Over the past few months we’ve been chatting, one-on-one with many AccountancyManager users. They’ve said some lovely things about us, which is nice, but even more interesting has been learning about their journeys from employees to practice owners.
Starting your own practice
It struck us that AccountancyManager has been a big part of building many new practices from scratch and veteran practice owners we speak to say they wish they’d had AM at the start.
“…without AccountancyManager I’d be sobbing gently in the corner. I would’ve had to have stopped taking on clients much further back.”Carolyn Cullen, Monton Green Accountancy
So why is practice management software not just a ‘nice to have’, but a crucial foundation for business success from the word go? We’ve brought together insights from ACCA, ICAEW and a few of our own accountant entrepreneurs.
Planning is everything
Creating a business plan
No guide to launching a new business is complete without this initial step, which deserves an article of its own. The ACCA outlines the basics. “Draw up a solid business plan. Make sure it includes goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic and timely. It doesn’t guarantee you success, but it makes it more likely. It can give you a benchmark to measure your performance against and helps to keep you focused.” – ACCA, Six tips for starting your own business
Start as you mean to go on
Dig deep and ask yourself at a personal level what you want from owning a business. Once you have your personal and business goals, work backwards to establish how you’ll achieve them in practical terms. What do these goals mean to your day-to-day life?
For example, If you want to build business advisory into your offering or focus on growing your practice through marketing, factor in the additional time that this will take up. By automating many of your repetitive admin tasks such as time management and chasing your clients for records, you can maximise the time you spend on advisory and business growth.
If you want freedom from the office too, cloud-based software is a no-brainer. Starting out running his practice from home, Paddy Quinn opted for cloud-based technology from the get-go.
“I always wanted to go down the route of having people be able to work from home, to employ qualified accountants who want to get out of the corporate environment.”Paddy Quinn, Paddy Quinn & Co Chartered Accountants
Preparing for pinch-points throughout the year
Did someone say Self Assessment? The accounting year ebbs, flows… and sometimes cascades, so the ICAEW naturally suggests planning in advance for your busiest times.
“It is key that you identify pinch-points in the year, where work will give you pressures and also highlight possible times when external resources may be needed.”ICAEW, 10 things to consider before you decide to start in practice
“Focus and prioritise difficult tasks to prevent them becoming real problems. For example, there are practitioners who can provide an excellent service but do not like the challenge of chasing outstanding debts. Not surprisingly, clients may take an exceptionally long time to pay. The effective management of such an issue is important for those practitioners.”
Self Assessment and onboarding clients
AccountancyManager was built by an accountant within a busy practice. So alleviating the main pinch-points facing accountants, is central to the system. For Self Assessment, there’s a built-in online form to collect the info you need, the client portal for speedy, GDPR-compliant document sharing and signing – and automated client reminders to nudge your clients along the way.
“I chose AccountancyManager because I really hated preparing letters of engagement in Word! It could take an hour to get all the formatting right… plus it used lots of paper, ink and stamps!”Lucy Drake, Hassle-Free Accounts and Tax
For onboarding, AM generates your letters of engagement, filling in fields with the right client data and relevant service. AM then chases your client (and their incumbent accountant) for the information and signatures you need. Again, clients can share and access their documents in their portal.
Organising client details
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is usually the first technology new business owners look for. Lucy Drake used AccountancyManager at the beginning of forming her practice – and to grow it ever since.
“I’ve been using AccountancyManager since starting my business. In previous firms we used very expensive accounting packages with a built in CRM function (plus an admin team of course!). My firm isn’t large enough for this so I needed something affordable with a relatively small number of clients which I could manage myself without needing to employ any admin help to get started.”
Keep track of ‘what needs doing’
As a business owner, you’ll wear many hats, the ICAEW sums this up perfectly, “Your roles will include managing director, finance director, compliance director, technical director and money-laundering reporting officer. They will extend to client-facing roles as well as accounts and tax preparation. And they then extend further to the more esoteric areas such as health and safety for example. So everything is now your responsibility. If it has a deadline, diarise it!”
In terms of your clients’ deadline and client-related tasks, that’s all taken care of automatically by AM. Which is a huge load off your mind – both as a new business owner and many years down the line.
“The automated tasks are invaluable. You look at your task list: “Right. What do I have to do this month or this week?” And it’s all there.”Mark Francis, Francis Bookkeeping solutions
Your clients’ details and tax deadlines are pulled through from Companies House and automatically updated if anything changes. These dates control emails – and texts, if you like – that ask your clients to supply their records. You decide how often to automatically chase your clients, both for records and approvals.
Remind yourself to complete tasks
We recently spoke to Paul Cain at Cain & Beer in Croydon, ‘not having to keep everything in my head’ was his primary reason for choosing AccountancyManager. This extends beyond client dates into managing the workflow of the jobs required. AM will automatically create to-do lists for you and later, your employees.
“It solves the problem that we had, which was – I don’t have to remember things anymore… it’s taken a massive weight off my shoulders.”Paul Cain, Cain & Beer
Deliver the same level of client care – to a growing clientbase
Maintaining a presence in your clients’ lives
You know that more goes into an accountant/client relationship than doing their taxes once a year. Showing ongoing ‘value’ to clients is crucial to client satisfaction, retention and your bottom line. With a few clients on your books, you can stay in regular face-to-face or phone contact with them. With numbers creeping through the 10s to 100s, keep in touch with clients using bulk – and cleverly segmented – emails.
“…clients don’t actually know the work that’s involved – so you want to demonstrate that as much as possible.”Jim Borrill, DH Tuck
Update clients on life within your practice, matters that affect them and provide timely, targeted advice. These emails are helping AM users get information around Government COVID-19 schemes out to clients quickly. Minimising the time you spend on data entry, time management and tax-related client requests, frees you up to direct your one-to-one time where it really matters.
Responding quickly to client requests
Your clients will always surprise you with unexpected requests for tax summaries and other documents. These may feel like one-offs that take five minutes to do, but across the year and growing numbers of clients, this time adds up. So like the ICAEW says, diarise it! Create your own tasks in AccountancyManager for unexpected client requests and set a deadline for yourself. This task will be slotted into your to-do list with the correct priority.
Your clients can always access their documents, details and tax deadlines through their GDPR-compliant online portal too. Saving you from rifling through files and attaching them to (un-secured) emails.
Cut out the boring bits and focus on the fun stuff
When you work for yourself, your time is more important than ever. So use it to focus on what’s important to the business, your clients and, importantly, you.
“My job now is to sit at my desk watching webinars, getting hair-brained ideas and managing the team using the video game that is AccountancyManager!”Johann Goree, JGBC
Build a future-proof practice
You might want to stay as a sole practitioner or you may be looking forward to building a team… or an empire. Whatever your dream, setting up a solid foundation of efficient processes is an investment in your future.
By establishing this base, you are preparing for growth from day one, rather than waiting for the growth, then responding with new systems and processes. While it’s never too late to start using practice management software, it’s also never too early.
Chat to us about your new practice
We’ve helped hundreds of practices start-up and thousands of practices grow. Give us a call on 01926 355 366 and we’ll discuss where you are, where you plan to be and how we can help you get there.