Harry Walker started his practice just two years after becoming an accountant. Harry left AccountancyManager in 2019, only to return in 2020 after trying IRIS practice management. Turns out we’d set his expectations a little too high… 

It was Harry’s mum – a bookkeeper with her own practice – that inspired him to become an accountant. The plan was to add accountancy to their family business arsenal and run the two businesses side by side. In 2019, they fully merged the practices under Harry Walker Accountancy Limited. Today, Harry and his team of eight are focused on providing a holistic service to their clients.

“I’m proud of building a successful practice at only 27, I’ve got eight wonderful employees and I absolutely love working on improving the business so that our clients get the best service possible.”

“As MTD comes in, we’re making it easier for clients by combining the traditional bookkeeping and accounting services into a more streamline hybrid of the two,” explains Harry. “I feel that there’s a risk with the old style of accounting that when MTD comes into play, it will become inefficient or overly expensive for clients to have their records processed quarterly by an accountant and they are likely to look elsewhere or take on more responsibilities themselves. This combination helps bridge that gap. Clients can pay a bookkeeping fee for the most part, then an accountant can perform their checks and make the necessary submissions. This way, the clients get the most value possible for their money.”

Two sides of the business. Two implications of the pandemic.

While the bookkeeping half of Harry Walker Accountancy has slowed down dramatically over the past year due to clients being temporarily closed, the accountancy half has seen a hive of activity with clients making the most of lockdown to get their records up to date.

Leaving AM, trying TaxCalc and IRIS – and returning again

Harry joined AM in the summer of 2017 then left us (gasp) in 2019. “The reason we left was that the practice was originally using TaxFiler for accounts prep and tax return filing and wanted to move to TaxCalc. They had an integrated practice management solution, so we tried that. And… it didn’t really work. It just wasn’t as good as AccountancyManager in a lot of ways.”

“The reason for coming back? Nothing quite gets there like AM. It’s just the best software for automation and having a Task List which is completely intuitive.”

“For example in the other software, there was no automation at all, the closest you get was just a mail merge, which is not the same. Then we moved to IRIS – similar sort of thing. It’s just not there in terms of practice management. It gives you the Task List, but that’s it. The reason for coming back? Nothing quite gets there like AM. It’s just the best software for automation and having a Task List which is completely intuitive.”

Why AM’s Task List beats the rest 

“The best thing about AccountancyManager is being able to rely on the Task List, as strange as that sounds. It’s knowing that when you create a new client, select their services, add the dates the tasks have already been created and from then on it will tell you when to do those tasks and when they’re due. That’s absolutely massive. In other software, you sort of get that, but not in the same way.”

“It’s nearly impossible to miss things with AccountancyManager.”

“Having tasks in deadline order means nothing is missed, it’s nearly impossible to miss deadlines (internal or statutory) with AccountancyManager. Whereas in the other softwares we found instances where you could allocate tasks incorrectly and the software tells you the task is complete, when it isn’t – or vice versa.”

Staff satisfaction and time targets

The main feedback Harry receives from his team about AM is that it’s easy. “You look at your Task List, first thing, and those are your tasks. It’s just really straightforward. We’ve also set it up so that as clients drop their records in, it sets an internal target date for when the task should be complete (based on what type of task it is). It’s really useful to have that internal limit.” 

Time logging compared to IRIS

Harry tells us that with IRIS practice management, you have to manually go through a process to add your time to billable work in progress, which he found slow and cumbersome. “Time recording on AM is really useful, being able to record time directly from the task and have it go straight into billable work in progress is very helpful. 

“In IRIS practice management, time logging is just nowhere near as easy as AccountancyManager.”

“being able to check that you’re not going over budget on clients is a life saver.”

A smaller team means a more personal experience 

There was one more comparison Harry wanted to point out between using software run by a SME versus a large company. “AccountancyManager is so personal, it feels like you’re dealing with a relatively small team, where, if you want something added into the software, it feels like a real person seriously considers what you’re suggesting – and actually makes the change. Whereas with larger companies, you send it off to a mysterious website and it disappears.”

Automation’s great – but the time saved is even better

Harry and his team automate everything they can with AM. “…Record requests, tax reminders, all of  those time draining tasks are taken care of by AccountancyManager. The email automation is great, it gives you more time to spend with your clients.”

“If you can take half an hour of time out of chasing, that’s half an hour you can spend giving your clients the best service possible.”

Our users often talk about the time they save with AM’s automation, so we like to hear how exactly they use this time. “I spend it on working on the business. It frees me up to be able to improve our service. The staff spend it on taking the time really needed to provide the best service possible to their clients.”

Clients e-signing their accounts

On the topic of client service, Harry appreciates the fact that his clients can sign documents whenever they like, through their Client Portal. “Having people sign their accounts electronically, I mean, that’s the only way we want people to sign their accounts! It’s much easier for them, much easier for us. And we can have an electronic copy with the signature on it without having to scan it in.”

AML, risk assessments – and now risk ratings – all in one place

Since Harry and his team returned to AccountancyManager last year, they’ve started using the built-in AML checks and risk assessments. “It’s nice to have that in with the practice management instead of needing to go somewhere else to make sure you are compliant. You go into a client and it says up at the top, low risk, medium risk, or high risk. It forces people to think about what they’re doing and whether you are treating the client correctly. 

Our ‘absolutely incredible’ 2021 roadmap 

When we announced our 2021 roadmap, we received lots of positive feedback from some fairly excited users – Harry included. “Looking at the future updates on your 2021 roadmap – everything just looks absolutely incredible. Being able to break down a task into subtasks is exactly the sort of thing we would like and automation of shared tasks between bookkeepers and accountants so that it tells the accountant ‘you can now start’ – is excellent.”

Harry’s advice for new practice owners

  1. Don’t settle for mediocre software

“My first bit of advice is, don’t settle for mediocre software – make sure your software is perfect all the way through. And if it isn’t? Just change, it’s not that difficult to switch. Just try to do that as early as possible so you don’t end up changing software with 200, 300 clients.” 

“I would recommend that they start with AccountancyManager. Then, if they decide they don’t like it, fine… but they will come back!”

  1. Involve your team in decisions

“Any time something is new, we always gauge the employees’ opinions on it. Too often businesses will say ‘we’re going to use this new software, or do this new thing and you don’t have a choice’. 

The key is basically listening to your employees and actually acting on their advice. Often employees have great ideas for ways the business can be improved, it’s hearing those ideas and actually putting them into practice that will make your business great.”

  1. Make specific time for the business as well as your clients

“The most helpful thing for me is having time set aside specifically for working ON the business instead of IN the business. So, early on I would say, half the week is for working on clients and half the week is on improving the business. It’s hard but if you force yourself to actually do it, the benefits are massive.

  1. Use practice management software from the word go

“Right from the beginning, having a workflow – something that you can look at as an exhaustive list of everything you have to do will keep you on target.”

“Getting a balance is hard, but AccountancyManager helps you achieve this by showing you the deadlines.”

“When you’re starting out in business, you have to do all these other things as well as deal with the clients. Getting a balance is hard, but AccountancyManager helps you achieve this by showing you the deadlines and how long everything’s going to take.”