Amanda Lang runs Maccass & Lang from her home in Bonnybridge, near Falkirk. She’s a one-person-band with no plans to expand. In fact, Amanda’s ‘not in it for the money’, just to help her clients – and go on the odd holiday.
That doesn’t mean Amanda isn’t constantly growing and evolving her business in other ways.
She’s been busy preparing for MTD, ‘trying every software on the market’ and introducing her clients to technology. She’s won an award, completed Self Assessment by October and made her own YouTube video for AccountancyManager…
Meet the unstoppable, Amanda Lang.
Going into business with mum
Amanda got into accountancy when she was 18. “My mum has been an accountant since about ‘85 and her client base was growing to a point that she needed some bookkeeping help. So with me not knowing what direction I wanted to go, I thought, ‘Right, well, I’ll come on board and give you a hand.’ Then never really left.”
“I don’t have staff, I don’t have premises, I’m quite happy to do it all, keep it small and work for myself.”
“I did an HNC in accountancy, then went on to do AAT. I’ve now got FMAAT, so I’ve got full membership status.” Amanda’s mum, now in her 70s, is enjoying a well-deserved retirement while Amanda runs the business.
A surprise win
This year, Amanda was pleased – and surprised – to hear she’d won ‘Accountancy Firm of The Year’ at the SME Award. “I have no idea how I even got nominated. Then they contacted me to say that we’d won. It’s nice to be recognised, especially when there’s that many accountants out there.”
“If it was a client who nominated us it’d probably be all the help over COVID. It was a crazy amount of hours, reading legislation, doing furlough claims, and I didn’t charge for any of it because a lot of my businesses were really, really struggling.”
“That’s my business ethos – to help people. This is probably going to sound like the stupidest business thing for someone to say, but I’m not here to make money. As long as I can go on a couple holidays, I’m happy working on my own, offering services, and doing wee extra things for clients.”
AccountancyManager drives the shift to digital working
Amanda is full of praise for the impact AccountancyManager has made to her clients’ behaviour. “AM was a huge, massive help for me to start moving people towards digital practices.”
“Mid-COVID we were under the impression that MTD was launching by 2023, then it was delayed. I’m probably one of the few people that’s actually really annoyed about it, because I’d spent a lot of time and effort on things like AccountancyManager.”
“So for me, when COVID came in, it was a great opportunity, for people who couldn’t come in, to give them online client folders on the portal and do things like e-signing.”
No more mountains of paper…
While Amanda’s top priority was e-signing, she’s discovered many more advantages of using an online Client Portal. “The e-signing – it’s just saved my life. It means I can do accounts entirely digitally. I no longer have to send a mountain of paper, which saves me not only time, but an astronomical amount of stationery costs!”
…or nagging client questions
“Also clients have access to what they need, 24/7. So if they need SA302s for mortgage applications, there’s no, ‘Oh, can I get a copy of my accounts? Can you find me this? Can you find me that?’. And again, that saves me so much time, because it’s all in their Client Portal.”
“Massively worth the time and investment, to be honest. If nothing else, the portals for clients and the e-signature alone.”
…or millions of unsecured emails
“It means people can send me stuff more securely, so you’re filling your GDPR and data obligations by not getting millions of stuff through email. If you’re getting 100 emails off each client, it goes everywhere. So it’s nice to have their designated areas where I can find it.”
…or problems proving what your client has seen
“I’ve got the signed copy as well, so if there’s ever any comeback of, “You didn’t tell me this.” It’s like, “Well no, I did, because there’s a timeline, I know you’ve looked at it, because it tells me. And I know you’ve signed it, because it tells me.”
…or endless reminder emails
“I use automated emails for when clients haven’t signed their accounts yet. That goes out, I think a week later, if they haven’t done it. I do that with my Custom Forms too, so if they haven’t filled the Custom Form in, they get the reminders about that as well.”
Onboarding: No longer choking a donkey
Amanda completes her entire onboarding process through AccountancyManager. “I like my proposals to be quite detailed, so I like that you can add your services but on each service there’s the breakdown of said service and a blurb.”
“I used to do it all on paper and you could probably choke a donkey with it. To have it digitally has been great.”
“My new clients really like it. All my letters of engagement, terms and conditions, all that stuff, goes out immediately. Then they’ve got the portal where they can easily fill in all their details for me. So it’s easier for me to keep all the details on file and make sure they’re all up to date.”
Preparing for Self Assessment in April (all done by October)
As many accountants enter ‘busy season’ this time of year, Amanda is closing the book on Self Assessments already. “I prepare for January in April. So all my guys, last year, I said that October was my cut-off. So if you don’t have your stuff in to me by the end of October, I cannot guarantee January filing, because I just have that much work on.”
“The people that inevitably drop off in January, if you don’t redirect that behaviour, they’re always going to do it.”
“It’s getting them around thinking that they’re not my only client, which might come as a surprise! So I sent all that out in April, and then remind everybody through AccountancyManager emails.”
“It’s so good to know that I’ve kept on top of my tasks, which I admit, having tech software to do it, it’s easier! I can see who’s still got to get me stuff – if you go through your Task Lists, I know what’s come in.”
Using Custom Forms to gather Self Assessment information
It’s always interesting to see which features AM users implement first. Even long-term users that have mastered every area haven’t started using Custom Forms yet. Only one year in, Amanda is teaching others how to build them.
“Mine is basically a checklist of everything that you should be giving me when you drop off from April, to make sure that everything you’re giving me for your self-assessment is there. Bank statements, income, receipts. A full, detailed checklist.”
Check out Amanda’s Custom Forms tutorial
The help and support section in AccountancyManager, is full of how-to videos and click-through guides for every feature. However, Amanda has created her own YouTube tutorial for Custom Forms:
The MOST important thing? Invest time upfront.
If there’s one message that Amanda was keen to share with people getting started with AM, it’s this: “Spend the time to get it set up from the start. It’s really important to invest the time to get it off the ground properly, because it will pay dividends when you’re using it.”
“I will sing it from the rooftops, how good it is, but you need to invest the time to use it properly.”
“I think this is probably the biggest reason I see people either switching or not using it [in Facebook groups] they’re just like, “Oh, I don’t have the time to set it up, I don’t have the time to do XYZ,” and it’s like, ‘Find the time’. It’s really important because we need stuff like this, that your clients can start to send you things digitally, because that’s the way it’s moving.”
“I’ve tried millions of softwares in the market now and AccountancyManager is one of the best out there. I like stuff that’s user-friendly – I’m not necessarily focused on price. Obviously, Dext is by far not the cheapest on the market, but it is the best. So I’ll go with stuff that works well for my clients and makes my life easier, because otherwise, what’s the point in using it?