Mark Stewart initially set up his practice as an adjunct to his day job. The success of the venture meant that he was soon working full-time in the business.
Today, supported by a team of five, he assists around 220 small and medium-sized clients in a range of sectors with their accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and tax. The firm’s main office is in Alloa, in the lowlands of Scotland. Clients are mainly based in central Scotland, but the team also work with businesses across the UK.
To increase efficiency and support the firm’s ambitions for profitable growth.
- IRIS Accountancy Suite
- IRIS OpenSpace
- IRIS Practice Management
- IRIS AutoMail
- IRIS Time & Fees
When Mark Stewart first opened for business, he used a mix of tax and accounts products, but as his client base expanded, he switched to an integrated suite of compliance software from IRIS. Mark is clear that IRIS pays for itself: “If you look at the cost per client, it’s around £30 a year. That represents just a few percent of our turnover, while it saves valuable time in so many ways.”
Looking back on his own journey, he says, “When you first start up and have only a few clients, IRIS can seem overkill and quite expensive, too. But as I expanded my practice, the integration within IRIS became increasingly attractive. Everything is joined up, so if you change a client record that information is updated automatically wherever it appears, across all IRIS modules. You don’t even have to think about it and that’s a huge saving in time that would otherwise go on manually entering and updating client data.”
IRIS AutoMail for client communications is another example of how the integration within IRIS saves time on important but essentially routine tasks by drawing on the central IRIS database. Mark says, “Once letters are set up, you can produce – at a click of a button – engagement letters, covering letters for year end accounts, CT returns, personal tax returns…to post or, more usually nowadays, to email.”
As experienced users, Mark and his team do not need to call on help from the IRIS Customer Support team very often. However, as Mark points out, “Whenever we have had to contact IRIS, we’ve found them very responsive. It’s reassuring to know they’re always there should we need them.”
While business growth is welcome, it needs careful management to be sustainable, as Mark explains, “With increasing numbers of clients and staff, it becomes more difficult to rely on inflexible spreadsheets to stay in control. That’s where IRIS Practice Management comes in by providing a centralised hub for storing and sharing our client data across the team. It includes workflow, tracking of correspondence and powerful data mining. This means we can easily track the position of all jobs and check what’s due for filing across VAT, accounts, annual returns, and so on, at any particular moment.”
Mark points out, “You can certainly buy separate business management systems to bolt on to a basic accounting package, but IRIS Practice Management is tightly integrated with the core compliance products.”
Driving up client value
Mark uses IRIS functionality such as Time & Fees to identify his most and least profitable clients, assessing the margin contribution that each client makes to the firm. When he first undertook this exercise, the results were surprising: “We stratify our client base in 20 per cent chunks, and it turned out that the bottom 20 per cent of clients account for only 4 per cent of fees.”
He has a clear-sighted business strategy: “My vision is to reach 300 clients and then stop at that point. We’ll continue to take on new clients, but gradually divest ourselves of less profitable clients. This means that, over time, we’ll be increasing the value of each client to the business.”
Keeping up to speed on IRIS
With compliance work steady and possibly declining, the Stewart Accounting Services team offer an expanding range of business advisory services, such as working closely with clients to grow their business through their Growth Through Numbers programme and helping clients with pricing so they price for maximum profit through their Price Consulting programme.
As the business landscape changes and the firm evolves, Mark believes in keeping up to speed on how the IRIS Accountancy Suite can help him increase efficiency to free time for this higher value work. He has attended the IRIS World customer conference where the latest innovations in IRIS are on show, and is firmly committed to investing in training.
Mark says, “We had professional on-site training from IRIS when the software was installed a couple of years ago, and we recently booked a refresher session, with a view to streamlining our processes and learning some more time-saving shortcuts. We tell the IRIS trainers what we want to achieve and they show us how the software can help in ways we would never have thought possible! IRIS is a powerful piece of software and we are well aware that we haven’t yet exhausted its potential to support the business.”