Practice Talk: Linda Frier from Coalesco
Each week AccountingWEB speaks with an accountant in practice about their daily routines and also their thoughts about the latest trends in the profession. This week we're joined by Linda Frier, who is the owner of Accounting Excellence award-winning firm Coalesco Accountants.
This week marks the 52nd episode in the Practice Talk series. To celebrate this momentous occasion we’ve saved our favourite answer to the feature’s mainstay question: can you remember your first calculator?
Linda Frier’s calculator answer really typifies her personality. She’s infused the same warmth and good humour into her practice. So much so that Frier sees her practice as a community. Clients know one another and do business together. Frier facilitates this through client seminars and she has even thrown a client Christmas party.
Accountancy award watches should recognise this week’s Practice Talk practitioner. Frier’s firm Coalesco bagged the Practice Excellence small practice of the year award in 2015 and picked up nominations in the same category as well as client service the following year.
Coalesco is now in its eleventh year. But it’s not just the award recognition that has changed in the last decade, Frier also talks in this week’s feature about the extent client communication has changed since her days working at Grant Thornton and preparing her firm for Making Tax Digital.
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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
In this day and age, we know it is the emails, washed down with a cup of tea. We look at our emails before we plan our day because you never know. Sadly, those emails quite often dictate your plans so there is no point planning in a huge amount of detail what you're going to do.
Checking emails outside traditional office hours has sadly become the norm for many practitioners. Is this something that's permeated into your personal life?
Emails continue 24/7 in the life we live in. It's the biggest downside of professional practice.
You hear the bing, you look. It's human nature. You want to be there to help and support and we appreciate completely that a lot of clients do their bookkeeping and debt management in the evening after they've finished their day. So, there's a significant demand in the evenings. A wet Sunday is always the day you're going to get a lot of emails.
Is the always-on culture a concern in your practice?
I'm the only person that looks at their emails outside work. I check other people's emails, as well as my own. But I never ever ask a colleague to look at emails outside working hours. One of the main reasons I set up my practice was to go back to my roots and to try and have a work-life balance. Therefore, I will never instil [always-on working] on others.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?
I've always been very involved in motorcycle racing and classic motorcycle restoration - that's a family thing. I follow motorsport. It’s something very different to escape accountancy life.
Since you qualified what's been the biggest change you've seen in the profession?
Client and work-life balance has completely changed. One of the things I always go back to is the emails. I started with Grant Thornton in 1996 and juniors didn't have a laptop. That isn't that long ago, let's face it. That to me is still a cultural mind-blowing change.
You closed the door at 5.15pm back in those days with GT. You communicated with the clients predominantly by letter. It meant that there wasn't a here and now demand to get that response or that chase a couple of hours later when you haven't a response to that email.
The second one is the way HMRC has centralised a lot of departments so you don't have a case officer you can work with on a particular problem or client. It's probably the biggest frustration we have here.
What steps have you taken to being MTD-ready?
We're probably 50-50 in terms of software and non-software clients. Ten years ago when the practice started, nobody used the software. It was a manual accounting office. That's a huge in-road for our clients and us.
In terms of MTD preparation, we reviewed each VAT registered client (or close to VAT registration), looked at how they're preparing their accounts at the moment and contacted everybody on an individual level and invited those that need to transition to cloud software to seminars. Everybody has a plan and we know where they are on that plan.
Can you remember your first calculator?
We all have a calculator we love, let's face it, because the buttons are in the right places and we touch type all of the time. I had my particular calculator for a long period of time. But it got squashed in a bag whilst travelling and it had a crack.
I bought the same calculator and off it continued. That's six years of the same calculator and I wanted to renew it because the screen was fading. But Casio had discontinued selling that calculator in the UK. I was going off on holiday to America a couple of months later and I discovered you could still buy this particular calculator in America. So I am now a proud owner of the same four calculators that came home in my luggage from San Francisco.
Wherever I go, my calculator is in my bag. Friends have taken the mickey out of me for a significant time for always having my calculator in my going out bag as well as my work bag. It comes on holiday with me. When I was the bridesmaid to my best friend seven years ago, she had a seamstress put a pocket in my bridesmaid dress so I could carry my calculator with me for the day without needing a bag. A girl needs her tools, and that's your primary tool.