Practice Talk: Richard Lacey from Harris Lacey & Swain

Richard Lacey
Harris Lacey & Swain
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Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Richard Lacey, owner of Hull-based accountancy firm Harris Lacey and Swain.

“Several years ago I was convinced cloud was the way the market was going to go,” Lacey told AccountingWEB. “I had an epiphany. We have to embrace this.”

And embrace it Lacey did. Earlier this month Lacey’s firm Harris Lacey and Swain filed QuickBooks’ first MTD for VAT public beta submission.

Having joined the world of practice in 1993, Lacey is not nostalgic about life before digitalisation. He’s very much looking forward, rather than back.

“It's pointless to harken back to the old days where you sit behind the ledgers,” he said. “You got to embrace tech and get on with it. Those early adopters will thrive and the deniers and sceptics will suffer badly.”

His passion for tech has spilt over into any meeting with a client over the last two years. “It's got to be one of the things you discuss. It's all right reporting on the historic but you're there to protect clients from future changes as well.”

Since MTD is top of his agenda, there was no better place to start this week’s Practice Talk than the steps his firm has taken to being MTD-ready. But later Lacey reminisces about some old tech – namely his first calculator.

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As a firm what steps have you taken to being MTD ready?

We've been planning this for a year and a half. The journey was always one from understanding what was going to happen to getting to the end date. It's been ongoing progress of familiarisation with the software and putting resources into it.

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

With modern technology, the working day never starts and stops. The first thing I do in the morning when I walk through is check my emails like everybody else and the day progresses along that basis.

For many emails spills into life beyond the traditional working hours. Are you guilty of checking your emails after hours?

Guilty of it but you've got to have control. For instance, I do turn mine off when I go on holiday. I am absolutely adamant about that. The expectation now from younger people is an instant response. If you want to go back to writing letters and posting them and replying three or four day’s letter, forget it. That is not how the world works.

Work-life is becoming increasingly important. What is your firm doing to ensure staff members are not feeling overworked?

I think there should be an end to a day. I don't like seeing my staff work too much overtime. I will encourage people to take the time off. I'm acutely aware if I think people are under pressure. I'm a manager that walks the floor. I would like to think I know if my team has got problems or pressures. I think the trick is to sit down with them. It's having a sympathetic ear.

Mental health is becoming a massive issue for any employer. As an employer, I have to protect my staff and protect them from too much stress, wherever it is coming from. Telling somebody to go home and have an afternoon off is vitally important. Or letting them unburden themselves if they've got a problem is vitally important.

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

I like planning on what car I am going to spend my money next.

Can you remember your first calculator?

I just joined the profession when they were getting rid of comptometers. My calculators last about ten years so unfortunately I've probably had three or four.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.