Recruiting the best

I like to recruit people who are better than me. But there is a shortage of accountants (and other STEM careers) at the moment.

Fortunately I also like to recruit non-accountants and to train them up. I particularly look for people with customer service experience who can look after our lovely clients while we use software to run things as efficiently as possible behind the scenes. This suits our tech savvy clients.

The downside of running a modern business is that we do things very differently to most traditional accountants so it is often easier to train somebody from scratch than to persuade them to unlearn bad habits acquired elsewhere.

I like to do careers talks or interview practice in local schools so that I get an early glimpse of the new talent about to hit the workplace. One of my trainees came to me for work experience as a 17 year old and is now a manager in another local accountancy firm. And I expect they’ll go further.

If you are looking for a general manager to free you up to develop your business you could try looking at retail managers. They have a broad range of skills and could soon learn about your particular business and sector.

When it comes to recruitment try thinking outside the box.

Xero and the environment

At Accountex earlier this month I was reminded of some software called Ecologi which links to Xero and can analyse your spend to identify your environmental impact and potential savings.

If you’re aiming to be a net zero business then it’s a useful tool in helping to focus on the high usage areas. You can also use the website to plant trees to offset the carbon that you do use.

So far it only links to Xero but I would expect to see them expanding to QBO then perhaps other bookkeeping software.

We don’t take just anyone

It’s not that we don’t like you. Far from it. We like to serve people where we can provide the most value.

At Hudson Business Advice we only choose clients in certain industries and who have the time, resources, and motivation to implement any agreed actions. We don’t like people to waste their money if they’re not going to do anything. But we also want you to succeed in having the business you first dreamt about as I get my real reward seeing happy business owners with time freedom and financial freedom. (Yes, I do cry real tears of joy when that happens)

At Minerva Accountants we use a lot of automation to operate as efficiently as possible so that clients have up to date management information to make informed business decisions. We can’t provide the sort of service I’d like for people who aren’t tech savvy. We can help them a little bit but will often refer them elsewhere.

Similarly we encourage you to be picky about your own clients so that you can run your business more efficiently without trying to be all things to all men.

Work out who your ideal client is (have a look at your current best clients) and focus on finding more of these by creating valuable content and resources for them.

An unlimited market?

In accountancy there seem to be far more businesses than good accountants and it is possible to take on unlimited clients (assuming you had the resources). So why wouldn’t you?

Because you want clients suited to YOUR business.

You want clients from the industries you know well and that will fit well into your processes. This will enable you to provide a better service with your enhanced knowledge.

You want the clients who fit you personally so that you enjoy working together. This will enable you to provide a better service that you enjoy.

You want the clients who can afford your fees. This will enable you to provide a better service as you won’t have to take on too many clients all vying for your time.

Keep an eye on your client list and your fees to ensure that you can provide high quality work.

The ‘Icarus’ budget 

I set up my first business with the intention of doing a few sets of accounts from the kitchen table to fit around my kids. But my background BC (before children) was running larger businesses and, if you do the right things, you get the right results. I needed to decide whether to limit my activities or to deliberately grow the business which would entail taking on staff and premises.

In the meantime somebody talked me into running the Bristol and afterwards, high on endorphins, I wrote my ‘Icarus’ budget. Yes, I really did name it that as I didn’t know if what I was planning would be achievable on just 25 hours per week (because I still wanted to fit it around my kids)

The rest is history*. Stay off the endorphins kids, you never know what might happen 😉

What would you do if you were feeling brave?

*If you haven’t heard the story then ‘The Numbers Business: how to grow a successful cloud accountancy practice’ is available on Amazon and Audible

Collaboration for the win

A while ago our local post master observed my kids spending their pocket money and reported back to me. Apparently they figured out that if they pooled their money they could get a big packet of sweets between them which was even better value. Collaboration for the win!

Years later, when they were old enough, he gave each of them a job as soon as he had a vacancy. Watching their behaviour over the years had given him some idea of how they would get on with customers.

In our business we rely on each member of the team using our different skills collaboratively to provide the best service to our clients.

But it’s not just internally that we work together. We extend our support to clients’ bookkeepers. They can contact us through the year with coding or other queries. In return we benefit by getting neater records coded as we like them so the year end is faster. Sometimes we get early warning of areas we can advise our mutual client. We’re always happy to explain any year end adjustment journals so that Xero (or other software) records are better each year.

We also work with software providers to ensure that any new software is properly set up to give both year end and management information. Or with IFAs and mortgage advisers to provide the best information to help our mutual clients with nonbusiness finances.

How could you collaborate with others to increase the size of the pie?

Should I be a limited company?

There are all sorts of reasons for incorporating and most of these are unchanged but two things have changed or are about to change.

1.Corporation tax increases combined with National Insurance reductions mean that the level and which it is tax efficient to incorporate have increased to around £100k* profits

2.At the moment small companies do not have to publish full accounts at Companies House. In future they will need to show their profit and loss account. This means that sensitive commercial and personal information will be in the public domain. For sole directors their salary will be available for anybody to see.

There may still be reasons, tax and otherwise, why business may choose to trade through a limited company so personal advice is more important than ever.

*This is a guide and the actual level still depends on individual circumstances.

10 questions business owners should ask their accountant

  1. What was my turnover this month? How does it compare to previous months/years/budget?
  2. What are my main sources of income and how can I grow them?
  3. What is my gross margin and how does this compare to others in my industry?
  4. How much cash do I have in the bank? How much do I need to pay out in the next week/month?
  5. What is my working capital and how can I improve it?
  6. How much tax (corporation tax, VAT, PAYE) do I have to pay and when?
  7. What are the key financial ratios that I should track and why?
  8. How can I collect money from customers faster?
  9. What is the best accounting software and processes for my business?
  10. How can I grow my business or make it more profitable or increase the value for my retirement?

Do you have regular reports/conversations that show this?

A good bookkeeper is worth their weight in gold!

I’ve said it so many times that I think ICB (Institute of Certified Bookkeepers) made me a Champion a few years ago to try and shut me up.

The line between accountants and bookkeepers is quite blurred these days. Many accountancy firms use client bookkeeping as a way to train juniors but we prefer to use a properly qualified bookkeeper for most of it.

As a technophile I love machine learning and other AI but bookkeepers are particularly good at detail and spotting anomalies. Accountants tend to view the accounts as a whole to ensure that they tell the true story of the business and to look for ways to help the business to grow or operate more efficiently. We provide telephone/email support to all our clients and their bookkeepers so that we can work together. This helps them to code strange items correctly first time. Depending on the size of client we also carry out regular bookkeeping checks using Xenon Connect or Xavier (some bookkeepers do this themselves)

With a good bookkeeper doing all the data entry and regular reconciliations we can just swan in at the year end, press a few buttons and produce the accounts. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement but it certainly makes our life easier if we have ‘clean’ records as our starting point. It also helps us to provide better value for money when we’re not sorting out messes.

Do you use a bookkeeper or do you do it yourself?