AM in Practice: Smooth onboarding from step 1... to step 64-8
Francesca and Charlotte met at a networking event in 2018, where they bonded over a shared passion for cloud accounting. Three years later, Future Cloud is a fast-growing firm of eight – with AM at its heart.
For this week’s AM in Practice, we travelled (in real life) to the offices of Future Cloud, with a video camera in tow. Future Cloud has used AccountancyManager right from the word go. See how we’ve helped speed up onboarding, support rapid growth and give clients a seamless digital experience.
Watch our full video by clicking the button below!
Growing a new business – as new friends
Charlotte: Fran and I worked at the same firm but in different offices. We met at an event, got chatting and found that we had a similar business idea. We discovered we both love Xero and cloud accounting – and it went from there.
I started listing in my head exactly how I'd want our firm to be: Digital, forward-thinking, proactive.”
Francesca: “I’ve seen businesses that don’t do well and it comes from the bookkeeping. Many businesses wait until the year end – which I think is crazy – then nine months after that, they'll do something about it. It's too little, too late. We’re passionate about the advisory bit, helping businesses know what's happening in their business and make future decisions from there.
The more we're getting to know each other, the more we realise – actually this couldn't be any better, in a weird way!”
Future Cloud – where the cloud is the future
Charlotte: Being ‘in the cloud’ is the way that everything is going now. Nothing is saved on our work laptops, it's all in the cloud. It’s important that all of our software solutions are in the cloud, where everything can talk to each other easily.
Francesca: We love cloud accounting, it's definitely the future. All the kids that are growing up with TikTok and whatnot, they’re using their phones massively.
I knew that the future is digital and we wanted to be a part of that.”
Charlotte: There are still clients that if I show them Dext, it blows their mind. They'll be like, "It can read it?" But the younger generation are starting to expect things to be automated and in the cloud. They would find it strange if you gave them a set of accounts to sign with a pen.
It's definitely worth getting on the cloud now so that you can take on those people who want everything digital and on their phone.
Preparing for growth with AccountancyManager
Charlotte: When we started, we didn't have loads of clients, but I was starting to think, "I don't know what all these people's references are, I don't know how to collate it all." I thought about starting a spreadsheet and thought, "No, there's got to be a better way of doing this."
When we incorporated the company, we received a mail shot from AccountancyManager, I Googled it, looked at a little demo and thought “actually, this is what we need.”
When ‘I’ll just remember it’ – just won’t do
Charlotte: I remember at the beginning Fran saying, "Oh, it's fine. I can just remember everyone's year ends in my head. I can just remember everyone's VAT returns." And I was like, "When we've got 150 clients, we won’t be able to remember all that!"
I'd definitely say, ‘Get it in straight away because it will help you build the business quicker’."
Francesca: ...and now we're like, ‘Ah! Thank God we've got this in place!’ Never in a million years could we remember it all now. You load all your clients on, you can give tasks to your team and it gives you reminders of what's due and what task is next. And also your client uses their own login, so they can access documents as well.
Organisation – fit for control freaks
Charlotte: Without it, I’d probably have everything in various spreadsheets, trying to figure everything out and make sure I didn't miss any deadlines. It's good for making sure that deadlines aren't missed.
We use the Task List to keep track of everyone's job and all the upcoming deadlines. We just tick those off as people do them.”
I like to be really organised and on top of things. I can't imagine not having a practice management system because I like to stop problems before they happen. I'm one of those people that’s a bit of a control freak. So if something went wrong, I'd be mortified.
Smooth onboarding from step 1... to step 64-8
Turning prospects into clients
Francesca: When I'm on a call with a prospect, I'll quickly put them into AM first. Rather than searching Companies House, I do it through AM. Straight away the Companies House information is in AM. Even if we don't hear from them again, we can chase them up later.
I have my prospect list on there, then you turn them into clients, then it links to Xero.”
Charlotte: Then we will send them a quote. And when they accept, we turn them into a client and send them the onboarding email. That has a direct debit link and links to the portal. They can sign up for the portal, where they can upload their ID.
Sending letters of engagement
Francesca: You can tick the services for the letter of engagement and you can edit that. Clients sign in to the online portal, sign up to GoCardless – done. And we get notified they've signed.
ID checking, professional clearance and 64-8 agent authorisations
Charlotte: Another thing we do through AccountancyManager is request professional clearance. It automatically generates the template that we can fiddle with and then send to the old accountants.
It's really helped us smooth out that process, we’re not having so much admin to do when we take on new clients.”
Our admin lady checks the ID and does an ID check through AccountancyManager. Then we do the 64-8 through AccountancyManager. It's linked to HMRC, so if you've got all of the details in, you can just press a button and it will send the 64-8 request to HMRC. That's really good.
Client Portal: E-signing and any document accessible 24/7
Charlotte: My favourite part? Definitely the Client Portal – which we've now white labeled so our clients log into a ‘Future Cloud portal’ rather than seeing AccountancyManager. They can download any documents, upload any documents they want to send to us, and it's all secure.
It's the e-signing that got me, I love that. Clients can just sign online, then we get the notification of it.”
They can sign off their accounts or anything else that needs signing off and it's quite a straightforward process. That's definitely helped smooth our processes out. A massive plus is the e-signing. I don't know how we would've managed to do that without AccountancyManager.
With white-labelling, from the client's point of view, it looks like they're logging into a Future Cloud portal, but it's actually AccountancyManager.”
Francesca: “Clients love the hands on, fast approach. They like logging into their own portal. It's just slick. When clients say, “Oh, can we have the personal tax return? We need it for a mortgage.” We can say: ‘Well, just login and download the document yourself.” I love that.
Xero integration: Automatically syncing client information
Charlotte: We've linked AM to Xero because we use Xero for everything. Francesca will put the new client in AccountancyManager and it automatically puts it in Xero. When we set up our invoicing and repeating invoices in Xero, all of the client's details are already in there.
If you're already putting the client in AccountancyManager, you don't want to be adding it again in Xero. And that's the beauty of it.”
“It cuts out that extra step, but you don't realise you need it until it's there. Everything integrating is amazing.”
Support (who can actually fix things too)
Charlotte: With support, I email and they get back within an hour or two at the most. They're really proactive. If you just want them to fix something for you, they’ll do it for you. The other day they helped me with some formatting on the emails.
If you don't know anything, don't be afraid to ask. Just send a quick email. They will reply straight away.”
The final verdict
Charlotte: “I’d recommend AccountancyManager to anyone that wants to streamline their practice and help things be more automated, in the cloud.” Get systems and processes in place as soon as you can – if everything's already efficient, then it's easier to take more work on.
Without a system, I think it would be harder to grow. You definitely need a system to grow. You'll forget things."
Francesca: It doesn't matter if you're a one-man band and you've got two or three clients, get it in there straight from day one. 100%. People think, well, “I'm only small.” But we’ve always acted bigger. Don’t think like a small business!
Don't use a spreadsheet, get a system, invest in something. It's just a good tool to have, to store your clients, to remember things.”