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Small Change: Will Farnell from Farnell Clarke

4th Jun 2018
Editor AccountingWEB
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Will Farnell
Farnell Clarke

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.

Things were rather busy for Will Farnell at Accountex 2018. Ever since his firm Farnell Clarke became 100% cloud a decade ago, the Accounting Excellence pioneer has been thrust into the cloud accounting limelight. So while Accountex would be his naturally stomping ground, Farnell didn’t have much opportunity to trial any new accounting tech as this year he was an exhibitor.

Like a digital Sherpa, Farnell is guiding tech-novice accountants on their cloud exhibitions. Teaming with IRIS, he is taking his story on the road in a series of in-house and regional workshops. Those seeking their cloud nirvana swarmed Farnell’s Accountex stand throughout the two day event.

As Farnell discussed in this week’s Small Change, it takes more than being cloud-centric to thrive as a pioneering firm. It means being open to new technology, catering to the millennial generation, and developing a healthy work environment. After all, Farnell did convert an old office storage room into the Tax & Pounds pub (pictured above).

The Small Change team was able to drag Farnell away from his Accountex stand to ask him the important question of the day: does he remember his first calculator?

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What is the first thing you do when you start your working day?

It starts before I get into the office. Before I get my kids up for school, I sit down, have a cup of coffee and go through my emails and Xero bank reconciliation statement. I am in the office at 7.30am and I enjoy the first hour before it all kicks off. 

Do you check your emails outside office hours?

Yes. It always causes grief but you have to do it. We live or die by client experience and clients expect prompt replies. Therefore, yeah, I am not the best advocate for balancing work-life. 

So, what do and your firm do to help bring some work-life balance?

It's more about what we want to do. We offer flexible working with our staff but we want to do more. We want to not track holiday and all of that cool stuff. We did a survey a while back about six hour working days but the challenge is until we can absolutely measure output, we can't do that. But that's our aspiration. It fits with our desire to cater to the millennial generation. 

What do you do then to escape the world of tax and accounts? 

Anyone that has seen my partner video for Xero will know that I like getting out on a boat every now and again. The Norfolk Broads is where I live and it's a great place to spend time on a boat. It's the only place that I genuinely switch off from everything. 

What's the biggest change in the world of accounting since you qualified? 

Technology, obviously. It is not just the technology, it is the way technology has turned the way we do accounting on its head. Such as Xero taking the bank as the prime data source rather than the ledger in the good old purchase and sales ledgers of those days old. It's a disruption, that's exactly what it is. 

Making tax digital or Making tax difficult?

It's absolutely the right thing but we would say that because we've got no challenge with it. So our clients are ready, and we do it already. We live in a digital society, so why should our tax system be any different?

Do you remember your first calculator?

Crikey. It would have been a Casio of some description but whether it was a scientific one that nobody knows what all the buttons do or something far simpler, I can't remember. I was rubbish at maths at school. 

Really? So how did you fall into accountancy? 

The way everybody else does by accident rather than design. 

There is a lot of talk about blockchain. Do you actually understand blockchain?

Kind of. I was actually at an event recently and they were talking about quantum computing. There was a blockchain expert there talking about how you implement blockchain with banks and somebody asked: "Is quantum computing going to solve the problem of blockchain being pretty slow." And the expert replied: "when we have quantum computing, blockchain will be irrelevant."  

So on that basis, I have no desire to know what blockchain is because it is going to be irrelevant anyway.