Practice Talk: Justin Randall from Jeffreys Henry LLP
Joining Practice Talk this week is Justin Randall, the managing partner at mid-tier firm Jeffreys Henry.
It’s no wonder Justin Randall is a busy man. Not only is he in charge of the firm’s strategic direction, but he heads up the mid-tier firm's Accounting Excellence award-winning specialist team.
The firm’s specialist team of the year award win last year was clear-cut. Boasting a 21% increase in fee income and 60 restaurants and bars on their client list, their deep sense of confidence in their hospitality niche was without question.
Randall became Jeffreys Henry's managing partner two years ago. He’s been at the firm since 1994 when he joined as an audit manager before becoming a partner in 1996.
Next week Randall reveals some of the secrets that led to his firm's Accounting Excellence win, but before then he talks emails, the advent of cloud and calculators.
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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
I review my meetings for the day and I clear my inbox from the day before.
Funny you should mention emails. It feels like every week on Practice Talk accountants discuss how they’re checking emails outside ‘traditional office hours’. Is that something that you’re guilty of?
Yeah, but I don't feel guilty about it. Emails do encroach upon your activities outside the office but I think working patterns and practices have generally changed. It also provides flexibility as well. I had the first part of my career in an age before email, the days before being able to remotely connect with the office. I remember as a trainee and as a young qualified accountant, I would spend many evenings and weekends working.
In those days, during time off you wouldn't have any connection with the office at all. But I think it limited the amount of time you could have off with your family, whereas I think what emails have allowed everyone to do is to be able to work in a more efficient way – you dip in, you dip out. Clients expect you to be connected, that's part of providing a service. I personally prefer to know if my clients have got a problem or a query - they drop me an email, I know about it.
On a similar note, the profession has seen a sharp uplift in stress thanks to the always-on culture. How has Jeffreys Henry responded to the work-life balance demands?
It's about flexibility. We understand that people are keeping in touch when they're out of the office and it provides that flexibility when they're here as well. If people say "is it OK if I work from home today because I've got X, Y, and Z going on? My daughter is off nursery and she's ill etc." We're very flexible in that respect. It's give and take.
Since you qualified what's been the biggest change in the profession?
Without a doubt, it’s technology. Having started in the mid-80s I've seen the progress of technology and how much more one can do now using technology and just communicating with clients. We've always been a forward-thinking firm in terms of technology. We've been early adopters of technology where we believe that it could improve efficiency within the office.
We actually introduced document management back in 2000. Every firm has got a document management system in one description or another now, but in 2000 that was really cutting edge and it gave us a big efficiency boost and allowed us to be a lot more competitive against other firms.
How cloud is Jeffreys Henry?
The only aspect of our practice that isn't on the cloud is where we're held back by legacy software.
But across the practice, we were one of the pioneering firms in terms of adopting cloud technology. We were one of the first users of Xero. I do believe we were pioneering in that respect because we started using what is cloud technology about 15 years ago when a lot of our clients were still on dial-up internet. We partnered with a company that hosted a version of Sage on their own remote server that you accessed through a webpage.
That collaboration where you'd be able to access the information and the bookkeeping information at the same time as the client was transformational because we'd do the management accounts, entering in journals for them at the same time we'd carry on doing their day-to-day bookkeeping, with no downtime.
If they wanted to ask any questions about their bookkeeping, they could pick up the phone to us and we could be looking at the same information but live. That was quite a change and a real big draw for growing that aspect of our business.
Can you remember your first calculator?
I can do better than that, I've still got my original calculator – I’ve had it for over 30 years and it's still going. It's solar powered, so it’s never needed a new battery.
I can't use any other calculator. It's got such an unusual way of processing the numbers that I can't use anyone else's calculator. When anyone comes into my office and pick up a calculator to punch out a number, they complain that the calculator doesn't work. And then I do the same thing, and they say ' why didn't it work for me?'
If you want to be an award-winning firm now's your chance to enter the Accounting Excellence awards – back in its ninth year. Whether you have a specialist team to rival Jeffrey Henry or if you have your eyes set on another gong, you can enter here.