Practice Excellence: Our firm is a laboratory

Robert Lovell
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Tayabali Tomlin has achieved great success in recent years, most recently winning two Practice Excellence Awards last year for ‘Medium Firm of the Year’ and ‘Innovative Firm of the Year’.

AccountingWEB caught up with Aynsley Damery, chief executive at the Cheltenham-based accountants, to find out how it delivers outstanding customer service and continues to innovate.

According to Damery, customer service is key for client retention, acquisition and referrals, and part of that is about listening to customers and understanding what they’re looking for.

The firm facilitates this through a variety of activities, most of which are first tested out on his own team before being exposed to the wider client base.

Damery explained: “We often act as a laboratory so we’ll test things here, try them and see if they work. Generally if they work for us then they work for our clients as well.

“People respond well to stories. When they hear the story of how we’ve tried something, see what we’ve been doing and how we’ve implemented it, then it gives the story a lot more credence,” he added.

Damery has found that rolling out things that they’ve come across internally helps encourage a culture of innovation and drives things forward with clients.

“A lot of our clients will observe what we’re doing and think ‘actually that works quite well for them; how can I use that in my business?’”, Damery said.

Another key piece of the jigsaw is the programme of workshops and events Tayabali Tomlin runs throughout the year.

The sessions have at two main benefits. Firstly, the firm delivers value at the event itself for the people attending, but for internal purposes clients also get the opportunity to ask questions, which means the firm finds out what interests them.

“It’s at those events that we get a really good understanding about what we’re doing, whether that’s working for them or not, and how it can be done differently.”

Following a successful bi-monthly business breakfast session over at Gloucester Rugby the firm has now started to run workshops following the breakfast and rolled out what it calls ‘an accounting MBA in half a day’.

The premise of this is to get clients to get a better understanding of their financials and how it all fits together.

The firm normally focuses on topics like business development, profit improvement and disruption, but for this educational series decided to focus on something as "boring" as accounting.

In the past the firm said to clients ‘that’s what we’re here for’, but that’s doing them a disservice, according to Damery.

“We’re trying hard to get people to understand their numbers better. We’ve got two main sets of business owners – one set that nods sagely at their numbers (and we’ve always taken that in the past that they’ve understood, but often when you drill down a bit and peel away the covers sometimes that understanding isn’t quite where we’d expect it to be), and then the other set are saying ‘hang on a sec, that’s what we use you for. We don’t need to know our numbers’.

“For too long we said yes that’s exactly what we’re here to do. Having spoken to a lot of business owners, the lack of clarity on numbers is a major issue for them. So we asked, how can we address this?”

The business is now looking to make the MBA mandatory for clients, so all new clients will have to go through it enable a common language, culture and understanding.

Tayabali Tomlin is also in the process of delivering what Damery calls a ‘mini-Xerocon’ style event on 12 May at Cheltenham Racecourse.

The ‘TT Big Event’ will include sessions from the stage in the morning and then breakout talks in the afternoon covering growth, cloud and people.

“We’ve got lots of guest speakers and an awards ceremony. We’ve also got Masami Sato flying over from Singapore, who founded BUY1GIVE1."

In addition to running its own events, Tayabali Tomlin has joined a number of entrepreneurial groups. But Damery explained that when they are at focus groups they attend more as a participant than as an accountant.

“We run our business like a business as well, and we consider ourselves to be entrepreneurial. So we’re always looking at what other industries are doing and what other people are doing, and seeing how if it’s possible we can bring that back into the accounting sphere and how we can use that,” he said.

The firm also runs events for the Entrepreneurs’ Circle on topics ranging from KPIs to business modelling.

“It’s at those sort of events that we’re getting a really good understanding of where their sticking points are in business and where they’re looking for help,” Damery added.

On how the firm has maintained its high performance, Damery explained the close bond it has formed with clients.

“We get close to our clients, we try to deeply understand and know what they’re looking for and what they value. It’s not just about surveying or questioning either. It’s about observing and getting heavily involved with them, and going to events and things that they’re interested in.

“Trying to find out what they’re looking for and truly value. Once you’ve got that it’s quite a simple thing to just actually deliver that.”

The countdown has started to find out whether your hard work and commitment will be recognised in the 2016 Practice Excellence Awards, so get your entries in now!


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13th Jun 2016 17:00

Or in Sift's case: "our website is a laboratory".

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