This month we spoke with Penny Rowden from Rowdens Chartered Accountants. At the firm, based in Chichester, they want to be seen by their clients as members of their team, instead of just accountants. Providing guidance to their clients is, therefore, a big part of what they do.
Penny is very excited about cloud accounting and the possibilities that integrating multiple apps in the cloud offers. She loves the fact that there is now “very sophisticated accountancy software easily available at a price small businesses can afford”.
In 2018, the firm was chosen as the Xero Small Firm of the year.
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“We're a very cloud-based practice. We've been using Xero since 2011 and we used other cloud products as well, but the one thing we hadn't done was to sort out our practice management system.
We were using spreadsheets and doing everything ad hoc. When it was just two or three of us it was fine but, with the firm growing, we needed something a bit more sensible to try to pull everything together, because we had information in disparate places. So that’s why we decided to start using Senta.
At the beginning, we updated our spreadsheet with information we had in various places and then we imported our clients and added all the services we wanted. I also did a Companies House import into Senta so that I knew all the companies’ account details were correct.
We’re still tweaking things and adapting Senta to our needs – it’s a work in progress, but I can already see that it's going to make a huge difference.
My favourite thing about Senta is the fact that we can do a client list and then we can get different views of that list, so that we can see all the things we need to do for our clients.
In the homepage, we can have widgets that show all the jobs, where they're at, etc. so we can see where we are at. This also allows us to do some things very quickly, like sending generic emails out to some clients at the same time.
We really liked all the integrations with GoCardless, Xero and Outlook as well, since we use all of them.
We are also GoProposal users, so another attraction for Senta for us was the integration between the two systems. When a proposal is accepted, it kicks off the client and the jobs in Senta. We then go through the rest of the onboarding checklist to set up the AML forms and everything else.
For the AML side of things, we can just work through all our clients and get everything up onto the latest forms. I've got a client list for the AML client form completion dates, so that once a particular form is completed, I know that all the AML has been done.
For all the little things like that, it's great to have everything up in one place.
Thinking about the future
The automation is only happening at the moment through GoProposal and Senta and also with fact that the Outlook email is integrated. We've only just started using the email out facility of Senta. So for instance, when we had a member of staff leaving the firm, we were able to contact all our clients in one go.
Our plan in the future is to do more marketing using prospects in Senta, but it's still early days from that point of view. I also haven't set up Zapier yet, which some people have done to get things like Slack communication, etc.
For the rest of our processes, and particularly the onboarding, I'd love for people to be able to fill out forms on our website. Once we have that configured, we’ll dedicate some time to work out what can be automated and improved.