Alistair Hayward Wright
Hayward Wright

Small Change: Alistair Hayward-Wright from Hayward Wright

23rd Jul 2018
Editor AccountingWEB
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Welcome to Small Change, a weekly catch-up with an accountant in practice to find out their daily routine and ask them about the biggest trends in the profession.

Alistair Hayward-Wright, the director of Midlands-based Hayward-Wright, grew up always wanting to own a business. He comes from a family where most are self employed. It’s for this reason that he gravitated towards accountancy.

He trained with a small firm of accountants, where he qualified with the ICAEW. His ambition to own a business almost tempted him away from his accountancy studies mid-way through, as an opportunity to own an IT business came up. But Hayward-Wright opted to knuckle down with his studies. It wasn’t long before Hayward-Wright was able to achieve his ambition to run a business. Shortly after gaining his practising certificate, he bought a small block of fees.

That was over ten years ago and he hasn’t regretted his decision to stick with accountancy. As someone that supports businesses and likes to see them grow, Hayward-Wright sees accounting as the best of both worlds.

Hayward-Wright’s business is growing. He has recently appointed four specialists in areas such as tax and payroll, which has increased his firm’s headcount to 22, a rise of 47% in two years.

“I was always better at numbers than I was at English, so I could build on that and also help and support businesses,” Hayward-Wright told AccountingWEB.

The shift to the advisory practice is one way Hayward-Wright is helping businesses, as he discusses in this week’s Small Change. But Small Change readers will be just as interested in how a rough and tumble school playground game led to the demise of his beloved calculator.

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

I tend to keep the inbox organised but there might be one or two emails that have come in overnight because I tend not to check emails after 6pm. And then I put together my to-do list for the day.

I run Trello as a tool for general to-do lists, which has everything on it, but the first job is to pick out the key items I need to get done for that day and review the diary to check any meetings or appointments. That's the first half hour or so.

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

When I became more disciplined about not answering emails outside work, I got into cooking and absolutely fell in love with it.  

I had never been into cooking before. That said my mum was actually a professional chef for many years. At first, I was using cooking as an escapism; to switch off and not think about tax, just think about cooking. It worked brilliantly for that, but now I just do it because I enjoy it.

What else are you doing in your firm that supports a good-life balance?

We encourage people not to stretch themselves so far that it affects them.

We've put flexi-time in for the guys 12 months ago. We've got a good mixed team with got some younger members who would prefer coming in a little later and work a little later, and we have staff with young families who found it really useful because if they get the flexi-time right they can do school drop-offs and pickups. Having been through all that, I know how valuable that is.

We do a fair bit of socialising as well. It started off once a month as a Friday evening beer on the way home but it seems to have been pushing weekly at the moment. Again, it’s that balance between working hard in the office but also having a relaxing time with other members of the team.

What's been the biggest change in the profession since you qualified?

I've said very early on when I qualified that the industry is going to go through phenomenal change and I still believe it.

I still believe we have got a lot of change to come. We got involved with cloud technology very early on and have been involved with Xero for eight or nine years now because I wanted to build my practice around what I was calling at the time client support, but it’s what we now talk about as being the advisory element of the business.

How do you see the profession changing in the next five years?

The compliance side of the business is dying. It's all about the advisory and that's what we are very much focussed on now. We've got a broad range of clients and we have one team member whose sole role is as our cloud accounting champion.

So she's working closely with Xero and Receipt Bank but also some of the other add-ons like Xend to try and find solutions for all of our different clients.

We've picked up the easy wins early on, we've moved over the more tech-savvy clients but now we're working through the ones that are a little more resistant to the change. Even those guys are starting to see the benefits to it now and it allows us to work closely with them. We've got a lot of clients we work with almost every couple of days.

Enough talk about this modern tech, can you remember your first calculator?

It was a Casio from my school days but it got broken in the playground during a rather energetic game of British Bulldogs, although we called it something else because British Bulldogs had been banned at our school. So basically came up with the same game but called it a different name.

It was very traumatic at the time (laughs). It got replaced with a scientific one, so it wasn't too bad in the end. But I now just use the calculator on my phone.