Practice Talk: Sophie Admasu from ASMARA Accounting
On this week’s Practice Talk, Sophie Admasu from ASMARA Accounting reflects on how she let go of her old ‘always-on’ daily routine and developed a growth mindset.
Before rebranding her firm, Admasu got to the point where she was overloaded with work and struggling to manage a demanding client base who would often call and text her anytime. Her firm Bath Accountancy and Tax did exactly what it said on the tin. As such, her clients were based in Bath, and without any advertising, word of mouth referrals strengthened this localisation.
She had to find a different way. It was time to reframe and redo.
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Admasu invested in a business adviser and within six months she had undergone a rigorous understanding of what she actually wanted. She had described herself as a “typical accountant” who was focused on the “small picture” so she never could envisage what she’s doing now where that growth ambition has been flipped.
She rebranded the website and built a firm around a collaboration of accountants. As for the name: she liked the sound of her birthplace Asmara in Ethiopia. Once she heard the origins of the city of Asmara and how the oppressed women from four clans united to defeat their common enemy, Admasu knew right away that the name represented everything she wanted her firm to become.
Admasu wants ASMARA to be just as empowering as the women from the firm’s namesake. At the moment ASMARA has a workforce of women accountants working from home, and are juggling work with childcare.
Admasu talks AccountingWEB through a typical day at ASMARA Accounting, and also reflects on how this has changed from her always-on former routine.
A day in the life at ASMARA Accounting
“My working day starts differently every day. Wednesday is a full-on day because that's when I prepare for the team meeting at 10am. I try to find a topic I feel would benefit the team, anything in the week we struggled with, like how they deal with difficult clients.
On Monday mornings I look at that week and then put all the tasks and meetings into an old-fashioned Filofax. Then I try not to open my emails, but open up the Filofax to see what I need to do on that day. That helps me avoiding the email trap.
I then crack on with what I have planned for that day. So if it's a review for some work that the accountants need to look at, I start with that. Sometimes I will have a quick look at my emails – because I am only human – but I try not to. I try to get done with what I had planned for that day, and if I've got time then I'll look at emails and plan my email correspondence in this week.
I spend a lot of my time with our accountants, finding the right systems and dealing with growth. I want to grow but I need to find the right ways to do it. So I spend a lot of time researching and the best ways of implementing that.
As a sole practitioner, I was skipping lunch. There came a point when I told my business adviser that I didn't want that life. I don't want to be working 12 hours a day and still feeling like you're behind. You never feel like you're on top of it. And if you take a week off you work yourself to death the week before and the week after.
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That rollercoaster is harder to maintain when you're working from home. You're constantly looking at messages and reacting and not only are you reacting to the clients but also to yourself and whatever news comes to you.
When I get stuck into the work, I find it very hard to stop. So even when the kids were tiny, I'd work after I'd put them to bed. It became quite bad. You just get absorbed into whatever happens. When change happens like MTD, clients would freak out. A combination of doing the work, growing your business and managing the clients would consume me and then I'd take work home.
Like other accountants, it's in my nature to be a control freak. It's a difficult daily exercise to let go of that control and trust that it's being dealt with properly. It was a tough turnaround when it was just me and clients were used to just coming to me. And some clients still revert to writing to me, but I make sure it goes through the accountant in charge of them.
The key is to set boundaries. I aim to stop working when the kids come home at 4pm, but I don't always manage that and am still working at 7pm but I really try not to because it's the old trap that I fell into.
I advise my accountants to take a breath and work calmly. I don't expect an immediate response if I email. Unless it's urgent, they can wait a day or two before getting back.”