Practice Insight: Chris Maslin, Maslins Chartered Accountants

Brought to you by Senta

We recently caught up with Chris Maslin, who told us about client onboarding, the advantages of having a specialised firm, and how his team has tailored Senta to its needs.

Chris Maslin

Chris heads up Maslins, a small team of Chartered Accountants and Tax Advisers based in South East England, which specialises in helping freelancers and contractors with their tax and accounting responsibilities.

Chris decided to start using a practice management solution as a database to keep track of client data, including names, addresses and tax references, as well as to keep tabs on the progress of various jobs.

“We get Senta to help with many of the repetitive tasks,” said Chris. “Some things we easily got it to do straight out of the box. Other things have taken more effort for us to configure. However, in the long term I feel this is a good thing, as we're getting it to do things pretty much just how we want, which may be slightly different to what other practices want.”

Since they started using Senta, Chris and his team have also found it useful to communicate with their clients, who are all over the UK, “mainly mocking up standard emails, requesting data, or highlighting when they need to do something,” he said.

Chris, how did you customise Senta to adapt it to your practice?

We've tailored it a huge amount for us. Perhaps we could have worked more with the inbuilt workflows, but we already had our ways of doing things, so we ended up building our own workflows from scratch. This was a bit of effort, however I found it quite enjoyable... a bit like computer programming for kids!

By workflows I just mean the list of tasks required to get a bigger job done. Who needs to do what, at what time, how long should they realistically take to do it, etc.

Do you see Maslins as a high growth firm? If so, what role has your practice management software played in that process?

Depends what counts as "high"! Our turnover growth rate has been 15-20% the last few years. Four or five years ago it was more like 50%. Of course, going from five clients to 10 (100% growth) seems a smaller jump than 500 clients to 1,000, which is still 100%.

Also, we work with FreeAgent and the number of FreeAgent-friendly accountants has grown rapidly over the last eight years or so since we first signed up with them. We therefore have more direct competition than we did five to eight years ago.

I'm also very focused on ensuring our client service remains strong. We could perhaps have grown faster had we taken on anything and everything that came our way, but I worry the quality would have dropped.

However, by specialising in a certain type of business, meaning all clients have fairly similar affairs, we can make better use of tools like Senta than an accounting firm with clients of all shapes and sizes. We can systemise things more easily.

Have you automated any tasks recently? Can you quantify the benefits?

At this stage I would say it's more systemising than automating, so we're still very much in the driving seat, doing most things. The software flags what needs doing, when, and sometimes mocks up what we need to send.

I am a bit nervous to go full automation (ie the software does it all without intervention from us) on anything just yet!

One of the areas that has changed the most compared to how things were done 10 years ago is client onboarding. We have standardised the letters of engagement, which now are pre-populated and ready for e-sign, so we don’t need to post bespoke ones to get a hand signature.

Now clients provide all the data with an online form that populates our database and we don’t need to ask them to post info for us to then manually enter.