Multiple Practice Excellence Awards-winning firm Tayabali Tomlin reveals how it constantly strives to think differently and challenge the status quo.
The Cheltenham-based firm picked up the ‘Innovative Firm Of The Year’ gong at the 2016 awards. AccountingWEB caught up with chief executive Aynsley Damery to find out more about their constant drive to improve and innovate.
Tayabali Tomlin has a long track-record of innovation and breaking the mould in accounting, but its formula for success hasn’t changed much over the years.
Where some people consider innovation from a product and R&D perspective, Damery sees innovation more from using the tools and technology that are available right now and delivering them to clients in a way that adds value: “It’s about improving our communication, improving the services we’re offering, the technology and who we’re communicating with our clients, and about all those things that go into improving the value we can add and create for clients so they can succeed,” he said.
Setting the bar high
To consistently live up to that high-performance bar is where the challenge lies.
“To match the promises you’ve said is a tall order because we do set out at a very high level about what we’re going to do for clients and how we’re going to help them and transform their lives,” he added.
Damery explained that one of the difficult aspects for a firm of their size is that owner managers have got the power to hire and fire the firm.
“It’s not like in a big organisation where you’ve got teams dealing with teams. If things go slightly awry they can probably manage the process between them. We’re on the hiring and firing line continuously,” he said.
Key to keeping on top of their game is listening to and understanding what clients are looking for. This includes setting out realistic expectations at the beginning of what they can hope to achieve, and also involves constantly checking in with clients to see if they are delivering what they said they would deliver.
The Tayabali Tomlin team has been through a lot of customer service training to help them understand whether they’ve hit it or not.
Damery admitted that it’s not always rosy when it comes to customer satisfaction: “Naturally we’re all human so mistakes happen, and it’s very important that the team holds up its hands when we make a mistake and apologise, and do what we can to make it right. Sometimes things will happen that will affect the relationship, but hopefully, we’ve brought those down to the lowest possible level,” he explained.
At the heart of that is taking ownership and maintaining good communication lines with clients. But it’s also about showing clients what they’ve done for them.
Damery said: “A lot of the time accountants do so much for their clients but they don’t actually explain to them what they’ve been doing. So clients don’t really understand the value that’s being created.”
Constant drive to innovate
For Damery, the innovation comes from the organisation itself, within the purpose of the firm, but in order to move things forward they joined with a broad range of organisations including Panalitix, Principa, AVN, Peak Performance, 2020, Entrepreneurs Circle and through to Tony Robbins.
Tayabali Tomlin doesn’t have Big Four departmental resource to move forward, so they have to do it themselves.
By partnering with these organisations, they can see what other businesses are doing in other industries and then look at how they can take that back into the accounting sphere.
In terms of grabbing hold of inspiration from outside of accounting, 2016 was all about events for the firm.
“We’ve really upped our game with our events, workshops and seminars,” Damery said. “We’ve taken from events across the board that we’re a part of and we’ve taken things back to basics. It’s about simplification.”
The firm launched its own conference and pulled in attendees through a “huge spider’s web” using social media, partner organisations, local chambers and ties with Gloucester Rugby.
“We looked at the best of the events that we’ve been to and thought how best to do it for our clients. People thought they were going to come to a typical accountant’s event and I think they were blown away with the attention to detail and the level and types of topics covered,” he said.
Damery has plans to do it even bigger and better this year.
It’s not just in the events space that Tayabali Tomlin is making waves.
By partnering with another firm of accountants, it has been developing a cost effective accounting compliance solution called TaxGo for the smallest of businesses.
“A lot of the smallest businesses are probably not fantastically well-serviced by the accounting profession unfortunately, so we’ve tried to strip out all the unnecessary frills and deliver a very simple online solution,” Damery said. “We’re offering an accounts and tax service for £19.99 per month and we’re using technology to its fullest to enable that to happen. Like a low cost airline, clients will have to do a lot of self-serving. It’s geared toward those slightly more tech savvy people who are out there already who are probably doing a lot of their own accounts and bookkeeping, and are probably paying their accountant a lot of money just for doing a box ticking exercise.”
For Damery this is an exciting new chapter for the firm, particularly with Making Tax Digital looming.
He explained: “So we’ll have a service for £1m to 10m turnover businesses, a service offering from £150,000 up to £1m through our small business solution, and then we’ll have a solution for the very small businesses as well.”
As always with Tayabali Tomlin there’s lots going on.
About Robert Lovell
Business and finance journalist