Joining Practice Talk this week is Nadia Hossen Mamode, founder of Bee Accountancy: a firm set up to help people in the armed forces community – from creating a business to supporting soldiers’ charities.
Nadia set up Bee Accountancy (an acronym for ‘building, empowering and engaging’) during a career break from her job while pregnant with her second child.
As a military wife and a chartered accountant, Nadia found while mixing with other military spouses during her patch’s baby group activities that there was a need for specific accountancy services.
“People in the military often move around every couple of years and an online service they can access anywhere often suits their needs,” she said.
“Often veterans or their spouses set up a business because they have the drive and want a sense of purpose. They want a business where they can be themselves and be challenged."
As someone from the military community, Nadia understands the needs of her clients. For example, there are a lot of accidental landlords in the military community who buy a property, but a new posting means they have to move with no choice but to rent it out.
The trust Nadia has built within her military community niche has seen her shortlisted for a Soldiering On Award, which marks the outstanding achievements of those who support the armed forces community.
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What's the first thing you do to start your working day?
Strangely, for a tech-savvy business the first thing I do is open my paper diary and have a look at what I have planned for the day. Even though the meetings and work are done online, I keep a diary for things I am hoping to achieve every week or goals that I have set for this month.
It could be something as small as I want to write a blog today or I want to introduce myself to someone in the community like a military charity, for example.
The second thing I do is check my bank balance. I go onto Xero, refresh the screen and look at what has happened to the business bank account in the last 24 hours. And the third thing I do is check my emails...
Emails are usually the first thing accountants check. Are emails something you check beyond the traditional 9-to-5 working hours?
As an employee, the first thing I used to do when I turned up at work was to switch on the computer and to check my email. When I decided to set up the business, this was the one thing I said I was not going to do. I don't stay in my email inbox all day, but I do check it at various times throughout the day.
You’ve managed to avoid getting sucked into this culture – so why do you think emails have become such an issue?
When you hear that ping sound you feel that you need to deal with that email here and now. I don't know where it came from; that expectation that clients expect an email reply within five minutes.
My clients know they will get a reply within 24 hours. If there is anything that is hugely urgent they have my mobile phone number. I do not check my email in the evening or during the weekend.
When I started the business I did not set up email on my phone, but I have now because I ended up travelling and it was easier having it on the train rather than trying to get an internet connection for the laptop. Disconnecting it again is something I'd like to do in the future though.
What’s been the biggest change in the profession since you started?
One of the things I noticed from working for traditional accountancy firms -- even at the time as a new trainee -- was how inefficient things were. I remember being given a printout of a TB and I typed it up in Excel because the manager was too afraid to speak with the client and say 'just send it to us via email'. This is so inefficient, the way firms were running their huge multi-million-pound business.
I thought someday if I was ever in the position to make decisions I would really want to make things as efficient as possible. I started up my business ready for the digital world. I never had any transition, as such. So that "new digital world" that traditional accountancy firms are facing is not something I ever had because I set it up to be digital ready.
In my own business, there is a lot of automation. If my client wants to speak to me we don't send 10 billion emails saying "are you free on this day at this time." I just give them a link and they can put time directly into my diary and they get a link for a video conference and they just click on it.
So MTD will be less of a headache for you?
Everybody was saying 'are you MTD ready?' I'm like hold on: I built the business to be MTD-ready. We never had any spreadsheet clients. We did it straight away. Every client that came to me, I gave them a checklist. If you are to become my client this is how I work. We do not make exceptions. If somebody came to me and said I am not happy about connecting my bank feeds to Xero, I'd say, maybe I am not the right accountant for you. We are very flexible in many ways, but totally inflexible in terms of our processes.
Can you remember your first calculator?
Oh gosh! I was still at school, aged around seven. I remember having this cute calculator and my dad showed me how to use it. I remember thinking that it was the best innovation ever because I'll never have to do any addition again because I could do it off the calculator. Of course, I was not allowed to take it to school and that defeated the whole purpose of having a calculator.
It's a funny thing about being an accountant. When you go out for dinner with your mates and the bill comes and we're going to split it, everyone gives it to you because you're the accountant. But of course, I can't do any maths in my head because I use a calculator all the time!
I've been given loads of calculators since. People love gifting you calculators: secret Santa, birthday presents, Christmas presents etc. I've had so many calculators I could probably have my own calculator museum!
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.