Vicki Boddice started her career at one of the Big Four firms. After struggling with her mental health, she escaped the industry – seemingly forever. Until, that is, her new business venture led her back to accountancy. On her terms.
When we interview our users, their lives are so interesting, that we don’t have much room to talk about AM. So here’s Part One of our chat with Vicki Boddice: her story pre-AccountancyManager.
Check out Part Two, to see how Vicki’s getting on with AM.
Life at the large firms
Vicki has been in finance for ‘17-ish’ years now. “My dad’s an accountant, but if you’d told me I’d end up doing the same, I’d have said “No, never going to happen.” It’s just one of those things I got into and really enjoyed.”
“I started with one of the Big Four back in the early noughties,” she tells us. “I got on well, kept moving up the ladder, as you do. Then worked for a few other of the larger firms continuing to progress.”
“I couldn’t open an email. I couldn’t answer the phone. I couldn’t do anything without having genuine panic attacks.”
Then 2020 came around, which wasn’t fun for anyone. “At that point, I was managing a team of about five people and doing that remotely, whilst also doing all the actual work and lots… and lots of things.”
“I essentially had a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t open an email. I couldn’t answer the phone. I couldn’t do anything without having genuine panic attacks. Eventually I said ‘this isn’t going to work for me anymore. I’m finished’. I left my job and thought, “That’s it. I’m done. Out the industry, not going back.”
Making connections over manicures
In a complete change of direction, Vicki and her friend set up a nail bar together, converting a shed into a nail salon. “That was going to be what I did from then on… Except I started talking to business owners and hearing the number of issues people were having with more traditional accountants.”
“I started delving in a wee bit deeper with people and finding out what they would actually want out of an accountant.”
“A lot of people said they felt awkward asking their accountant questions. They didn’t think that their business was big enough to be of interest to firms and some had felt dismissed. So I thought, ‘this is interesting’. I started delving in a wee bit deeper with people and finding out what they would actually want out of an accountant.”
“It came across that they wanted a person rather than just a contact, someone who they could have a relationship with, who actually knew who they were. And they didn’t want to have to worry about how much the advice costs.”
“I thought, this is a gap I can fill. So, I soft-launched in July last year, and then really picked things up in about September. Since then it has been crazy.”
Being the boss and striking the Work/Daughter balance
So, how’s Vicki finding the experience of running her practice, compared to working for a big firm? “One thing that has stuck with me for my entire working career was ‘if you’re on time, you’re late’.”
“You’d be in the office well before your workday started and you’d leave well after your workday should’ve ended. And it’s accountancy, so you don’t get paid overtime. You were living to work rather than working to live.”
“I’m in control of what’s going on and answering to me – rather than to somebody’s boss’s boss.”
“Being my own boss, I’m able to take my five-year-old daughter to school every morning, pick her up every day and spend time with her. Then I might log on later and work or catch up on the weekend. Being able to do that and not have to worry about accounting to somebody else has just been a complete and utter game-changer for me.”
“You’re still getting a very professional service, but you’re getting it in a friendly way’.”
“The other thing is the style that I’ve developed – People really seem drawn to it. It’s a much less formal client-accountant relationship, where you can just have a chat. People seem to have picked up on ‘you’re still getting a very professional service, but you’re getting it in a friendly way’.”
Quadrupling the clientbase
“When I started in July 2021, I thought I’d have one or two clients, and see how things go… It went really, really well. I was enjoying what I was doing and I felt good. So by September I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do this. I can take on more clients and really go for this.”
“I started attending more online networking events and getting more active on social media. Previously I’d thought, how can you do social media when you’re an accountant? How can you put exciting and interesting posts up? ‘Yay, it’s time to do your books? But I got into putting up information, got my website looking better, spoke to more people – and it grew exponentially.”
“By the time I went down to AccountingWEB in December, I had 10 very good clients and a few in the pipeline. By the end of January, I was up to 30 (25 monthly pay clients and about five or six annual agreement clients).
Speaking at AccountingWEB Live and meeting AM
Vicki went to AccountingWEB Live armed with a list of practice management software to look at. “I’m up in Central Scotland and I was going down to Coventry, by myself, to speak on a panel. I knew absolutely nobody and was wandering around thinking ‘how am I doing this?’ It was fantastic, but I was still very much feeling that imposter syndrome.”
“One of the first stands I stopped at was AccountancyManager. And Hayley started chatting to me. We got a good rapport going and she showed me some of the stuff AM can do.”
“A couple of weeks into my trial, I was ready. I said to Hayley ‘I’m taking this on because it has completely changed how I’m doing things within a couple of weeks.’”
“I’m now hitting 40 clients, thanks to AccountancyManager.”
What’s next for Boddice Accounting?
“I just signed the lease on a serviced office and I’m moving in there in the next few weeks. So, branching out from being home based to being an official office. Then, by the end of this year, I want to have at least one apprentice on board.”
“I want to go for the apprentice approach because I didn’t do a degree in accountancy. I knew nothing about finance when I started working in the industry. It’s one of the few traditional professional services where you can go in with almost nothing and leave as a partner in a firm, or your own firm.”
“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t think uni is for them and they think they’re not going to be able to have a job of that level.”
“I want to bring somebody in who’s left school and is looking for what to do in life. Get them started, give them office admin experience, get them in accounts. There’s so much that you can do.”
“My whole thing has always been about helping people. And that seems a way that I can help people whilst also helping my business. That’s the aim, to start bringing through apprentices, and hopefully, they stay and the firm just gets bigger and bigger.”
“AM’s doing the heavy-lifting, so I can do more.”
Vicki Boddice met us at AccountingWEB in December ‘21, wanting to organise her deadlines. Since then, she’s discovered our Automations, the Task List, AML and Risk, Portal and more… Even her clients are impressed.
“I could just see that if things carried on the way they were, I’d get in a mess because I didn’t have solid systems in place,” says Vicki. “When there’s a handful of clients, you know when everything is due and what’s happening.”
“Once you get upwards of about 10 people, you can’t keep all those dates in your head. You might know everything about the client, but the specific dates and what you need to do each week or each day, that level of detail… things get lost and things get dropped.”
The best surprise? The speed of the engagement process
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. The process for accountants onboarding new clients is ludicrous. There are many steps, signatures, documents – and at least three people involved.
AM automates and organises everything. It starts by giving you a ready-made letter of engagement template (easily tailored to each client) – and automating its re-sign 12 months later.
Then there’s chasing the incumbent accountant, chasing your new client for information and signatures, submitting 64-8s and, of course, the infamous Client Portal.
“AccountancyManager came at the time when I was having all these new clients coming in. So the one thing that really hit home for me was the engagement process,” says Vicki.
“You sit there going, ‘oh, okay. This actually works. This is letting me do more, because it’s doing the heavy lifting for me. It’s incredible.”
“When I was doing my own thing, it could easily take a couple hours to get all the engagement letters done. Plus making sure that everything was set up right and recorded, and that you had all the information.”
“Suddenly I was getting all this done within 24, 48 hours. And the engagement letter was out within half an hour.”
“Then I’ve got automation set up for resigning engagement letters. It’s something else I don’t need to remember to do. The system is going to email my clients and say, “You need to resign this – great”
Following consistent onboarding steps – in one click
“The first thing that really jumped out was the automatic onboarding task button. So when I set up a client, I click to add the onboarding tasks and it’s automatically there for me, so I can work through that process.”
“That’s a really big thing for me. There’s so much to do in onboarding that having a recurring Task means you’re doing the same steps for everybody. You’re not missing something because you forgot about it.
“And when it’s your turn for the licensing bodies to come and have a wee look. I know I’m fully compliant because you’re working through your tasks and it’s recorded. It’s not just me saying ‘I’ve done it’.
Locating document in seconds – every time
“Also, having everything recorded in one place – you’re not having to remember ‘oh, is the version that’s on my computer the signed one? Or the not signed one? You’ve got it all in their client area.”
Avoiding the guilt of chasing previous accountants
AM’s mission is to remove every annoying, time-consuming process from your day. Taking professional clearance off your hands has the added bonus of avoiding feeling ‘annoying’ yourself.
“The automated emails to the former accountants, that’s fantastic because I feel bad when it’s me sending numerous chasers. But I know that every single week until I’ve got that information, the system is going to be emailing the accountant.”
Missing information? Just automate it.
“…And the missing information for clients, missing reference numbers, UTRs, all those kinds of things. Again, knowing that that can just be chased up for me is great.”
“Essentially I view the automations as almost being like my office junior. It’s all the things I would have got an office junior to do for me. The system is doing it all for me now. And it’s reliable. I know that it always happens. I’ve not had anything that has not gone, when it’s meant to have gone, which has been great as well.”
Professionalism, security and seriously impressed clients
Instead of sending documents attached to emails, with AM you add them to the Client Portal. Here, your clients can look back at all their tax returns, their details and reference numbers. They’ll also find their upcoming deadlines – and can sign documents without downloading them.
“When you’ve got something like a portal, you can completely trust it – it’s secure, unlike emails – and people have really, really appreciated it. It gives a very professional appearance too, which can be difficult to do when it’s you and your computer!”
“The client was incredibly impressed with the engagement process and the fact that I had a secure portal where she could upload information.”
“The fact that that came out in a feedback comment was phenomenal. I’ve got somebody actually saying that I’m fantastic because of the systems I have”
Actually getting signatures – when you ask for them
“When you send accounts to clients to sign off, it would always go:
Client: “Yes, that’s fine.”
Me: “Yeah, but I need you to actually sign it.”
Client: “Oh, but I’ve told you, it’s fine.”
Me: “Yeah. But can you just sign it?”
“Now, they just go in and e-sign. It’s done, it’s recorded and they’re submitted. It is so time saving. And clients have appreciated that they’re not having me badgering them constantly to do something.”
“Even the least tech savvy person can manage it, they can click a button and say, ‘yes, I agree with that’. And it’s done.”
No need for separate Risk & Anti Money-Laundering software
Vicki had prepaid for a different AML setup before getting AM, but she’s cancelled that now. “I’m now doing it through AM – risk assessments and AML checks – it’s just making it nice and straightforward.”
“From one area, I can click to do all my checks – and it’s saved. I’ve got my risk assessment that I can just click and it starts a new risk assessment. I can work my way through all of that, as opposed to finding the document on my computer and trying to locate all the documents to go behind it.”
“It has been a really easy process. Now I’ve found myself going back and actually doing the AM risk assessment for all my clients that I had done different risk assessments for previously. So it’s streamlined, secure and all in one place. I don’t need to go and look for things.”
It’s getting that mindset of, ‘there is something that will just tick all the boxes for you. And you shouldn’t be having to have six, seven different bits of software to do an onboarding process. It’s ludicrous. So yeah, it has been great. (I feel like I’m finishing all of these sections with, ‘It has been great’ – sorry!)”
Recurring tasks (tasks, tasks…)
Finally, Vicki comes to our two core features: Task management and Automated emails. AccountancyManager’s Task List is automatically generated based on your clients’ accounting dates. AM cleverly syncs with Companies House, so if there are any changes, AM knows about it.
Vicki, however, has gone a step further by creating her own recurring tasks. “I like to send out my monthly report to clients pretty much the same time every month. For each of my clients, I’ve got that set up and I know that it’s just going to be there for the next month. I don’t have to remember to put it in.”
“Being able to structure my month around the recurring tasks has made life so much easier. It’s such a simple process to set it up.”
“It also lets me see if I’ve put too many in the one week. I’ve been able to go ‘oh yeah, there’s no “way I’m going to get 20 detailed reports out in three days. Maybe I want to spread them out a wee bit more’.
“You need to spread your workload out across a month, and having your task list is a very key part of making sure that you’ve done that.”
“I’ve used practice management software in previous jobs that were almost completely unfit for purpose. You would have task lists that would have dates that seem to be made up out of nowhere, so you could never trust it. You had to go in and check it constantly.
“Whereas I know that my tasks are set up correctly and I know that my dates are coming through, and I know that the statutory work is always going to be on there. I know that if it’s not working, it’s because I’m not using it properly!”
Cutting out unproductive chunks of your day
Automation has reduced Vicki’s workload, shaving off minutes here and there – adding up to valuable chunks of time.
“The automatic emails mean that if I need information from a client or something signed, I know it’s automatically going to be emailed.”
“It takes out steps that don’t seem like they’re going to take you so long individually. But if you’re doing 30 and each one is taking you five minutes, that’s a big chunk of your day. And it’s not a productive chunk of your day.”
“And it’s also got that delay so that if I’ve done something I shouldn’t, I can take it out again. That has been such a comfort. The email hasn’t gone yet, so you can just dial it back.”
Swatting up on AM with in-system training
When you’re getting started with AM, there’s a load of videos and guides to help. And of course, our support team (consistently rated 98%+ by our users).
“I learn best by doing,” says Vicki. “So I jumped on the self-study side of things. I could watch the videos, read the information, then go away and see how it works in practice. If there’s anything you’re not sure about, there’s training there to cover it.”
“The videos and training that’s available on the system really did get me started so quickly.”
“And if I did get stuck, there was always somebody there that could help. Having that level of support behind the software is really important.”
“Some softwares, you can put in a help request and 48 hours later, you get a, “Hi, how can we help?” And you’re like, well no, I’ve fixed it now. But it took me all day. Whereas, with AM, you ask for help and you get it. It has been great. That’s a big winner.”