We’re taking a look at AccountancyManager ‘out in the wild’ – AM in the hands of the accountants and bookkeepers that use it day in, day out. 

“It’s great to see people come onboard with AccountancyManager, but I get far more satisfaction hearing about how those same people make AM work within their practice.”

Marcus Bellis, Head of Sales at AccountancyManager

Zia Tahir at Spherical Accountants spoke to Marcus Bellis, AM’s Head of Sales, about life with AM.

Meet Zia Tahir: Managing Director of Spherical Accountants – London

Zia’s father had big ideas for his son, “He was very impressed with doctors”, says Zia, “and he pushed me towards it, which obviously failed!” Zia had big ideas of his own. “I always wanted to do something with numbers. My initial thought was MBA in finance, but after consulting a few people, realised a better option was a proper accountancy qualification.”

Starting out in the accounts department in a food supply business, Zia quickly became tired of the monotony, “Paying suppliers, payroll, financial reporting…” The only option Zia could see to escape from the repetition (a deep-seated desire which would lead him to AccountancyManager) was to go into business for himself. Spherical Accountants was born.

Now, Zia’s daily routine is different every day. “Each and every client is different. Their requirements are different, their situations are different. Dealing with them on a daily basis is what drives me to wake up every morning.”

The cloud: Form close relationships with distant clients 

Spherical Accountants is based in Hackney, London, though their client base extends far beyond the M25. Zia attributes this to their use of cloud software.

“We have clients in Shoreditch, Enfield, Sunderland, even Dubai. The cloud has made it easier to work with clients who can be far away.”

Around this time last year, Spherical Accountants were struggling with too many different softwares and manual processes. So Zia took the leap and moved everything to the cloud. “I guess it was a bit late compared to the accountancy industry.” He admits. “Once we did it, it gave us confidence that – given the size of our firm – we are using technology which much bigger firms are using.”

“Now we are 100% in the cloud. We use AccountancyManager, Xero and ReceiptBank across our whole client base.”

Thanks to the level of trust Zia has built up with his clients, the vast majority were comfortable with the change. “We were able to convince them that although we are changing software, you will get the same level of service. In fact things will become so much easier and we’ll save so much time, that it will be reflected on your fees as well. And it has, by about 15%.” 

Automation: An expectation… and a surprise

Many practices come to AccountancyManager with certain inefficiencies they want to fix. Then, once they start using it, discover many more advantages they hadn’t expected. 

“This is everything I was looking for, complete automation, fetching data from Companies House, creating jobs automatically, time recording…”

It was a lack of automation in their data management system (Microsoft Access) that initiated Zia’s search for practice management software. The surprise? The sheer amount of automation and the ease of using it. In particular, automated job creation. “You just put in the client details and all the jobs are created. What else could you ask for?”

In AccountancyManager, all your tasks relating to client compliance automatically generate – using period end dates and deadlines. This will also trigger any record request emails and subsequent reminders. 

“You just put in the client details and all the jobs are created. What more could you ask for?”

AccountancyManager’s time recording gave Zia another pleasant surprise. “I knew time recording existed, but I didn’t know it was so automated. You just click on the task and it just keeps recording the time. You don’t have to enter manual time.”

New releases: ‘Target Dates’ gets Zia’s vote

This summer, the AccountancyManager developers have been churning out new feature after new feature. Zia’s team are loving the new ‘Target Dates’ for tasks. “Before, they were only formal or statutory deadlines. But sometimes we want to work on things before the actual deadlines. So that’s really helped us to be even more efficient and complete the work.”

“So for tax returns – which are due in January 2021 – we’ve been able to give them target deadlines and we’re working on them now. The aim is to work on most of them by the end of September.”

Automated reminders: Because you’re an accountant, not a PA

One of Spherical Accountants’ biggest challenges was remembering to remind clients to send over their records. With AccountancyManager, this challenge was removed.

“It saves us at least 75% of the day. So three quarters. We were spending a lot of time on maintaining clients, sending them reminders…” 

Client timeline: Your protection against penalty liability

Of course, there’s the ever-present risk of penalties if your clients don’t receive their reminders in time. 

“We have the email trail where we can see all the communication sent and received. It’s all much more organised and secure.”

With AccountancyManager, you have a full record of every email and text sent to your client, accompanied by a tag letting you know if it’s been opened.

Client portal: Free document and business management for your clients 

AccountancyManager’s portal is, at its most basic, online document storage that both you and your client can securely access anytime. Clients can access, upload, download and e-sign any documents you add to their portal. 

However, used to its full extent, the client portal can act as a CRM and invoicing system for your clients’ business. They can create a task list to stay organised, keep track of their time by logging the work they’ve completed, and use this information to create and send invoices.

When Spherical Accountants moved over to AccountancyManager, Zia wanted to make absolutely sure that it was the right decision, not just for his team, but for his clients too. “I emailed all the clients and asked them for feedback because it’s really important that they’re happy and comfortable with what we’re using.”

“All of them said they were very happy with it, especially the document side of it. Now they can go back and download files rather than requesting the documents from us – so you have all that time saving.” 

A few of Zia’s clients are also using the time tracking and invoice feature for their business. So Zia is effectively cutting their costs by providing free software. 

The team at Spherical Accountants are also enjoying the client portal internally – for finding and organising client documents: “First, everything is on the cloud and we know where everything is. And secondly, it’s sorted by client. So we don’t have to look through the documents. We can simply go to XYZ Ltd, so things are much simpler.”

Filing cabinets: Who needs them?

One of Zia’s friends came to have a look around his office recently and was struck by the lack of physical storage. “He said ‘there’s something missing in your office.” Zia tells us, “You’re accountants and you don’t have a filing cabinet!’ I think he didn’t know that was possible. So that was good!”

“The only paper we have in the firm is when we receive letters from HMRC. After we’ve uploaded them on the client portal, we just recycle them and become paperless again.”

2020: The year no one was expecting

At the start of the lockdown, Zia had a few pretty tough weeks. “I had some clients who thought they’d have to close down their businesses. We’d be on the phone for hours at a time with people literally crying. It was tough.”

“We had to just support them and say, OK, look, we are here, we are not asking for the fees. Let’s stop for a couple of months. Then it changed to ‘what is stopping you from running a business? The government is giving you grants so let’s wait and see.’ Then things improved, it’s still bad for many but people are much more optimistic now.”

“We had to support them with their finances as well as emotionally, but all the software we’re using was helpful – without them it would have been difficult.”

The pandemic has also transformed how Spherical Accountants thinks about working from home. “We’ve actually realised that the whole team was more efficient working from home. Everything was being done automatically and communication was flowing freely – except without all the travelling time. People were more energetic, much happier.”

“During the lockdown, AccountancyManager was our lifeline of managing jobs, communicating and updating everyone.”

Now Zia’s team is working three days from home and two days from office. If things continue to go well, Zia predicts an even bigger change. “We might be thinking of having no office at all. AccountancyManager would help with that 100%. During the lockdown, AccountancyManager was our lifeline of managing jobs, communicating and updating everyone.” 

Zia’s advice 

“Give it a go for 30 days and I can guarantee – you won’t look back.”

“I would say, give it a go. You don’t even have to spend any money. There’s a 30-day free trial. Just upload your clients, you don’t have to spend time manually entering, just upload an Excel file and you’re up and running.”

Sign up to your free 30-day trial of AccountancyManager and as Zia puts it “you’ll soon start to see the magic…”