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My tech stack: PJCO Certified Chartered Accountants

My tech stack: Peter Jarman, PJCO

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PJCO Certified Chartered Accountants founder Peter Jarman sets out his firm's template for deploying cloud accounting technology.

6th Oct 2021
Editor in Chief AccountingWEB
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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.

How PJCO uses QuickBooks online and connected cloud accounting apps

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. 

Replies (6)

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By Hugo Fair
06th Oct 2021 17:00

Tech Stack?
The picture looks very much like my waste-paper basket after I've disposed of all the unwanted junk mail from the front-door mat ... colourful, almost pretty, but inconsequential and ephemeral.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
06th Oct 2021 18:24

Maybe it looks that way to you, Hugo, but are you looking after 600 clients and generating £1.4m in fees?

The different cloud apps PJCO uses helps the firm to manage that workload effectively. I was just talking to Peter Jarman this afternoon ahead of our Tech Stack Session at 2pm on Friday and he had some really eye-opening ideas about how to bring bookkeeping services in-house as a base for providing very lucrative virtual FD type services.

That may not be the kind of accountancy firm you want to be. But I'm sure there are other practitioners who might like to explore this path. I'd like to hear a bit of feedback from them about our prototype "My tech stack" article.

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
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By Hugo Fair
06th Oct 2021 21:59

Indeed, I'm a firm believer in the tenet espoused by Lucretius: "One man's meat is another man's poison."
My comment is not intended to deny pleasure to "other practitioners who might like to explore this path" ... merely to express a contrary opinion held by some.

FWIW my main businesses have all been built on the principle of 'best of breed', rather than the jack of all trades that you also seem keen to avoid, so we are in full agreement on that aspect. Where we diverge is my foundation belief that software exists to support my objectives, not to make me subservient to it's demands.
The article seems to me to describe an adventure playground for those who like the activity of choosing & playing with the toys more than the core business itself.

Many of us take more pride in the quality of personal services we provide, and in the long-term relationships with staff and clients, ahead of any need to maximise profit. Possibly old-fashioned? Obviously not an approach that suits all - but still a proven route to longevity and restful nights.

Oh, and since you ask ... no I'm not " looking after 600 clients and generating £1.4m in fees" - but I am semi-retired and (after selling several businesses which leaves me asset rich) now look after a mere 50 or so clients who still manage to spend 1/2 the amount of your example, and generate a healthy profit.

So ... each to his (or her) own.

Thanks (3)
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By Winnie Wiggleroom
07th Oct 2021 16:57

never really understood these firms that say "we use this software, if you dont we do not want you as a client" QBO is great but it is not the right fit for every client - for example why pay £10 a month for QBO if you get Freeagent for free, or if the client does not need software at all.

I have also found from experience that the more Apps you add the more problems you have, which seems to be born out in this article in the question on integration - just when you think you have cracked it the App stops working or the link fails. Less is more IMO.

Each to their own, and if it works for you fair enough

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By Ben Alligin
08th Oct 2021 08:16

Maybe he could add an online spell checker to his 'Frims' online cloud technology!

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By jennytompsett
11th Oct 2021 17:30

Interesting article Peter. I see you have Accuity Scheduling in your stack and mention Zapier. Have you found a way to make Accuity Scheduling feed sales data through to QBO ? I have got nowhere despite spending hours trying.

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