My tech stack: Peter Jarman, PJCOby
PJCO Certified Chartered Accountants founder Peter Jarman sets out his firm's template for deploying cloud accounting technology.
Since representing the UK in the global Firm of the Future competition organised by QuickBooks in 2018, PJCO Certified Chartered Accountants founder Peter Jarman has continued to evolve his practice and its underlying technology stack.
To kick off a new content strand on AccountingWEB, Peter explains his approach to new cloud accounting technology.
How would you describe your firm and client base?
We support around 600 small and micro-businesses, all using QuickBooks Online (QBO) to build better lives for themselves, their families and their employees. As far as the firm’s outlook goes, it’s in my nature to be an active early adopter of new methods and technologies. Overall, when you put the work into adopting something early, when it works it gives you more opportunities.
Can you tell us more about your approach to accounting tech?
About seven years ago we decided to change our whole business to get it all online with clients using one type of finance software. It was a way to get my business organised by keeping everything really systemised and simple. It helps us make fewer mistakes and most of the things we use internally for finance we also pass on to clients to help them achieve the same results.
What’s your favourite work app? What does it deliver for you?
It changes overtime depending on what part of our business we are developing : It used to be QBO, which is the bedrock of our client’s financial system. Then it was Receipt Bank (now Dext), which every client gets as standard alongside QBO. And for a time it was Karbon, which we used to create workflow templates for tasks such as VAT, payroll and year-end close.
At the moment my favourite app is Connect4. As we went through lockdown, our big pain was how to deal with virtual meetings. In the past we could set up a good meeting with an agenda and information to prepare clients, but that died away with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We couldn’t organise them as well. Connect4 is our route to get the agenda sorted and create meeting templates to ensure all our client managers are singing off the same sheet. But who knows? In six months my favourite app will probably be something new.
Are there any gaps in your stack that you’re looking to fill next?
I’d like to sort out payments. We're building a pathway to becoming a finance function for clients. Some clients were fine when we brought in QBO, but there are others where we had to take over. That’s a big growth area because the fees are a lot bigger than accountancy and tax. We use GoCardless for direct debits and can also collect by credit card and PayPal. So we’re fine on the sales side, but we haven’t got a route yet for managed payments from their purchase ledger.
What’s been the biggest challenge in building your cloud accounting infrastructure?
Integration - getting all these apps to talk to each other can be tricky, but it is becoming easier with Zapier. It’s best to make sure they integrate in the first place, but when they don’t it’s worth experimenting with Zapier, for example to make GoProposal talk to Acuity or Karbon. Where accountants used to use Excel as a means of doing that, I’d like to see Zapier do it. Some of the graduates coming into the practice are starting to think that way now and by the time they qualify, it'll be as natural for them as Excel is for us older accountants.
What advice would you pass on to other accountants who want to go down this path?
When I started out I was completely unstructured and didn't know which way to go. Then I read ‘The E-Myth Revisited' by Michael Gerber. That was my point of enlightenment and the thing that made me change the way we were operating. I realised you could run an accountancy business the same way McDonald’s operates by systemising your services. When things were ad hoc, I was totally reliant on the people working here. By systemising and following instructions, you get much better and more consistent results.
We don’t ever think we’ve got to the ultimate solution, but when we do our planning, we think about where we want to be in one, three and five years’ time. We divide the plan down to 13-week tasks, so we end up with four things to get done in one year. Each little improvement we make gets us a bit further down the path.
To find out more about Peter Jarman's tech stack, be sure to tune in for the How apps can help you open up new services webinar this Friday (8 October) at 2pm.
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