Small Change: Lee Manning, Raffingers
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 Lee Manning, who has been a partner and worked at Raffingers for over 30 years.
The Essex-based firm and 2016 Practice Excellence Medium firm of the year has recently been in the news after its charity foundation donated £15,000 to Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and Ovarian Cancer Action. That’s not all: from 1 January Raffingers merged with specialist accountants NWN Blue Squared Ltd. The deal moves Raffingers into the Top 75 firms.
Hi Lee, with the merger and charity donation, it sounds like it has been a busy month at Raffingers. Tell me about it.
How did the firm go about raising this amount of money? The biggest fundraising activity this year was our charity ball in September where we had 120 attend and raised money through auctions and raffles. It also came to light that people affected by cancer often struggle financially, so we've launched our Raffingers Foundation Fund, where families affected by pancreatic or ovarian cancer can apply for money for support such as private counselling.
What’s the first thing you do when you get in the office? Turn the radio on and listen to Absolute Radio [laughs]. The first thing after that is really boring: doing my time sheets from the day before and then planning my day. I sit and work through what I need to do.
I have a chart similar to a Gantt chart where I've got my priorities; what's important and urgent and what's strategic for the practice. I try to split my day so I am doing the strategic stuff as well as my day-to-day work. I'm in at 7 am so those two hours I can clear all the rubbish and let the day begin.
Making Tax Digital or Making Tax Difficult? We see it as a huge opportunity if we can get it right.
Two years ago we created our cloud team, so all they do is cloud bookkeeping work and management figures and system reviews. That started off with one girl and is now a team of eight people.
We're just reviewing all our internal systems, pricing and client support so that we're ready for when MTD happens. We know we have to be competitive with the digital-only firms coming up into our market and the big boys coming down into our market. We believe the relationship with our clients will change drastically when MTD comes.
Who is your favourite fictional accountant? The only fictional accountant I can remember is from Monty Python. But the role has changed so much now. I think people look at us as their trusted adviser.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts? A bit of golf and try to keep fit at the gym. When I have the time! The problem is being a partner and head of marketing and the cloud, it takes up a lot of thinking time. Strategic planning is also crazy at the moment because of MTD and the way IT technology is moving so fast.
What’s the biggest change in the world of accounting since you qualified? Technology and us: we have to re-train and expand our knowledge all the time. Not just tax and accounts, it's sales skills, technology skills, strategic skills, leadership skills. All of that has become as important as the technical stuff.
What KPIs do you obsess about? Lock up and new client pipeline we look at all the time.
Your worst self-assessment season and why? No, nothing like that thank God. We've got a great tax team and they deal with the day-to-day grief. When I was doing tax it was pre-self assessment
Do you check your emails outside office hours? Yes and weekends. I don't respond to them, but I will check them. As soon as you start responding, people then expect you to respond on the weekends.
How many unread emails have you got? None.
What have you got for lunch, and does it cost more than £5.50? [Laughs] Thankfully I've got Tesco within walking distance. So every lunchtime a horde of us go down to Tesco’s and spend under a fiver for lunch.
How do you find really good team members? Where do you find the best team members? Great question. As soon as a vacancy comes up everyone within the practice knows and there is a financial incentive for the staff here.
For example, someone recommended a friend to the tax senior position and he got the job, and we ended up paying the employee £3,000. Which was about half of what we would have paid an agency.
We always look internally first and if there is no one suitable, we team up with some good recruitment agents and meet with them regularly. They come into our office and know what we are about.
Also, we've looked at our services offering. Everyone can work flexi-hours, which was really big for us because where we're located, we are only 20mins from the City of London and we were competing against some of the big boys there. We’ve also put in place a really nice bonus structure based on individuals’ KPIs. All of that helps us find, and keep, really good team members.