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Practice Talk: Kieran James from PayKeeper

24th Apr 2019
Editor AccountingWEB
In association with
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Joining Practice Talk this week is Kieran James, the founder of the 2018 Accounting Excellence New Firm of the year PayKeeper.

As a new firm, there are many sleepless nights and difficult challenges along the way. So for Kieran James winning the Accounting Excellence 2018 New Firm of the year was like a benchmark to say you’ve done alright.

“It’s definitely made a difference,” he told AccountingWEB. “We were already growing quite quickly, but winning the award has accelerated our pace. From about April 2018 we were moving quickly and then from the awards night onwards we doubled our speed of growth.”

The new firm award winner not only targets a niche in the franchise sector but it also offers training and coaching.

James has had an interesting route into the profession. Before starting PayKeeper his CV included stops at contractor software JustAccounts and Sage. So with his background in software, PayKeeper is keen to call itself a digital firm rather than an accountancy firm that has digital customers.

In this week’s Practice Talk, James talks to AccountingWEB about his daily routine, life as a new firm and client expectations.

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How does a typical working day start?

My working day usually starts the evening before. I look at my diary and prioritise tasks. I use a scoring system to put different signs next to different tasks. If I use a £ sign it means it's revenue generating and if I use a C that means it’s for customer experience. Those two take priority every single day. If it's going to help the experience or generate revenue, I'll focus on those.

Past Practice Talk interviewees first stuck straight into emails with their morning coffee – why are emails not top of your morning to-do list?

Emails are bad way to start the day because there is always stuff to do. Your priority is either growing the business or making sure you're improving the way the business works. It's different for different people but my staff can deal with customer queries. You need to start the day with the two drivers, which are the experience and the revenue side.

As a new firm scaling from the ground up, how do you avoid falling into the traps of the always-on culture? Have you had to implement boundaries to ensure you don't suffer?

When we started the business we made a conscious choice to always be available because how do you compete with somebody else in the marketplace? As a small team, you give the extra customer experience. That’s where you can go above and beyond. At the beginning, you need to get people as quickly as possible to shout about what you do. No matter how good you are, marketing referrals will always be the biggest way an accounting firm will grow.

So how have you managed your time so you don’t suffer work burnout?

You have to make sure nothing else stops; like family. I do what's called chunking. So I always have dinner with my family and I block time out for that for about two hours. I noticed that no customers were calling us after 4.30pm, it was always early in the morning or late at night. So between 4.30-6.30 pm I'd spend time with my family and kids, put the kids to bed, ect. And then I'd go back on it. We've got to the point where I sometimes email back 'thanks, we’ll pick it up in the morning'. We will probably look to have a team that works later on at some point but it will be a customer service-led rather than accounting-led.    

What does good client service look like for PayKeeper?

In my opinion, I believe as accountants we have a duty and responsibility to do everything within our powers to try and support clients. There are a lot of switched-on business leaders but they still need encouragement and hand-holding through the financial process. So it is making sure that is as easy as possible. The second step is making sure clients have accurate information they use to make sound business decisions. That first bit is getting automated and streamlined. The part about business decisions is what makes accountants different from one another.

What's been the biggest change since joining the profession?

Some people used to think that if they speak with their accountant more than once a year something is going wrong. Now that's changing into speaking to my accountant as regularly as possible. Part of that process is because of the use of technology. Accountants have access to better technology that allows them to know when a customer is about to hit their VAT threshold, for example. 

Can you remember your first calculator?

I had a calculator in school... I've never used a calculator in the accounting profession that is not a digital form. So it has either been a mobile phone, Google or on the software. Maybe that's a sign of the type of business we are and the type of person I am.


Message from Cashplus – New Firm of the Year sponsor for 2019:

Cashplus is proud to sponsor the Accounting Excellence New Firm of the Year Award.  As a leading digital business banking provider, already helping 120k+ businesses and supporting hundreds of accounting practices open accounts for their clients in minutes, we welcome every opportunity to help new firms excel. – Nick Biggam, commercial director, Cashplus