Anzelle Boshoff is the founder of an accounting firm in South Africa, specialising in cloud accounting and small business advisory services.
How did you start your business?
I ended up in accounting because my whole family’s entrepreneurs. I did a lot of research when I was back in school and settled on accounting, because it seems to be a safe working environment and a field where job security is kind of guaranteed, because people are always going to need somebody to be the middleman between them under authorities to ensure compliance.
I started working at an accounting firm directly out of school. I was working my way through my studies and with the various accounting firms that I worked at, I saw a lot of good stuff — but I was thinking, I could do it better. And then with time, I received unbelievable opportunities. I started with five clients in the beginning of 2019. And currently we are sitting on 150.
An unbelievable opportunity was provided to me, in that friends and family gave their support that if I wanted to start a firm, they would move with me. One of my clients also provided me with office space to start my firm in a neighboring town due to issues relating to a restraint of trade. I am very proud to say that I did not pinch any clients from any of the firms I previously worked at.
I started out with only 5 clients in March 2019. (This consisted of two family friends, two family members, and an acquaintance.) The rest is history.
How did you bring on new clients?
I went to a small town quite near to my hometown, and they didn’t have an accountant, they were driving 50, 100 kilometres just to see their accountants. I said, ‘Alright, once or twice a week, I’ll come to you’. I was visiting clients at their business premises, seeing how their systems work and learning everything there is to know about them.
There is no better advertisement than happy clients. I think that is one of the biggest advantages – the practice has grown organically. I have not been doing anything except for my job.
Our onboarding process consists of 3 phases:
1. We try to arrange a meeting in person (or a virtual meeting post lockdown) where we try to identify and eliminate obstacles in the customer’s understanding and use of products like Xero and Dext to ensure that information will flow, since our main interaction with them these days is online and telephonically.
2. We learned to actively listen – we try to hear what the client is saying, we brainstorm in the office about the client’s needs, we check what our main competitors are doing and pay attention to social media to keep up to date relating to changes and improvements in industry.
3. We use client feedback to improve the client experience. We make the client the core of all processes. We check in with phone calls, email, visits with milestones in the client’s journey.
The key to onboarding our clients is a deep personal interest in what they are doing, knowing their industry challenges, adding value as we go along and adapting our approach to their actual needs.
How are you getting more efficient with client management as your firm grows?
I keep contact with my clients with an open door policy. So if they’re experiencing challenges, and they just want a sounding board, they’re more than welcome to phone me.
So while COVID and the pandemic also had a great impact on that because I couldn’t move we took the physical visitations virtual. I am meeting with you on Zoom, I am phoning you, I’m emailing you, you can follow my Facebook page. And I think so far, so good. But I really tried to make time even over the weekend or when I am in the area just to stop and say ‘Hi, how can I help?’ (This is my favourite question)
How do you want your business to evolve?
I want to become a one stop shop for my client. So, if the client starts a business, they speak to me, and we do everything from registering the business, to the graphic design, to the HR, to the legal requirements, to winding down when they leave this planet and go to the Great Beyond.
How do you see accountancy services changing or evolving in the future?
I’m trying to proactively learn everything there is about innovation and new technology and do research into what systems can help my clients. We call it the ABCs: A stands for AI learning, B stands for blockchain and C stands for star computing. So we’re implementing the ABCs. But you need to branch out, diversify your service offering and become like an outsourced CFO for the company because that’s what the client expects from you. And if you won’t adapt, you won’t survive.
What’s helped you overcome challenges as you adapt?
We’re using quite a few bits of software, including Dext. We go to a client and tell them that they’re going to take photos with their phone, and that’s bookkeeping. It’s kind of a mad idea for people because what they used to do is put all their invoices in a little shoe box, and once a month dump it at their accountant’s.
How does this change the way you bill clients?
We’ve tried to move away from the billing per hour and offer a fixed price based on transactions. I created a tiered system, saying, ‘If I process this many transactions for you, and we add the services, this will be the fee’. The client accepts a quote at the beginning of a financial year. I tried to do away with the timesheet and move to a value-added service agreement with the client.
Has technology been able to help you draw information out of clients?
I’ve been trading without a physical office for two years now, so the technology certainly helps.
We provide Dext or OneDrive links for submissions free of charge. We monitor the uploads and review the process at least once a week to see if they are doing their bit. And if they’re not, we contact them by telephone and ask why — then we can provide a solution.
How do you deliver services differently from other firms?
My experience in accounting firms is that clients are treated according to their invoice. So the bigger clients are treated a lot better. We try to treat people as people, and we keep in touch with them beyond business. We also try to speak in the language that the client understands, and we try to be a trusted source of information.
How do you balance technology with the personal touch?
I think technology makes my life a lot easier. It’s no secret, but the thing is, you can be the best accountant in the world, but if you don’t have soft skills and people skills, you’re not going to keep any clients. So I try to balance the usage of technology with the more personal touch.
Watch the interview: