Peter Jarman
Peter Jarman

Practice Talk: Peter Jarman from PJCO

16th Oct 2018
Editor AccountingWEB
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Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Peter Jarman, the managing partner of PJCO, the winners of this year's QuickBooks UK firm of the future competition.

Voting is now underway on Intuit’s Firm of the Future site to crown the winner of the global competition. Flying the flag for the UK is Peter Jarman and his firm PJCO. The award has eluded UK QuickBooks accountants since the software company made the competition global two years ago.

But what could cinch the competition for Jarman is how the firm’s adoption of apps and cloud accounting has made a difference to their practice management, clients and, in one key example, the Norwich FoodHub, where PJCO devised a cloud solution that organises volunteers and food collections.

PJCO’s commitment to being a cloud-first practice is what impressed QuickBooks and Nick Williams, Intuit QuickBooks’ head of UK accountants.

“From their decision to hire graduates to expand their adoption of business apps and cloud accounting, to the work they’ve done to help their small business clients create efficiencies with technology, we’re proud to see PJCO emerge as the UK finalist in QuickBooks’ Firm of the Future competition and wish them the best of luck on the global stage,” he said.

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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?

I check the firm's work WhatsApp group to see if I need to bring any milk into work. I check the Slack channels to eliminate as much email as possible and then ride my bike to work.

Emails have become a common issue for accountants, with many checking outside traditional working hours. Are you guilty of this?

An accountancy practice and servicing clients are now expected to be a 24-hour a day job for many of our clients.

What we are trying to do is to use new routes like Slack and WhatsApp to filter down the number of emails we need to look at. My inbox has hundreds of emails coming in every day. The WhatsApp and Slack channels will probably narrow that down to tens rather than hundreds and that makes it possible to sort out the good from the bad and the things that need doing.

What else does your firm do to ensure employees work-life balance is not off kilter?

We operate a system that no one works longer than their contracted hours. We operate a flexi working day where some of our employees come in at 7am and leave early in the afternoon and others can come in as late as 10am and leave later on in the evening.

We have done that to alleviate traffic issues and also it helps with training. We've got ACCA training going through their exams at the moment and they are studying every day. For some of them, it helps to study in the morning and others prefer to get their working day done early and go home and study in the evenings.

What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?

Football is my religion. I support Chelsea and have done since I was a very young boy. Living right by the sea, beach activities are key to my life and lifestyle. I like motorboating, kayaking, going on bike rides on South down with my friends.

What's been the biggest change in the profession since you qualified?

There has been a whole load of changes, and each one has been an opportunity. If I go right back to when I first started in the early 1990s there was the abolition of audits for small companies - that was a great help for me as a sole practitioner at that stage. Then self assessment came along and initially it was thought everybody would do there own SA tax return but of course, that then left accountants with more opportunity to help clients with their self assessments. More latterly, in the 2010s, payroll and auto enrolment came in and gave us more opportunities. And now, finally, the biggest opportunity we'll have had in all that 30 years would be MTD.

What steps has your firm taken to being MTD-ready?

We've converted a good 60% of our clients already. We have a plan that tells us how many clients we have to convert per week or per month until next April. We follow that plan to the word. We think as a firm we’ll be ready for next April.

Can you remember your first calculator?

The first thing I had to calculate was something called a slide rule, which I used for my A Levels. Then my first calculator was a Sinclair calculator that I got for Christmas one year. I don't think it lasted that long, but the slide rule might still be around because they're more difficult to break.