7 takeaways from our IFA webinar – with Boffix and StriveX
There’s a lot to cover here, so we’ll cut to the chase. The IFA asked us if we’d like to do a webinar for them… so we got AM super-users, Aaron and Rachel, to do it for us.
The topic was around what practice management software is – in practice, but it turned into a one-hour advert for AM. We apologise in advance.
Aaron: “We use state-of-the-art technology to make sure we give clients the information they need at their fingertips. We pride ourselves on finding the best cloud technology out there – for both ourselves and our clients – that's one of our mottos.”
Rachel: “We've scaled rapidly in the last two years from a one-man band with 50 clients, to a team of nine – and we’re about to hit 500 clients. Practice management software being implemented really early on has been a huge part of our scaling.”
1. How do you rapidly scale – without falling apart?
Rachel: “One of the biggest challenges when it comes to scaling and taking on more clients, is having way more deadlines than you have the personal capacity to meet. There’s that fear and dread that something will be missed. For us, using practice management software has completely alleviated that fear and dread.”
It's as simple as: ‘Here's a new client, I'll tick these service items.’ Then, as if by magic, all the tasks are created.” - Aaron
“One of the reasons people love practice is because every day really is different. You're spinning lots of plates to hit all of the deadlines for that week, month, year… We mentor and guide our staff to get into a set routine, so every day they open AccountancyManager first to see their short-term and long-term tasks.”
“You know when you wake up at two o'clock in the morning… ‘Wait. Have I done that?’ We don't do that anymore.”
2. How do you onboard increasing numbers of new clients?
Aaron: It doesn't matter which staff member it is, anyone can onboard new clients. They put in some very basic information: the name and email address and tick what services they want. Then AccountancyManager does the rest.”
“That's where the power really comes in because AccountancyManager sends them a link, they sign up and they’re asked all these extra questions (within their portal). They fill in the information themselves, like their UTR number.”
From your perspective, the client is onboarding themselves, but from the client's perspective, they think they've received amazing service.” - Rachel
“…And if they don't have it there and there, that's no problem. We've got it so it automatically chases them to say, "Look, we haven't got this information. We really need it,"
“The whole idea is: we’re not onboarding a client, we're letting the software onboard the client for us. That's where you can start getting that scalability and where you can start getting a lot of time saving and efficiency.”
3. How do you deliver the same excellent support as your clientbase grows?
Rachel: “For us, that personal relationship is very important. I can't express enough how important AccountancyManager is in delivering a high level of support. In AM there's this Timeline feature where you can track every single point of contact with the client.”
“With the automatic email integration, any email that’s sent to – or from – a specific client, will be pulled through into AM, under that client’s Timeline.”
“Being hybrid, there’s stuff you miss from being in the office. Somebody might say, "Oh, so-and-so's wife's pregnant." Then the person that's answering the phone next time would say, "Oh my gosh, how's your wife getting on? When's the baby due?"
“Whereas, if you have those automatic integrations that capture every telephone call, Zoom call, WhatsApp sometimes, voice note, gif… through AccountancyManager. You can maintain that level of service through every single touch point you have with a client.”
4. How do you get records to your clients?
Aaron: “With the Client Portal, instead of relying on emails and having all the back and forth, we have this one dedicated area for our client.”
“They go to our website, click a little link at the top and they go to their Client Portal. They have no idea who AccountancyManager is and they don't need to, because they're going into a portal that’s branded as ours.”
“Here they can access and sign off accounts – but also we’re a ‘registered office’ for a lot of people. There's no point in us sending that post back to them. We open it up, scan it (as long as we've got permission) and we put it into their Client Portal.”
Rachel: “You know those client emails very late at night, normally in January saying: ‘Can you send me a copy of my last three years’ accounts, because I'm trying to get a mortgage?’ - they’re gone, literally gone.’
“You can say: "you have access to the self-service portal, where you can download not only the last three years set of accounts, corporation tax returns, self assessment tax returns – and proof that you signed them on these dates,"
They can go back to one place, access their information, upload their docs to do AML checks – it’s completely paperless, a huge game changer.” - Rachel
“It gives them protection too. If somebody approved a set of accounts by email, there's no two factor authentication there. If you are asking somebody to enter a username and password, to then get secure access, that is GDPR compliant and just works well for everybody to then approve and sign their accounts, that's fantastic.”
5. How do you keep everyone together when you’re hybrid-working?
Rachel: “We’re completely hybrid now – but on Tuesdays we get everybody in the team together to eat cake, do charity work, celebrate achievements, exams, birthdays… That’s hugely valuable. Outside that, it’s completely flexible.”
“James and I are actually away at the moment but we’re able to continue working using AccountancyManager and meeting our guys remotely. In terms of business disruption – there’s been none.”
“Going into the pandemic with a completely cloud-based task management system meant that we could still scale, while some practices were firefighting, working out how to get paper records to staff at home.”
“We had all tasks at hand and could support the clients that needed it, rather than putting that time into ‘how do we do hybrid working?’.”
Aaron: With hybrid working, it’s all in the communication. We’ve found that the ‘Urgent notes’ in AccountancyManager have become the lifeblood of our business. In daily meetings we all go down that urgent list.”
We can still have great communication, but we've got the opportunity to be remote, because we've got software we can log into anywhere.” - Aaron
“Something as simple as that allows us to communicate with a remote team that: "Look, this is really critical." A great example is a client that should be VAT registered or is really close to VAT registration. They stick that information into AccountancyManager on the urgent note, we pick it up in the next meeting.”
6. How do you (and your clients) find automation?
Aaron: “At first we were hesitant about automation, we were a bit like, "this is going to end in tears if we're not careful." But as long as you put the right systems and controls in place and start to lean on them, that's where the magic happens.”
“That's where you save so much time and you're not worrying too much about the deadlines and getting what you need in time, because you know that you've got systems in place to chase up the clients and get that information there.”
Rachel: “You can automate things in a very, very personal way. Some people might have to cover their ears for this… but we actually have a set of emojis that we use across the firm. If we're talking about tax, we use the dollar sign emoji. So the client feels that consistency, friendliness and the brand that they buy into.”
People think automation can't be personal – that's a myth. Don't believe that rumour.” - Rachel
“If you're worried, let clients know: ‘We use automation within our business, to make sure that you never miss a deadline.’ It's about the narrative, how you sell it and guide the customer through your journey.”
“Automation doesn't mean ‘cold’ or that clients think it's a bot emailing them. It can still come from you and appear as it’s you. It just saves you hours – emailing every single client individually or using mail mergers.”
7. How do you look after your team’s wellbeing?
Rachel: “Treating staff well and being ‘the employer I wish I’d had’ has been a big part of us growing and scaling.”
“We’ve an employee assistance program, which gives staff access to counseling, therapy, financial and legal guidance. We do personal financial wellbeing checks too where financial advisors come in and chat to them, to make sure that they’re financially well.”
“We also do lots of charity work, the guys get two days paid a year to do charity work. We’re planning a work-cation this year – flying everybody out to the south of France to work remotely, but together, to say thank you.”
If staff are stressed or having a difficult time outside work, they won’t be able to deliver that service. Nothing is more important than treating staff right.” - Rachel
“AccountancyManager is very, very good at flagging urgent versus important. There's a really cool traffic light system to tell the guys, ‘this is the work that's available to start,’ ‘this is the work that's not available to start – you need to chase’. And: ‘out of the work that you can start, this is how close you are to your deadlines.’”
“We've found this really helps staff to maintain positive wellbeing. They feel in control of their tasks and motivated and supported by us, but they also get that empowerment of being able to do things themselves.”
Final words from Rachel and Aaron…
Rachel: “I think people view practice management software as the day-to-day running off the practice, but it can give you so much oversight in terms of what your plans are for the business, how to grow, how to scale, how to manage that value of fees… understanding what is profitable work versus not profitable work.”
“AccountancyManager has enabled us to scale so rapidly. If you are looking to grow a practice, my top tip would be to get practice management software very early on.”
“Also, make friends in the industry! Those are the relationships that I rely on the most. Accountancy isn't competitive, there's enough work to go around and collaboration can do huge things for your sanity and for your business.”
I’d like to put in a disclaimer that Aaron and I are not sponsored by AccountancyManager. We literally just love the software.” - Rachel
Aaron: “I tried to build my own AccountancyManager solution back in the day. We learned very early on that – yes, we could probably build something that was adequate, but really we needed to embrace what you guys were doing. You're experts in the field, you're dedicated to making our lives easier in terms of growing our practice and scaling it and we needed to embrace that.”
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