Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Richard Keyes, the managing partner of Taylorcocks.
Keyes is not a chartered accountant. He’s not even a tax adviser or an auditor. He’s a marketing man. But for the past 14 years, he has worked at Taylorcocks. Keyes started as the firm’s first ever marketing manager, before moving into the marketing director role. Then five years ago he took the reigns as the firm’s managing partner.
His role differs from a ‘typical accountancy managing partner’ because he’s not directly serving the client. Instead, when Keyes stepped into the role he did so knowing that he was there to grow the firm.
“When you come into work thinking like that, it does make you look at the market differently,” said Keyes.
And part of that role, as Keyes recently discussed with Richard Sergeant, is his responsibility to focus on the firm’s mergers and acquisition strategy. “My full-time job really is to try and find firms that I think will fit with our model, either with young partners staying on but they've hit a ceiling on the marketing, cloud, or the advisory front or with senior partners looking to exit but haven't got a replacement,” he said.
As you can see, Keyes has a different perspective on accountancy and growing a firm which probably differs from those from a traditional background in a similar role. In this week's Practice Talk, he discusses his practice life and gives his insights on the big trends hitting the profession such as Making Tax Digital and cloud accounting.
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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
I've got a task list I set the previous night. I'll review that and from there start on what is the most important or what I've scheduled first. I set it on my phone the night before then do it on from desktop when I get in.
Are you a slave to your emails outside the traditional 9-5 working hours?
Yes. Emails are pretty much 24/7 now. I know emails get a lot of bad press but often it is the quickest and easiest way to communicate. I know there are other mechanisms now, but most people have emails on the phone and it is less intrusive than calling them and texting them.
We have a culture of people keeping on top of their emails and that does creep into people's evenings and weekends but I think that's how it is – I don't think we can get away from. Whether it's emails or something else, there is an expectation that people are responsive.
What do you do when you're not checking your emails to escape the world of tax and accounts?
I've got a young family – three children under the age of five. That has a big impact on my time outside of work. I try to get home to see them most evenings and the weekend is filled up with family activities like Peppa Pig World and all that good stuff. I have a home gym so I'll do that religiously every morning before I come in and that helps.
Coming into the profession how have you seen the accountancy change?
The big one would be technology. When I came into the profession, something like 90% of our fees came from compliance. Lots of firms would talk about advisory but it was always considered to be a nice to have. Technology has meant the delivery of compliance is easier, which in time means it will cost less. So advisory has gone from a nice to have, to essential.
How have you seen marketing within accountancy change?
Over the last two years, I've met 90-odd firms we've been looking to acquire or merge with, and most firms don't really spend anything on marketing. They tend to do a small amount locally, whether it is their local paper or sponsor the local cricket club but they do very indirect and passive marketing stuff.
Generally, I don't think accountancy firms take marketing seriously enough, which is a shame because it is a recurring income model. Once you got that client base you can easily assign a budget to it and measure what that budget has done.
What steps has your firm done to prepare for MTD?
Three years ago we took cloud seriously and our partners were trained on it and there was a Xero person in each office. That meant when MTD was more solid we were well placed.
Cloud transition has been what we've tried to do strategically. For the clients not already on a platform we've been running monthly webinars and we will run them right through to the first deadline. The point of the webinars is to just educate the client so they understand what MTD is because HMRC has been really quiet on that compared to other rollouts in the past.
Can you remember your first calculator?
I'm a marketing person – calculators are a bit dangerous in my hands. I don't remember my first calculator but I have one on my desk and have done for a while. But it doesn't tend to get a lot of use these days. I think it's for effect to get some credibility back with the accountants. I use spreadsheets still which might be the next thing to meet its maker.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.