We’ve taken a break from reporting on the coronavirus to have a chat with one of AccountancyManager’s oldest clients (in terms of her use of AccountancyManager, not her age). Lucy Drake started her accountancy career at 16 and is now owner of Southampton-based practice Hassle Free Accounts and Tax.
“I spend less time on onboarding clients, now initial meetings with them are more about getting to know them as people.”
We spoke to Lucy about her practice and her experience of using AccountancyManager to build her firm. Lucy didn’t hold back in her commendations – or recommendations! And had some good advice for anyone considering cloud-based practice management software. Thanks for your time Lucy.
AM: What made you go into accounting?
LD: I joined an accounting firm – Rothmans Accountants in Southampton – through an apprenticeship at 16. I liked working with numbers and was bright at school so wanted a professional career without having to go to university.
AM: What do you enjoy most about your accountancy career?
LD: I like the flexibility of the job (especially since I have become self-employed). I also like being able to solve problems for clients and helping new businesses succeed.
AM: What have been your biggest challenges?
LD: Not getting too stressed about your clients’ problems! Sometimes they’ve gotten themselves in a mess so you can be working to tight deadlines or dealing with incomplete information.
“The most important principle behind my business is integrity – I would never recommend something to a client for my own gain, charge someone for a service that doesn’t need doing, or that they can very easily do themselves.”
AM: What sets Hassle Free Accounts and Tax apart?
LD: We tailor our services to each client and make them feel valued as individuals rather than numbers. We also offer the transparency of larger, online-only accountants – with instant online fee quotes but with a friendly local service.
The most important principle behind my business is integrity – I would never recommend something to a client for my own gain, charge someone for a service that doesn’t need doing or can very easily be done by themselves. It sounds obvious but so many accountants are getting this wrong and looking for quick profits rather than honest working relationships.
“I wouldn’t have been able to grow as quickly as I have without the smooth client onboarding service achieved with AccountancyManager.”
AM: What achievements and successes are you most proud of?
LD: I’m proud of the speed at which my firm has grown and the number of businesses helped. A couple have decided self-employment isn’t for them, but the majority are thriving. It’s so exciting to see them progress – leaving their day job, opening new premises or taking on new staff.
AM: How has AccountancyManager helped with that, do you think?
I wouldn’t have been able to grow as quickly as I have without the smooth client onboarding service achieved with AccountancyManager.
“I chose AccountancyManager because I really hated preparing letters of engagement in Word! It could take an hour to get all the formatting right with the correct sections included plus it used lots of paper, ink and stamps!”
AM: How did you store client details and manage your practice before AccountancyManager?
LD: I’ve been using AccountancyManager since starting my business, however in previous firms we used a mixture of spreadsheets and very expensive accounting packages with a built in CRM function (plus an admin team of course!) My firm isn’t large enough for this so I needed something affordable with a relatively small number of clients which I could manage myself without needing to employ any admin help to get started.
AM: Do you use any other software in your practice?
LD: I try to be as cloud based, efficient and modern in my approach to work as possible, so I also use taxfiler, Quickbooks, Xero and Freeagent along with other software such as Adobe to extract data from scanned documents and other software to help with marketing such as a social media manager and video editing software.
AM: What made you choose AccountancyManager?
LD: I chose AccountancyManager because I really hated preparing letters of engagement in word! It could take an hour to get all the formatting right with the correct sections included plus it used lots of paper, ink and stamps! Now it only takes a few moments and I have a far better response from clients than if I try to get them to return something in the post.
“I like that I have all the important information I need with me wherever I go by just logging in easily on my phone.”
AM: What’s your favourite thing (or things!) about AccountancyManager?
LD: My favourite thing about AccountancyManager is still the letters of engagement and onboarding process! But I also like that I have all the important information I need with me wherever I go by just logging in easily on my phone.
AM: Were there any nice surprises about using AccountancyManager that you hadn’t expected?
There have been lots of surprises and I’ve discovered lots of features that I wasn’t expecting. I found out about the risk assessment forms by watching a youtube video so that’s going to save me time going forward. I also found out recently that clients can also use it as a basic CRM tool for their business which I’ve now invited them to do.
I expect there’s lots of features that I’m not yet using! I also really like the integration with Companies House, so that I’m updated if there’s any changes to their information and the integration with HMRC to avoid having to type out data again when applying for agent authority (form 64-8). I like that tasks are automatically set up when pulling data in from Companies House which avoids human error costing me penalties!
AM: How has AccountancyManager helped you… save time?
LD: I spend less time on onboarding clients, now initial meetings with them are more about getting to know them as people, rather than worrying about whether all the references and details have been noted down. I also save a lot of time printing and posting documents that go through the client portal.
AM: …increase efficiency and productivity?
LD: As time is saved I am able to spend more time doing productive work for clients with a faster turnaround time. I can also automate things like reminders and regular emails.
AM: …give your clients a great experience?
LD: Clients are saved the trouble of having to come to my office to sign documents by hand or by post, as most things can be done through the client portal. They are also assured that they have appointed a professional and competent firm when everything is done on time and data is handled in accordance with GDPR.
AM: What would you change about AccountancyManager?
LD: A few of my clients have had issues signing up for the portal, but it seems to be improving all the time. It would also be really useful if there were integrations with Taxfiler and Quickbooks to prevent me from having to enter all the same data 3 times when taking on a new client!
- Note from AM: Our QuickBooks integration is currently in development.
It would also be useful if I could upload more than one document at a time to the client portal (for the client to be able to view or download) and it would be useful if there was an option for not creating an email to send each time (for example when completing a set of year end accounts I often have two sets of accounts to be e-signed (abbreviated and full) plus 2 or sometimes 3 CT600s for the same period and personal tax returns too)
Another thing that would be really helpful is if there were VA’s (virtual assistants) that are AccountancyManager trained to help get it set up with all the features working well. I know there’s more I could do with it, but don’t have the time to research what I could do and then add the data needed, and if I hired an admin person to do it for me I would have to teach them how to use it.
- AM’s follow-up: Our support team has since been back in touch with Lucy. Uploading bulk documents is a new-ish feature released in January. AM sends an email grouping documents that need signing and ones that don’t. Lucy’s recommendation for bulk downloads has been passed to the development team through our feature request process. In terms of virtual assistants, we do have a walk-through support feature built in to the system, which shows you each button to click and field to enter. It’s really useful when you’re starting out using the system. After that, most actions are pretty intuitive, but the walk-throughs (and videos) are still there if you need them:
AM: Great to hear you’re using the client portal, do you use it a lot?
LD: Yes, most of my clients use it, although there are a couple who won’t sign up digitally or use any software. I like that it speeds up client approval of accounts and tax returns significantly.
“For me the cost of software far outweighs the time I would be spending trying to keep track of everything manually!”
AM: What would you say to an accountant that doesn’t think they need practice management software?
LD: Unless they are running a very small business with only a couple of clients I struggle to see how this can be done! For me the cost of software far outweighs the time I would be spending trying to keep track of everything manually!
AM: Do you have any tips for practices deciding between the different systems on offer?
LD: Most software companies offer a free trial, so I would try as many as possible as well as asking other accountants what they use at events or on online forums/Facebook groups.
Thanks Lucy, we agree: