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Bright stories: The accountants who solved their own problems

24th Nov 2022
Brought to you by
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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A quick browse of comments from users on r/Accounting over on Reddit shines a light on how accountants view themselves and their profession. When one user asked, “How do you know if accountancy is for you?” the replies included:

  • “It is not a subject for stupid people or lazy people.”
  • “Most of the time, it's more about thinking critically and conceptually.”
  • “Really good accountants are detail-oriented, careful, organized, curious, problem-solvers, and proactive in their company's strategic planning.”

And what’s a problem solver?

“A problem solver is an individual who makes decisions and resolves issues using critical thinking and analytical skills.”

There’s some serious overlap – accountants clearly aren’t human calculators who memorise endless legislation and rules to process data. An accountant is, first and foremost, a person who can analyse the issue, break it into its core parts, find answers and create a solution.

But how many accountants have the same focus on solving their own problems as they do for their clients?

Accountants solving their own problems

Over the decades, a handful of accountants have taken exactly that disruptive approach. “What if,” they mused, “we could do this better ourselves?”

What was the problem they were casting a rebellious eye over? The advent of accounting technology in a digital world that was still mostly running on bulky desktop towers, rollerball mice and floppy disks (now known by billions as simply ‘the save icon')

1989 – The dawn of digital

Remember cashing physical paychecks? Paul Byrne, the founder of the business that was to become Bright, does. That was the driver for “the numbers guy” to team up with Tom Horan – “the tech guy” – and become pioneers of payroll.

At the time, most employers processed payroll manually. Without a ridiculous budget for bespoke software, SMEs were losing an unbelievable number of staff hours each month, not only to manually crunching remuneration but to the inevitable clean-ups that resulted from human error. It was a clear problem that needed an elegant solution – that solution emerged as Thesaurus Software.

Combining their skills and free time, Paul and Tom were determined to address every aspect of payroll automation in the Irish market, even those beyond technology. Questions of affordability, useability and more were considered, addressed, and considered again; three decades later, their innovative ethos continues in BrightPay.

1999 – Excel hell

BTCSoftware’s co-founder, Ian Katté, was ten years into running his practice. He’d trained at Ernst & Young after graduating with a degree in engineering. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with more of an instinct for problem-solving than Ian, and that instinct was exactly what brought up the topic of accounting software during a late-night chat with software developer Rob Ellis in 1999.

Armed with Microsoft Excel and a raft of customised spreadsheets, Ian and Rob began mapping out the issue. From disconnected calculations to time-consuming data entry, for almost three years the pair met up regularly and chipped away at Ian’s long list of digital headaches. That process led to a solution that was too good not to share with accountants everywhere, and CorpTax was launched in 2003.

2017 – New practice problems

Fast-forward almost 20 years to the mid-2010s, and you’ll find James Byrne working in his dad’s accountancy firm, getting increasingly frustrated by the inefficiencies of repetitive admin. Over 100 clients, with their unique schedules, data, key dates and more, were the root cause of the team’s time-poor, mega-stressful days in the office.

James called in a software developer friend, Alex Hawke, and together they worked through the headaches as they arose. One problem at a time, James assessed the issue and Alex wrote code to fix it, building up Bright’s practice management solution – AccountancyManager – in the process. The test lab of their real accounting firm created the perfect solution to real accounting firm problems with the launch of AccountancyManager in 2017.

2021, 22, 23 and beyond – A Bright new approach

If you combine an accountant and a software engineer, you get award-winning software.

But what do you get if you combine an accountant and a software engineer three times over and then add a fresh spark of innovation?

That’s what Bright is. It’s a fresh start for old knowledge (though our slightly greyer founders prefer ‘experience’ rather than ‘old knowledge'). We’re bringing together amazing problem solvers with new talent to create the ultimate solution for accountants, bookkeepers and small business owners.  

Across the UK and Irish accounting world, the problems are ongoing. Innovation will always be needed (see: Making Tax Digital in the UK, Auto-Enrolment in Ireland), which means that accountants will always be needed – not only by their clients but also by their software providers. At Bright, we want to hear what you need. Our combined heritage is vital to our future innovation. At the heart of that story are a handful of accountants who set out to solve their own problems and ended up solving the problems of an entire industry.

See for yourself

We're at AccountingWEB Live - head to stand F10 to meet our Bright people.