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.
Joining Small Change this week is James Trowell, who is head of tax and accounting at contractor specialists, Dolan Accountancy.
Trowell worked his way up through the ranks of the profession, starting off opening letters in the admin team for SJD Accountancy before becoming a trainee accountant. His role expanded over the years, working his way to accountant and then team manager. Three months ago, Trowell took on the head of accounting and taxation position at Dolan.
His background doing a variety of practice roles has given him a good grounding in not only the contractor accounting industry but it’s also enabled him to understand his employees and their career goals.
Not only does his new role features heavily in this week’s Small Change but Trowell also reminisces about his first calculator as a toddler (he was obviously destined for this profession).
What is the first thing you do when you start your working day?
I get in and straight away I turn on the kettle and have a coffee before I sit down at my desk.
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How has the profession changed since you qualified?
When I first started in accountancy - and this was only eight or nine years ago - everything was paper-based.
You had those old paper VAT forms. You'd either get them from the client or sent to you and you'd have to send to HMRC through the post. Everything took so much longer to get in place when you were setting up new clients and references.
But now we’ve become more digitally advanced, turn around times have improved quite a bit over the last 10 years.
Do you check your emails outside office hours?
Yeah. My inbox is my to-do list and I like it to be empty. I get my emails coming through on the mobile. Emails are so accessible. If it’s something easy to reply to you would always just get back to them.
At Dolan we have a service guarantee that any emails before 4pm get a same day response. Our clients are used to an efficient service. If I can add to that service by giving a quick response to a quick query out of hours, I don't mind doing that.
What are you and your firm doing to achieve a work-life balance?
Work-life balance was one of the key reasons why I changed roles and jobs. Where I worked previously I would get home and log-in and work until 9 pm every night.
But here at Dolan we look at what is manageable for an accountant to provide the best service. I log in out of choice, but accountants here come in at 9 am and leave at 5 pm and they don't have any access to log in from home.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?
I’ve got a six month cocker spaniel and he requires a lot of walking. So it's the first thing I do in the morning, and then in the evening.
Living in Chiltern Hills is definitely a great place to unwind. It's always good to go out after work for an hour/hour and half to clear your head after what can be a busy day on the phone or email heavy, or if you're looking into tax legislation. Sometimes it's good to get away from that.
Making tax digital or making tax difficult?
While it is still up in the air I think it will be much more beneficial. When I look back to when I first started, you had to send paper forms to authorise a client as an agent, and it could be a couple weeks turn around.
But with how digital the profession has already become, you can literally do it in five minutes: you can apply for it, they get a code and they send it to you by email and it’s done.
How was self assessment for you this year?
Self assessment season is always stressful and it’s just making sure you have the support of everyone around you to get through it.
You can 20 to 30 tax returns in one week and then you’ll have a quiet week the next week, depending on clients sending information. So if someone has a backlog of work we pull together as a team.
Can you remember your first calculator?
My first one would be a children's play cash register, which was an actual calculator. My mum is a bit of hoarder when it comes to my kid’s stuff so she'll probably have the cash register in the loft.
My second memory was from secondary school when for your GSCE maths you'd need a Casio calculator with all the formulas. I remember thinking that I’d have to learn how to use the different buttons - but I never did.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.