Andy Sullivan knows his stuff when it comes to business technology. He also happens to be an accountant. Only two years in and business is good. Really good. Find out how Andy uses tech in his own practice and how AM is inspiring his clients to introduce their own efficiencies.
Everyone we’ve interviewed for AM in Practice has proven that the stuffy, serious accountant/bookkeeper stereotype is wildly inaccurate. None more so than Andy Sullivan, owner of Complete HQ. Andy – dressed in a t-shirt revealing his impressive tattoos – spoke to AM’s Jonathan Stobart – dressed in a more seasonally appropriate, though no less formal, pink hoodie.
Phenomenal growth in under two years
Andy setup Complete HQ in 2019 and has experienced rapid growth ever since. Fast forward to 2021 and Andy has a team of seven, including accountants, bookkeepers and marketing support. He also outsources some work. “2020 started and clients just kept coming, which is amazing,” he says. “We got contacted by a lot of businesses whose accountants weren’t able to service them properly or give them the best advice, possibly because they furloughed staff or because they were massively overworked, I don’t know, but we grew substantially as a result.”
A technophile at heart – and now by trade
Andy always planned to have a fully remote practice, all of his team work from home and one lives in Portugal, so he’s an avid user of cloud-based software. But his interest and skills in technology have quickly evolved into consultancy for his clients.
“That’s what I enjoy doing, helping people take a step back and putting systems in place to give them more freedom.”
“My true interest is in technology and helping businesses to instil technology into their operations. Not just financial operations, but their business operations. Helping them have a really efficient business so the owner can get out of the day to day. That’s what I enjoy doing, helping people take a step back and putting systems in place to give them more freedom.
“We’ve actually got a cross-referral partnership with a client of ours – JPad. They actually build bespoke software solutions for businesses that help streamline operations. But quite often the businesses come to them and say, ‘look, we need to budget and plan these things’ and that’s where we get involved. It works really well.”
And the tech expert chooses… AccountancyManager
It didn’t take Andy long to realise that if you talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. “I sit in front of a prospect on Zoom and explain how we’re pushing the boundaries with tech… If I were to then onboard them by sending loads of paper forms to sign and saying ‘I need you to post me your ID’, the story isn’t consistent.
“I get quite a lot of clients actually say, ‘we hate to say it, but your systems are very good. We want that in our business’.”
“If we’re telling clients we can make their operations really tech driven, we need to prove to them how we’ve done it in our business. We use GoProposal to generate our pricing, then everything else transitions into AccountancyManager. So the engagement letter goes to them, they sign up for the portal, they upload their ID. We do ID checks on them. Clearance letters for accountants. We’ve got five or six steps that are all automated, with emails driven from AM.”
“I get quite a lot of clients actually say, ‘we hate to say it, but your systems are very good. We want that in our business. How can we put in a similar set up for e-signing documents, circulating things internally, CRM and all those bits and pieces?’”
An innovative idea for onboarding? You shock us, Andy
Andy speaks to every new client over video call, then films a personal video for the client on Loom. This video introduces the client to Complete HQ and recaps the initial conversation. Andy uses Loom videos sometimes to accompany and explain things like management accounts and government support too. How does he have the time? By giving all his lengthy admin jobs to AccountancyManager to automate.
HMRC authorisation codes seal the deal
Andy had spent time trying out different practice management software for his previous firm, so knew he wanted AM for his business. “The thing for me towards AM was the integration for HMRC agent authorisation codes and now there are various different things, like credit scoring is massive… I also preferred the visual appearance of the task list in AM to other systems. It’s really hard to get that overview of tasks, so I find that really excellent.”
“I also preferred the visual appearance of the Task list in AM to other systems. It’s really hard to get that overview of tasks, so I find that really excellent”
Busy season? What busy season?
We thought it might be hard to book any chats with accountants during January – until we remembered that for AM users, January is just another month. “One thing AM has massively helped us with this year is getting our tax returns done early. I think by Christmas we had nine left to do and that wasn’t down to us.”
“The better your systems are for chasing people for tax information, the quicker you turn them around, and the less stressful your Christmas and New Year is…”
“What’s helped is the automated reminders for information to clients, so we’re not stressing out about tax returns now. That’s always a big thing. I’ve never really understood why accountants can’t get their heads around, ‘the better your systems are for chasing people for tax information, the quicker you turn them around, and the less stressful your Christmas and New Year is’.”
Simple re-allocation of tasks
From a staff point of view, the key thing for Andy is task management. “I’m easily able to re-delegate work from one person to another, especially at the moment. One of the team, their childcare situation changed over Christmas. That’s fine, we were able to reallocate tasks.”
“Workflow management can be a huge issue in accounting practices, because not everyone has that visibility of what’s going on. So for me to be able to go in and view all the tasks we’ve got, target dates and deadlines, it’s a great thing. Then making sure that those [deadlines] are physically achievable without our guys working themselves into the ground – because that’s not why any of us are here.”
“Built into that, from a task point of view, is any ad hoc things that come in. So if a client comes in and says, ‘look, can you just, work out this for me?’ We’ll set a task up based on the email. So it just helps us to make sure, again, from a customer service point of view, everything is being done to its fullest extent.”
Feedback or problems? We’re always listening
At AccountancyManager, our users shape the system. We’re always asking our users to vote on new features and suggest their own ideas, something Andy appreciates. “You’re always open to taking feedback and quite often you get feedback, put it into the product roadmap and those things will come through. That’s a really good thing”
“Support is amazing. If I email support, I always get a response in an hour, usually less than an hour.”
AM is a bespoke piece of software so it means that you guys can customise a lot more and change things. And support is amazing. If I email support, I always get a response in an hour, usually less than an hour.”