As Perrys Chartered Accountants move into a new Grade II listed offices at the dockyard in Chatham, AccountingWEB used this as an opportunity to speak with the branch’s captain (so to speak), Steve Hale.
Now a director, Hale started life in the profession straight from school in 1983. He joined a small firm as a trainee accountant. It wasn’t until 1999 though that he found his home at Perrys in their Wrotham office in Kent.
While a lot has changed over the last 20 years, Hale expects the biggest changes are still to come. The mounting pressure on fees has kept the firm on their toes. But it is with technology changes and flexible working where he sees the biggest changes. But he sees the firm in safe hands: "It is great to see some of our 30-somethings coming through as senior managers and partners as we see technology changes."
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But one aspect of his day-to-day office life that hasn't changed is his relationship with his clients. “They still look for a friendly service,” he said. Although Hale joked: "It wasn't that long ago my clients were older than me, and now it’s beginning to go the other way.”
“I've always been an early starter. My office day starts normally at 6.30am. When I get in I make sure the coffee is on. I then tend to look at the emails that have come in overnight. Years ago we'd get the post at 9.30am but now we're receiving details, requests and queries virtually 24 hours a day. I clear those and then set myself up for the work I want to do.
I am sharper in the mornings. I do a lot of our corporate finance work, so if I have to write a valuation report or look at some acquisitions or sale details then I tend to do that in the morning. I do a lot of our corporate finance work.
From when the rest of the team arrives and the phones start ringing at 8am, you don't know what you might be facing – which is why I don't think there is a typical working day these days. There might have been twenty years ago, but the client demands are different now.
Around 70% of it will be client-based work one way or another and 30% will be managing the practice or even 60-40 but they'd have to drag me kicking and screaming from the client work completely because that is what makes the profession fun. It is the clients that keep the job interesting so I do as much of that as I can.
I get out for a 20-minute lunchtime walk-round. The Chatham dockyard is full of Victorian buildings and they do a lot of filming down there, such as the Netflix series The Crown. I can honestly say that I haven't been able to see a submarine or a Victorian frigate in any of the offices I've been in.
I have it in my diary to go down the gym two afternoons a week, but in practice it doesn't quite happen. I found that because I am sharp in the morning. I'm not so sharp in the afternoon and tend to do either the internal administration stuff or in theory, the gym.
I leave the office between 5pm and 6pm. My kids are 15 and 13 and although they're only beginning now to shut themselves in their bedrooms, I enjoy getting home and playing with them in the garden or on the X Box. So I’d only rarely look at my emails at home because I don't believe it's fair for them and my wife to encroach upon that.
But I'm not as good as I should be. If I am cooking I might have the phone next to me and quickly look at it. But I'd rather leave it and do it the next day. If there is something urgent either internally or client-based then I would respond but I would try and find a particular point in time to do that.
If a client wants to see me at 7pm, I will do that as well. I think what helps is that I love what I do and my clients are not just clients, they're mates. We've grown up together. You've seen marriages, divorces and kids come along, and unfortunately, you see people pass away as well. Generally, if a meeting is in the evening it will involve perhaps a pint or a bite to eat. It's as much social and friendship as work and that's what most of us tend to do with our clients.”