The 2016 Practice Excellence Awards took place in central London this evening to celebrate the UK’s best accountancy firms.
The big annual event brought together more than 35 accounting firms and individuals shortlisted for awards in the heart of Mayfair.
Since starting the Practice Excellence Awards back in 2011, the number of entries has more than doubled to 173 firms and individuals across 11 categories.
AccountingWEB editor John Stokdyk said at the ceremony: “Our experience so far with this programme and all of the firms here today prove that the Practice Excellence formula works. If you put clients first and devote your energy to anticipating and catering for their business needs, you will satisfy your clients and build a successful practice.”
Here are the winners who were announced tonight:
Small Practice of the Year
Supported by ICPA
Winner: SRK Accounting
Shortlisted: Coalesco, Fitton & Co. PaperRocket Accounting
SRK Accounting’s success is a result of coherence and continuous improvement. With impressive financial growth and profitability, supported by a content- and client-driven referral strategy, its success shone through. All SRK clients get weekly, monthly or quarterly performance reports and a dedicated helpdesk tool helps the firm deliver its promise to answer any client query within four hours. After moving to a shared office facility the firm used social and educational activities to establish itself as part of the community. It’s a conscious, location-based niche strategy that is paying off at the rate of four referrals a week from existing clients.
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Medium Practice of the Year
Supported by PracticeWEB
Shortlisted: A4G, Sayer Vincent
With a bold mission statement that aspires to be ‘life changers’, Raffingers has a strong understanding of how to monitor client service on a technical level. Its dedicated client onboarding team ensures the ethos of client care remains at the heart of the firm. Raffingers’ success isn’t just about clients and new business - the firm has invested in its staff to help them learn new skills and even launched its own charitable foundation.
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Large Practice of the Year
Winner: Forrester Boyd
Shortlisted: Ensors Accountants, Menzies
Client service sits at the heart of Forrester Boyd while at the same time it manages to balance strong but sustainable growth in all areas across the practice. The firm’s focus on its people, including its rising stars programme, shows a serious commitment to the future of both the business and staff. The importance of soft skills is woven into the practice culture, which underpins a steady stream of new service offerings and bold marketing initiatives.
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New Firm of the Year
Supported by FreeAgent
Winner: KFH Accounting
Shortlisted: Bright Ideas Accountancy, Gerrard Financial Consulting, Perfect Ledgers
KFH Accounting has already made a big impact and cemented its place in a busy marketplace with rapid growth through a focus on micro businesses. The firm itself has grown from a micro business to one that has exceeded its first growth milestone a year ahead of schedule. It offers support to busy working mums and practises what it preaches in managing a successful business while maintaining a strong work/life balance.
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Client Service Firm of the Year
Supported by Keytime
Winner: Sobell Rhodes
Shortlisted: Tayabali & White, Coalesco Certified Accountants
Sobell Rhodes demonstrated that client service excellence is woven into the very fabric of its practice. Much of its success has been due to a laser focus on staff training and development strategies that put the client at the heart of every business transaction and conversation. The firm can call on a huge number of client testimonials, a high retention rate and consistently high scores and feedback in client surveys to demonstrate the rewards of this focus.
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Small Business Advisory Firm of the Year
Supported by The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
Winner: Tayabali Tomlin
Shortlisted: FD Works, Murray Associates Accountants
Tayabali Tomlin stood out as the outstanding entry in this category by demonstrating a clear commitment to advisory as fundamental to the firm’s culture, with evidence to support its success and scale. With a massive year-on-year increase in pure business advisory services, new advisory team members and an impressive contribution to total turnover, the Tayabali Tomlin team continue to blaze a trail in this space.
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Practice Growth of the Year
Supported by Sage
Shortlisted: Charterhouse, Wilson Wright, Infinity Partnership
Crunch has a clear vision and a clarity of purpose. In the last five years the Brighton-based superfirm has left few stones unturned in its drive for rapid, sustainable growth. The ‘one stop shop’ for micro businesses focuses not only on its own growth story but more importantly its clients’ business successes. Crunch has also shown a strength in innovation in creating tailored productsto support the needs of this highly competitive SME segment.
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Innovative Firm of the Year
Supported by Receipt Bank
Winner: Tayabali Tomlin
Shortlisted: Carpenter Box, Gerrard Financial Consulting, Bright Horizon Cloud Accountants
Tayabali Tomlin can be rightly proud of winning this category three years in a row. What comes through each year is the way the firm is always trying out new ideas to better serve the needs of its clients, from the now famous “genius bar” networking hub to large scale conferences such as last year’s bootcamp for small businesses. Clearly this approach is working, as the firm enjoyed a 40% increase in gross recurring fees and generated more than 130 new leads during the past 12 months.
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Technology Champion of the Year
Supported by Thomson Reuters
Winner: Daniel Moss, Umbrella Accountants
Shortlisted: Kevin Salter (Glover Stanbury), Darren Hahn (Nordens Chartered Accountants), Kevin Whitehouse (Prime Entry), Claire Owen-Jones (Loud and Clear Accounting)
Daniel’s colleagues described him as “a model technology-led accountant, making sure he ensures compliance while embracing new ideas and technology” and the judges agreed. Daniel’s success was due in part to the secure online questionnaire he designed to ease the hassle of submitting tax data. Now used by more than 70% of the firm’s clients, it eradicated one of the profession’s most intractable problems around tax season. Daniel’s tips were clear and sensible, including this gem: “Don’t make it all about the technology… Use the technology to make your contact with the client more about advice and consultation and less about chasing missing info.”
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Trainee/unqualified of the year
Winner: Selen Mertdjan, Nordens Chartered Accountants
Shortlisted: Brett Manning (Aston Shaw)
Despite only joining the firm six months ago and after a complete career change, Selen has already made a significant impact to both the practice and its clients. A force to be reckoned with, she has taken an active leadership role in training apprenticeships and even brining in new clients. Selen plans to become fully qualified by the end of 2018, and at some point she needs to find time to get married too.
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Outstanding Contribution to Accounting
Winner: David Maister
The winner this year is the doyen of practice development experts. You can’t move these days for software vendors and accountants who talk about their "trusted adviser" approach. But this year’s outstanding contribution award winner actually wrote the book back in 2000. A former Harvard University business professor, David Maister shook up professional services from the Big Four down by emphasising the importance of personal relationships over technical skills.
As the dust settles from Thursday's award ceremony, attention now turns to Practice Excellence Live! - the latest evolution of our community-driven practice development programme which will feature eight hour-long broadcasts running between Monday and Thursday next week.
Sign up now for the Practice Excellence email bulletin which goes out every Saturday. Simply do this by clicking on your AccountingWEB profile account, select ‘update my email preferences’ on the sidebar, and tick the box for ‘Sat - Practice Excellence’.
About Robert Lovell
Business and finance journalist