This edition of AM in Practice takes us to exotic locations like Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Exeter. Join us as we quiz Anita Cocks, owner of Tax and Financial, about her fascinating back story and experience using AccountancyManager.  

Anita’s father worked in bomb disposal for the British Armed Forces, so she grew up globe-trotting. “I went to about 13 different schools. I’ve lived in Saudi, America, Switzerland…I did my IGCSEs in Saudi, during the Gulf War.”

“I grew up abroad and I was determined to be back abroad. Accountancy was a great way of being able to do that.”

Anita originally studied horse management. “I soon realised that to make any money in the horse industry, you have to be exceptional – and had a rethink. I did really well in the accountancy module and had a real love for it. So I decided that was the career path I was going to take.”

“Kenya’s an amazing place. One time I was late to work because there were giraffes in the road and I couldn’t get past.” 

Anita got her qualification with the International Association of Bookkeepers and went on to do her ACCA. “While I was doing that, I was offered a job in Kenya. So at 20, off I went. I was a financial controller for the second largest telecommunications company in East Africa. I’d work in Kenya for three weeks, in Uganda for one week.”

“I took a shortcut through the game park and got a flat tyre… where there were lions. I changed that tyre in under six minutes.”

“Then I worked for one of the largest rose exporters in Kenya. I absolutely loved it out there. We used to go and get power on Thursdays. I did have a TV for about 3 days but got robbed on Christmas Day, so I didn’t bother getting another one!”

From Kenya to Exeter (just by Travis Perkins)

Anita started off her practice by helping businesses implement cloud-based software for managing their accounts. “If they were on old antiquated computer system, we’d get them set up and moving into the new age, as it were.”

“Then, as we went into these businesses, they wanted us to do their accounts. It just snowballed from there. In 2018 we’d opened our first shop in Exeter. 

“A lot of people come in just to see the dogs. They’re like ‘No, I don’t need you, just a dog cuddle!’” 

A lot of our clients are in construction and automotive. Just looking out of the window there’s Travis Perkins and Tool Station. So they go in and get their parts and components, then come next door and do their accounting!”

“We also have quite a lot of local pubs. There’s a very ‘local community’ vibe around here.  I think in one area we actually have every business in that village.

The move from Senta to AccountancyManager

Anita and her team were using Senta. “We looked at AccountancyManager a long time ago but at that point it didn’t integrate with Xero. That was the only reason I chose Senta.”

“Senta was then bought out by IRIS. And, well, I’ve heard horror stories before. I didn’t want to spend the next year, two years getting Senta working the way it should, to then have the horror stories come true. I didn’t want to risk it so had a look at AccountancyManager.”

As soon as I started playing with it, straight away I was like, ‘that’s for us’. It was the right move and it’s completely changed the company. 

“And clients really like it. Whereas with Senta, I’d get calls going, ‘It’s not working. I don’t really understand this.’ But with AccountancyManager, I can’t remember the last time with onboarding where someone was unsure or wasn’t able to do it or sign the terms and conditions.”

“We had been using Practice Ignition alongside Senta, or… you could just do it all in AccountancyManager, so that’s what we’re doing.”

A great idea for implementing AccountancyManager

In AccountancyManager, there’s a ‘help’ section where you’ll find videos and click-through guides. It’s totally up to you and your priorities which features to master first. 

“Everybody just got on with it and had no issues. It didn’t take them long to pick up AccountancyManager at all.”

“I went through your videos, then created a template for my team saying, ‘okay, watch this video, then go down to this one, then go down to this one,’ and I put the links on there. So they could easily work through how to learn about AccountancyManager and how it integrates with our work. From creating tasks to managing tasks, logging their time to doing anti money-laundering checks to onboarding – it was all step by step.”

Tasks: Handling increasing numbers of deadlines, clients and staff

The main functionality Anita was looking for in a practice management software was managing tasks. “When you have lots of clients, there’s lots of things to do and lots of deadlines. Before, I had different systems for checking different deadlines, whether it was Companies House or whatever. Nothing was really in one place.”

“When your client base increases, it’s an impossibility to keep it all in your head.”

“The worry is ‘have I missed a deadline?’ AccountancyManager gives me that peace of mind. That’s the biggest thing: I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Because obviously when I set the clients up, I set them up with the right fees and it goes through to the proposal. I’m not switching between different systems.”

“AccountancyManager saves me hours because I don’t have to worry about it. And all the automation behind the scenes is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”

“I have complete faith that the information that I’ve put in there is right, because they’ve signed that proposal. I know the deadlines are coming through and I’m not missing anything. AccountancyManager saves me hours because I don’t have to worry about it. And all the automation behind the scenes is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”

Managing a team: Visibility and those little yellow notes…

While Anita began Tax and Financial alone, she now has a team of five. “Yes, we’re all in the office together, but being able to see what people are doing, where they’re at, what’s pending? What were people having issues with?”

“That’s the first thing I do every morning, I look at AccountancyManager tasks straightaway.”

“I’m big on visibility, so if someone is assigned to a task, we’ll always have either me or Melissa – who’s my practice manager – assigned to that task too. So if they’re doing, for example, the VAT return preparation, when they’ve completed that, they change the status on AccountancyManager. That then sends either Melissa or I a notification to say, ‘OK, now we need to do the next checks on the VAT return.

“The team put notes on tasks too – those little yellow notes. I think it’s brilliant because you can just log in straight away and see: ‘Oh, someone spoke to them on that date…’ ‘That we’re still waiting for. Maybe they need to push that’. But straight away, it’s just there in front of you without you having to click on anything else.”

Automated reminders: Because your clients are busy (and forgetful)

AccountancyManager has always had automated emails (and now texts) which ask and chase your clients for their records relating to each service you provide. A year or so ago, we added automated emails and texts which remind your clients to pay their tax too.

“Absolutely brilliant, clients really like it. They have that faith that if they forget, they know they’ll get a reminder from us.” 

“Clients are busy running their own businesses and can be forgetful. Or maybe their VAT isn’t on direct debits and things like that. A lot of them now are in that situation because they shut it down after the first Covid.”

“AccountancyManager is like a gentle little nudge going, ‘come on, you need to sign this.’”

Talking of reminders, Anita’s clients also appreciate the automated ‘nudges’ that ask them to sign their tax returns. “They like it when we send them the VAT return – then they get a reminder to sign it. It’s just keeping that bit of pressure there without disturbing them too much.”

Logging time: Seamless handovers and justifying price rises

Anita loves the time tracking within AccountancyManager. Not for charging by the hour, but for helping employees pick up where others have left off. And justifying price rises with clients.

“Some clients are a bit more time consuming than others, but I can easily pull off a report and see how much time we’re spending on them.”

“I’m big on the team logging their time, so they do the time logs through AccountancyManager. When somebody is suddenly having to isolate, as well as looking at which tasks have been done, you can see exactly what they were doing the day before. It’s very straightforward.

“We’re big on fixed monthly fees and we review them every year. So we use the time logs in AccountancyManager to give us some clarity.”

“We’ve had clients where they’re asking for more and more. And they’re like, ‘well, how much time are you actually spending on it?’ And we’ve been able to go back and say ‘it isn’t a five-minute job. It’s taken this amount of time’. And you’ve got all the time logs there.” 

Anita’s final thoughts

“The thing with AM is the constant development. With the email area now, which is linked to your emails, so you can log in to AM and see any emails you’re receiving. Or the integrations with everything from Xero to QuickBooks, Zapier as well. It constantly changes. I do like that because the industry is constantly changing too.”

“With onboarding I always used the Companies House sync. That’s brilliant. Straight away, bang, all the information is in there, it pulls it all through.” 

“If we can learn to do something more efficiently, that saves us time, then I’m always up for that. I’m always looking at different ways to make things easier. I hate stuff where I have to repeat myself. With AccountancyManager, I can set up recurring tasks, I can set up reminders, I can assign stuff…”

“It’s all those little bits that take that pressure off you. Because you know: It’s in AccountancyManager. It’s fine. We won’t forget it.”