I’m going to show you how we took our business from strength to strength, and how you use the same processes to do the same.
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If I take you back to 2017, will you promise not to run off into a pub to hug a load of strangers as soon as I open the DeLorean doors?
Promise? Ok… I’m trusting you.
We’re in Costa Del Cramlington three years ago, and we’re stood outside Graeme Tennick & Co HQ. There’s me upstairs in my office, looking pensively out the window. I’m frustrated with working long hours and seeing little in return.
You see, I know we’re not that tech-savvy, and it’s worrying me. And on top of that, we’re quite a way behind a lot of our competitors, which is even worse.
Perhaps you’re feeling like this right now? If so, I’m going to put the violins away and show you exactly how we went from this to winning Digital Accountant of the Year in 2020.
Let’s get started.
Digital Accountant of the Year 2020 – What Even Is It?
It’s all about you, actually.
You see, the award goes to a partner or practice owner that uses technology in innovative ways to help improve client’s businesses (and their own).
Thanks to technology, I can speak to friends in Australia at the click of a button. But with this new technology comes what I call the ‘Amazon Era’, whereby we want more, for less, quicker.
You now face competition from businesses and software companies around the world. As challenging as it may be, it also presents new opportunities, which is your first takeaway:
If you run a small business, you can use your size to your advantage since you’re more agile than the larger corporations. Where they perhaps used their size and financial might in the past, you’re in a better position today.
Back to 2017
Since I’m dragging you back and forwards through time, I’ll let you have a pint before we crack on with storytime again.
Enjoy that? Good. Moving on.
Now we’re somewhere a bit more interesting. We’re on a ski trip in Morzine, a town on the French/Swiss border. As you know, I’m stressed about work. I self-financed everything, had five staff members to look after and my margins were getting narrower by the day.
It was on this trip where I have a word with myself and go home a new person, full of fresh ideas and vigour. Now, I know what you’re thinking: does that make the trip tax deductible? Sadly not.
I realised that I’d structured my business around clients first, and me last. And because of this, I’d always seen tax savings a sign of success – telling clients this was how best to judge us. This was wrong.
We already had a great team, but I knew I needed to hire more people from different backgrounds – and I certainly did that. In fact, neither of my last two recruits have an accountancy background. One is from my local pub, and the other a software/data engineer.
Emma – Customer service will always play a big part in the future of our business. While Emma trains to be an accountant, she already had people-skills that you can’t teach. It’s something our clients love when dealing with her.
Ewa – We were using 23 pieces of software before Ewa came on board, and she showed us that we were not using them efficiently or, in some cases, correctly.
People and technology come with a catch-22. You see, when you put all of the emphasis on people rather than processes you come a little unstuck when one person leaves. And when you add technology into the mix, it can be easy to have an over-reliance on the software.
We stripped everything back and started with a good old Excel spreadsheet (admittedly, using it better than the Government).
It’d be helpful for you to do the same exercise. What you need to do is list every process in your business, the technology you use, and then assign responsibilities to each one.
What you’ll find it by sharing ownership with the correct people, you’ll progress as a business rather than it falling on you – the business owner. I’d actually slowed growth by doing it myself.
Having your people and processes working correctly and together frees up your own time. Time you can spend developing new ways to make your clients’ lives easier.
Technology allowed us to very quickly make up for lost time. It felt like a 5000m race where the runner at the back has a burst of energy and catches up to the main pack.
Being an impatient bugger, I got a bit excited and invested in too much software too soon without the correct foundations in place. That didn’t work.
When I got it right (but still by no means perfect), we built solid foundations and have been using technology to help clients with answers to their individual problems ever since.
We now have software that allows us to:
- Qualify a lead before we even have a meeting,
- Support a client anywhere in the world
- Predict and fix a problem for a client before they know they even have one
- And run a more profitable and agile business than we ever thought possible
Technology provides us with the data necessary to do all of the above, without needing a finance team of 10 or an investment that means a getting a second mortgage on your home.
What Difference Has This Made For Our Clients?
We are now regularly seeing clients surpass year-on-year figures, and hit targets while enjoying personal rewards like cars, holidays, and holiday homes – all while also striking a better work-life balance.
Clients love our ‘value-based’ approach. Now our success is measured on the difference we make to their lives, instead of how much tax we save them.
What’s Next Following The Award?
Everything is a work in progress, so while we’ve come a long way since 2017, we’re still learning and evolving. In the short term, we’re working on the following:
- A complete rebrand that matches our company goal of building sustainable legacies underpinned by the right blend between technology and people.
- A very modern and dynamic marketing machine that is fit for purpose and designed to maximise the value we add to the right people at the right time.
- A NEW website to serve as a resource centre to help support you, and make it easier than ever to use.
There are of course other ideas in the pipeline, but you’ll have to wait for those.
What’s Next For You?
Are you feeling inspired to work on your own business and take a fresh look at your people, processes, technology, and data?
We are far from the finished article. However, this award proves just how far we have come and we would love help more businesses develop in the way we’ve done.
If you want to learn from our mistakes and successes, we’ll help you build a sustainable legacy you, your team, clients, friends, and family would be proud of.
Start with these FREE downloads. They’re actionable tasks and processes you can use to improve your business. In fact, they’re the very same we used.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.