Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Mike Toone, the manager of Birmingham-based chartered accountants Cutter & Co.
It’s not every day your accounting attributes are called upon outside the office walls - especially when it comes to midwifery.
But three months ago, Mike Toone had to summon the calm and methodical manner he displays every day as the practice manager of Cutter & Co when his wife went into labour.
The day started as any normal work day. Showering before work, Toone heard his wife call. She was in a lot of pain. But seeing as his wife was in labour for 10 hours plus with their eldest child and her waters had not yet broken, Toone still thought about popping into the office.
But when it seemed like the pain wasn’t going to ease, Toone called an ambulance and 15 minutes later their daughter was born - beating the ambulance by a good 15 minutes.
“Whilst I had great support on the phone, I had to step in and catch the baby and do our best not to panic,” said Toone.
It wasn’t until they requested Toone’s 999 recording as a keepsake that his practice manager demeanour became apparent. “We listened to it back and everyone who has heard it said I remained remarkably calm. Which I like to think is the same at work. I tend to keep calm and not let things get on top of me.”
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But, he added, “I don't know if many other accounting skills transfer into midwifery.”
And recently Toone was present for another birth - although this one was of a digital kind. As Toone describes in this week’s Practice Talk, his firm filed its first MTD for VAT submission using Sage One.
What is the first thing you do when you start your working day?
I've got a two-year-old and a three-month-old. The start of the working day depends on when they wake up. I don't set an alarm because they tend to wake up about 6.30am. On the rare occasion when they wake up at 8am - while it is good to have a lie in - it does make you panic that you're going to be late for work.
I am guilty of checking emails and seeing what has come in the previous night or first thing in the morning. I start to plan my day from there before I get into the office.
You mention emails there. How much do they seep into your life away from the office?
I prefer to know what is going on and keep in touch with the clients all the time rather than having a backlog of emails when I get into the office, which could take an hour or so of my time when I have planned to do something else. Also, I like to know if I've emailed something out later in the afternoon if I've got a reply or know what has happened. On a weekend I try to refrain as much as possible.
Speaking of working long hours. Have you got any self assessment horror stories?
We've had a client in particular who once turned up on 31st January with a massive carrier bags of receipts. It may have even been two carrier bags. It wasn't a quick job. We got it done but it wasn't a pleasant one. The client paid for it, so to speak.
Periods such as self assessment season can be full on, so what do you do to unwind from the life of tax returns and client chasing?
I play football every Monday and I make sure even if it is going to be a long day at the office and we finish late, I still get to that because I think it is important to keep up things like that. Although it is difficult in the winter, I go to a driving range. Hitting 50 balls tends to relieve a bit of stress as well. And spending time with my kids distracts you completely because you don't have time to think about anything else when you are looking after a two-year-old and a three-month-old.
Since you qualified, what's been the biggest change in the profession?
The shift towards digital records and clients getting more involved and using bookkeeping software. I only qualified about five years ago but even then we had clients bringing in carrier bags full of paper that we had to manually process ourselves.
It's been brilliant with the advent of online systems such as QuickBooks Online and Sage One. We can give clients the training to use those. Things like Receipt Bank where they can take photos of their expenses and get those digitised have been the biggest shift.
What steps have you taken to be MTD-ready?
We've been involved in the MTD for VAT pilot and were the first company to submit an MTD for VAT return using Sage Cloud accounting systems. Any of our VAT clients are not forced but strongly encouraged to use cloud software.
About 90% of our VAT clients are ready and using cloud software. It's just trying to tie up the last few who really like their spreadsheets and traditional records. As a firm, we are happy with the progress made and we'd go as far as saying we're 95% ready for when it goes live on the 6 April next year.
Can you remember your first calculator?
I can't actually remember my first calculator. The one that stands out in my head is the one I had for my GCSE maths exams, which would have been a scientific one. I thought it was really cool to have these scientific buttons which I probably never used.
I do have a favourite calculator. It's a simple one which I've attached by a micro USB to my computer. I can send any sums I do directly into a spreadsheet.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.