How TaxCalc is giving back during the coronavirus pandemic
Under the banner of ‘From TaxCalc with Love’, TaxCalc Chief Executive Tracy Ebdon-Poole has spearheaded a campaign to not only support the company’s employees, but also the country’s healthcare workers who have come under greater pressure than ever. A combination of measures to assist team members and customers, a revamp of daily operations and a flood of donations to NHS staff have formed part of an effort to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the campaign has ramped up over the last couple of months, TaxCalc had taken steps prior to the lockdown to ensure the company and its team were prepared. Staff members began working from home two weeks earlier than required, and additional IT equipment was purchased proactively in February to help staff to work as usual from the safety of their homes. Measures have also extended to TaxCalc’s customer base, with payment holidays offered to those whose businesses may have been directly affected by the pandemic, and a reshaped product portfolio to provide more accessible solutions.
All of this has not been easy whilst maintaining TaxCalc’s 10,000 sq-ft office space, which has gone unused for the best part of three-months. But by all accounts, says Ebdon-Poole, the company is running surprisingly well given the circumstances. Part of that has come down to TaxCalc’s inherent family values, she explains.
Where did the idea for the ‘From TaxCalc with love’ campaign originate?
I had been following a donation page called ‘For the love of scrubs’ that was established very early on in the pandemic, and I saw how communities were coming together. With many of our team members’ partners and extended families working in the NHS, we then began to hear first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting healthcare workers.
At the same time, we were trying to adjust to working at home as a company, and the level of uncertainty in general was rising. We pay close attention to the importance of mental health across our team, and it became clear that a growing number of people were struggling as a result of the lockdown. We quickly realised how desperate the situation was. With all this in mind, I thought it was right that we start a fundraiser across the team and our 50,000 registered customers: a small donation across the board would allow us to do a lot of good for the NHS.
The response was tremendous—the campaign generated real excitement and we saw a willingness to do whatever possible to help. We have seen enormous generosity from our customers, and since we launched the campaign we have raised just over £12,000. The ‘From TaxCalc with Love’ campaign really encompasses everything that is important to my family and I, and sends that ideology out to a wider audience.
How have members of the TaxCalc team found other ways to donate outside of the campaign?
Having heard first-hand about the shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) in some areas, we now have a number of 3D printers in operation at our team members’ homes to produce face guards. A local college has also produced some simple patterns for us so that we can help to make scrubs in low volumes—members of our team with sewing machines have been very happy to do that.
At a time where the business is under greater pressure than ever, where does the drive to help others come from?
As a family business, we are more interested in giving back than taking away. That stems partly from my personal values: my father was an entrepreneur and philanthropist and my mother was a captain in the Red Cross, so all of my life I have been surrounded by the notion of giving back and paying forward. When you live and breathe that as a family, it naturally filters through into the business.
Today, TaxCalc is absolutely run on family values: it drives our decision-making, and ensures that both our team and our customers are given the respect they deserve.
How has the lockdown affected TaxCalc from a business perspective?
It’s been business as usual for us, and the customer has remained at the forefront of our thinking. If anything, the lockdown has enabled us to get even closer with our customers. Every Friday since the lockdown began, I have been writing to our customers to explain what we are doing as a company to react to the situation. None of our customers have noticed an appreciable difference in service, so we know that our strategy is working.
We also made the decision to try and assist our customers further by establishing a Hardship Committee. Here, our support team has been addressing hardship claims from a number of accountants, many of whom had lost their business overnight. A number of our customers who typically pay monthly simply had no income to do so. However, rather than taking a heavy hand with them, we simply asked: “How can we help?” Payment holidays have kept our client base intact, and have ensured our customers still have access to the software they need.
We have also looked at our product offering to see whether we could develop smaller products; a new solution now sits between our Unlimited Individual and Partnership and entry-level software. It has been a welcome addition not only for our customers, but for TaxCalc as a business: the period between April and June is typically a busy time for us in terms of renewals, and rather than seeing renewals drop, we simply saw some customers moving to smaller products as a short-term solution.
Cloud-based solutions in particular have seen growing interest as a result of the move to home working. How has that trend been reflected in your CloudConnect product?
Interest in CloudConnect has certainly gone up; we have seen an increase of over 30% in registrations over this time last year. CloudConnect has really come into its own with slightly larger firms in particular, where they desperately need to be able to manage their business remotely. And because our software is so competitively priced and feature-rich, it is a no brainer.
How has the TaxCalc team adapted to the new normal over the last couple of months or so?
We have placed a significant focus on improving both internal and external communications across the business. Before the lockdown formally came into place, I thought about how I would want to be treated, and that is with compassion and understanding. This is the stance we have taken as a business, and our team members have been extremely appreciative of that. To ease the level of uncertainty, we have also ensured our staff know that we will not be returning to the office permanently any time soon; we are running really well remotely.
Will TaxCalc look to pause investments for the foreseeable, or look for new areas of growth in a post-COVID environment?
TaxCalc is a family business in a sector full of competitors that are owned by venture capital firms. We do not have a board of shareholders to appease—it’s just us. As a result, we are nimble and able to quickly implement changes as we see fit. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, we have accelerated the creation of our new website, for example. With our focus on communications, the relevant team members were able to pull everything together extremely quickly—possibly faster than usual.
We are not only looking for stability: we are also looking to attract new customers who may recognise our corporate values and look to embrace that themselves. However, when you do not tie people in to long contracts as our competitors do, the risk of customer attrition is high. By reaching out to our customers as part of the campaign, we are naturally making small commercial gains by retaining our loyal customers.
I believe the biggest problem facing companies who are looking to adapt during this time is their mind-set. The lockdown has shown that we need to work differently, and while it is a cliché, fortune really does favour the brave. There is great opportunity out there, and I am excited about the future because we know where we are going, and we are future-proofing the business.
On reflection of the lockdown so far, what advice would you give to those in the accounting sector moving forward?
For accountants, entrepreneurs and those in the business community, my advice would be quite simple: listen to your customers and your staff, and ensure that you do everything to protect both.