Small Change: Jo Tomlinson, Business Works
Welcome to Small Change, our weekly catch up with an accountant in practice. In this week's edition, we are joined by Jo Tomlinson from Business Works. Tomlinson represented the UK as the QuickBooks UK Firm of the Future at the Intuit QB Connect event in San Jose.
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Hi Jo, how are you? Congratulations on becoming the UK Firm of the Future – how was QB Connect in San Jose? It was amazing. Obviously, we would have wanted to win, but when the depth you have to go to find a negative point is the fact they didn't have English breakfast tea it must have been bloody good, mustn't it?
What is the first thing you do when you get in the office? If someone is already getting on with making the cup of tea (I am more than happy to have one made for me) [laughs], I have a warm on the radiator. Then I spend five minutes with the team while I have a cup of tea.
It's often a little bit of a catch up with people who might not have of been working yesterday because a lot of my team are part-time. So when I come in on a Tuesday, there will be people who didn't work Monday and I'll be filling them in with anything that is relevant that happened the previous day. You have to keep communicating with people at all times – information is key.
The Ralph memorial question: Can you remember your first calculator? Hmm – I can actually. My dad bought me a scientific Casio when I was at school. I'm a Casio girl. When it comes to calculators, it’s Casio all the way for me.
On my desk right now is still a Casio 12 digit MS120BM, which is far from the top of the range but it's got nice spacing on the numbers. It's very similar size way to the number pad on your keyboard. So the spacing is quite important when you are doing a lot of numbers, you need to know without looking where those numbers are.
Making Tax Digital or Making Tax Difficult? [Laughs] I think it is not a bad thing. I don't think it is scary. But I don't think it is going to bring all of that undeclared tax that the Exchequer thinks it is going to do because if people have got a propensity to hide income from the government, MTD won't change that.
What it will do is on a quarterly basis mean they get up to date with their bookkeeping, which is never a bad thing. If you do it quarterly you are less likely to have lost a load of receipts. Therefore, you are probably going to up your expenses.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts? I quite like mountain biking, although I did have quite a nasty incident over the handlebars this year. Nothing broken other than dented pride and quite severe bruising, scratches. But I am a proper trooper and carried on with the bike ride.
Do you check your emails outside office hours? Yes. I am quite obsessive about it. I find it really hard not to check. If my phone pings and says I have an email, I just think, that might be a client who needs me. If I can answer it, I do.
If I look at it and they don't need me, I don't reply: I wait until office hours. But if I see one and that somebody needs me, I am all about helping people. That's what we do every day: we help people.
What's been your worst self assessment season and why? No, it's all about planning and we operate very much as a team. So we had today our first self assessment recce and we will start in January a weekly 'this is how many we've got left today'. If anyone has got through theirs they will pick up the slack of somebody else's.
We know all the people we need to do, other than the ones who over the Christmas dinner realise they need it doing and contact us in the first week of January. Then in February we'll all go out to celebrate the fact we survived January 31st again.
What are your current SA stats? We are over halfway. I think we're about 60-odd% complete.
What KPIs do you obsess about? Average revenue per client, and the number of new clients taken on this year - that's mostly what I obsess about. And I can't stop myself from looking at year on year revenues and stuff [laughs]. I am very numbers driven. I just always want to beat whatever target I've set.
Question from Paul Miller: How far along the road to moving to business advisory is your firm? We're already there. Because I do quite a lot of seminars and stand up in front of a room of people, and that is what brings most of our new clients to us and because I've been stood at the front that's their automatic assumption of what we are.
Rather than see us as bookkeepers, they see us as business advisers because I've stood up giving them a load business advice at the front of the room. So it is a really good way of starting that process.
If you can get an opportunity to stand in front of people and give them a little bit of knowledge then the business advisory is an assumption at that point in time for people.