Small change: James Robinson, PKF Francis Clark
Welcome to Small Change, a weekly catch up with an accountant in practice where we find out their daily routine and ask them about the biggest trends in the profession.
In this week's edition, we are joined by James Robinson, a partner with PKF Francis Clark.
Robinson represents the firm on the Board of Dorset Young Enterprise and also the Career Ready programme at Poole High School. He has been recognised after ten years working with the charity.
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Hi James, you’ve recently been recognised for your work with Dorset Young Enterprise and the Young Enterprise. How engaged are young people with business and finance? I think kids nowadays have to be more engaged – there is a lot of competition out there if they want to get any places; especially on apprentice programmes, they have to get involved. They have to stand out from the crowd.
Have you seen many budding young accountants from doing this? We've employed some. I've been doing it ten years and I was only talking to one recently who is now nearing the end of his ACCA qualification, and I met him when he was at school.
I try and encourage my clients to work with a local school because you get relationships with the teachers who can pass on good pupils, but you also know that if an 18-year-old can get to school they can get to your office because it is normally quite close.
What’s the first thing you do when you get in the office? Unfortunately, nowadays your work day starts from the moment you wake up and you've probably cleared some of the overnight emails. By the time I come into work I'm preparing for first meetings, making sure I'm ready for the day, dealing with any issues that have happened overnight with the team.
Making Tax Digital or Making Tax Difficult? I think it is the natural progression of the way the digital work is going and in some respects, as accountants, we have to embrace it and help our clients through it. It is not going to go away. Let's face it, more and more things are digital. Why wouldn't we think our profession would do the same?
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts? I enjoy a lot of cricket. My son plays a lot of cricket and I enjoy getting involved with the local cricket club and helping out. I'm a keen sports photographer.
You started as an apprentice at 18. What’s the biggest change in the world of accounting since you qualified? Emails – that's the biggest change I've seen.
It's anecdotal but back in the early 90s I was in charge of collecting the emails for all of our three offices. I had to disconnect the fax machine to use the dial-up modem. I'd be in trouble if I didn't connect the fax machine in because we might miss a fax. When we got an email I'd have to photocopy it and fax it around the offices.
When you think now the millions of emails you get in a day and how many faxes we get... that's the biggest change.
KPIs do you obsess about? Like any accountant, you are looking at chargeable time. The biggest thing really now is staff welfare and mental health. It’s sometimes hard to measure, but staff wellbeing is one that we look at as well.
Do you check your emails outside office hours? Yeah – but in saying that, as a firm, we are looking at the whole email policy. We've not made a decision on it but we're looking at how we can discourage it.
How many unread emails have you got? Ah! It's interesting. I always have a pre-Christmas clear out so I've only got 14 unread emails and only 47 emails in my inbox. It’s inbox on one page, rather than inbox-zero.
What are you doing to improve your work-life balance? One of the things I am trying to do is to delegate. When I took over from partners who've retired, I wanted to bring on the next generation. By delegating they get more confident and empowered and hopefully it improves my work-life balance.
That’s what a lot of people miss about the Young enterprise. We do it because it brings on our team as well. Where you've got a team that is relatively inexperienced, you can involve them in that and it gets their own confidence up as well.
The Ralph memorial question: Can you remember your first calculator? Yes I can because it took me weeks to get used to the fact that I had to put ‘point -00’ when I was using the add-list. It was a Casio with the print out till roll – probably as big as my computer or surface pro.
What have you got for lunch, and does it cost more than £5.50? It definitely cost less than £5.50 and I had a tuna and sweetcorn mayonnaise white baguette