Small Change: Nikki Adams from Ad Valorem

Nikki Adams
Ad Valorem
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Each week, AccountingWEB’s Small Change series catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week, we speak with Nikki Adams who is a director at Milton Keynes based firm Ad Valorem.

What makes Ad Valorem work is how Nikki Adams and her husband’s skill sets complement each other.

Adams brings her skills of systems and people from her background in HR. It’s the part of the business that her husband Nigel Adams hates. So this complementary partnership allows Nigel to go and get clients. It is this family environment that the founders have brought to the rest of the team.

However, the trouble for family-owned businesses is that they never escape the office.

But that’s why Nikki Adams is such an advocate of accounting tools. So much so that she based her International women’s day talk at Xero’s HQ on what the tools have enabled her as a working mum to do: “I can work from anywhere and as a woman having children and juggling a lot of things, it means I can fit my work around my life,” she said.

They might not always be able to get away from the office, but the upside is that the office looks quite different when the digital tools allow the couple to visit their Florida house.

In this week’s Small Change, Nikki Adams discusses the work-life balance and her take on the recruitment crunch affecting the profession.

What's the first thing you do when you arrive at the office?

The trouble is that as soon as we get in the office you're immediately hit with whatever is going on.

I don't get into the office until 9.30am because I know that's when we're going to have a lot of things to deal with. Generally, my side of the business is HR. We've just run through appraisals at the moment.

Do you check your emails outside office hours?

All the time. Years ago it used to be that you didn't take work home. It was very regimented. 

But we're very flexible. It works for the team as well. They have their core hours, but like the cloud guys if they're doing an evening cloud session, they don't come in until late the next day.

But they are so engaged that they want to pick up their emails. It's passion that drives action. This is where the HR bit comes in. It's making sure you're talking and that you recognise the signs if it is too much for someone.

So I imagine you use Florida house to escape the world of tax and accounts.

Absolutely. A couple of years ago I had lots of client work to do, but Nigel didn't, so I said I'll come to Florida but I will be working.

I thought: how fantastic that I can clock into the office and it’s like you're in the office. I've got up early because it is five hours difference, did my work day and since the UK working day finishes lunchtime Florida time, you've got the afternoon in the sun.

If you love what you do, it doesn't feel like work.

One of the biggest challenges we're seeing in the profession has been the difficulty firms now face in finding suitable recruits. As someone with a background in recruitment, why do you think this has become such a sore point for firms?

I've done a lot of recruitment because we've grown so fast. We've been virtually permanently recruiting. It goes back to this profiling I do. We profile everyone who comes in for an interview. So I know before I come to meet them whether they're likely to fit in or not.

You've got to sell your practice to them. A lot of accountants really do struggle with that. We might be too scary for some. A very traditional accountant wouldn't come to us because they would be scared. I had one lately who was so analytical. She said: What exactly do you want me to do? The problem is that if every conference that they go to and everything that they read is saying compliance is dying, you're not encouraging people to go into that profession.

For us, we've grown our own. We've taken on apprentices and had a lot of success in that area. We've picked good recruitment agencies who understand us and know what sort of person would work for us. That is where it is. It's getting a partnership with someone who knows you as a firm and knows whether that person would fit.

But it's the hardest we've ever found it this year, and that's only because with Brexit and everything, people are staying where they are. Don't risk it.

Nikki Adams appeared alongside Simon Kallu and Receipt Bank’s Mike Philips in July’s Accounting Excellence Talks on client service in the digital age. Click here to watch an on demand version of the webcast.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.