Annette Ferguson - The Super Accountant
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Annette Ferguson, the founder of Super Accountant. The name Super Accountant came from a mastermind group I belong to. The group are from all walks of life and provide diverse perspectives on the issues we discuss. The group also represent my target market and this helps me understand their view of the world.
My Dad was very entrepreneurial and I read accountancy at university to provide me with a solid foundation for running my own business. But, I really enjoyed studying accountancy and after university I started work for a small accountancy firm in Edinburgh. I then moved to London and worked in Banking and the Energy sector before deciding to fulfil my dream and start my own accountancy firm.
My target market is ambitious owner-managed businesses who want to be 'super succesful'. I've grown up with social media and use it to keep in touch with clients and also to reach out to new ones. Twitter and Facebook genuinely break down the barriers of geography and our client-base is well spread across the UK. We find Linkedin is a harder network to use, compared to Facebook and Twitter, it seems to be more formal and less relaxed. We also attract new clients through networking, entrepreneurial groups and most importantly, word-of-mouth. Because Super Accountant is an owner-managed business we understand our target market and the challenges it faces.
We differentiate ourselves from many accountants in the following ways:
- We make full use of cloud-based software (e.g. Xero), it is more cost-effective, easy to use and being ubiquitous makes us very productive;
- We actively use social media and we stay in touch with our clients, we know what they want from us. This ranges from providing podcasts on the website to video chatting with clients;
- Because we know our clients, we can be pro-active;
- We are paperless - we all work in different locations so all documents (including inbound correspondence) have to live in the cloud;
- We embrace change and are not wed to any traditional practices.
Recently, I was awarded the INABA - I am Not A Boring Accountant. This virtual award is presented to accountants who operate in such a way to confirm that 'boring is optional'!
What hardware do you use?
Because we all work from different locations, we VPN into our servers to get access to clients' files, working papers, copies of accounts, tax returns etc.
I only live 10 minutes from the office, so I don't drive in, I have a lovely 10 minute walk through Richmond - guaranteeing me at least 20 minutes of exercise per day.
We are cloud users, which is inevitable given we run a virtual business. I work from a real, physical office in Richmond, but all the other staff work from across the UK. The cloud enables us to operate more efficiently and effectively as a business, aiding us to serve our clients better. The cloud gives us access to the whole of the UK as a marketplace rather than being focused on the local geographical area. Ambitious owner-managed businesses have similar needs and face similar challenges wherever they are in the UK.
Super Accountant are now a Xero Gold Partner. We use Xero because it is written from a business perspective and is much easier for our clients to use; Xero avoids jargon, making it much easier for non-accountants to adopt - for example 'money in' and 'money out' rather than debits and credits. I use Xero from my laptop, iPad and from my phone, which is fantastic. The phone app has less features than the web app , but it is great for a quick check.
We use TaxCalc for our annual accounts, corporation and personal tax returns. This software has great support and is significantly better value for money than competitors' products. We also use:
- WorkflowMax - for practice management. It interfaces with Xero so the information is easily shared;
- Timely - enabling clients to book appointments via our website;
- Fathom and Spotlight - for reporting on client accounts;
- Receipt Bank - we use Receipt Bank for entry of expenses, clients send their receipts to Receipt Bank where the information is added into the clients' account (via Receipt Bank's direct integration);
- Dropbox - for sharing documents with each other and with our clients.
Favourite business trip?
I don't do many business trips but I do sometimes have meetings in a local coffee shop - Albert's Deli, it has great coffee (sourced from individual coffee farms) and a lovely art noveau facade.
My dream setup for managing expenses in the cloud, is to have software that is very easy, intuitive and fun to use. This would make it a no-brainer for clients to submit their expenses.