Tech Talk: Victoria Cooper from Red Shoes Accounting Services
Welcome to Tech Talk, a monthly catch-up with an accountant in practice to find out the effect that technological changes have had on the industry over the years.
Today we are joined by Victoria Cooper, founder of the Ely-based practice Red Shoes Accounting Services. She established the practice in 2009 and her firm now works with clients that range from restaurants and construction, to plumbing and pharmaceutical.
Victoria believes that cloud accounting is the technology that will change the most the role of accountants in the next years, shifting their work to becoming advisers. As a forward-looking accountant, Victoria already acts as an adviser for her clients in a variety of topics, maintaining a continuous dialogue with her clients throughout the year: “Clients do look for us for more than doing just their accounts,” she said.
“They will contact us when they need to talk something through and it might not be finance-related, it might be HR-related, it might be something to do with cash flow, they might want to discuss a particular product which isn’t doing so well. I can be for a variety of reasons.”
Victoria’s work also reflects the importance she places on building good trusting relationships with her clients: “You have to enjoy working with people and get on well with them because you’re dealing with your clients face to face and they will look to you for advice and they need to know that they can trust you.”
When it comes to the online activity of her firm, Victoria has seen benefits of using social media to improve her website’s Google rankings and drive traffic to their new website.
Victoria, how has the technology you use in your firm changed since you started out?
The level of technology has changed hugely since I started my practice nine years ago. Due to the advances of technology such as cloud accounting we can operate more efficiently and storage is much less of an issue now. I’ve stopped buying filing cabinets as we are using far less paper now and printing much less which is good news for the planet – especially in January!
At the start of my practice we used to have inefficient stand-alone systems which were cumbersome to use and hard to get everyone access to when they needed it. That’s all changed now. Investing in the Digita Virtual Office was a massive change and ensured that we were all able to access and process secure and up to date data when we needed it from wherever we had an internet connection – office, home, client premises, etc.
Can you tell us about the tech set up within your practice?
We have our own dedicated server (with an uninterrupted power supply to ensure it doesn’t go offline that we can log in from anywhere we go providing there is an internet connection). Each member of the team has their own PC or laptop connected to the server with access to the operational software we use. We only have one printer – which is dusty.
With the Digita Virtual Office suite came Onvio which, amongst other great capabilities, enables us to share documents such as tax returns with our clients and the clients can digitally approve them. This speeds up the approval process and we have made great savings in paper, printing and postage, especially in the busy self-assessment season. We no longer have to store data on USB drives when working offsite, which is much more secure.
What three considerations did you make when choosing the technology for your practice?
The first one was value for money, as it has to create efficiencies for us by automating and streamlining processes and therefore saving us precious time.
The second one was ease of use – any software needs to have a good straightforward interface so the whole team can work comfortably with it without having to endure a lot of intensive training.
And the third one, weight – strange but true – a heavy laptop is not fun to carry around!
What is your favourite technology product?
I love my Alexa, it plays great music on-demand and gives me a great weather forecast every morning. My children can get her to do much more clever things too!
Are there any everyday accountancy problems you think could be solved with technology in the future?
When it comes to expenses and where to classify them, currently there has to be some human input. However, I believe with advanced algorithms virtual intelligence (VI) or artificial intelligence (AI) will be able to distinguish between capital and revenue items based on what the business does. That should make bookkeeping that bit closer to full automation, ironing out human error once and for all. Interpreting, monitoring and reporting on the results of a business will always need a good accountant though!
Can you tell me about a recent project or process that you made better, faster, smarter or more efficient?
In terms of software, the recent investment of Futrli, has made our management accounts production faster, better and smarter and we are able to tailor our reporting much more closely to the client needs. They love it. We are currently getting trained up on the forecasting module and that should really be popular amongst the clients who have had to deal with imperfect and complex spreadsheets in the past.
I see your practice is very active on social media, have you seen the benefits from it and do you use any tools to assist you?
Initially, I was a little daunted when we first created our Facebook and Twitter pages a few years ago. It didn’t feel the right sort of marketing medium for a traditional accountancy practice. But I was so very wrong!
Using social media has had a huge effect on the growth of our business. We outsource much of the publishing to a clever little marketing company called Emerald Frog. They are a creative bunch who help us build relevant and interesting content for our social media pages.
If you liked this piece, take a look at what Swaran Sohal has to say about the tech set up within the Black Country accountancy firm Sandwell Accountancy Services.