We’re taking a closer look at AccountancyManager in action. Last week we grilled Zia Tahir at Spherical Accountants in Hackney. This week we travel south (and inadvertently stick with the theme of geometric shapes) to Diamond Outsourcing.
Bal and Sam have been friends since childhood. Both choosing careers in accountancy, Sam opted for the practice route while Bal went into industry. Then, in 2016 – both searching for more than their current roles could offer – decided to go into business together.
Sam: “I’d been in practice for around twelve years. I got fed up with working for other people. I mean, I was always in control of my own client base, but I wasn’t really seeing the rewards and wanted to be able to accomplish bigger things.”
Bal: “Industry and commerce. It’s a very corporate type of lifestyle, very structured and regimented. Being in practice, being in control of your own destiny, it’s more rewarding. There’s no cap on how far you can go. But there’s also an element of helping people as well. It’s quite rewarding when a client comes in and has no idea about tax, they’ve got these letters from HMRC and they’re scared and worried. It’s nice just to give them that peace of mind and help them sort out their problems.”
Today, Diamond Accounts has two busy offices, in Kent and Sussex, and a particularly impactful website that’s gained recent fame over on PracticeWeb. But that’s far from the end of Sam and Bal’s story.
Off-shore outsourcing – the future of accountancy?
*Gasp* did we just say that? Just one year after founding Diamond Accounts, Bal and Sam launched a second, separate business in 2017: Diamond Outsourcing.
Sam: “We sort of fell into outsourcing. It was never intentional. It came from getting to know people at conferences, they wanted to know how we were doing it and how we could manage a large portfolio of clients and still have free time to network. Then they wanted to do it themselves and we started doing it for them. One by one, we built up a client base and thought, “well, there’s a business in this.””
Outsourcing might be a somewhat contentious topic among accountants, but for the clients of Diamond Outsourcing, it’s the perfect solution, especially for sole practitioners and struggling businesses. Compliance tasks taken care of, they can channel more of their time and expertise to their clients.
“We’ve literally been more than doubling in size every year, as a group of companies. We’ve more than doubled every year since 2016.”Sam Patel, Co-Founder of Diamond Accounts and Diamond Outsourcing
Sam: “We’ve probably turned around three failing practices that didn’t have systems and were just giving up and then just by chance. We met them. They liked us. They outsourced to us. Now it’s all streamlined and they love it. We gave them that new lease of life.”
Acquisitions and implementing AM across practices
Running two successful businesses wasn’t quite enough for the ambitious duo, who have now set their sights on acquiring practices and bringing them under the Diamond Accounts banner. Just as the UK entered lockdown, Diamond Accounts was going through one such acquisition.
Sam: “We’re doing a shared purchase, over a couple of years, where you make sure that you’re getting along with the previous owner, the rapport is there and you’re on the same wavelength. We started talking around September, October time, then it went to legals around January. Then obviously Covid started kicking in. Which did mean we could refit the office and take over quietly!”
The practice they have acquired didn’t use a practice management system or CRM previously, so they’ve introduced AccountancyManager over the last few months.
Sam: “…I think there’s probably a lot of practices out there where information is just scattered. So we went in there, introduced AccountancyManager to them and they’re getting on really well with it, they’re now signing accounts on it. I would say they are already using it to 75% of its potential.”
Experience of many systems. One clear winner.
Through Diamond Outsourcing, Sam and Bal have to use whatever system their clients (all accountants themselves) use. So they’re no strangers to different accounting and practice management systems.
With such in-depth experience of a wide range of software, it was easy for Sam and Bal to compare systems and decide which to implement in their practice – and by extension their acquired practices. A huge factor was ease of use.
“We’ve used all of them… But for us, it was always AccountancyManager because it’s just so easy to use”
Sam: “We’ve used all of them, we still use all of them. So we use Senta, AccountancyManager, other less recognised ones, we’ve even got one still on Excel. But for us, it was always AccountancyManager because it’s just so easy to use. Whereas the other products are not so easy to use. We could see AccountancyManager working in our practice and that’s why we took it to other practices.”
AccountancyManager at Diamond Accounting… and beyond
So what role does AccountancyManager play for Sam and Bal’s teams? A better question may have been, what doesn’t it do?
Sam: “We’re using it for onboarding, to follow up information and missing information, for records received and records that are missing. We’re using it to email out to all the clients, whether it’s a huge mailshot or whether it’s just a VAT confirmation. We’re using the e-signatures and time sheets…”
“It’s actually been really good to us in terms of the automated emails, tracking the work, tracking the employees. It’s been brilliant.”
“It’s pretty much streamlined our whole admin department and other practices’ as well, because we not only took it on ourselves, we also got a few clients to take on as well.”
Bal: Previously everything was more Excel based, more manual. Now it’s web-based, interface-based and you can have multiple users. It’s more efficient and more effective. From an administrative point of view it’s a much better way of managing your master data, without making lots of mistakes and having multiple users trying to make changes – that can be a nightmare!”
Far from being perturbed by change, Sam and Bal’s clients have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the client portal.
“Clients are used to us going to see them, but they’re saying “Why didn’t you introduce it sooner?! You could have saved so much time!”
Client access to documents and their details
Sam: “I think they just like to have access to it whenever they want it, as opposed to: we email them a set of accounts, two years later, they’ve forgotten about it and they keep asking us for it again. Now they just log in to the portal and download it themselves.
“It’s not just the documents and tax returns it’s: “I want my UTR or my company authentication.”…And it’s all there, literally any information clients’ want on themselves, it’s all there”.
Less travel. Fewer costs. Broader horizons.
Bal: “It’s also allowed us to broaden our horizons logistically and geographically. With the e-signature, especially with Covid, we didn’t need to bring people in to sign their papers. And with the system being GDPR compliant, the clients have their own secure area where they can go into the portal to access the information and sign. So it’s been good, especially during this time, to get people to move over to this more digital way of doing things.”
A more convenient experience for you and your clients
Sam: “When we ask clients, “Look do you want to see us or do you want to do a Zoom call and just sign on AccountancyManager?” 9 times out of 10, they just choose to sign and they’re happy with the Zoom call.”
“It’s just helped us save time and money more than anything. If we just look at travelling up and down the country it’s saved us a whole load of time and cost.”
“When you have to go and see clients, sometimes their location might not fit in your diary. With AccountancyManager, as soon as the project’s done, you can sign it off straight away rather than having to wait to meet a client.
“And they’re all up for it, because they’re running businesses too, they’ve got busy lives as well. Sometimes they just don’t have the time, right? But if they can do it digitally, then they can finish it a lot quicker as well.”
Sam, Bal and the team certainly don’t miss the hours that went into reminding clients to supply their tax records and subsequently pay their tax liability. Especially in the run up to the Self Assessment deadline.
Sam: “Another great feature is the reminders for tax. Before AccountancyManager, it used to be such a manual process. People used to just call you or email you in the last week of January! But now you’ve just got those constant emails going out 14 days before, 7 days before. 2 days before. So, yeah, it’s brilliant.”
We were pleased to hear Diamond Accounts has also started using one of our newly released features: automated VAT payment reminders.
The visibility that time tracking through AM gives you across your staff and teams – but particularly your clients – hasn’t gone unnoticed by Diamond Accounts.
Sam: “On the overview, you can see who’s logged in and how much they’ve done. You can go into each job and see how long it’s taken. And we can see how long they’re spending with clients on the phone. So we’re not just tracking the employees, but keeping an eye on the clients that are actually taking up more of our time.”
“And if they are, then why? It just allows us to make changes within the business quicker. You can see which clients are most profitable as well. Not just the ones that pay you the biggest fee.
Sam and Bal’s advice:
“I would say just give the trial a go. But look at it from the point of view that you’re using it in your practice to its full potential. Have a look at all the benefits as opposed to just a CRM or just to hold your clients. It does a lot more than that.”
“If you use [AM] to its full potential, then it’s exactly what you need.”