Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Richard Bugler, managing partner at South West-based firm Albert Goodman.
AccountingWEB talked with Bugler (pictured second from left above) shortly after Albert Goodman announced a merger with specialist medical accountants, MW Medical.
The merger is a natural fit for Albert Goodman. MW Medical, based in Bristol, specialises in advising GP practices and consultants, which will enhance Albert Goodman’s healthcare sector services.
While mergers and acquisitions have played a role in the firm's growth, there are other factors and trends which Bugler discusses below in this week’s Practice Talk.
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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
It varies from day-to-day. As an illustration, this morning I had a breakfast meeting with one of the corporate solicitors I work with on a regular basis. It is nice to catch up every couple of months in an informal setting and discuss transactions and various topics without the clock ticking.
Generally, when I get in I make a list. I used to make a list of what I want to do in a day. Now I make a list of what I absolutely must do. What I've found is that you make a long list of what you'd like to do and you never do very much of it. So I now make a list of what I absolutely have to do and the rest of it I do as much as I can.
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A common issue we've noticed is accountants in practice checking their emails outside the traditional working hours. Are you guilty of this too?
We are extremely focused on work-life balance. Being a trustee of a long-standing firm, we see ourselves as custodians of Albert Goodman, and therefore, we want to pass it on to the next generation in good shape. There is no point in any of us burning ourselves out in a short period of time. I do look at emails out of hours but I try to draw a line at 8.30pm when I switch the phone off. I do strike a balance but a lot of my emails are from longstanding clients I've known for a long time, so don't actually see them as work. It's part of my life now.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?
I try to keep my weekends as free as possible and don't let work eat into my weekends very often. With three children under the age of 12, a lot of my weekend is devoted to taking them here, there and everywhere on sporting and artistic and musical commitments. I love being sat on the sidelines of a football or cricket match watching them play sport.
Also, I live in West Dorset so the countryside and the coast are a huge part of my life. I try to keep fit. I used to be quite sporty when I was a youngster, and I am desperately trying to regain my fitness now as I am not far off 50. I've decided if I don't get fit now, I never will be. I find now that unless I am fit, I think I struggle with the pace of life. Having a challenging work-life balance, unless you're in reasonably good health, it's a real challenge.
What's the biggest change you've seen in the profession since you qualified?
I've been working in accounting for 27 years. I've seen a lot of change and I would say the biggest are regulation and technology. Whilst I fully understand some regulation is needed, I am of the opinion that we are over-regulated in the accounting profession and professional judgment and trusted professionals have slightly gone out of the window.
When I started out accountants and other professionals were almost seen as the regulators of good practice and good governance. But now it's almost like we're the ones being regulated along with our clients, where it's actually a detriment to good governance from a clients’ point of view.
I think that's our biggest change and I know many accountants of my generation would echo that.
Speaking of regulation and technology, we can't miss this opportunity to talk about MTD. Are you in a good position to support your clients?
We've seen MTD as an incentive to get our clients in a slightly more advanced financial position. What we've done with all our clients who have manual records in the last two years is produced their accounts using cloud software. We've then had a conversation with them when we meet saying "we've set it all up for you. If you wish to, you can now carry on using the cloud software yourself."
We've put everything in place for them, so their transformation from a manual system to a cloud-based system is a very smooth one, and that's been well-received by our clients. By adopting that platform they are ready for MTD - let's call them MTD-compliant. That was a decision we took 18 months ago and that's proven to be a benefit to clients.
Enough about modern tech: can you remember your first calculator?
I got it when I was at school, probably about the age of 12/13. At that time calculators were a relatively new thing. We had these calculators made by Casio and they had a ridiculous number of buttons. I never used most of them, but the fact it had all those buttons were great. Oddly enough, I've gone to the other extreme. Approaching 50 with my eyesight not quite what it was, I've now got a very big calculator with very few buttons, which are very large. I've gone full circle.
Watch out for a future article where Richard will explain his tips for a successful merger and acquisition.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.