would otherwise go to waste, from supermarkets, wholesalers, and independent food retailers, to organisations helping people at risk of or experiencing food poverty.

Norwich FoodHub employs 2 staff on a part time basis, and uses QuickBooks Online as their accounting system. 

How long have you been using nettTracker?

Not very long, only around 1 month. 

What happened before nettTracker and what challenges were you trying to overcome?

Before we started with nettTracker, we only really looked at assets once a year for the accounts, and did all the calculations in Google sheets, then added a manual journal into QuickBooks. This didn’t take a massive amount of time, but we were wanting to automate as much as possible. 

How long did it take you to get it set up & have staff trained?

It took around 40 minutes to go through the training materials and get everything setup. 

What kind of support did you get in setting up and training staff?

There was self-support information available which we used. We didn’t need to ask any questions.

What features do you like the most? (top 3)

Recognition of new assets added. Automatic depreciation journals. Visibility over asset register. 

What integration are you using?

QuickBooks Online

Do the integration(s) work as expected? 

Yes the journals went in as expected, however you can’t choose the name of the journal so QuickBooks uses an iteration of the previous journal name.

Did you look at other apps and why did you choose nettTracker?

No, as far as we are aware this is the only fixed asset app on the market for QuickBooks Online. 

Was there anything the app didn’t solve that you were expecting it would? 

No.

Urban Jump – Getting cashflow back on track

Urban Jump Limited is an indoor trampoline park in Eastbourne, providing a key indoor space for families and kids to exercise and have fun. But a combination of factors came to a head during the summer of 2018 to create a cashflow gap that needed urgent attention.

Capitalise’s Head of Partnerships, Amy Cotton, worked with Urban Jump Limited and their accountant, Farnell Clarke, to access the finance needed to solve their issue.

The initial finance issue

When they first started the business, Urban Jump Limited had gone to an asset finance brokerage who put them into 17 different asset finance leases, at between 50-100% interest and with insane amounts of commission added in.

The brokerage also owned all the lease titles too, so if the business had wanted to buy these leases they would need to have given the brokerage three months of payments in advance in order to get them on his own books. So the situation was a mess, essentially.

The trampoline park was actually doing very well, but the cost of these loans was crushing them and eating into their cashflow. Then, during a 2018 summer heatwave in the UK, the business for an indoor space dried up. Their cashflow was hit hard trying to keep up with payments on these expensive leases.

Finding a solution 

The first thing Capitalise did was to talk to their bank and get them an interest-only, 12-month overdraft facility, which helped them get through on interest-only payments for the summer months while their cashflow was really tight.

Them, coming up to Autumn, Capitalise worked with their accountant, Will Farnell at Farnell Clarke, to pull together some forecasting around their projected future cashflow. They needed around £45k in the initial finance stage to dig them out of this cashflow hole, and £170k in the second tranche to sort out the refinancing. The business owner also had some property that had a fair amount of equity in it, so that allowed Capitalise to work with Urban Jump and take out a secured business loan against this property in order to refinance out these expensive leases and free them from giant payments.

That was a secured loan over seven years, taking their monthly outgoings down by about £20k a month, as well as extending some of the leases. So this was a two-part strategy, working with the accountant to save the business when it came to their poor cashflow position.

Creative Consultancy Saves 24+ Hours Per Person Each Month with Scoro

Butcher & Gundersen is a UK-based creative consultancy. From packaging to communications, information design to corporate brochures, Butcher & Gundersen services strategic and creative needs with passion, purpose and panache.

Butcher & Gundersen is a consultancy with an insatiable appetite for conquering complexity through the magic of design. For over 35 years they’ve lived with the same creative philosophy – uncomplicated by design.

Butcher & Gundersen The company’s Managing Director Sarah Teasdale & Creative Director Zeffy Dougekou have worked together for 20 years, since they joined B&G as junior designers, back in the day.Reflecting their combination of creativity and analysis, the B&G team combines designers who are great at ideas with disciplined thinkers.

BUTCHER & GUNDERSEN HAS BEEN USING SCORO SINCE NOVEMBER 2016

There are currently 10 people working at their offices in London.

The entire team – including the Project & Account Managers, Designers & Developers, Operations & Management – uses Scoro on a daily basis to manage their work, projects, and tasks, and to log time. The consultancy’s account handling team uses Scoro for estimating, invoicing and analysing billable and non-billable time spent on projects.

Before Scoro, Butcher & Gundersen used several different online and offline tools to manage their business and workflow – one tool for CRM and contacts management, other for project management and tasks, another for invoicing, etc.

The tools proved to be clunky, and not flexible enough to fit the consultancy’s business needs. Butcher & Gundersen started looking for alternatives, and they came across Scoro.

“Before Scoro, we used software which was not flexible enough to fit our business’ needs. It was also incompatible with other programmes. We wanted everything to be in one place, more flexibility, simplicity, integration and something that was more intuitive in its usability.

Scoro has become an integral part of running the business today, and we are very satisfied with the way Scoro has helped across the board.

When we’ve had to ask for support, your customer services team have been incredibly helpful.

Aitäh, keep up the good work!”

– Tom Penrose-Harding, Senior Account Executive at Butcher & Gundersen

Butcher&Gundersen-Tom

WHAT MADE BUTCHER & GUNDERSEN CHOOSE SCORO?

Butcher & Gundersen started to explore options to help make their work business operations and workflow more efficient, after trying a significant number of alternative tools – such as Harvest, Roll HQ, Traffic, etc. – they chose Scoro, because:

  • Scoro is a single hub for handling all of the consultancy’s business requirements, including projects and task management, team collaboration, quoting, finances.
  • The fact that Scoro is a business management software specifically designed for the creative sector.
  • Scoro also stood out from the competition by the ability to operate across multiple currencies, and by its extensive quoting and invoicing capabilities.
  • Scoro allows to view in-depth reports and analytics, to monitor the consultancy’s performance in real time.
  • The transition from previous systems, and learning to use Scoro – onboarding – was relatively fast and straightforward. Moving data and integrations (e.g. with Xero) went smoothly, and the support team at Scoro was always at hand to help. The consultancy’s Senior Account Executive Tom Penrose-Harding further comments: “During the onboarding we worked with Risto, who was always very helpful and patient throughout the process.”

The team’s favourite Scoro features:

  • The consultancy’s account handling team use the invoicing, estimating and purchase order creating features – and find it really useful that these can all be linked to a project.
  • The entire team uses the timesheet functions. This allows to produce reports based on time spent per project. Tom comments: “We find the timesheet reporting function very useful.
  • Being able to integrate with other software such as Xero, and other online platforms such as MailChimp, has made things much more simple and improved efficiency.

RESULTS

  • Each Scoro user at Butcher & Gundersen saves ~3 working days per month (~24 working hours each month).
  • With a team of 10 people, the consultancy saves 240+ hours each month in comparison to old practices.
  • Most of the time is saved on project management and invoicing.
  • The consultancy’s efficiency has increased by 50% – the team is considerably more efficient than with previous systems.
  • Scoro’s in-depth business and work reporting functionalities have provided valuable insight, which has helped the consultancy to make better business decisions, and for the team to work smarter.

Tom Penrose-Harding further comments:

Scoro has especially streamlined things for our account handling team. Having everything in one place has been really useful and makes projects more visible for the creative team as well. On the financial side of things, being able to invoice and estimate through Scoro is great and crucially the integration with Xero has made things so much easier.

UK Consultancy Saves 30% Time on Managing Daily Work

Aesara Partners offers executive coaching, leadership development and consultancy services to businesses in 15 different countries around the world. Their mission is simple – to enable you to be the best version of yourself. Aesara coaches have all been senior leaders and their services unlock the potential of people, teams, and cultures to maximize business performance.

Nathalie Dassas and Jodie Gibbens, the CEOs of Aesara Partners, both have extensive experience in business strategy, marketing, communications, designing and implementing corporate brands.

Aesara Partners has been using Scoro since November 2017

There are currently 10 people working at Aesara Partners offices in London and Paris, with the expected expansion to 15 employees by the end of 2019.

Everyone within the company uses Scoro on a daily basis to manage their everyday communications, consultancy projects, and tasks, and to log time and bill clients for time.

Aesara Partners praises Scoro’s CRM, sales quoting, and invoicing capabilities. Their most loved feature is Scoro’s customizable dashboard, that’s used on a daily basis for productivity, sales, and financial reporting.

What made Aesara Partners choose Scoro?

During Jodie Gibbens’ 10 years at a previous company, she constantly struggled with the efficiency and quality of the entire consultancy business funnel – all the way from managing and handling quotes, invoices, contracts, and client accounts.

With Aesara Partners, Jodie was determined to make all business processes easier for their coaches and more efficient for the management of the company. She wanted Aesara Partners to be more professional and bring more value to their clients, so they needed an effective software for bringing high-quality control and consistency of content and branding. “We are now a second-year start-up and Scoro is fulfilling these criteria beautifully. And where there are gaps, they work with us to find solutions,” says Nathalie Dassas.

Scoro All-in-One Work Management Software

Scoro provides a complete toolset for managing business

Prior to Scoro, they tried another reputable workflow system. However, they found it to be cumbersome and inadequate for their needs. The previous system seemed to be designed more with a specific company structure in mind, i.e., supply, purchase orders, and billing with either a manufacturing or service industry model in mind. Scoro seemed to be the perfect solution for professional and service-oriented organizations.

Nathalie Dassas: “Because we had already experienced what we didn’t want, it was more apparent when we found what would work for us.”

Ultimately the choice was made after discussions with Scoro’s sales team, and hands-on use of the system.

“With Scoro, we have found a  business management software that is transparent and easy to use – a system that works for the user, not the other way around, ” says Jodie Gibbens.

Aesara Partners team found Scoro’s official onboarding programme to be extremely valuable. Nathalie Dassas further comments: “Most of the problems we have encountered to date have more to do with the start-up nature of our company. For example, we did not have an accountancy system, to begin with, and started using Scoro first; we then started using Xero and had teething problems with the communication between the two platforms. Our understanding is that most companies do the reverse: start with the accountancy system and then add the work management system.”

“Scoro is definitely critical to our business operations,” both CEOs are convinced.

The Results

  • Aesara Partners moved from Excel to Scoro – replacing many manual processes.
  • The control over the quality of their service has more than doubled, which has resulted in increased efficiency and profitability.
  • 30% of hours saved on managing the daily workflow by the time coaches.
  • 100% of time saved on accessing live reports. No more time has to be spent on putting together reports because the team can now see everything on real-time dashboards and preset reports.

“There is more quality control over what goes out to clients and how we track it internally, it is much faster and easier to manage our workflow,” says Jodie Gibbens.

NettTracker Case Study with 360 Coms

Introduction to business:

360 Coms – Telecoms provider for businesses users.  Medium sized business with 15 employees

How long have you been using nettTracker?

6 months

What happened before nettTracker and what challenges were you trying to overcome?

Prior to the introduction of nettTracker, the fixed asset register was manually maintained each month.  Manual journals were created and entered into QuickBooks.  Accuracy is important as quarterly reports are produced for the bank.  With assets and depreciation being updated real-time, we can avoid having to make further adjustments at the end of the financial year.

How long did it take you to get it set up & have staff trained?

It took about an hour to set-up everything, but there wasn’t a user guide available at the time.  We currently have all the automation enabled so there wasn’t a requirement to get others trained.  Our accountant also has access so they will review when the accounts are prepared.

What kind of support did you get in setting up and training staff?

There are some video tutorials that are useful.  We got a little bit stuck when trying to import our assets from the prior year.  We raised a support ticket, and everything got sorted within a day.

What features do you like the most? (top 3)

  1. The automated journal entries.
  2. The reconciliation summary to compare the asset register to the QuickBooks balance sheet.
  3. The ability to invite others to view.

What integration are you using?

QuickBooks Online

Do the integration(s) work as expected?

Yes, all of the journals create exactly as expected, and the asset register agrees with values held on the balance sheet.

Did you look at other apps and why did you choose nettTracker?

We only found two apps on apps.com (nettTracker being one), that was created specifically for fixed assets.  nettTracker is UK based and displayed fair pricing which helped us decide which one to look into in more detail.

Was there anything the app didn’t solve that you were expecting it would?

No.  The requirements were simple.  We wanted depreciation calculated every month and all the journal entries made.  The app does all that we need.  We understand that further journals will be created when we run through the end-of-year routine, but we’ve not reached that yet.

How do you use nettTracker and what benefits have you seen?

Now that it is set up, we don’t actually need to do anything.  The depreciation amounts just appear automatically within out profit and loss reports.

A challenger bank for a challenger accountancy firm

“We don’t want to settle for the ordinary,” says Andy McGill, co-founder of accountancy business Ashton McGill. Andy set up Ashton McGill with his dad Alasdair two years ago. They now work with around 130 clients. “We choose to work with people who think in the same way as us and will only work with people that use online accounting software – that’s how it should be in 2019.”

When Starling launched multi-user business accounts, Ashton McGill were among the first to sign up. Ever since they found out about Starling 18 months ago, they’ve been recommending it to their clients. “Starling is part of our perfect setup for clients,” Andy says. “You’re a challenger bank, we’re a challenger accountancy firm – it just makes sense.”

Disrupting the accountancy industry

Almost every business needs an accountant. But they also often want help with business development, strategy, funding and cash flow. As soon as Andy and Alasdair started speaking to customers, the gap in the industry for a different type of accountant became clear.

“We’re not a traditional accountant by any means. People need the compliance and tax planning done, but they also want someone to come in and help them build a better business,” Andy says. “We’re coming at it with a completely new approach.”

A further insight gained from their initial market research was that people felt that accountants sometimes came across as superior and unrelatable. “Lots of people said that accountancy felt inaccessible or that they were made to feel stupid. We want to speak in a language everyone can understand, not one filled with accountancy jargon.”

A beautiful open space office

Their office is an old flour mill, located in the centre of Dundee, Scotland. The bright, creative space speaks directly to their company values: be curious; never settle; challenge the status quo; life & work in harmony; make a difference and enjoy the journey.

This manifesto is outlined on the main wall as you come in. The mural was created by one of their clients, Abandon Ship.

A mural in the Ashton McGill office
Their values are outlined in a mural, designed by Abandon Ship

“We work with some really amazing people and have the pleasure of doing so. There are some really cool, young and growing companies that reflect the same values we have, such as 71 Brewing, and other companies in the Scottish growth scene,” Andy says. “People come to us because of our brand and reputation.”

Bringing skills together

Andy’s background is in advertising, marketing, graphic design and web design. He both conceptualised and designed the business with Alasdair and continues to manage the brand and sales, as well as client accounts and requests.

Alasdair first trained as an accountant with EY, then went on to become managing director and owner of several companies. He then trained in Service Design, learning how to take a service and make it better using a human-centred approach. When Andy suggested they start an accountancy business together in 2017, Alasdair was initially reluctant to return to the world of spreadsheets. But once they began to talk to startups and potential clients, his mindset shifted. They both saw how much more their company could benefit small businesses.

“We’ve always been customer-centric,” Andy says. “You’ve got to think about who your users are and what their pains and gains are. You can’t make assumptions about what they want or need either, you have to talk to them.”

Digital tools for accounting

The Ashton McGill team work with clients who use either Xero or FreeAgent to manage their accounts. “We’re software agnostic – it’s whichever works best for the client.”

Both Xero and FreeAgent are partners in the Starling Marketplace, a space where customers can access third party products and services, fully integrated with their Starling bank account. “It can be really difficult when our clients use traditional banks because the integrations with Xero and FreeAgent are so bad. With Starling, the ease of use is much better and they can set up the account tomorrow,” he says. Starling offers business accounts with no monthly fees for sole traders and limited companies.

“I have two or three conversations a week about banks and which one to choose, and Starling always comes up,” he says. He recently spoke to someone setting up an eco-shop in Dundee selling groceries and household items such as washing-up liquid and soap, all plastic-free. “She didn’t want to use a traditional bank with a history of corruption and scandals, so I suggested Starling – they don’t have that traditional banking history.”

A new business model

Following an initial discovery call where they can find out more about a potential client’s business, Ashton McGill then decide whether working together is a good fit. The team, currently made up of 7 people, 4 in the office and 3 remote workers, draw up a bespoke quote based on the services the client needs. The client is then charged a monthly fee.

“In the discovery meeting, we find out what kind of service they’re going to need and where they want to take the business and their personal life – do they want to grow it into a big company or do they want to arrange it so that they can work for six months and then take the next six months off? It’s a chance to get to know them.”

Ashton McGill use software called GoProposal to create the custom quote and process payments through GoCardless into their Starling business account. They also use design tools such as The Business Model Canvas to define aims and strategies with their clients.

Learning from businesses and sharing

Ashton McGill host a podcast called Never Settle, a phrase which captures one of their values as a company. “We didn’t want to make a podcast about accountancy, we wanted to highlight entrepreneurial people with interesting stories.”

From the conversations they’ve had both on the podcast and in their business, their advice to budding entrepreneurs is to just get started. “Start with version one and get going. Really understand your customer. Don’t underestimate how important it is to get your accounting set up from the start and make sure you use technology to help you.”

Approval-driven Bill Automation for larger clients and international subsidiaries

“When it comes to managing supplier invoices, clients may have complex
authorisation processes that require time-consuming and error-prone manual
orchestration. This means they constantly have to validate where in the authorisation
queue each invoice is and who’s currently responsible for its approval.

Challenges of providing services to larger
clients

As part of a large international audit and accounting firm, Mazars UK works with a substantial number of UK subsidiaries of international companies as well aslarger clients in multiple verticals; including financial services, charities, property holding and investment companies, retail and hospitality businesses and recruitment firms. As organisations grow they become increasingly complex and approval chains can become extended. This brings with it delays and a lack of transparency as to where an invoice might be within that process. Add in an international element and there are typically approvers in multiple locations and time zones which again can delay the process of getting an invoice from receipt to payment. These delays can then lead to frustration both with suppliers and the operational team. Part of the services provided by Mazars UK are payments on behalf of their larger clients, such as payments for supplier invoices. This process used to involve email conversations and sometimes even paper invoices which required physical signatures and phone calls. The sheer volume of bills plus multiple levels of authorisation for many larger clients made the whole approval process very time-consuming and inefficient.

The solution: approval-driven bill
automation

Because of the tried-and-tested implementation of ApprovalMax by other Mazars countries, Mazars UK selected ApprovalMax as the core of their approvaldriven bill automation Xero based application stack. As part of its Partner Programme, ApprovalMax provided the product and implementation training which enabled the Mazars UK team to successfully introduce ApprovalMax to multiple clients, including well-known charities and international retail clients, and really putting it to the test with an international investment group with multiple entities. ApprovalMax is now Mazars’ standard application for workflow-driven authorisation. Once bills have been created in Xero, ApprovalMax automatically pulls and then routes them according to the approval matrix, which Mazars UK and their clients jointly define. Some of these approval matrixes are quite extensive. One client, for instance, has more than 40 approvers and multiple authorisation levels based on the amount and nature of each expense. All approvals are performed via ApprovalMax, with a full audit trail and history of approval-related communications automatically recorded. The status of all approval requests is immediately visible to both Mazars UK and their client, providing full transparency on the approval chain.

Results

Efficiency: no more overhead of paper- and emailbased approvals
Visibility: details and status of all supplier invoices
are up to date and available in real time
Confidence: automated approval rules ensure that
all invoices are properly authorised
Convenience: clients love using the mobile app for
approving invoices on the go

How seamless document collection enabled Zenbooks to provide better employee experiences and build prosperous client relationships

“It’s very rare nowadays that we lose track of a document, which is huge. We upload documents to Hubdoc in several different ways, but the great thing is, I always know where to find them, and Zenbooks can always be on top of it. No surprise requests!”

Dr. Jennifer Luck, Founder & Owner, Somerset Health and Wellness Centre

The challenge: create a great experience for both staff and clients

Most business owners agree that happy employees make happy customers – that’s a primary reason why many businesses have been optimizing for workplace flexibility, with a focus on employee satisfaction and growth.

For Canadian accounting firm Zenbooks, employee happiness has been central to the firm’s success. Since its founding it 2014, Zenbooks – which provides cloud accounting, CFO, bookkeeping, and advisory services to Canadian small businesses – has been on a mission to create happy, long-term employees, who translate their job satisfaction to their work on client accounts.

“A big issue in the accounting industry is finding and retaining top talent,” notes Zenbooks Principal Eric Saumure. “From the get-go, we have tried to provide flexibility to staff to work remotely and to reduce the pattern of late nights and weekends spent on client files.”

While employee flexibility may be a great concept, a major barrier to making it a reality has been the way accountants and bookkeepers traditionally work on client accounts – namely, the need to work with large amounts of paper invoices and receipts.

Zenbooks

“Accountants tend to work long hours by nature of what we do,” says Eric. “We used to spend a ton of time on document collection, whether it was scheduling a time for a client to come drop things off, or for us to go pick them up; then physically meeting the client and chatting about the documents. Alternatively, we’d have to order a courier, which is costly to do, and was just as hard to schedule.”

Naturally, a process predicated on back-and-forths between client and accountant didn’t make for the best experience for any party involved. “It would always come back to friction with clients when there were inevitably missing documents,” adds Eric. “You might get 11 of the 12 yearly bank statements, for example, because a client misplaced one. Then there’s unpleasant back and forth and trying to get the missing document. Not to mention, if a client did miss a document, we’d have to go through the entire process again to get what we need.”

When Zenbooks launched, cloud accounting was just becoming a reality in Canada. The firm adopted Xero shortly after launching to facilitate their cloud accounting vision. “Xero is the best cloud platform for businesses,” says Eric. “They’ve created so many connections to apps and softwares, so it covers basically every feasible program our clients are using, and creates a seamless experience for both us and our clients.”

While Xero started to open the doors for Zenbooks’ staff to work from any location, completing the necessary compliance tasks still prevented them from achieving their vision of being a fully remote team.

That’s when Zenbooks sought additional cloud technologies to further enable employee flexibility, and of course, better client experiences. “Document collection was still difficult for us, as it is for most accounting firms,” says Eric. “The time and effort spent just getting client documents was still manual and tied our staff to being at one location.”

A manual, paper-based document collection process was just as frustrating for Zenbooks’ client Somerset Health and Wellness Centre, who struggled with paper-based bookkeeping.

“I was always driven crazy by the disorganization around paper,” notes Somerset Health Founder and Owner Dr. Jennifer Luck. “Bookkeepers didn’t ever seem to have a good system for document collection and bookkeeping either!”

When Jennifer moved from desktop-based accounting software to Xero, she found that the business’ bookkeeping immediately improved. “When I learned about Xero, I thought it could fix a lot of the accounting challenges we were facing, so I sought a bookkeeper who was already using this program  – that’s when I found Eric and Zenbooks.”

Somerset Health

The solution: a document collection system that enabled remote bookkeeping

Creating a great employee experience can be tricky for any practice. For Zenbooks, employee experience has always been tied to flexibility, which is why the team sought to eliminate the document collection barrier it was experiencing. “We found Hubdoc and immediately saw how it could benefit the firm,” says Eric. “Eliminating the need to go visit clients, or wait on them, just to collect documents had the potential to enable remote bookkeeping.”

Zenbooks implemented Hubdoc in 2017, moving their entire document collection process to the cloud. “Using Hubdoc makes things so much smoother for us,” notes Eric. “The whole document collection workflow was rewritten because we were able to eliminate a huge segment of the process.”

Rather than waiting for clients to send documents, having staff bookkeepers visit clients to retrieve documents, or arranging a courier, Zenbooks now implements Hubdoc along with Xero as a standard tech stack for all clients. This includes training to help clients leverage Hubdoc’s upload tools (i.e., take photos of receipts with Hubdoc’s mobile app, and email or scan documents into Hubdoc), and set up automated connections to automatically fetch monthly bills and statements.

The result: happy employees, happy clients

If a firm can create a system that makes employees happy, the whole business benefits. When Zenbooks introduced Hubdoc into their Xero workflow, it helped the firm create the experience they had always wanted to provide for both staff and clients.

“Now that we get all our documents digitally through Hubdoc, Zenbooks staff can work while travelling, and that’s been great for employee satisfaction,” explains Eric. “We’ve been able to allow our accountants work from Australia and the Philippines because there are no document collection roadblocks anymore. All six Zenbooks staff work remotely!”

On the client side, things have improved immeasurably for Somerset Health. “For us, time is money, so if we’re spending time needlessly searching for receipts for hours at the end of the year and trying to get all the documents our bookkeeper requested, it’s not a good way to be spending our time,” says Jennifer. “Hubdoc completely eliminated this – it’s very rare nowadays that we lose track of a document, which is huge. We upload documents to Hubdoc in several different ways, but the great thing is, I always know where to find them, and Zenbooks can always be on top of it. No surprise requests!”

Beyond employee satisfaction and happy clients, Hubdoc has improved Zenbooks’ efficiency. Where an hour to two per month, per client was previously spent just on document collection, that time is now being utilized for more meaningful tasks. For staff, this process has helped them constantly stay busy throughout the year, so during year-end taxes, everything is ready to go and no one is overloaded by documents.

“Hubdoc also saves us time on the administrative tasks as well, since the documents are grouped automatically, and staff can easily access the clients’ folders they need to do their work,” adds Eric. “It’s really helped us create a better internal workflow and keep clients on track for year-end.”

The results speak for themselves: “Hubdoc and Xero enable us to be a leader in providing good employee benefits and having happy employees. If your employees are happy, they’ll make the clients really happy!”

How Freedom in Numbers built their practice with seamless bookkeeping and enabled 300% business growth

The opportunity: launch an accounting firm powered by automation

When Hannah Adams founded Freedom in Numbers in 2017 with her husband Simon, she wanted to be an accounting firm of the future. From day one, they both knew that becoming a valuable advisor to small and medium businesses meant utilising the right technologies and offering services that would provide clients with valuable insights.

“We found that business owners generally only have one or two points of contact with their accountant per year,” recalls Hannah. “They often work with old information, and really just have an advisor because they think they need to. We felt the relationship should be much more than that. The accountant is there to help guide a business and help owners make meaningful decisions using accurate data.”

With this in mind, Hannah and Simon decided to implement a standardised technology stack when launching Freedom in Numbers. Both had been working with Xero for years, and were familiar with the common issues clients might face. “We wanted to speed up the monthly bookkeeping process, not just for our clients, but for ourselves as well,” notes Hannah.

“At the end of the day, data entry should be the start of our processes, not the ‘be all, end all’ of what we do. When our data entry was manual, it took us away from being able to serve our clients better, so while we were preparing to launch, we looked for a way to streamline this task while also working seamlessly with Xero.”

 The solution: using Hubdoc and Xero for data automation

The biggest roadblock Hannah’s clients faced when trying to implement a seamless accounting workflow was manual bookkeeping: saving receipts, bringing them to the accountant, entering data, matching to a transaction, etc.

With Freedom in Numbers’ goal of clearing this roadblock, Hannah and Simon implemented their carefully selected standardised technology stack as they began working with clients. “All new clients get both Xero and Hubdoc,” explains Hannah. “We don’t tend to work with anything else because we find it’s the perfect integration and provides a complete bookkeeping experience.”

Realising that paper documents caused significant delays in the bookkeeping process (for both clients and themselves), Hannah and Simon made sure to provide training to their clients for using Hubdoc, focusing  specifically on Hubdoc’s mobile application so they could easily take photos of receipts. With clients snapping photos, Hannah and Simon could ensure a constant incoming document stream, rather than waiting one, two, or three months for a box full of receipts.

For clients such as Glade Consulting – a consultancy focused on helping companies achieve quality management, health and safety, and environmental certifications – moving to digital documentation was an important factor in switching to Freedom in Numbers. “When Hannah introduced Glade to Hubdoc, we knew it was going to be a great change,” says Richard Dolman, Founder and Lead Consultant at Glade Consulting. “Before Freedom in Numbers, I would spend two to three hours sorting, scanning, then sending my documents. Now, it’s all done in about half an hour because it’s an easy photo and done!”

The result: happy clients and 300% growth

When an entrepreneur launches a new business, they want to see their business grow and become sustainable. This was certainly the case for Hannah and Simon, but their Xero plus Hubdoc-powered tech stack has produced results beyond what they could have envisioned at launch in 2017.

“The key thing for us was time. Hubdoc saved huge amounts of time in our daily bookkeeping services,” says Hannah.

“We would easily spend a full day each week doing manual data entry, but now we can do the same amount of work in about 10 minutes because the documents we get are sorted by client, and the data is already entered! You can imagine how freeing the workflow was for us.”

Beyond the automatic document upload and data extraction through the mobile app, Hubdoc’s integration with Xero also set up Freedom in Numbers’ workflow for efficiency. “We can make sure things are pushed to Xero properly. Hubdoc automatically authorises the invoices in Xero, which is great because we get documents automatically, the data is pulled from them, we can push to Xero with one click, and the transactions are created and authorised, and the documents show up in Xero seamlessly.”

From the client side, knowing that each document is backed-up electronically is a significant burden lifted from a business owner’s mind. “Being able to snap a photo and forget about it is actually really nice,” notes Richard. “I’m not sitting there sorting my receipts and making sure to keep track of every little purchase. I know that Hannah is on top of it with just a photo.”

As forward-thinking firm owners, Hannah and Simon used the time savings and increased efficiency they experienced with Xero and Hubdoc to focus on growth and client experience. “The time savings can’t be stressed enough,” says Hannah. “It meant we could interact better with our clients: go out and see them if we need to, or find new clients and give them the right amount of time.”

This attention to client experience has paid off for Freedom in Numbers, as they’ve seen an astounding 300% growth in their business in the past year. “We obviously don’t expect this growth rate to continue forever,” jokes Hannah. “But it means our plan for growth happened much faster than we anticipated. So now, we’re having our business conversations much sooner: we’re introducing new services, and we’re considering hiring our first employee to own payroll. When you think about us only being in operation for two years and already having these conversations, it really has been due to our seamless workflow, which wouldn’t have been possible without Xero and Hubdoc.”

Make the leap to fuel efficiency

When finances have always been based on paper documents and manual processes, moving to an automated tech stack can take some convincing. For Freedom in Numbers, clients were often hesitant, but once they understood the technology, they were happy to make a switch. “Hubdoc is usually a refreshing change for clients, because they’re used to having piles and piles of paperwork,” says Hannah.

“When we tell them they can go out and get a coffee and simply take a picture and be done with it, their initial reaction is often shock – ‘I’m not supposed to be able to do that!’ But once we talk through the process and explain the concept and integration with Xero, clients are quite happy.”

Streamlining cash collection, reassurance of positive cash flow

Kinder Pocock is an online accountancy firm and Xero Partner, based in Hereford. Sharon Pocock, founder of the practice, is a real advocate for online working and the opportunity it brings to deliver a more personal kind of business support to her firm’s business clients.

We sat down with Sharon to find out how Xero and online accounting came into her life, and how GoCardless has opened up new ways to help her valued clients.

The friendly face of online accounting

As Xero UK’s Most Valued Professional of 2016, Sharon’s a shining example of how to combine incredible customer service with the best in online financial and business technology.

Sharon comes from a fairly traditional accounting background and had originally established Kinder Pocock as a practice back in 2005. But in 2012, Sharon discovered Xero online accounting and made the switch to become a cloud practice, bringing the benefits of online working to her growing client base.

Sharon’s keen, however, to point out that being tech-savvy isn’t their sole selling point. For her, trusted client relationships, helpful support and a friendly face are all just as vital.

“We say to clients that we’ll automate their businesses and free their time up – and the software’s a big part of that. But we’re also friendly and not stuffy in the way that some traditional accountants can be.

People have come to us because they know we’re user-friendly, speak on their terms and are easy to get along with. We become friends, really, and that’s always been the driver, with the online tools helping us with all of that.”

GoCardless, automation and a more streamlined practice

Sharon’s mantra at Kinder Pocock is ‘If you can automate it, automate it!’ and that’s been a key benefit of having GoCardless in place to automate their collection of fees and reconcile everything directly in their own Xero accounts.

We first started using GoCardless in January 2013. Once you have it in place it’s like you’ve always had it – it’s central to our processes and how we collect our own fees now.

Late payment wasn’t a specific problem for the firm. Fees we’re usually paid via bank transfer, cheque, or the odd cash payment in the early days, but Sharon could see that the time spent on cash collection, banking admin and chasing the occasional late invoice was holding back the efficiency of the practice – and that desire for automation led her to GoCardless.

“Having GoCardless really streamlines the whole process of collecting cash – it happens in the background automatically and we don’t really notice.

I know that on a certain day in the month that the bulk of our monthly billing will be deposited in our bank account. So it’s the reassurance, in terms of cash flow, but also the huge amount of time it saves with all the admin and chasing processes that don’t need to happen anymore."

Helping clients tackle cash flow with GoCardless

Having seen first-hand how GoCardless has helped provide positive cash flow for the practice, Sharon’s always eager to share the benefits of GoCardless and Direct Debit with her clients.

The apps that we can best recommend are those we use ourselves. GoCardless is an integral part of our processes, and because it’s so good we promote it to our clients as well. It’s definitely in our arsenal of useful solutions that we recommend to clients."

"When I’m talking to clients about payment and cash flow, I’ll usually talk about using GoCardless and Chaser together, with GoCardless making sure payments come through more predictably and Chaser automatically chasing up any possible debt. Chaser emails the customer with a link to the payment button in Xero, which has all the GoCardless payment information.

It's the benefit of having cash in the bank quicker that’s the real decider. It's also ideal for clients that take deposits and stage payments; e.g. clients of ours that run events, or weddings etc. Previously they’d have waited for the customer to pay, and were not in control of payment at all.

This combination of Xero, GoCardless and Chaser is going to get them paid much quicker, they don’t have to chase up late-paying customers and their customers don’t have to worry about it either, as payment will be taken automatically.”

Becoming an advocate for online working

Sharon’s enthusiasm for online working and desire to ‘do things better’ certainly transfers across to Kinder Pocock’s clients – something that’s been a key driver behind their ongoing growth.

“People do sometimes laugh at me because I get so enthusiastic about cloud and Xero etc, but that enthusiasm does translate across to your clients. The technology has really changed our business – it’s a joy to be involved in and it does make our work a lot more fun!

Even the visual aspect of how pleasing systems like Xero and GoCardless look is part of the attraction, as well as how helpful the support teams are and how easy it is to get the processes in place. Once everything’s set up, you’re not even aware that some of the processes are happening – it just happens, as if by magic.”

The future for Kinder Pocock

So what does the future hold for Kinder Pocock? How does Sharon see her cloud practice evolving and growing over the next few years?

“The main aim for us in the coming years is to move more into the advisory space. We’ve got all these really good software apps, like Xero, Receipt Bank, GoCardless, Chaser and Spotlight, that help us add more value for clients. And we also have a selection of advisory tools we use with clients to help drive their strategic planning and performance… things like our ‘Strategy & Targets’ chart for pinning down business owner’s personal and professional aspirations, and our one-page business plan, that clients love. As an accountant that’s really the fun bit of being an advisor – seeing that you’re making a difference to businesses.

We’re growing all the time, and I do have plans to get a few more staff on board, but the main thing for us to keep up to date with the technology and apps and to use them to enhance our advisory work – that’s what business owners want, after all: someone with an accounting brain who gives them the advice and personal support they need.”

Improved cashflow, integration with Xero, flexible payments

The Wow Company is a firm of cloud accountants and business advisers that aims to take the boring out of bookkeeping and make small business finance something to get excited about.

Advising small businesses

The role of the accountant in the business world is changing. Computers and technology are automating so many of the things accountants did in the past. The role of the accountant is now about being an adviser.

“At Wow, we help businesses look forward, not just back at last year’s numbers. And a big part of that ‘looking forward’ mentality is to give them the right tools and advice to help them do what they do best,” said Peter.

This prompted Peter and his co-founder, Paul Bulpitt, to set up The Wow Company in 2004, with a team that’s at one with technology, has a real focus on amazing customer service and strives to make a genuine difference for clients.

Seek out the best tech

The Wow Company’s ethos is all about stressing the importance of small businesses seeking out new technology that makes their lives easier. This is how Peter first discovered GoCardless – while looking for a solution to solve cash-collection issues.

“As a business, we have recurring billing. A decade ago, that meant going into a Word template, changing the dates, changing the amounts and putting the invoice into an email – and that was a nightmare. You’d spend days doing it each month.

Then Xero online accounting software came along and automated that whole billing process, but clients were still using standing orders to pay those fees. Every time a client changed their monthly amount, or had additional billing, that standing order had to be changed – creating a nightmare that had no benefit for us or our clients.”

A flexible payment solution

Peter started looking around at better ways to collect company fees. He knew Direct Debit was a great option, but had been put off by the £25k bond the bank had insisted on – not to mention the unlimited personal guarantee they were asking for.

“We felt there had to be a better way to collect those monthly fees. So I did a Google search for Direct Debit providers and up popped the GoCardless site,” Peter said.

Within less than 20 mins he was set up and had completed a test payment.

I was just amazed and in awe. I couldn’t quite believe that a system had been created that solved almost a decade of billing and payment headaches for us. Ever since that day, we’ve never looked back.”

How GoCardless transformed the business

Part of what Peter really loves about GoCardless is that it doesn’t just collect all the retainer fees, but the payments for ad-hoc work throughout the month too.

“We’re connected up using GoCardless for Xero, so when we bill for additional work, that money is collected 48 hours later. We don’t have to lift a finger. It means that we don’t have to employ a finance team to chase our debts, and that’s a cost-saving we can invest back into the business and into improving the impact we have for clients.

Our people can focus on higher-value tasks and client relationships, rather than chasing bills. GoCardless, as a solution, has just been an absolute revelation for our business and I can’t imagine life without it now."

Moving payment collection to GoCardless has been transformational for us. We’re a completely different business as a result of GoCardless and the second we discovered it we started recommending it to our clients. For anyone who wants to sharpen up their cash-collection function it really is an astonishing tool.”

Northern Accountants and Xavier “Xavier is a reviewing tool – you weren’t reviewing before, but you should be.”

Northern Accountants are an innovative and forward thinking, award-winning accountancy set up in 2008 by Phil Ellerby, and if that wasn’t enough, they’re also a Xavier early adopter, joining us back in February 2019.

At Northern Accountants the team’s focus is on improving the business and lives of all their clients, helping them to be more successful through year round support, advice and expertise.

Helen and Rachel from Xavier met with Sally Claxton and Robyn Jones from Northern Accountants to learn more about how Xavier has transformed their processes.

Using Xavier

Northern Accountants have three offices, with both internal and external bookkeeping clients. The team are on Xavier almost every day checking the client and creating monthly reports. Xavier is the first place they turn to to generate their monthly summaries, the client overview is a really quick way to get the metrics for the month.

Xavier doesn’t just help the team save time creating their reports. Using Xavier metrics, the monthly report also helps the clients understand where they might need additional help. The team will look at Xavier to see who needs assistance with other services; the health score helps clients to understand the value of bookkeeping services, and stats like Debtor Days can indicate which clients might need credit control services to manage their debtors. This all contributes to educating clients to run a better business, making more money with less stress.

How have things changed since using Xavier?

Xavier has replaced manual checking of accounts in a big way; checks were time consuming and infrequent, now with Xavier it’s really easy for the team to stay on top of their clients. For internal bookkeeping clients, the average Xavier health score has gone from 60 to 90!

Things got missed before, but Xavier picks them up before they become a problem later. The knock on effects from better quality data mean Xavier has made the VAT process & end of month significantly faster.

Health scores are checked every monday which creates a friendly rivalry between the 3 Northern Accountants offices. Each of the offices have a lot of internal pride about their internal clients’ health scores so it’s really motivating for the team.

Finding the Value

For the Northern Accountants team, Xavier pays for itself with time saved in end of month and year end processes. In terms of bringing in additional revenue, Xavier is used to demonstrate the value of internal bookkeeping services; for those that use an external bookkeeper, the Xavier health scores are often much lower.

Finally, Xavier helps Northern Accountants with pricing and onboarding new clients. The health score and transaction information lets the team price accurately for the work they will need to do for that client.

Is there anything prospective users should know before using Xavier?

“Why aren’t you using it?!” Xavier is a reviewing tool - you weren’t reviewing before, but you should be.

Ad Valorem and Xavier A ‘Game Changer’ for the Business

Ad Valorem is a leading, proactive accountancy business managing clients from startup to 20m turnover. As a family business with family values, they support and understand other family businesses to achieve their goals. The team offer everything from transactional advisory services to VAT and corporation tax estimates, identifying opportunities that might help their clients and allowing businesses to manage their affairs.

Helen and Rachel from Xavier Analytics spoke to Managing Director Nigel Adams, who described Xavier as a ‘game changer’ for his business...

Using Xavier

The Ad Valorem team use Xavier daily across the firm. With an entirely Xero client base, the first port of call for Nigel is the Practice Dashboard, where he can see the performance of the client portfolio, and identify any clients that might need urgent help.

Both internal and outsourced bookkeeping benefits from Xavier quality control; the Xero health score is checked before any files are sent to outsourced bookkeepers, and from management accounts to end of year accounts, nothing can be started if the client has a health score of below 80%. This consistency of data quality across clients has helped Ad Valorem scale up with ease.

Xavier also helps the team have conversations with their clients around debtor days, corporation tax estimates and monthly vat estimates; these are the things that really matter to their clients, helping them to understand their free cash position and how their business is performing.

How have things changed since using Xavier?

Introducing Xavier has created massive changes in Ad Valorem.Before Xavier, management accounts could only be provided for a small focus group because the data had to be high quality, and it was too time-consuming to review all the clients manually. The effectiveness of tools like Futrli have been significantly increased after using Xavier to provide more accurate data.

Xavier has provided the Ad Valorem team members the structure and confidence to talk to clients, which not only gives the clients more value, but it’s made the team more productive too. New clients and acquisitions can be brought into Ad Valorem and up to quality seamlessly.

Finding the Value

One immediate benefit Ad Valorem have found is that now the practice can scale more easily with Xavier, they can expand to take on more clients without losing service quality.

To monetise the use of Xavier, any non-bookkeeping clients with a health score of less than 80% are offered cleanup services for a fee, supported by the Xavier scores which provide evidence so the discussion is not confrontational. Though it is optional, the cleanup service is very popular, which has improved margins for the firm.

Is there anything prospective users should know before using Xavier?

Nigel recommends the best way to integrate Xavier is through team inclusion; to start, select a member of your team who has an interest in using Xavier and focus on that area first, then roll it out more broadly.

“Plan how you’re going to use it… then monetise it”.

Virtual Credit Control™ – A Case Study

‘Value’ is a word that gets used a lot in the accounting industry right now, and rightly so. Many companies no longer expect to be billed for hours but are instead focused on results. When considering the performance of other business critical functions they might ask “How many clicks did I get on that ad?” or “Exactly where are those supplies that I ordered?”. So it’s natural for them to also think “What else can my accountant do for me?”

Imagine if you could answer:

“I can save you 80 hours and allow you to make a £27,000 investment in your business, within 12 weeks. That’s more than 10% of your annual turnover”

For some of our partners, this would not be an outrageous claim.

In fact, following the successful piloting of Virtual Credit Control™ with a handful of partner firms we have produced the following case studies, in order to explore the benefits to clients and the resources needed to deliver these captivating results.

The FirmMAP are a firm that have created their own “MAP Methodology” to support and grow Digital Creative Agencies. MAP aims to provide Agencies with a full finance function, with industry expertise and a thorough understanding of the latest financial technology and processes to bring financial rigour to agencies across the UK.

The Client: An award-winning eCommerce consultancy firm of approximately 30 employees or part-time contractors. They issue an average of 40 high value invoices a month, the vast majority on 30-day payment terms and have an annual turnover of approximately £2.1M. They outsource their full finance function to MAP and pay a fixed monthly fee of which Virtual Credit Control™ is now a part.

The Result:

What time do I need to invest to achieve these kinds of results?

Two primary factors are key to getting these kinds of results:

  1. You have processes in place to ensure that the entire receivables chain is solid i.e regular bank reconciliations, accurate sales invoices, excellent bookkeeping. Credit control is the last link in that chain of events.
    Chaser is configured with the client in mind, after carefully ascertaining their wants and requirements.
  2. If and when these two needs are met, through our research following several successful pilots we’ve calculated the average time it takes an accountant or bookkeeper to get an invoice paid on behalf of their clients is:

1 minute 33 seconds

This will vary from client to client, depending on the size of the invoice, the complexities surrounding the billing process etc. It is, however, a great baseline to start calculating resource required within a team.

Therefore, even if beginning with a client that chases hundred of invoices, with Chaser doing the heavy lifting it’s very feasible to slot Virtual Credit Control™ in amongst your other tasks easily.

"It's just part of our routine now, we have Chaser Wednesday and it slots in with our bookkeeping tasks nicely. As long as we keep organised it is seamless"

Emma Fox, Fresh Financials

How do I start offering this to my clients?

If you’re already a Chaser partner just ask your account manager to make an introduction or email me at [email protected] I’ll personally walk you through the steps.

Transforming internal processes and client services with Silverfin

Blick Rothenberg has a strong reputation for advising entrepreneurs, owner-managed businesses and large international businesses, including listed companies. They help clients in over 60 countries globally achieve long-term, sustainable success through the provision of critical business support and advisory services.

A focus on what really matters to the client

Blick Rothenberg wanted to use technology to achieve three key objectives:

  1. To service clients in the personalised way they expect, with automated compliance and high value-added services.
  2. Internally they wanted to gain efficiencies and improve the user experience.
  3. They also wanted to collaborate and centralise data, to enable them to be more proactive in the way they service clients.

"We want to maintain a personal service, offering high-quality services to our clients and allowing technology to enable that."  Jim Brown, Partner

Staying at the leading edge of technology

Silverfin has been pivotal in helping Blick Rothenberg deliver a consistent service to different clients, no matter where they are in the world. Silverfin’s cloud platform delivers measurable efficiency gains, from the average time it takes to complete a task and prepare client files, to reviewing reports and using automated updates to be notified about changes to the underlying numbers.

“Clients really value the fact they’re getting a service delivered in a consistent way across multiple territories. And without technology, you simply wouldn’t be able to do that."

Smailes Goldie takes a consistent approach across all clients.

Smailes Goldie Group is a leading firm of chartered accountants, auditors, tax and business advisors based in Hull and North Lincolnshire. Its clients include sole traders, partnerships, start-ups, SMEs, family businesses, large corporates, charities, not for profit organisations and educational establishments.

With a broad range of clients, Smailes Goldie wanted a solution that could deliver a consistent working process across the portfolio.

“As a firm we want to be able to deal with whatever software solution our clients are using. To do that, we needed something that we could use internally that would enable our output to be the same no matter what our clients were using.”

Looking to the future

By using Silverfin to consolidate data and automate previously manual tasks, Smailes Goldie has more time and insights to speak to clients about what’s really important to them. And key to this is cloud technology, improving not just core compliance but the ability to provide clients with non-audit services such as management information.

“We believe the future will be that clients will look for us to add value at all opportunities. To do that we need the data, and Silverfin provides us with a platform to provide quality advice that clients are looking for. Rather than spending our time looking at history – which doesn’t benefit the client, that’s already happened – the client wants to know about the future.”

Ask us for a complimentary consultancy workshop to see how Silverfin could transform your business.

How Apps Enable Max Accountants To Deliver A First Class Client Service

Max Accountants are a firm of accountants based in Rutland, East Midlands. Rutland is England’s smallest and arguably prettiest county according to Wikipedia.

Founded in 2011 by Martin Hickman and joined by Lisa Devere-Summers a year later, Max Accountants has grown from 1 employee to 10 and is still growing. I interviewed Lisa, one of the directors, to find out more about Max Accountants and the people behind the business.

THE STORY BEHIND MAX ACCOUNTANTS

Martin trained as a Management Account and spent over 25 years working in Industry for companies such as Lex Vehicle Leasing, where he held a number of senior management roles including finance, sales and operations.

In 2011 Martin could see the cloud was going to have a huge influence on accounting and Max Accountants was established. In the early days Martin was running the show on his own; providing him with a great understanding of every task within the business. Lisa joined him the following year.

image of Max Accountants logo

COMMITTING TO THE CLOUD 100%

Martin was one of the earlier adopters of Xero in the UK; Max Accountants is and has always been 100% Xero.

Receipt Bank joined the favoured Max Accountant cloud apps in 2012 with Tripcatcher following at the end of 2014. These apps are still very much core to the business today and are included in the fixed fee package to all clients.

Internally they are also committed to the cloud, using app such as:

  • GoCardless for collecting recurring and ad-hoc payments;
  • Practice Ignition for client proposals;
  • Inform Direct, Company Secretarial software;
  • And Xero Practice Manager.

TRIPCATCHER

Martin was looking to persuade a new client to move to Xero. This client was using different software that enabled them to record business mileage. Xero did not have the same functionality and after an Internet search Tripcatcher was found.

I remember meeting with Martin and Lisa at their offices, to demo Tripcatcher. My main memory of the demo is spilling my coffee all over their office carpet. However despite that they signed up for Tripcatcher in November 2014 and have been using Tripcatcher ever since.

And yes the client did move to Xero and Tripcatcher ☺.

Tripcatcher is provided to clients that do a fair amount of travelling for their business, for example their vet clients who are travelling regularly to see their clients.

Tripcatcher Vehicles

Benefits

I asked Lisa what type of client use Tripcatcher and what benefits does Tripcatcher give them.

Tripcatcher relieves the pain points of recording mileage especially:

  • Its easy for clients to record mileage on the go, hence they don’t forget to claim;
  • Tripcatcher automatically changes the mileage rate once the 10,000 miles is reached (when claiming HMRC rates) – saving Max time checking this;
  • Tripcatcher also automatically calculates the VAT the company can claim on mileage – again saving Max time;
  • Lisa also mentioned that Tripcatcher enables the user to claim the extra 5 pence per mile for passengers. Not many clients know about this.

A BUSINESS PARTNER

Using Xero, Receipt Bank and Tripcatcher has allowed Martin and his team to become embedded into their clients businesses. They work so closely with their clients that they know their clients businesses as well as their clients do. They don’t want to be simply a service-provider to their clients; they are seen as a business partner.

CLIENTS

Max Accountants have a wide range of clients; their niche being High Tech new start-ups in and around Cambridge, predominately Cambridge Graduates developing research projects after been awarded investment funding.

Max Accountants, has built a specialised reputation due to Martin’s knowledge of Research & Development Tax Credits, Enterprise Investment Schemes, EMI Share Options and cash flow forecasting. This along with the cloud software on offer, which young technical minded entrepreneurs want and expect to use ensures Max Accountants, becomes a valued part of their client’s business.

DEDICATED TO DELIVERING A FIRST CLASS CLIENT SERVICE

Max Accounts have a strong sense of values and these are embedded through the business.The strap-line on their website is “dedicated to delivering a first class client service”.

Lisa told me that this first class service manifests in many ways, but one area is the accuracy of the information. Martin and the team are firm believers in getting the figures right so that decisions can be based on accurate information. They prefer to do their clients bookkeeping, as the bookkeeping is the foundation of all management information and needs to be correct; the cloud has enabled them to do this.

The time saved using cloud apps allows Martin and his team to communicate regularly with their clients; hence they can add real value to their clients businesses. They can use their financial expertise to help their clients run their business more efficiently.

THE FUTURE

The team at Max Accountants are looking to continue their growth to 15 to 20 staff, opening an office in Cambridge; and continuing to provide their clients with the best possible service.

By The Book: Dave Sellick, Sidgrove

Sidgrove’s Dave Sellick does accounting differently. For one thing, his office is more reminiscent of the bridge on Star Trek than how you’d imagine the HQ of a financial professional. But more than that, a conversation with Dave is overflowing with passion and a keen desire to do things differently.

At his finance consultancy and practice Sidgrove, Dave champions the power of tech to shake up the established order.

Even more than that, he’s all about using tech to solve problems for his scaling start-up clients.

Problems like expenses.

That’s how Pleo first caught his eye when he stumbled across an ad for our card on social media.

It resonated instantly.

“When I saw the advert, straight away I was like: This is the solution that I’ve been looking for.”

“[Expense management] just took up a hell of a lot of time”

The pain points of traditional expense management were very familiar to Dave.

“Loads of admin, disengaged employees, disengaged people in finance – and it just took up a hell of a lot of time.”

Given Dave’s commitment to doing the right thing – something he references on his always-active LinkedIn page – it’s not a huge surprise he also connected with other aspects of the Pleo message.

“From the off, I was like: These guys aren’t just selling a product that I want… they’re talking about values and they’ve got an energy that I want to see in this space.”

“I believe [Pleo] is the most engaging fintech software that’s currently out in the space.”

Our user experience was also a big selling point for Dave, something that he says helps him sell it to his clients.

“Anything other than doing expenses thee Pleo way is just disproportionately inefficient”

“You make the purchase on Pleo, it goes through to your phone. It’s ultra-intuitive, it’s beautiful.”

“Getting it reconciled is quick, it’s easy… straight into Xero.”

“Anything other than doing expenses via the Pleo way is just disproportionately inefficient.”

We love connecting with accounting partners who are as excited about Pleo as we are. Dave is definitely one of those.

Just as exciting is hearing how he pitches it to those businesses he works with.

So what does he tell them about Pleo?

“I know that you’re going to love it in six months’ time and if you get used to working this way, you’re going to have a better relationship with me and with finance in your business moving forward.”

Thanks Dave. We might have to steal that one.

By The Book: Joe David, Nephos

A total rebrand of your business is a big undertaking.

Changing your name and logo is stressful enough, never mind the soul-searching involved in nailing a new focus for your company.

But Joe David and the team at Nephos were in luck when they rebranded earlier this year. Because it was very obvious to them why they were changing.

They’d seen firsthand the huge transformations in bookkeeping and the accounting industry. A key part of that was technology.

The company had already embraced cloud-based accounting and finance apps, including Pleo, and with the rebrand, they “wanted to show that when it comes to tech, we don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk.”

“With Pleo, we’re not focusing on processing paperwork, we’re focusing on advising customers.”

Tech also inspired the new name for the company. Nephos being, of course, the ancient Greek for “cloud”.

Tools like Pleo have the power to change the nature of the day-to-day work of an accountant, according to Joe.

“It makes our lives a lot easier because we are receiving the receipts to support the spend that a company is making, much more regularly.”

“That saves us a lot of time… So we’re not focusing on processing our customers’ paperwork, we’re focusing on advising their business.”

The integration with Xero is a “key benefit” too: “This integration supports our business processes by providing valuable insights to the client… but also makes sure the painful process of expenses becomes significantly more efficient.”

“We want customers to come to us excited about meeting their accountant.”

Nephos is a great example of how accountants and independent bookkeepers are moving away from the role they traditionally held.

In Joe’s words, they serve as “business and growth advisers” to customers, “rather than a compliance-based business.”

Joe’s got great enthusiasm for the opportunities that presents, in terms of offering more value to his customers.

“We want customers to come to us excited about meeting their accountant, because of all the great stuff they get out of talking to us.”

But there’s another, more down-to-earth reason that Nephos loves Pleo and the impact it has on their workload.

“I think it makes our office a much more enjoyable place to be.”

“Does anyone really want to sit there and process invoices? Of course not!”

Local Exposure

The Company

Local Exposure offers a broad range of professional web services, from single page websites suitable for Trades People to WordPress Business sites, eCommerce and additional SEM services. Through their Trusted Photography brand they provide a national service as a Google Street View Trusted Agency offering a 360-degree photographic service for businesses.

They have helped a wealth of businesses from all walks of life, from small independent stores to full-size department stores, from wedding venues to concert arenas, agricultural supplies to timber merchants. Regardless of the business type, size or UK wide location, Local Exposure work hard to meet their needs.

A Long Road

To meet the needs of their customers, the Local Exposure team has to travel the length and breadth of the country in order to visit potential street-view sites. They needed an alternative to fuel cards, one that would give them real-time monitoring as well as the flexibility to add in other types of purchases. Trying to track multiple employees’ mileage claims was proving time-consuming and tedious.

“We had people coming in on a Friday with a bag full of paper based receipts, not good at all”

How we helped!

Expend provided the Local Exposure team with a suite of tools to manage their business expenses. Most importantly, Expend flex cards were given to employees to replace fuel cards so that they could pay for their expenses and submit them with the receipts in seconds, as they happened. While also allowing the management to set strict budgets and controls for each employee without the need to manually move money between cards.

Beyond these cards, Expend provided tools for the submission out-of-pocket expense claims and the ability to easily make mileage claims, reducing the cost, management and training time involved in managing multiple expense management solutions.  All of their expenses are then sync’d seemlessly into their Xero accounting software and automatically reconciles via the Xero bank feed without the need to press a button.

“Expend gives us so much in terms of being able to top up, share the balance across accounts, close cards down if they get lost, plug in to Xero and probably loads more I haven’t thought of.”

CPP uses Re-Leased property management software to save time, money, and increase efficiency

Interview with Matthew Fitzgerald, MRICS

Partner and head of Property and asset management at Commercial Property Partners LLP (CCP)

What challenges or needs did you face in your industry that led you to look for a solution like Re-Leased?

I’ve been with CPP for three years and built the property management team; which is now up to seven members of staff. From the beginning, I had to develop the different processes that are involved in running a successful property management department.

"Integrating Xero with Re-Leased has enabled huge business growth."

I’m interested in tech and see the benefits that proptech can have on a business but in previous companies I’ve worked at, they were so big that it took years for them to adapt and bring in new technology. I therefore saw CPP as a good opportunity to go straight for something new which was cutting edge technology, rather than old, tried-and-tested databases which I have used in the past. In the very early days we used spreadsheets to hold property data, but as we grew this became too time consuming and we needed an accounts portal and a database to hold our lease information.

We heavily invested in Xero firstly; that’s where I came across Re-Leased, through Xero’s app marketplace and through our accountants, who recommended it. We came across Re-Leased at the right time, because we were growing and we needed to make sure we were set up right so that we did not stall that growth — which is exactly what we can do with Re-Leased and Xero in place.

Did you have a previous solution that could no longer meet your company’s needs?

Our team is now geographically spread out and we all work quite flexibly — some from home. We all need to be able to access our software from wherever we are. One of the challenges we had early on was that the company was using Sage, which was very limiting in terms of needing to be linked to computers. Using something cloud-based, and with unlimited users, was ideal.

A cloud-based system helps our team work from anywhere in the world and on any device.

Tell me about some solutions you considered but rejected?

Originally we we used Sage for our Property Management accounts; we then moved for Xero, and then looked at some more traditional property management packages: Qube and PM&A. We also trialled a system called Arthur. But Re-Leased worked well because it was commercial-centric, was cloud-based, and had all the functionality of Xero, which we liked. We also liked the personal touch of the Re-Leased team, who provided feedback that helped us make changes. That made a big difference.

What were the requirements you were you looking for in a new solution?

Our previous software impacted our ability to scale the property management business and bring extra work on. We were winning extra work but, with spreadsheets, it was very time-consuming to on-board. It took a long time to input invoices, and create new rent and service charge demands. And on the analytics side, analysing our budgets and expenditure was time-consuming too. For the surveyors to get a snapshot of how much we were spending, they had to go into different spreadsheets and manually analyse different data. To be able to automate that whole process, I can’t tell you how useful that was and how much that changed things for us.

I used to be too heavily involved in dealing with accounts and admin issues and used to spend one day each week on admin; sorting invoices out, which wasn’t a productive use of my time. Now with an automated system, it’s done within half an hour. It’s gone from a full day to something that is done as quick as a click of a button. Also, because we previously did it manually, there was room for human error — that’s why there were so many people involved in the process. Now it’s just one person doing it, as opposed to a whole team. It saves so much time and staffing costs.

During the implementation of Re-Leased what problems or challenges did you encounter and how did we work with you to solve these problems?

Migrating the system was daunting at first, but it was fairly straightforward with the help of Re-Leased, which offered a bulk upload rather than having to do everything manually. It went smoothly and once the system was online, the first thing that struck us was that it was so easy and so quick to access information with the click of a button. It was instant information and data, without having to go into an old Excel tenancy schedule sheet.

Measuring the impact

Bringing Fluidly into the business has helped both employees and clients of Raedan.

“Fluidly helps us to monitor cashflow where we didn’t have instant access before. Now we can monitor cashflow on a weekly basis for our clients and see if there are any potential problems.” Beth explains. This helps Raedan to get real-time insights into their clients’ cashflow positions, without having to spend time producing a forecast in Excel. It’s also beneficial for the client as they can be reassured that Raedan is keeping an eye out for them.

As well as saving them time in the day-to-day, Jonathan explains how Fluidly supports the Raedan culture; technologically forward and always looking to use tech to improve their service. As well as helping Raedan to let go of spreadsheets once and for all, Fluidly allows them to position themselves as strategic advisors.

“Fluidly gives clients confidence that we can help them with the things that really matter. It’s not about a set of accounts or a tax return – clients know they need those but it’s not necessarily what they want. What they want is help, support and advice and most of the questions are around cash. Fluidly for us internally has given us the confidence to deliver help with that.”

Looking to 2019 and beyond!

“Accountancy is at a really exciting stage at the moment,” says Jonathan, and the same is true for Raedan as well. “We’ve had eight years of getting used to the technology, and I think that’s bought us time to have really in-depth conversations with clients. We can talk to them about the things that really matter to them, help them answer questions and help them solve problems. The advisory side of things is only going to grow over time. As clients realise that accountants can do more and more away from just the number crunching, I think that makes the industry a much more exciting place to work.”

“We want to grow with our market sector of creatives and continue on our journey of doing daily bookkeeping and the monthly reconciliation. Fluidly comes really nicely into that – clients can get daily cashflow monitoring, so when we do our weekly report we can include any potential problems. Our clients will have more information which is what they really want.”

What specific results have you seen from implementing Re-Leased Property Software?

It’s important that we don’t miss key dates, such as lease-end-dates and break dates. Having the link to Office 365 with Re-Leased works perfectly and does what we need it to. It has taken a load off my mind. We don’t have to go in and check what’s coming up next week or next month because the software does that for us. The fact that we can put bespoke reminders in place is very useful as well. It’s quite a slick process in terms of the way property management works now, with multiple integrations with different providers. What Re-Leased and Xero have shown me is that by automating many of my processes, I can save so much time and focus on our core business.

How Raedan embedded Fluidly into the heart of their practice

Raedan are a London-based accounting firm that specialise in providing cloud accounting services to creative businesses. They’ve been using Fluidly for several months as part of a progressive stack of technology that allows them to provide daily (yes, daily!) bookkeeping for a number of their clients. We caught up with them to talk about how technology augments their practice, and how Fluidly fits in.

Fulfilling a need for cashflow

“There was a definite gap in the technology offering we were providing for clients.” says Jonathan Bareham, founder of Raedan. The firm have been using Xero since its inception, and have added new apps along the way. Technology had already allowed them to manage their clients in a paperless way, and Xero bank feeds helped to make sure clients’ information was always up to date. But cash was the next piece of the puzzle.

“It’s a key question for small business owners.” Jonathan says. “Have I got enough money for this? Can I pay for that?”

Beth Riordan, Head Accountant at Raedan agrees that cash is key for their clients, but that there is sometimes a mismatch between the solution that clients they think they need, and the one that’s actually useful for them. “A lot of clients will come to us asking for cashflow forecasts. Rather than a [one off] cashflow forecast that you might send to a bank,  what they really mean is – ‘can you monitor my cash for us and tell us if there’s going to be any problems in the next month, 3 months, 6 months?’”

“Fluidly fills a hole that doesn’t exist at the moment. Because of the AI it’s able to look into the future and predict what’s going to happen. When you talk to clients and you say what Fluidly can do, they realise- ‘that’s the product I need.”

Introducing Fluidly into a digital practice

Raedan found the initial set up of Fluidly to be simple. “It links seamlessly with Xero,” says Beth. “I was up and running within an hour of deciding to turn it on, and that’s the same for new clients that we bring on board.”

Beth explains how they started off by saving their clients time on credit control by automating the process, and editing Fluidly settings so that the automatic reminders worked for their needs.

“The client we started off with needed a very bespoke credit control solution so we changed all the settings – it was great that we could do that easily.”

Then Raedan experimented with the cashflow forecasting element of the product. “For clients who want that cash monitoring, it’s simple to connect Fluidly up to their Xero and it’s easy for the client to see at a glance what’s coming up and where the problems might be.”

Finding a way to introduce Fluidly to Raedan’s clients

Once Raedan were comfortable with Fluidly they started introducing their other clients to Fluidly. Beth and Jonathan share how they found success in talking to clients about Fluidly.

“If clients are doing credit control manually, I just show them the software so they can see how automated it is.” Beth says. “I show them that you can set the settings once, and then Fluidly will chase invoices for you going forwards, and it will also escalate [invoices] when needed.”

Jonathan explains how they chose the right clients to get involved with Fluidly in the first instance. “We looked for clients who had issues with problem payers and then showed them the advantages of using automated reminders. Firstly because it’s efficient and secondly seeing the improvements in debtor days and payments coming in.”

“We’re now moving all clients that we do bookkeeping and management accounts for to use the Fluidly monitoring system. We don’t have to rely on our knowledge of the client as much – we can rely on Fluidly doing its job really well.”

Measuring the impact

Bringing Fluidly into the business has helped both employees and clients of Raedan.

“Fluidly helps us to monitor cashflow where we didn’t have instant access before. Now we can monitor cashflow on a weekly basis for our clients and see if there are any potential problems.” Beth explains. This helps Raedan to get real-time insights into their clients’ cashflow positions, without having to spend time producing a forecast in Excel. It’s also beneficial for the client as they can be reassured that Raedan is keeping an eye out for them.

As well as saving them time in the day-to-day, Jonathan explains how Fluidly supports the Raedan culture; technologically forward and always looking to use tech to improve their service. As well as helping Raedan to let go of spreadsheets once and for all, Fluidly allows them to position themselves as strategic advisors.

“Fluidly gives clients confidence that we can help them with the things that really matter. It’s not about a set of accounts or a tax return – clients know they need those but it’s not necessarily what they want. What they want is help, support and advice and most of the questions are around cash. Fluidly for us internally has given us the confidence to deliver help with that.”

Looking to 2019 and beyond!

“Accountancy is at a really exciting stage at the moment,” says Jonathan, and the same is true for Raedan as well. “We’ve had eight years of getting used to the technology, and I think that’s bought us time to have really in-depth conversations with clients. We can talk to them about the things that really matter to them, help them answer questions and help them solve problems. The advisory side of things is only going to grow over time. As clients realise that accountants can do more and more away from just the number crunching, I think that makes the industry a much more exciting place to work.”

“We want to grow with our market sector of creatives and continue on our journey of doing daily bookkeeping and the monthly reconciliation. Fluidly comes really nicely into that – clients can get daily cashflow monitoring, so when we do our weekly report we can include any potential problems. Our clients will have more information which is what they really want.”

Vend helps Oklahoma make great business decisions

Oklahoma has been open for over two decades, and sells a hand-picked selection of niche, quirky and retro products from around the world.

The Challenge

As a small business with big aspirations, Oklahoma needed a new point of sale and inventory management system that would help them make informed decisions and empower them to become the business they wanted to be.

Husband and wife duo Yaw and Nicola were inspired by their travels and wanted to create a store that would bring all of the colour and vibrancy of places like Morocco and Mexico to Manchester.

Oklahoma has been described as an Aladdin’s Cave of homeware and gifts from around the world. With thousands of products on offer at any one time, their old way of keeping track of stock wasn’t up to scratch. “We used a mixture of our old till system, pen and paper, and things sellotaped to a wall,” says Yaw. “It was really all over the place.”

The team also found that their old point of sale system wasn’t giving them the information they needed. “The way I work is very much data-led,” explains Yaw. “With the old system we had, the information we had access to was incredibly poor. I wasn’t able to make any decisions with confidence.”

“I was looking for an easier way to input data, and more than that, an easier way for me to extract data to get a sense of the health of my business.” - Yaw Djang, co-founder

The Solution

Oklahoma were one of the earliest businesses to switch to Vend and take full advantage of its partners and features.

After searching for a point of sale system that would keep track of their thousands of SKUs and provide them with usable data, Oklahoma discovered that Vend ticked all the boxes.

One of the other things that initially brought Oklahoma to Vend was the way it seamlessly integrates with other world-leading business apps. “I saw there was a connection between Xero and Vend,” says Yaw. “I just thought, now that makes sense. To be able to have real-time accounting with real-time inventory and product processing.”

Setting up Vend was a simple process, and The Oklahoma team have now taken advantage of Vend’s flexibility by running three tills on iPad and using another set of iPads for buying, inventory and data analysis.

“It all worked really easily. It only took a couple of nights playing around with buttons and adding products to be up and running.”- Yaw Djang, co-founder

The Results

From inventory management and purchasing, to customer relations and business strategy, Vend has helped Oklahoma grow into one of Manchester’s biggest independent businesses.

With Vend’s powerful inventory system, Oklahoma now manage over 2,000 SKUs from more than 300 suppliers. The team have also been able to use Vend’s extensive reporting data to make new purchasing decisions. “For us, it’s really important to help us decide whether something worked, didn’t work, or is worth another shot,” explains Yaw. “Before Vend, Nicola would call the shop every ten or fifteen minutes to find out stock levels and sales figures for products, so we’re saving tonnes of time.”

Oklahoma has been able to keep customers coming back by capturing details quickly and easily at the point of sale. “We can record email addresses, customer names and any other details at the checkout, and customers are happy to subscribe for our web newsletter or sign up to our loyalty program,” says Yaw.

As an early adopter of Vend, Oklahoma have been with Vend for over six years and haven’t thought about changing their system. “One of the things that’s really pleasing is that Vend is always working on the platform,” says Yaw. “As long as Vend keeps investing in making life better for retailers, we’ll keep investing in them.”

“Vend opens up lots of possibilities that weren’t there before. We’re able to see how customers are actually behaving and how every product is performing.” - Yaw Djang, co-founder

Number Six uses Vend to achieve 40% YOY retail growth

Number Six is a menswear store off Brick Lane in East London. They sell carefully edited selections and exclusives from top streetwear brands through their store and online presence.

The Challenge

When taking over his first brick and mortar location, Jake Hardy wanted to make sure he got the best till system for his business.

Number Six owner Jake Hardy was in the business of helping retailers fine-tune their online and ecommerce operations. As an experienced retailer, buyer, and manager, he knew what worked and what didn’t in retail. So when he came to start up his own retail store, he wanted to make sure every aspect was optimised for success.

Having a point of difference and using technology to better serve customers are at the heart of what Number Six set out to do.

“We wanted to liven up shopping and invite people to enjoy clothes and retail in the same way we do,” says Jake. “Shopping is something we all have to do, so why not have fun, look good, and enjoy doing it?”

Jake needed seamless inventory management and a tool that worked with leading apps he used, like Xero. He also understood the need to capture customer data to be able to keep customers updated with new arrivals and offers.

“Vend offers a stock management system that tracks data and sales and lets us open new revenue streams - which really frees up our time to focus on the personal touches and details we love.” - Jake Hardy, owner

The Solution

Number Six chose Vend for the advanced reporting, allowing them to drive growth in their business and to be the central hub for their inventory.

After a long search, including a number of alternate product trials, Jake decided Vend was perfect for Number Six. And it wasn’t just because of the tech: Vend’s local office and ex-retail team were big selling points.

“For us, Vend offered easy stock management and point of sale that we could access from anywhere and grow with. In the end, the key for us was the support we received, compared to a few competitors we tried.”

Choosing Vend enabled Number Six to manage all inventory through their brick and mortar outlet - the largest part of their business.

“Having such an easy stock management system has meant that data capture, reporting, stocktaking, and opening new sales channels can all be done a lot quicker." Jake notes. "With such an easy-to-use system, it simply means we don’t have to spend so much time on these tasks. We can report quickly and accurately and concentrate on bigger projects.”

One key part of the solution is the addition of a second tablet to their POS hardware setup, which runs Vend’s Customer Facing Display app and allows for customer-data capture.

“In-store, we use two iPads for our point of sale. One is for customers to enter their email for a receipt and to sign up to our mailing list, and the other is our sales register. For our inventory and reporting, we use a Mac. It’s simple, but it’s all we really need and it works extremely well.”

“We now take half an hour on Monday to do a retrospective trading report on the previous week. This is information that would have taken a day a week to collate before. Our growth is now trackable and lets us beat our targets more often than not!”- Jake Hardy, owner

The Results

Better information, focusing on growth, customers coming back: it all adds up to 40% YOY growth.

Since choosing Vend, Number Six have streamlined their operations, leading to business freedom.

“The ease of Vend has helped us to focus on creating an enjoyable retail environment, as well as on running events, doing lookbook shoots, and buying from around the globe.”

By focusing on the things that set the business apart and that make the store unique (like exclusive brands and overseas trips to source the best ones) - and by taking the photos and telling the stories through Instagram and online advertising that brings in new customers - Number Six has been able to drive the business forward.

“With less admin to worry about and a great wealth of data, Vend has allowed us to become a more efficient business and to focus on growing sales and the business as a whole.”

It’s all added up to 40% year on year growth, and Number Six are only just getting started. The retailer is planning a second outlet - a task made easier by the fact that opening another outlet in Vend (with all the same product information and setup) only takes a couple of clicks.

“We highly recommend Vend, and we’ve already got a few of our friends’ and neighbours’ businesses using it. The service is great; it saves a lot of time and hassle and enables you to grow.” - Jake Hardy, owner

Reducing the impact that late payments has on your clients

Satago works with Telfords to help reduce late payments and better advise their clients on their cashflow using real-time data.

Kent-based Telfords Chartered Accountants focus their efforts on working with small businesses throughout London and the South East. Telfords specifically works with ambitious business owners to help them achieve their goals, both business and personal. The mantra of Telfords is that this is not achieved by submitting accounts and returns on time – that is just the bare minimum, but by helping them achieve more whether it be business growth business sale, succession/ retirement planning, business improvement or most importantly, personal goals.

Like many of our accounting partners, up to 50-75% of Telford’s clients are affected by late payments, which has a profound impact on their cashflow.  Being able to properly advice on how to avoid cashflow gaps can be challenging, especially when certain metrics like aged debtor reports are not readily available. This is where Satago steps in. Telfords utilises Satago’s free to use Accountants Dashboard to provide clients with clarity on their aged debtor reports as well as to help clients to automate their debtor book management as well as monitor and advise how they are using the tools.

Satago fits seamlessly into the work processes which Telfords use. The emphasis being on using real time information from online accounts software which is often delivered through online meetings to provide relevant, accurate and up to date information to help client’s run their businesses.

The Satago platform is also a discussion starter! If there are flagged changes on the platform, Telfords uses that information to raise changes with their clients and ask if they have noticed the change or if there are any problems. This proactive behaviour cements Telfords as a trusted advisor and demonstrates to the client that they have their back. The information on the platform breaks down metrics from Xero/QBO/Sage, to make them easier to digest and understand how to make positive changes going forward.

“Satago has taken our ability to help clients manage and forecast their cash flow more accurately and obtain finance, at the right time, to a new level. In my opinion it's head and shoulders above other providers in what is becoming a very crowded marketplace.” - Mark Telford, Director, Telfords Chartered Accountants

How Peter Jarman & Co. use cloud technology to become a 2018 Global Firm of the Future finalist

Peter Jarman & Co (PJCO) is an accounting firm based in Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. Founded by Peter in 1989, PJCO is now one of the fastest growing firms in the country and Intuit’s UK Firm of the Future.

As one of the top-rated firms on QuickBooks Online ‘Find an Accountant’, service, they are continuously growing their team and client base across the UK. And they put this extraordinary growth down to their use of cloud accounting.

Here’s how PJCO have implemented technology in the last 3 years to accelerate growth and increase their staff to client ratio by 15-20%.

Moving Beyond Manual Bookkeeping

PJCO first started using Receipt Bank in 2016 after learning more about it at QuickBooks Connect and Accountancy World. Before Receipt Bank, SME Business & Tax Manager and Chartered Certified Accountant, Kayvan Khoroosi, described their bookkeeping processes as messy and old-school.

“Receipts were not being put on the system, and a lot of our clients would do their bookkeeping themselves. Now, they don’t have to keep hold of their receipts, and have peace of mind. Once they take a photo of a receipt, they don’t have to think about it again. They’ve really embraced the change,” says Kayvan.

However, there was a real turning point when they started to see how Receipt Bank could add value to their service. “One of our clients runs a hotel, and used to store their information in big paper folders. Each quarter, they would give them to their prior accountant to sort through. Inevitably, there would be things missing. They were probably missing out on a lot of tax they could have been claiming, particularly as they used both personal and company cards for purchases, says Rowan van Tromp, Cloud Services Manager.

“As soon as we introduced Receipt Bank, their life changed literally overnight. With the mobile app, it was so much easier to keep on top of things. They could capture things instantly and not have to worry that expenses were being missed. In short, it saved both of us time and reduced their tax!’

"Since PJCO rolled out Receipt Bank across their entire client-base, they are now growing between 20-30% year-on-year. “60% of this growth is due to our software. If we didn’t have it, we would not be able to grow as quickly. Our staff have more than doubled in 18 months thanks to Receipt Bank,” says Rowan.

Increasing the client to staff ratio by 20%. With the time-saving efficiencies of QuickBooks Online and Receipt Bank, PJCO have been able to take on more clients from all over the world, as well as reducing the time spent to service each one.

“With technology like Receipt Bank and QuickBooks Online, we are now able to serve 15-20% more clients. We host webinar meetings with clients all over the world. Plus, the data entry work we used to do in Excel used to take a few hours per week per client. Now, that’s all done automatically,” says Kayvan.

“Receipt Bank made life a lot easier to go out and get more clients. We no longer need to type anything out ourselves. It’s accurate because it’s being read by technology, plus it’s stored in the cloud so you don’t have to worry about where it is.”

Preparing for Making Tax Digital Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a new piece of legislation set to come into effect in the UK from April 2019 onwards. When Making Tax Digital was first introduced in 2016, PJCO used it to help push their clients to embrace cloud technology.

They are now prepared for the change, and this transformation is also helping them win new clients from other practices who have not adapted their systems for MTD.

“A lot of our new clients are coming in who first heard about MTD not from their accountant, but from the 2018 Budget in November. Now, many of these businesses are being proactive and changing accountants in order to become compliant,” explains Kayvan.

Finding Talent Through Technology

In their Firm of the Future promotional video, it quickly becomes clear that PJCO pride themselves on their talent.

“We have 12 team members aged 24 or younger in our firm. They are recent graduates, who are enthusiastic, know the online world well, and pick up the apps really quickly,” says Rowan.

Furthermore, unlike many firms who struggle to find new talent, large numbers of applicants are attracted to PJCO due to their use of cloud technology.

“We don’t struggle to recruit. We always have applicants because we’re using technology so well. It’s a game-changer, and they want to be ahead of the game.”

Making a Difference For Clients Who Need It

Rowan is also the Finance Director of Norwich Food Hub, a not for profit run by volunteers to tackle the environmental cost of food waste and hunger in Norwich. Rowan uses Receipt Bank to systemise key processes to enhance efficiency day-in, day-out.

“If we go back to where it started, we were filling out paper forms to get the weight of food and understand what had been collected. That was just not scalable. That’s why we moved to online systems,” says Rowan.

“Now, we at PJCO are remotely involved and use Slack to communicate regularly. We use QuickBooks Online and Receipt Bank in the background, so that volunteers can submit receipts and get expensed quicker if needed. It makes submitting and chasing that much easier.”

A Tech Stack for Every Client

With around 600 clients, PJCO work with anyone who wants to use cloud technology and grow their business. “We are not looking for clients who bring in a bag of receipts once a year. Instead, those who want monthly reports and budget forecasts for the year ahead,” says Rowan.

“We also recognise that not all clients need budget forecasting. That’s why we’ve developed a modular tech stack for each industry, focused on their specific needs. For instance, for non-profits like Norwich Food Hub, we use dedicated project management apps.”

This modular tech stack means they can roll out processes that are at once personalised and standardised.

Becoming the best online accountancy in the UK

Setting high targets has been key to the long term success of PJCO. For example, their aim was to become Intuit’s Global Firm of the Future. In 2018, they became Intuit’s Firm of the Future for the UK.

“When we were announced as winners, the feeling was unbelievable - especially as we beat a lot of very talented competition. To be number 1 in the UK in a special achievement. As a result, the whole office environment has changed. We are now getting new enquiries daily as a result. Thanks to a sharp increase in work, we’ve also recruited 2 graduates onto our ACCA Graduates training programme.”

“Representing the UK at QuickBooks Connect San Jose was fantastic. We met so many professionals from all over the world and made some great contacts as well. It was the best place to be to see the innovations from Intuit and many of the other providers like Receipt Bank.”

Now, the team at PJCO are looking to continue their extraordinary growth, open two satellite offices around their headquarters, and become the best online accountancy in the country, offering their clients the best possible service.

How Receipt Bank helped Pillow May share the benefits of the cloud with their clients

Jessica Pillow (FCA, CTA) was motivated to create Pillow May after the birth of her first child, focusing on her vision of an accountancy firm based on principles of flexibility and sharing. Jessica knew from the beginning that cloud technology, with its possibilities for staff to access Pillow May’s data anytime and vanywhere, would play a vital role in realising her goal of a practice with truly flexible working patterns.

Initially Jessica ran Pillow May solo, but as the business grew she took on first an apprentice and then several experienced accountants, who had sought out Pillow May because of the firm’s dedication to flexible working.

However, Jessica wanted to keep developing the services the practice could share with clients. With requests coming in for Pillow May to offer a bookkeeping service, she set out to find an efficient way to offer this.

Determined to keep the firm at the forefront of the technological curve, Jessica knew she didn’t want to follow the traditional route of outsourcing to freelance bookkeepers as this would bring added cost to her clients, plus the possibility of human error during data entry.

An early adopter of cloud accounting, Jessica was quick to see the value it could bring to Pillow May’s clients and so she sought out a cloud bookkeeping solution that could offer a full integration. With a clear idea of what the practice needed Jessica quickly discovered Receipt Bank via an AccountingWEB forum and instantly got in touch with Co-founder Michael Wood to find out more.

Delighted with her initial consultation Jessica worked with her Receipt Bank Account Manager, Ella McCann-Tomlin, to get Pillow May up and running with Receipt Bank and was pleased to find the integration with her software was quick and seamless.

Since then almost 90% of Pillow May’s clients have adopted the combined package of Receipt Bank with their choice of software. This cloud solution has enabled Pillow May to share a unique service with clients called ‘My business on my phone’. Under Pillow May’s expert guidance clients are able to take care of all their finances on their phone and Jessica explains how clients enjoy using the service:

“Clients get very excited about being ‘in’ on the cloud. They love using Receipt Bank and are eager to share their new knowledge with other business owners.”

As a firm Pillow May immediately felt the benefits of having an automated bookkeeping service:

“Now we receive clients’ data quickly and directly which means we can help them with any issues straight away and advise them on business decisions at the right time, not just monthly or annually. This creates a much closer TWICE AS MANY CLIENTS AND MORE PROFITABLE RELATIONSHIPS: How Receipt Bank helped Pillow May share the benefits of the cloud with their clients relationship with our clients, building loyalty and increasing retention.”

The firm has also experienced significant time savings through using Receipt Bank, which have been channeled back into building the practice:

“Receipt Bank has saved us time internally because we no longer have to chase for invoices and receipts during the accounting process. The time spent on administration has been so reduced that we are now able to work with 100% more clients than before and have the time to invest in making our client relationships more productive and profitable. Essentially Receipt Bank and FreeAgent together are the foundation stone to a successful cloud accounting practice and to having happy clients.”

Pillow May is built on the concept of sharing and so Jessica is always pleased when clients get in touch and let her know how they are benefitting:

“A client recently told me that Receipt Bank has reduced the time he spends on manual data entry from a whole day to just one hour per month. This is exactly the kind of benefit we want to pass on to our clients through cloud accounting. They instantly feel the effect of using Receipt Bank and FreeAgent and see the combination as a great package to save their business from the burden of bookkeeping.”

Pillow May’s current focus is on developing their offering of services like Receipt Bank that bring additional value to client relationships. Their key aim is to continue increasing client retention and loyalty. Being shortlisted for AccountingWEB’s Practice Excellence Technology Champion in 2014 has only strengthened Jessica’s resolve to ensure that her clients continue to share in the benefits of any new cloud technology Pillow May implements:

“It’s all about constant innovation, I created Pillow May to offer a unique culture of sharing and collaboration with clients, so now when I discover something new and beneficial it’s important that I get it integrated into our service so that they can start benefiting too.”

Streamlined expense management of a rapidly growing multi-location church

Limited staff, remote teams, and large numbers of invoices – the expense management of our rapidly growing Freedom Church required urgent attention.

In the UK alone, Freedom Church currently has six church locations as well as several central offices; each one with their own utility/rent bills and personal expense claims. All expenditure need the approval of both the local church leaders and the UK facilities manager, making a UK-wide coordination of bill approval extremely challenging! ApprovalMax is just perfect for managing the expense claims and other bills generated by our UK-based churches and the central team; we run everything through this app.

About

Established in the UK over three decades ago, Freedom Church expanded rapidly over the past eight years. From one to fifteen locations across nine countries and three continents as well as an increased annual turnover from £60,000 to over £1m in the UK, where the central team supporting all international locales is situated, makes for a massive success story

Limitations of paper-based accounting in churches & charities with remote teams

Following a substantial expansion, Freedom Church now has a distributed UK finance team and uses Xero as the accounting system; having migrated from Sage in 2015.

As so often with churches and charities, they rely on a growing number of volunteers rather than many core staff. This leads to a lot more personal expense claims, which Freedom Church used to treat as regular bills that had to be submitted manually. What’s more, these expenses originate from multiple locations and require the authorisation of various budget holders (church leaders, finance team, etc.).

In early 2017, Freedom Church realised that their paper-based approval process was incredibly inefficient, hard to track and impossible to scale. As paper bills and personal expense claims require the signature of remotely located budget holders, it just didn’t work with distributed teams.

The continual territorial growth and increasing number of new locations presented a major organisational challenge. It left the finance department overworked and often caused delays in bill payment and personal claim reimbursement. Consequently, streamlining the management of utility/rent bills and expenses became urgent.

Streamlined expense management based on automated approval workflows

Bill Automation with ApprovalMax makes expense management straightforward and a real difference to the Freedom Church finance team.

All spend requests now go through Xero + the ApprovalMax Bill Review and Approval workflow, which uses Xero tracking categories to reflect locations and departments. Budget holders approve via email or smartphone, followed by the finance director if amounts exceed a certain threshold.

Today, Freedom Church is nearly paperless. Geography isn’t a limiting factor anymore; budget holders can see how a bill was coded, leave a comment, make edits. And volunteers get reimbursed promptly.

Benefits achieved

  • Fully automated bill review and approval process
  • Multiple location support without expanding the finance team
  • Reporting and detailed audit trails ensure audit readiness
  • Approving from email and on the go boosts productivity

Seven Bro7hers Brewery Gets Visibility Over Every Keg, Can and Bottle

Seven Bro7hers Brewery is a UK-based brewery run by seven brothers who all share a passion for beer. As avid home brewers, craft brewery runs in the family. But their passion turned into their business four years ago, over a pint of beer. The seven brothers realised the growth of craft beer and decided to take their passion to the next level!

Today, Seven Bro7hers Brewery sells their beer to hotels, restaurants, craft beer bars; they also sell their beers in their own craft bars.

Keeping count of every keg, bottle and can

Before Unleashed, the team at Seven Bro7hers Brewery were using Sage to manage their inventory. However, they were experiencing stock control issues and struggled to maintain visibility over every keg, bottle, and can. “Prior to using Unleashed, we had little idea of stock availability, other than doing a stock count,” says Kit McAvoy, one of the directors at Seven Bro7hers Brewery.

With stock going to different locations, they realised they need the ability to track every batch from production through to completion. With Xero as their accounting platform, they were looking for a cloud-based inventory management software that would integrate seamlessly to Xero.

“Unleashed has allowed us to save time in many areas, which has allowed us to increase productivity.”

Control and insight over inventory

The team at Seven Bro7hers Brewery use Unleashed for many aspects of the business, especially production. “Production is hugely important to us,” explains Kit, “Unleashed tells us what our products cost, down to the individual count.”

They also took advantage of Unleashed’s API capabilities and built their own beer duty report, “our beer duty report used to take us a whole day to report. We can now produce it using a bespoke report at the touch of a button,” says Kit.

As Kit recounts, “Previously using Sage, we used to have a lot of stock related issues.” With Unleashed, the team have found it easier than ever to analyse margins and production costs. The reporting that used to keep Kit up all hours of the night is now a thing of the past!

Lazer Lamps: Achieving rapid growth with the right cloud apps

By investing in cloud software early, new ventures can ensure they’re ready for success. Because Unleashed scales alongside your business, providing a framework for growth instead of holding you back.

Here’s Ben Russell-Smith, founder and director of Lazer Lamps, on how he’s used Unleashed to fuel a real British success story.

Lazer Lamps

My background has always been in automotive lighting, which led me to start Lazer Lamps back in 2010. The company’s been growing ever since: selling into motorsport, the road market, commercial trucks and more.

At Lazer, we want to bring innovative world-class lighting technology to our customers. We’re developing new products all the time, continually pushing the boundaries of the technology. And we manufacture all our products right here in the UK.

Our goals are to continue delivering world-class products. We’ve been expanding for nine years. In the next 20, we want to cement our position as the leader in automotive lighting.

Our products

For us, a good product comes down to performance and quality. When a customer puts one of our lights back to back against a competitor product, we want to come out on top. Plus, we aim to ensure every product we sell is fully quality checked — with the performance we expect and no warranty returns.

We’ve got big customers in various racing series: including the Blancpain 24-hours, the FIA World Endurance Championship (the top four finishers at Le Mans last year used our lights) and the World Rally Championship. That filters down to big customers in the road market as well.

Our motorsport customers are crucial to our product development. They require very clear visibility of the road. They want to see every detail.

I’ll be at an event or testing in the north of Sweden in winter. One of the world rally drivers will tell me they want a bit more distance, or they need the light to be a bit clearer or crisper in certain corners. I’ll take that feedback straight to our engineers. We have a full light tunnel in our factory, which we’ll use to project the light the driver used on that day so we can understand where the lights need to be improved next.

Once we have a product that works for motorsport, then the same technology filters through to the road. Our road customers want the very best. They see the lights used by these top motorsport teams and get them fitted so they can see everything at night that they could see in the daytime.

Growing with Unleashed

We’ve used Unleashed since the company was only me working out of a garage in Tottenham. Now, we have 50 employees and counting, annual turnover of €10 million and we’re growing into new space all the time.

I chose Unleashed back in 2010 because I recognised that their platform would be better at helping us scale than a lot of other software systems. It’s very adaptable. The Unleashed team acknowledge our feedback and implement the requests that we’ve asked for. We’ve got a great relationship — we’ve grown together over the last nine years. Every time Unleashed releases something new, we see the benefit.

“Every time Unleashed releases something new, we see the benefit.”

The biggest thing I’ve learnt — and what I’d encourage any manufacturer to learn — is to choose systems and software that can grow with you. Quite often you can be constrained by software that you pay a lot for upfront. It might not actually have the flexibility and adaptability you need as you grow.

Unleashed, for example, has always embraced working with other cloud solutions. We use a couple of others, and they integrate seamlessly with Unleashed. We have a total system of apps, and they all work in tune with one another. Each one focuses on the bit that they do well, and they make it better — while thinking about the other apps that they are interacting with.

How Unleashed makes my life easier

Unleashed makes our lives easier because it works across every aspect of our business. It makes developing new products, or updating existing ones, fast and effective. It’s a very efficient platform for us.

Lazer Lamps night

As soon as we ‘dream up’ a new product, it gets a number in Unleashed. And then as the bill of materials is grown in our CAD system, those components are added into Unleashed too. It gives our buying team a very clear idea of what needs to be purchased, and when. We track everything: from purchasing to the build process to the finished sale.

Our staff all have lots of experience with ERP systems, but nobody has mentioned moving over to a standard ERP system from cloud-based software. With Unleashed, software upgrades come in immediately with no need to manually install updates. The whole system just runs seamlessly.

“Nobody has mentioned moving over to ERP”

Using Unleashed to foster productivity

As a UK manufacturing firm, productivity is key for us — we want to improve productivity while guaranteeing innovation in the final product. So we’re looking continually at the parts in our products, and which supplier processes we can bring in-house to increase efficiency.

Unleashed has helped us be more productive because it’s so intuitive and user-friendly. As a fast-growing company, we don’t always have time to train staff on new systems. We throw them in at the deep end. With Unleashed, our staff don’t need hours of training to understand the system. You can jump on and immediately get an idea of how everything works: it’s all very straightforward.

Lazer Lamps secrets to success with unleashed software

I’ll put a new buyer in front of the software and they’ll be more proficient than me in a couple of weeks. The how-to videos are incredibly clear, very nicely constructed and they explain new features really well.

More productivity wins with the B2B Store

For the last three years, we’ve been looking for a way for B2B customers to order via a portal. Previously, it was all over email and phone.

When the Unleashed B2B Store launched, it was the obvious solution. It could effectively handle every level of customer discount, and the system is so intuitive that it hasn’t needed anything to get dealers and business customers using it.

They can see stock levels straight away. So if they want to order 200 lights, they can see whether that’s possible and place an order with no fuss.

lazer lamps car

It saves us so much time. We’re entering a busy period and handling all those orders is a big job for our sales operators. It was a big job last year, and it’ll probably be twice as big this year. The B2B Store means I’m confident that our internal sales coordinator can handle the phone and email orders — because Unleashed is taking care of all those large orders via the portal.

Plus, the B2B Store has reduced the risk of human error. Writing an order manually from an email or the phone takes time and leads to mistakes. Even a minor error — like getting the wrong colour — can mean paying for a courier collection on a product that might be as far away as Australia.

Looking ahead

The goal for Lazer over the coming years is to strengthen our position as a manufacturer for large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In fact, we already ship into one of the big OEM vehicle manufacturers as a Tier-1 supplier. We see our methods working to attract the big vehicle makers as well.

A lot of our customers are wanting optics that are tuned for their unique needs. With Unleashed, we don’t have to shy away from dealing with that added complexity.

The biggest thing that holds us back is space. We find that we move into a big factory, and within a year we’re wondering why it looks so small. So as we move from being a medium to a large enterprise, it’s great to know that we have an inventory system we’ll never outgrow.

Why Galayev & Co use Fathom to advise The Dragons from Dragons’ Den UK

Galayev & Co advise some of the biggest names in business in the UK. These names include investors Nick Jenkins, Touker Suleyman, Tej Lalvani, Jenny Campbell from the hit TV show Dragons' Den.

The firm is the first multi-family office for angel investors in the UK. Their goal is to provide bespoke, comprehensive and consistent solutions to investors. The team of high-profile consultants from the venture capital, legal and financial industries, work to deliver expert reassurance throughout each clients’ investment journey.

Exploring cloud based solutions

Galayev & Co are moving away from desktop applications and manual data input, to real-time cloud based software solutions. Cloud software provides leading firms with the opportunity to increase productivity and offer new value to their clients.

The firm has felt the full impact of a rapidly changing technological landscape. They’re on the front foot with the change to cloud based accounting, and use Xero to manage their financials. They also require clients to adopt Xero as a condition for working with the firm.

Understanding time saving with the cloud

Galayev & Co recognised the need to provide meaningful financial analysis to their clients, and initially had difficulty finding the best method. Stepan Galaev, Founder and Investment Director at Galayev & Co, realised Excel reporting was taking twenty hours a month.

At the rate of £27 an hour, the total came in at £540 pounds each month! In an industry that still relies heavily on Excel, Stepan’s situation is not unusual. Yet as the business grew, Stepan quickly worked out that reporting in Excel had some flaws for their reporting requirements –

  • It wasn’t an efficient and scalable solution
  • It didn’t reflect the professionalism that Galayev and Co needed or wanted to portray.

Discovering Fathom

After coming to the realisation that they needed another solution, Stepan began trialling four cloud solutions that offered financial reporting and analysis. Stepan set out to find a product that met the following requirements –

  • Seamless integration with Xero
  • Automatic data update each day
  • Highly customisable financial reports and templates
  • Ability to compare budgets against actuals in financial statements

Stepan says they started to look at developing their own in-house portfolio reporting and analytics software right before they started a free trial with Fathom.

"We were looking to develop an in-house portfolio reporting software. Luckily after careful market research and multiple trials we found Fathom."

The journey with Fathom

Stepan found getting started with Fathom simple. First, he spoke to the UK based Fathom team and asked a couple of product questions. He then used Fathom’s Help Centre to guide him through the set-up process.

A highlight for Stepan was seeing first hand the seamless connection between Fathom and Xero. In a matter of seconds, he had extracted the Charts of Accounts from Xero into Fathom. Connecting to Xero means data automatically updates each night so the monthly, quarterly and annual results are always up to date.
Stepan selected Fathom based on the following parameters –

  • Integrates directly with Xero
  • Cloud based product
  • Great user experience
  • Scalable solution
  • Ability to white label reporting
  • Professional looking reports

Once the data was flowing, Stepan took full advantage of white labelling with Fathom. He uploaded Galayev and Co’s logo and colour scheme so that reports were personalised with their brand. He also invited a number of Galayev & Co’s clients to Fathom, allowing each of them to see their business performance immediately.

The reporting experience

Stepan believes the highly customisable reporting platform within Fathom is beneficial, allowing Galayev & Co to design reporting templates to suit the specific requirements of each client. The firm have also set up report schedules so that templates are automatically populated at the specified time each month and sent off to the client.

“We’ve automated the reporting process and it’s saving us a lot of time in terms of manual work, portfolio reports for multiple enterprises has solved the scalability issue for us as well."

Improved accuracy, increased efficiency and beautiful design

Fathom’s reporting and analysis app provides a boost to data accuracy, efficiency and design. Stepan believes that there is less room for human error now that the data is automatically filled into Fathom templates from Xero. On top this, Stepan believes that the time taken to produce reports has reduced by more than 3x compared to Excel reporting.

“As our monthly/quarterly report preparation takes quite some time, we can easily say that we have saved at least 10% on labour costs as a result.”

An elegant experience for clients

Stepan says that Galayev & Co’s clients have a better experience as a result of receiving reports generated by Fathom. He notes that Fathom is a app for communication with clients, and enables quicker reaction times under pressure. Stepan has also found Fathom to be instrumental in helping Galayev & Co deliver better overall portfolio performance.

"Fathom has allowed better custom KPI monitoring and visibility, our client’s investees now have the tools to track P&L as well as cash flow performance on a monthly basis.”

A worthwhile investment for new age advisors

Stepan believes that Fathom is a must-have reporting and analysis app for any new age advisory or accounting firm looking to provide a better solution to their clients. Stepan is looking to add further companies to Fathom and sees it as an app that can be leveraged to help drive further growth at Galayev & Co.

Would you like to learn more about Galayev & Co or Stepan Galaev?

Reach out to Stepan at [email protected].

Paul Barnes speaks about benchmarking and reporting with Fathom

Here's how Paul and the MAP team use Fathom to transform Xero data into beautiful benchmark and management reports for over 60 creative agencies in the UK.

The trifecta – Receipt Bank, Xero and Fathom

“The core accounting platform we use is Xero, we don’t work with any other accounting system. We then use Receipt Bank for pre-accounting work to make sure all the data is right, and then at the other end we use Fathom as a very dynamic reporting tool,” says Paul.

Paul operates his business from the cloud and truly believes it enables MAP to be far more mobile and responsive. He says, “We can work remotely and we’re all accessing the same data, on the same systems, in real time.”

A platform for benchmarking

Paul started searching for a benchmarking and reporting app after noticing his clients wanted to better understand their performance relative to other agencies in the industry.

“We found this real interest from our clients in understanding what the rest of the industry was doing; how they were performing. So we wanted to find a platform that would enable us to benchmark our client base against one another by automatically pulling data from Xero, and there was only one application that had that feature and that was Fathom.”

Automated reporting to save time and deliver quality outputs

MAP also use Fathom to help generate high quality, meaningful, automated management reports for their clients. Branded performance reports are automatically created from a template each month, which means the team can use their time elsewhere to deliver even more value to their clients.

“We [now] have a template pack for management accounts that we’ve built within Fathom. We’ve got forty-five clients that we need to produce management accounts for within a week of the month end. With the technology we’ve got through Fathom and the templates pulling the data from Xero, [it has] made it possible for us to deliver them all so quickly."

Transforming data into meaningful visuals

Fathom is designed to facilitate easy conversation between advisor and their client by transforming financial data into visuals that the client can connect with.

Paul describes a situation where he was working with a client that needed to make a significant number of hires in a short time frame and the client wasn’t sure if it was financially viable.

“We were able to take these reports into the board meeting and that helped them to understand the budget they had and the timeframes they had to recruit half a dozen people that they needed to put into their Software Engineering team," Paul said.

Speaking the client's language

It’s no secret that most accountants enjoy number crunching but as Paul explains, it can be hard to speak the language of the client.

“As accountants which I am, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everybody looks at data the same way as you, so whereas we can look at numbers and make sense of them very quickly, because our clients are in the digital creative sector, they like data to be represented in a very graphical and visual way, because they can better understand it in a way that helps them to make more informed decisions about their business."

Should other advisory firms use Fathom?

Paul finishes by saying, “Fathom is great for advisory firms like us because you can produce customisable reports in a much more visual way, which gives [you] much more insightful data to move your business forward."

Reach out to MAP at https://wearemap.co.uk/

Providing HR support with a personal touch

Anna Hall is Practice Manager for Retirement Planning Specialists, Sound Financial Planning. 

On taking over as Practice Manager, Anna wanted to make sure internal issues were correctly dealt with in line with current employment law. And with the business looking to expand over the next three years, Anna was keen to find an HR software solution to streamline the increasing HR admin a growing team would generate.

With citrusHR, everyone at Sound Financial Planning now benefits from easy access to all the employee information they need from anywhere, saving Anna a huge amount of time to focus on other aspects of her role. Anna also benefits greatly from the advice and support provided by citrusHR’s expert HR team.

Here’s Anna:

“Prior to discovering citrusHR, most of the companies I’d spoken to seemed better suited to larger companies and weren’t particularly helpful in answering my enquiries.

“citrusHR was a breath of fresh air in comparison. Everything was clearly explained to me and they really took the time to understand my needs – I instantly knew I’d found our solution.

“We’re a company who put our clients first and appreciate the importance of client care and customer service. It was great to discover an HR company that held those values too.”

“I was helpfully provided with everything I needed to present to my MD, and I was so passionate about citrusHR being right for us that I soon had sign off.

“We’re a company who put our clients first and appreciate the importance of client care and customer service. It was great to discover an HR company that held those values too.”

“I was helpfully provided with everything I needed to present to my MD, and I was so passionate about citrusHR being right for us that I soon had sign off.

“Since joining up, the consultants at citrusHR have offered vital support in dealing with some potentially difficult situations. Nowadays in business you usually have to fill out a contact form and wait 2+ working days for a response. Being able to pick up the phone and speak to someone about an issue is fantastic, and the support from everyone has been incredible.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to at citrusHR has been incredibly friendly and professional. The personal touch is one of the best things about the service.”

“citrusHR have also taken us through contract reviews and provided us with a fantastic Staff Handbook and Employment Documents. We’ve also found the ability to set and track employee goals within the system has really helped us to manage performance. The amount of information that can be found and stored on the system is fantastic.”

Saving time with simple reporting

David Moor is responsible for Business Administration at Citizens Advice & Rights Fife, a not-for-profit company with over 80 employees.

When managing and reporting on employee data started taking up considerable amounts of David’s time, he decided it was time to look for a solution.

Here’s David: “Before joining citrusHR we were using a range of different in-house systems, but they weren’t very joined up and it felt like things were falling through the cracks a little. It was hard to do any sort of reporting and took a huge amount of manual work to gather and process data. We also have a lot of different contracts for our staff, and trying to keep on top of all the variations in entitlements was becoming really time-consuming and complicated to manage.

“I had to do all our reporting manually before and it was so time-consuming. Now it’s a matter of minutes – the time saving is huge.”

Integration with Xero

“At the time of researching providers, our Finance Manager had just signed us up with Xero for their accounting software, so we were keen to find a solution that could integrate with them. We saw that citrusHR did, so tried a demo.

Time savings and peace of mind

“For me, the reporting functionality has been the most helpful. I had to do everything manually before and it was so time-consuming. Now it’s a matter of minutes – the time saving is huge. The ability to customise the reports and create bespoke data sets is also really valuable.

“Managing all our documents and contracts is now so much simpler too. And the software really helps with storing and removing data in line with GDPR – so that’s one less thing to have to worry about.

Finding the right fit

“The team at citrusHR were really helpful and accommodating when we were trialling the software and took time to understand what we needed. With the other providers we looked at, we struggled to find the right level of flexibility within the software to accommodate our needs. But with citrusHR, we were able to sign up in confidence knowing that the product was the right fit for us.

User-friendly software makes roll-out easy

“The software is also very user-friendly which made it really easy to roll out across the organisation and get everyone using it to request holiday and absence. We didn’t have a lot of time to train staff on using the system, so it was really important to find a solution that was intuitive and easy for everyone to get to grips with.

Responsive customer support

“The customer support at citrusHR is excellent and very responsive. I always get the help I need, and if my request isn’t something that can be sorted right away, they’ll always get back to me with an answer quickly.

“We’re definitely feeling the benefits of using citrusHR compared to our old ways of doing things.”

How Emma Fox Went From Traditional Bookkeeper To Xero Bookkeeper Of The Year

Founded by Emma Fox in 2013, Fresh Financials is an award-winning Bookkeeping practice, located at the foot of the South Downs National Park in Sussex.

THE STORY BEHIND FRESH FINANCIALS

Emma fell into bookkeeping, although she does admit she has always loved numbers. Her first role, working in a legal firm involved some bookkeeping and this was the start of her interest in finance and her bookkeeping journey.

In 1999 Emma started working for herself as a “traditional bookkeeper”. Sensing the upcoming impact of cloud technology, Emma went to her first Xerocon in London in 2013. Inspired, Emma went on to rebrand her business as Fresh Financials; bookkeeping reinvented for the cloud.

Since then, Fresh Financials has grown from strength to strength winning the Xero Bookkeeping Partner of the year in 2016. This award was very unexpected. It was just Emma and Lucy Butters in the business at the time; they thought they would be too small to be noticed!

However, this award gave them confidence and validated their business model. The award significantly raised their profile enabling Emma to recruit an extra member of staff each year for the last 4 years.

The team at Fresh Financials are all working mums. And the cloud has enabled Emma to run a business and create roles that encourage talented mums back to the workforce. The cloud offers flexibility to work anywhere and anytime; this is really important to Emma and the team.

After winning the Xero Bookkeeper of the Year award Emma is now an active member of the Xero Partner Advisory Council (XPAC). This enables Emma to promote the needs of small business to Xero whilst keeping her at the forefront of what is going on. How did this all happen?

CLIENTS – STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS

The Fresh Financials clients tend to be from the professional services industry; however, it’s more about the way the client wants to work, than it is about the industry they are in.

Using apps such as Receipt Bank, Tripcatcher and Xero allows Fresh Financials to work closely with their clients and helps them build very strong relationships. They are working in their clients accounts daily and speak to them regularly. The team are very much part of their clients business. And because they know their clients businesses inside out, they are in a great position to advise their clients especially with regard to credit control and forecasting.

INVESTMENT IN APPS

The investment in cloud technology and apps enables the bookkeeping to happen behind the scenes, so that Emma and the team can do the rest of the job.

So, what apps does Fresh Financials use?

For their clients they use:

  • Receipt Bank to capture receipts;
  • Tripcatcher for mileage expenses;
  • Xero to provide up-to-date financials and direct access to bank feeds;
  • Chaser to automate the process of chasing overdue sales invoices;
  • Float to keep an eye on current and future bank balance;
  • WorkFlowMax for project management.

In the business they use apps such as:

  • GoCardless for collecting recurring and ad-hoc payments;
  • Practice Ignition for client proposals;
  • Stripe for online payments;
  • Minute Doc for time tracking;
  • Deputy for staff scheduling;
  • And Slack for internal communications.

TRIPCATCHER

Tripcatcher Vehicles

Emma first heard about Tripcatcher at Xerocon 2016, she visited our stand there and starting using Tripcatcher in the April of 2016. Emma was at Xerocon with one of her clients; she was the first person Emma signed up to use Tripcatcher. This client is Emma’s guinea pig for trying out and using new apps. Obviously her client approved ☺ .

I then asked Emma what benefits Tripcatcher gives Fresh Financials:

“Tripcatcher, is a time saver, it enables the Fresh Financials team to manage expense reports really easily”

Other benefits include:

  • It removes an extra bookkeeping step.  The team is not reliant on the client providing information that is then entered into the accounts; the clients enter their mileage themselves;
  • The team know their clients are claiming the VAT correctly as Tripcatcher is kept up to date with all the latest HMRC rates;
  • And if the client drives over the 10,000 miles HMRC threshold the mileage rate will be changed correctly by Tripcatcher;
  • Tripcatcher also enables the client to claim the full benefits; a lot of clients were not aware they could claim 5 pence per mile for passengers;
  • On occasions clients would guess their mileage; this mileage is now calculated by Tripcatcher, ensuring better accuracy.

OTHER SERVICES

The bookkeeping service is one aspect of the business; Emma and the team also provides other services:

  • They offer support for larger businesses.  These are businesses that have their own bookkeeper/finance team, do not want to outsource, but know they need to change their systems. However, they are not trained to do this. Fresh Financials will set this this up for them, provide training and support them along the journey.
  • Fresh financials also offers training as a stand-alone service; despite lots of online training resources there is still a large demand for one-on-one training.
  • Emma also offers mentoring for other bookkeepers who want to change their bookkeeping business. They see Fresh Financials as a blueprint of where they want to be.

APP ADVISORY

In 2013 it was enough to be simply doing Cloud Accounting, now the emphasis is on Advisory. And Emma sees this now being a very important part of her role.

When they have been working with a client for a time, the process works so smoothly and easily. They then have more time to look at their internal processes to see if there is anything else e.g. other apps they can offer to help them.

One example is an electrician client of Emma’s who was slow at invoicing hence negatively impacting his cashflow. Emma was able to recommend and implement Tradify, (job management software) for him to use. Emma told me it’s about having the product knowledge and confidence to recommend this.

THE FUTURE

Emma is also involved in the new App Advisory Plus venture. This is a service to assist accountants and bookkeepers in delivering effective app selection and implementation for their clients.

And over the next few year years, Emma wants to keep balance in the practice, a balance between the bookkeeping and the project work.

She and the team will also be looking for more apps to make their and their client lives easier.

Connect Ventures

Connect Ventures streamlined expense management using Soldo for their Head of Finance while empowering staff to spend.​

The team at Connect Ventures is passionate about products and the impact they can have on the lives of customers. Investing in brands like Citymapper, Boiler Room and CharlieHR (among others), the VC (venture capital) knows a solid offering when it sees one. Their London-based team of five works with companies across the continent. This is how Soldo helps them do business.

Mark Pettit came on board to help bring the firm’s financial function in house. Inheriting Xero as the accounting platform from their former external accountants, Mark saw an opportunity to streamline the expense process that fed into the accounts.

Cleaning up

Credit cards were unavailable to one of the partners and statements took too long, so Connect Ventures was reliant on a debit card for purchases. The result was lots of small payments hitting the management company finances, making a bit of a mess.​

“Soldo is far superior to just using our old business bank account and has cleaned up our management finances significantly”

Mark Pettit,
Head of Finance​

So, Mark deployed Soldo – the multi-user expense account – spotting its potential as a spend control and expense management solution. Since its launch in 2017, Soldo seemed like the perfect fit, matching the full gamut of the VC’s needs.​

Soldo acts as an expense account, sitting on top of their business bank account – for Mark, the solution beats their old way of working hands down. Each member of the team has a physical Soldo card, they also have a virtual card that’s used for all software subscriptions and other general costs.​

With 55% of their interests based in London and the rest spread across Europe, the Connect Ventures team is UK-centric but has international needs. Soldo allows users to have balances in euros, pounds and dollars which, and has low FX rates, making it a natural fit for global businesses.

Time well spent​

As well as cleaning up management company finances, Soldo has also helped to simplify the finance workflow. The integration between Soldo and Xero has helped to streamline processes and Mark loves the fact he can select which transactions to send to the books.​

The result is transformational, Mark says the integration has halved the flow of expense management, with much of the admin that finance had to process passed onto the user to complete when they make the transaction. ​

In fact, the team at Connect Ventures likes Soldo so much, they invested in it – recommendations don’t come much stronger than that.​

Salience

This growth-marketing agency eliminated expense reports and accounting headaches with Soldo.

In the time-based professional services industry, every minute of admin eats away at the bottom line. Gus and the team at Salience prefer to spend their time helping brands like Alibaba, Honda and Virgin Money to achieve ambitious growth targets. Thankfully, Soldo helps them do exactly that.​

Like most business owners, time is the most valuable commodity for Gus Ferguson. With plenty to do for fast-moving clients, Gus finds himself working across every project in a broad range of roles: ‘It’s a small business, so we get our hands dirty with everything.’​

And as a new father, each second is more precious than ever. Gus says, ‘Having a child whilst running a business is 100 percent the most challenging thing I’ve ever done – professionally or personally. There’s just less time in the day.’ ​

For Gus and the team at Salience, losing hours to expense management and accounting administration is not an option.​

“Soldo’s become an invaluable tool for my business, saving us a significant amount of time managing employee expenses.”

Gus Ferguson,
Partner

More than minutes​

For Gus and his co-founder, Alyssa Crankshaw, the inefficiency of traditional expense management was just one of its disadvantages. The common practice of reimbursement – with delayed repayments and cumbersome administrative processes – was a poor fit for the company’s ethics.​

Gus delineates: ‘Within the business, there are expenses that the team needs to make to do their jobs properly. As a business, we fundamentally don’t believe that our employees should be loaning money to the business.’

Wasted time also resulted in employee frustration – traditional expense management processes were tedious, keeping them from their work.

With Soldo, Salience completely transformed their expense management process, drastically reducing the time spent on admin. And, when Soldo added a complete integration with Xero – the UK’s most popular online accounting software – the time-savings multiplied.

Using the integration, Salience can export their accounting information – including receipts, tax rates and tracking codes – into Xero, in one click. And any spending from their team’s Soldo cards (everybody has one) flows into the accounts daily via an automatic bank feed. It means the team has an up-to-date view of cash flow and an effortless reconciliation process. ​

The business that matters​​

Because Soldo allows Salience to provide funds for expenses up front, employees are never left out of pocket. In fact, Salience now uses Soldo for employee perks and gifts – one employee even received funds to spend on her honeymoon. The Soldo card has become part of their culture – Gus says, when welcoming new team members: ‘They get an email address, a laptop and a Soldo card.’​

And the time saved by streamlining expense management and accounting means Gus can spend more time doing the things he loves. Gus enthuses: ‘Now that I’m using Soldo, I can’t imagine business without Soldo. I’m in complete control of my time, to focus on the business that matters.’​

How Change Accountants & Advisors achieved full visibility and control – Karbon

Change Accountants & Advisors was formed in 2011 by Timothy Munro, borne out of a highly successful firm Munro co-founded and ran for the prior 20 years. Their purpose is to help their clients make smart financial decisions so they can have a beautiful future.

“We don’t only focus on tax or BAS to help them achieve this. We focus on how we can make our clients better off so they can have more time with their families, more holidays, buy nice cars, drink nice wine, pay off their homes, and do everything that people want to do, but never get the advice to achieve this,” says Munro.

Change Accountants has always been a cloud-only business, which has meant that they have always been prepared to innovate and explore new cloud solutions that will help them be more efficient and profitable, and allow them to provide better service to their clients.

Battling with a lack of transparency

Despite having complete confidence in his staff, Munro was always concerned about his lack of visibility.

“When our team leaves every night, their knowledge leaves too. So the big frustration for me was that if I ever needed to know what they were saying in an email or where things were at with a client, I could rarely find it,” he says.

With client communication stuck in their individual inboxes, it was impossible for staff to know what others were saying or the progress of jobs that they were working on.

And the lack of transparency extended beyond email—without one single place where they could work and collaborate, staff had difficulty knowing what others were working on and where their bottlenecks were occurring.

“We needed a solution that no one had developed. Until Karbon came along.”

Discovering the answer

Karbon’s centralized workstream collaboration platform allowed Change to combine their email, discussions, tasks, and workflows, uniting their team with a single place to work together.

Karbon’s deep integration with Office 365 brought their email out of silos and into a shared team workflow, giving unforeseen visibility to discuss, assign and action.

Rather than relying on scattered systems and incomplete information, Karbon transforms email into actionable tasks, providing context to work and communication.

Karbon is also flexible enough to adapt to different workflows and roles—an essential factor for a business like Change, which includes multiple teams and staff who deliver vastly different work.

“Karbon gave us the power to look at any email address, any response from a client, any piece of work, basically anything anywhere, and instantly see what is going on.”

— Timothy Munro, Change Accountants

Change began using Karbon in 2016. Karbon’s onboarding team worked closely with them to migrate their data, provide one-on-one champion training and ongoing team sessions, which ensured the entire team transitioned quickly.

But the number one factor which ensured a smooth implementation was how quickly the team saw the potential in Karbon to transform the way they work.

“My team instantly understood how Karbon could help us plan better, deliver work better, communicate better, see where anything is at, and collaborate to get things done. Because my team grasped that, they were on board from day one,” Munro says.

A solution for everyone

Karbon has been widely embraced by the entire Change team in a variety of ways.

The Client Services Coordinator keeps one screen open on Karbon all day to schedule jobs, shift things around, and see who is working on what.

Accountants manage every individual job in Karbon, working through checklists that outline each step that needs to be completed. And when they need something from a client they schedule Client Tasks and use auto-reminders to ensure the client sends back what is required.

Templates have been created for all of the common processes carried out by the team which allows anyone to complete the same fine-tuned process, carry out every necessary step, and maintain complete consistency.

And the entire team benefits from the way Karbon brings their Office 365 email out of siloed inboxes into a shared workflow. An audit trail is automatically created for every client or job, which shares how they are communicating with clients.

“If a client rings up and wants to know where something is, we can instantly tell them. We've got full transparency and can see the last email with the client or notes from a phone conversation.”

— Timothy Munro, Change Accountants

Peace of mind

Karbon has brought big productivity and efficiency gains across the business, which has directly impacted top line growth.

In the last six months revenue has grown by 15%, which Munro attributes to time savings gained from Karbon and the fact that he now has complete confidence in what his team is doing,

Karbon has also improved the team’s focus on the outcomes they are delivering and how they can improve it each time. “If there is an issue, or if I just want to see where something is at, I can instantly find it. This has lead to big time-savings,” he says.

But above all, peace of mind is perhaps the most important benefit that Karbon provides.

“I can go in and see what happened today, what didn't happen, and fix something if it wasn't done. Before Karbon, this would have taken me half a day if I was lucky. Now I can find this in two minutes. It has really changed the game with how we do things,” Munro says.

“Karbon lets me see what's going on anywhere within my business. It allows me to sleep well knowing that what we’ve promised as an accounting business, we’re delivering.”

— Timothy Munro, Change Accountants

How Jeffreys Henry LLP is leading the way through digital customer & employee experience – Karbon

For more than 100 years, Jeffreys Henry LLP has provided accountancy, audit, tax and advisory services to individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses across the United Kingdom. The mid-tier firm is also a founding member of JHI (formerly Jeffreys Henry International), a global network of independent accountants, tax specialists and corporate advisers.

Although much has changed since they were established in 1880, they have always had a desire to innovate and empower their clients to achieve their ambitions.

“This idea of always wanting to progress is in our DNA,” says Joanna Alpe, Chief Digital Officer at Jeffreys Henry LLP. “We are always looking for ways to deliver better products and services to our customers and collaborate better as a team in order to make life easier for both clients and our people. To do this we strive to keep technology and innovation at the centre of the company, and this really is led from the top.”

“There must be a better way.”

The Jeffreys Henry LLP team pride themselves in the strong relationships and trust that they build with clients. But the value they place on innovation meant they were always looking to improve.

“We have a general desire to always be delivering excellent client service. . . There was nothing essentially wrong with how we developed our client relationships and built trust, but we felt like there was a bit of lag and friction in our current process,” says Joanna.

“We were doing very manual processes like sending multiple reminder emails asking clients for their information, quarterly VAT, or the required details for onboarding a new client. We were using email the slow way.”

Managing Partner, Justin Randall knew that they could do better.

“Justin is very technology-focused, so he was on the lookout for something that could help us. He just had this innate feeling that there must be a better way.”

— Joanna Alpe, Jeffreys Henry LLP

A hub for it all

Justin came across Karbon at Accountex London in 2017. Amongst the features and benefits Karbon provided in its workstream collaboration hub, Justin saw the potential for his team to automate parts of their ‘client chase’.

Justin shortlisted Karbon, along with with several other options, as potential solutions for his team. He tasked Joanna with the job of deciding on and implementing what she determined to be the most suitable new tool.

“I looked very critically at what Karbon offered against the competitive landscape. After a thorough investigation into what Justin and the team wanted to achieve, and comparing those objectives with everything else in the market, it became clear that Karbon was the best option.”

— Joanna Alpe, Jeffreys Henry LLP

While Karbon had the potential to automate a lot of the team’s client communication and the collection of information, Joanna also saw other ways that they could benefit.

“The big standout for me was seeing the collaboration and visibility potential. From my background in UX and technology business, I could see direct parallels with software developed for technology companies to manage teams to achieve laser pointed effectiveness. The idea of providing channel style communications for internal teams, the ability to comment on anything, being able to group emails around work items, and create the equivalent of Trello cards (task management software) on the Kanban view really impressed me. Karbon could be this hub for it all,” she says.

“I could instantly see some of the efficiencies that we could make through the implementation of Karbon. I knew this would bring our internal practices and processes up to a whole new level.”

Automating the low value

Prioritizing innovation has always kept Jeffreys Henry LLP ahead of the curve, and this comes through in the willingness across the team to adapt to new tools. In early 2018, Karbon began being systematically introduced across the business, with Joanna acting as the implementation champion.

“If you don’t have an internal champion, it’s hard to get full uptake on any new software,” she says. “This has been integral. The combination of an internal champion and close support from Karbon’s side has made all the difference in getting 100% of staff communicating and using Karbon every day.”

Initially, the internal benefit of automating client requests and reminders was clear, but they wanted to ensure they could uphold their high level of customer service.

“The client relationship is paramount for us, and the last thing we want is for our clients to feel like a number. We needed to maintain and uphold that real personal relationship that sets us apart, and still make efficiency gains,” Joanna says.

“The busy work and tasks that were taking up time are now automated, so we are freed up to prioritise maintaining that personal relationship through the high-value activities and parts of the service that make our clients feel secure, safe, well-guided. This is exactly what we should be focussing on."

“With Karbon, we can automate the repetitive, low-value tasks. Our clients are ultimately getting better service and better value because we are more focused on the activities that add the most value.”

— Joanna Alpe, Jeffreys Henry LLP

The power of standardization

Being able to automate client collaboration is just one of the many benefits the Jeffreys Henry LLP team have felt.

The ability to document all their workflows and processes has had a big impact on their internal operations. Joanna refers to this as the power of standardization.

“We previously had every staff member doing the same thing a little differently, but by developing templates in Karbon we now have a base for all our work process,” she says. “Everyone might still want to do something in their own unique way, or need to customize it to suit a specific client or activity, but now they’re all starting off from the same reference point. This has been really powerful for us.”

The benefits are also being felt at the very top of the business, with senior management now able to see a much clearer view of where things stand at any given time.

“The visibility Karbon provides has been such a big win. Managers and Executives can get a clear birds-eye view of the work that is done across the business. For management, this has been something that has really moved the needle,” says Justin.

With the entire team now working and communicating in Karbon every day, Joanna says that their way the team collaborates has gone up to a whole new level—thanks largely to the ability to add comments anywhere.

“Karbon works really powerfully to bring communications clarity when people add comments directly in the platform where they will be most useful. If they’re talking about an email they can put a comment directly on the email, or if they’re discussing a task or a work item, that’s where it goes. Whoever the comment is for can get straight to the specific task, see what’s required, and action it immediately. We don’t waste time wading through emails, trying to interpret what we have just been asked to do,” says Joanna.

“The collaboration potential that Karbon provides us has been massive. Commenting alone has definitely eliminated a whole lot of one-line emails amongst the team.”

— Joanna Alpe, Jeffreys Henry LLP

A more meaningful work experience

The Partners at Jeffreys Henry LLP place a high value on creating an enjoyable work experience for their staff.

“The value of enjoying where you work has been a massive push for us,” says Joanna. “Happy staff are good for business. It means higher staff retention, less churn, and ultimately, greater profit.”

“This involves asking what are the most frustrating tasks that you have to do, and finding ways to reduce or even eliminate these. It could be a futile email trail with another colleague to try and locate another document, or trying to track down a client to get the information you need.”

Joanna says that Karbon has been a “massive win” in that area.

Results

  • Automating repetitive and low-value tasks, allowing staff to focus on the high-value tasks that provide a better service to clients.
  • All common processes standardized across the business
  • A more enjoyable and meaningful work experience for all staff

How Rich Bishop Keeps on Top of Clients’ Cash Flow with Float

Understanding the importance of cash flow forecasting

Rich is a certified Xero partner, mostly self-taught in the art of finance, and uses his knowledge and experience to help less financially literate clients.

“I take it for granted that finances don’t scare me, because I enjoy them. But for someone that just isn’t built that way, I can understand why looking into them can be hell on earth.”

In the past, Rich has suffered from cash flow problems himself and has said that it’s made him more careful when planning for the future. So, Rich understands the importance of cash flow forecasting for every business, and is an advocate for it as a vital health metric for the companies he consults for.

“Whatever contract you take on, whatever work you do, even if it’s more money coming in, you need something to make your decisions better.”

But for clients that are unsure of their finances, Rich needed to give them a tool that would be easy to use and simple to understand.

Using Float with clients

Since 2012, Rich has been using Float for his own business, but he soon realised that it would be invaluable to his clients too.

“From the very beginning, I’ve used Float. For a previous business, I used it to monitor my own cash flow. So, when it came to bookkeeping for my clients, I knew that Float would be a natural fit.”

Since joining the partner programme, Rich has been able to use Float with his clients to help them to monitor their cash flow. But for Rich, it’s been important to teach his clients how to monitor their own cash flow and take control of their finances.

“I’m trying to make my clients self-sufficient in terms of the work they do in Float. For the most part, they are! But I do occasionally get queries of, ‘Can I hire someone new? Can I afford to let this person work extra hours?’ I’m happy to answer these questions and always pleased to help but, teach a man to fish…”

Unlike with spreadsheets, even Rich’s least financially savvy clients have been able to get to grips with Float.

Rich says, “the great thing with giving Float to someone is that it can’t be broken. If the budgets are wrong, we can change them. Using Xero as a source of truth, I had faith that regardless of the budgets put into Float, it would all be okay.”

But it wasn’t just the reassurance that his clients’ finances would be safe in their own hands, it was also the confidence in knowing that they would understand Float as a tool.

“For non-finance people, they get it straight away. Whereas you show it on a spreadsheet, or you do it all manually? They just don’t get it. But, using something like Float, it’s completely different. I love it.”

Solving clients’ problems with Float

In fact, one of Rich’s largest clients works in the charity sector, running a not for profit youth organisation. Because a lot of their funding comes from schools, for two months of the year they have no cash coming in.

“For this particular client, I used Float to show him that in just weeks, he’d be plummeting into the red. It shocked him. But it also made him suddenly understand that he had a problem and he had to do something about it.”

Rich says that this trigger moment is what woke his client up to the need for cash flow forecasting. His client has been using Float ever since, and hasn’t looked back.

But it’s not just this client that Float has helped. Rich says that for all of his clients Float has been invaluable to him in teaching them that future-planning is vital to the longevity of a modern business.

Rich explains, “Float has helped me to teach the businesses that I work with not to sit in the vanity world of ‘oh there’s £10,000 in the bank, we’ll be fine in a few months’. It’s helped me to promote the message of proper planning and foresight that’s so essential to modern business.”

How Float Helped Kettle Collective Tackle the Issue of Late Payments

Colin Bone is the Managing Director of Kettle Collective, an architectural firm with its main office in Edinburgh, Scotland. Managing the finances of multiple offices, in various locations across the world, meant that Colin needed a tool to help him make confident decisions in no time.

Managing the finances across multiple offices

Whilst Kettle Collective is based in Edinburgh, it also boasts offices across the Middle East in Muscat and Dubai, with its newest office just opened in Hong Kong.

Keeping track of the finances of all of these offices, Colin has to keep a close eye on the Collective’s cash and uses an in-house accountant, as well as an external one, to keep their books in order.

“The majority of our day-to-day finances are done in Edinburgh, where we centralise everything and work in multi-currency for all of our offices. And, for that, we use Xero.”

For Colin, Xero covered almost everything he needed. But it was insight into the operational cash position that Xero lacked.

“My role is all about cash flow, and maintaining that commercial side of the business. It’s one of the areas that we were feeling slightly exposed in – our real cash position.”

Moving away from spreadsheets

To get insight into the business’s cash flow, Colin was in spreadsheets constantly. He says, “With spreadsheets, it was an ongoing situation. Everything was a moving target. I had spreadsheets open all the time, and was constantly jumping in and out of them to keep things updated.”

Knowing that Xero couldn’t give him an insight into the daily cash position, and that spreadsheets were too complicated and time-consuming, Colin had to look for other options.

“When I came across Float and saw that it integrated with Xero, it was obvious that I needed to try it. That link with Xero saved me so much time in getting that accurate cash position.”

Now that Colin didn’t have to constantly update his numbers in a spreadsheet, he was safe in the knowledge that his forecast would be up-to-date. Colin explains, “I knew that everything in Xero was correct because we’re so diligent about keeping up with our bookkeeping, so there was that immediate reassurance that all the information in Float would be accurate.”

With the knowledge that Float would show information free from human error, Colin was able to get out of the spreadsheets and focus on the business.

Tackling payment terms

Kettle Collective has relatively healthy and regular cash flow, and they’re lucky to not be cutting too close to the cloth in terms of cash flow. But, the business hasn’t escaped the biggest issue in the Construction/Property Industry: long payment terms.

“For us, every project is different in terms of the actual project, the scale, the fees, everything. But usually, what always remains the same, is the difficulty of keeping on top of payment terms.”

For Colin, even when issuing payment terms of 30 days, some payments will still come in at 90, or even 120 days. He explains, “It’s just about the biggest issue in the industry.”

But running on the knowledge that if they don’t get paid then they aren’t able to pay their suppliers means that they need to keep a close eye on their current cash position.

“That’s where Float comes in; it gives you a broader look. You can work out that there’s the space to move things around. It gives you safety. So, if a certain invoice doesn’t come in for 30 days, and instead comes in for 90, you know that you’re still covered.”

Seeing himself in Float’s story

For Colin, Float does more than just provide him with the comfort that Kettle Collective will be okay in the long term. When Colin first came to Float, after hearing our very own Colin Hewitt’s story, he felt like it was a story very much like his own.

“I like where Float has come from. It’s a similar story to mine. Starting with a spreadsheet and trying to keep up with it. So seeing what Float has done, and where you’ve come from, that’s so useful.”

Float, for Colin, has been a means of tracking the growth of Kettle Collective, but it’s also helped him to want to grow the business, giving him something to aim towards.

“If you see something that looks great, you want to know why, and how to get to that. It’s what Xero’s telling Float, and it gives you a great position to start with. If your cash flow looks amazing, then you want it to be amazing.”