Small Change: Andrew Barker from Carter Collins and Myer
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.
Andrew Barker, a director at Rochdale-based Carter Collins and Myer, spoke to AccountingWEB after a short break in Majorca. Holiday destinations for accountants are hardly news on the Small Change news desk, but it’s what the sunny interlude represents to Barker that makes stress-free work a key theme in this week’s edition.
For example, he is a great believer in his staff using technology to enjoy a flexible approach to work. And the other advantage of being a cloud-based firm is that his employees can work from wherever they want. Sunny Balearic breaks aside; he is also about the productivity gains technology can bring to a firm.
Barker had endured a rather stressful period grappling with software unable to cope with the FRS102 changes. His firm spent as much as six hours to produce a set of accounts. But a switch of software has enabled his firm to ditch the software drudgery.
“We offer a range of compliance services and ongoing strategic advice but being bogged down with software issues ties up some time,” he said. “Saving that time allows us to give that value-added service."
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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
Alarm goes off, I get ready and take the dog out for a short walk. We recently got a French bulldog called Ray. It's nice to stretch my legs, clear my head a little bit and get ready for the day ahead. Then it's checking emails on my phone, as they often come in overnight and confirm appointments for the day ahead.
Do you check emails outside office hours?
I think it difficult not to now with your email being linked to your phone, unless you make a fairly conscious effort not to. We're fairly proud of our customer relationship and we like to respond as quickly as possible, even if it is just to explain: "We received your email, we'll action shortly."
It's not necessarily I'm going to be doing it in the evening but it's a courtesy of I've got it and we're going to schedule it soon.
Sometimes I do leave my phone out of reach in the evening so I can spend some quality time with my wife. I think from that perspective, sometimes emails don't always have to be actioned immediately.
When you're not checking your emails, what do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?
I'm a big believer in taking holidays and we want our colleagues at CCM to do the same. I travel a lot with my wife, trying to see as much of the world as possible. We got married in Italy recently - so that's our favourite place. We seem to keep to there trying to find new spots. We love parts of Tuscany and we're going to Rome in September, which we can't wait for.
What do you do in your firm to achieve a good work-life balance?
Obviously taking holidays is lovely but we also offer flexible working hours, so colleagues can come in slightly early and leave earlier, or come in later and leave later.
All our systems are remote access and cloud-based, so effectively you can work from anywhere if you wanted to. We are fairly social firm in terms that we try and run quarterly events. We've just been to the Escape Rooms with the team, which everyone enjoyed and then we went out for a spot of lunch.
Most of our team events happen within the day so it is not necessarily taking up people's evenings when often they would like to get back and see their families.
What's been the biggest change you've seen in the world of accounting since you qualified?
I think the major advances in software and automation technology has drastically changed the profession. Most clients come to us for the core compliance services but using that advanced software has created efficiencies and gives us more time to play as more of an advisory role to give more strategic advice.
Enough about this modern technology, can you remember your first calculator?
Probably not my first, but I do remember the dreaded scientific calculators at the end of school. They were almost like mini-computers, but no one actually knew how to use them to their full potential. I think I've gone back to basics with calculators.
You can read more about Barker’s efficiency gains in this IRIS case study, as featured on the software group’s Industry Insight page.