Sian Kelly is the owner of Inform Accounting, and an award-winning Cloud Accounting expert
Tell me about your business
I started Inform Accounting probably about 10 years ago now. What I quickly worked out is people prefer a one stop shop, so I came around to the idea.
It was around the time when Xero was just coming to the UK market, so I learned Xero inside out. Soon after that, I got a call from Dext, telling me about the product. It sounded like a good tool, and a selling feature for prospects and clients.
Now we are over a million turnover. We offer a fully outsourced finance department to our clients. And it’s a very different business to what I envisaged when I started 10 years ago.
How have you managed the challenge of remote work?
We lost the closeness of the working environment in the office. When we were all in the office together, I could pick up on things that weren’t quite going right or I felt needed changing. And there’d be collaborative conversations going on around those things as we picked them up. Obviously, with everyone sat in their bedrooms, home offices, or wherever they are, that’s just not naturally happening. So I’ve got to look for other ways of picking that information up.
How does software like Dext benefit you and your clients?
Technology is just a way of life for us. It’s not like we’ve suddenly found it or were forced to use it. Dext was a massive help right from the start with processing invoices and not having to be on a client’s premises, and not taking ages to get invoices for them. We are also able to get ‘shoebox clients’ who drop the shoebox into the office on Dext behind the scenes.
What’s the next innovation in accountancy, and how are you adapting?
I think doing much more of the Business Advisory side of things, which begs the question – what is Business Advisory? And that’s many things to many different people.
We already do it all — almost as soon as new technology out there, I’m on it, checking whether it’s right for us. I also take time to look at projects with the business – we want to review our stats. So I take time away from general day to day emails to look at what we want to do next.
What’s stopping other firms from being more like yours?
I suppose some people don’t like change, and technology can be scary to them. And they’re doing what they’ve always done. But you take it as baby steps. And I think COVID made people more willing to try new technology. They see the benefit in it a lot more than they did before.
How does technology impact client relationships?
They’re much more in relationship with you, if they’ve got that regular contact, it’s not just once a year, or quarterly for the VAT. The best client relationships we can have are ideally where we do everything — they’re on a fully managed, outsourced package with us — because you are talking to them all the time. And you can really add value to that business and help them grow.
Is it difficult to manage when your clients grow?
It’s an easy transition, because they’re already working with you. You increase their monthly direct debit, add services and start having those additional meetings. The only thing you’ve got to be careful about is ensuring you don’t have too many businesses going up that growth curve at once, and you haven’t got the staff ready to meet with the business growth. That’s why I have a rolling six to 12 month plan.
How are you going to stand out from the crowd?
I’ve been thinking about that. We used to stand out because we were cloud-focused, and we were so far ahead. We’ve won awards for our cloud services last year, so we can use that as a point of difference, but only for so long. I don’t know the answer to that right now, but it doesn’t mean I won’t think of something. Where we can excel is in making sure we retain our customers. And if you’re offering really good customer service, we naturally get a lot of referrals and people wanting additional services.
Watch the interview: