With a new tax year upon us, is it time to do things differently? Dext Prepare helped Jo Wood Virtual FD to alter the way the team works, becoming more efficient and effective by removing repetitive manual tasks.
They now offer a guide to building a business case for new technology investments and other operational tips for getting started with accounting automation. We spoke to Jo Wood, owner of Jo Wood Virtual FD, for some key insights on how her company embraced technology and how you can drive digital changes to be prepared for the future of finance.
Tackle any worries that are preventing you from embracing automation
Much of the apprehension surrounding automation comes from the loss of billable time and the fear of a dip in income. According to Jo, the conventional practice of charging by the hour may not always be the most beneficial arrangement for both bookkeepers and clients. In fact, it can create an undesirable incentive structure where bookkeepers prioritise working more hours over optimising their processes and delivering high-value services to their clients. Furthermore, the focus on time can also worry bookkeepers who may be concerned about charging less if they complete tasks quickly.
“I can have a 5-minute conversation with someone and add £500 worth of value. It’s not a fair exchange”, says Jo.
However, there’s a solution to this conundrum. Embracing automation can shift the focus away from a time-based billing model and toward a value-based approach – which is also hugely beneficial for clients. Through a brief conversation, a bookkeeper can provide insights that add significant value to the client’s business.
Automation allows bookkeepers to not only help their clients achieve greater success but also ensure a fair exchange of value. In doing so, they can build strong and lasting relationships with their clients while improving their own business processes.
Much of the onboarding method for new clients can be centred on using technology to automate manual processes. Jo Wood Virtual FD, for example, sees Dext Prepare training courses as their initial onboarding because the only job clients will have moving forward is utilising the platform for fetching and uploading information. “During onboarding, our team guides clients through the process of setting up Dext and familiarising them with the three uploading options available.”
“We had two clients this month that joined us with a six months’ worth of backlog. They received this month’s management accounts telling them what happened over the last four weeks. That wouldn’t have been possible without Prepare.”
Prioritising speed and accuracy can help bookkeepers demonstrate their commitment to excellence and help clients reach their financial goals with confidence. Achieving these ideals lets bookkeepers quickly realise the benefits of their services. In turn, this can lead to stronger relationships, increased client satisfaction and ultimately, business growth.
Don’t be discouraged by the time spent learning the software
When implementing new software, it’s essential to allocate time for its setup and instruction to personnel and customers, says Jo. Practice owners are now accustomed to having a variety of software at their disposal and must emphasise the advantages of using said software. Those without experience, then, have a big barrier and require support and training on how to present that software to potential clients.
“Years ago, it was against the law for accountants to advertise their services – clients had to come from a referral. When we started, accounting was such a closed book, and you were competing with another accountant 10 doors up from you. Software is transforming this and now our client base isn’t only in the immediate area anymore”. So much has changed, adds Jo, mentioning the increased dependence on social media and online marketing as key tools for business.
Paper receipts no longer need to be the headache they used to be
Years ago, Jo Wood would lie in bed every night, plagued by sleeplessness and worrying about whether there would be “a fire and I lost all my clients’ paperwork? What if one of my staff members spilled coffee on it? These were problems we faced back then”, Jo explains.
Not anymore. Dext Prepare eliminates the risk of losing vital information because everything is easily uploaded to the platform. Not only that, but through technology, bookkeeping no longer wastes time on data entry and paper shuffling. This means that businesses can now shift some of the focus away from aspects that aren’t billable; e.g., sales calls, VAT registrations and bank account setups. “It was a no-brainer. I was using Dext Prepare from day one. I’ve used other apps, but it wasn’t a match. I consider Prepare my first hire that really helped me to leverage my time and grow.”
Dext Prepare helped bring in billable work more quickly. Someone less highly skilled could then manage that side of the business for her, opening up the possibility of taking on more clients and bigger projects.
“Efficiency isn’t always about maximising time or profits. It’s about using automation tools to unlock the capacity needed to focus on what truly matters.”
“We’re never a finished product”, says Jo. “I used to feel like a job is done when it’s complete, but it’s not. There’s always room for an extra 1% improvement.”
Dext Prepare’s visibility is essential for Jo as a business owner, who doesn’t do any bookkeeping in her role. “My job is not to be in the operations, it’s to be the CEO.” Jo can go into the platform and see any potential issues and make marginal improvements over time accordingly. Real trackable KPIs also show the value of her time. “It’s possible to make marginal gains which result in massive improvements along the line”.
Dext Prepare offers hands-on support to help clients navigate any initial obstacles they may encounter
This includes walking clients through setting up an email address and providing examples of how to fetch key documents such as mobile phone bills. Jo explains their commitment to dedicating 15 minutes a week to providing ongoing support until clients are fully comfortable using Dext Prepare.
In the event that a client experiences a backlog or other issues, she recommends revisiting the onboarding process to ensure that all necessary steps are being followed. However, “we firmly believe that the key to success is holding the client accountable. By communicating the importance of timely and consistent data sharing, we help clients understand their role in the process and empower them to stay on top of their financial information”, says Jo.
“Ultimately, this approach leads to more efficient and effective bookkeeping, which benefits both the client and our team.”
So, why Dext Prepare?
Jo Wood saw Dext Prepare as an investment in her business and a way to achieve her vision of offering a service that goes beyond traditional bookkeeping. She can easily integrate with other programs like Xero, Wix and PayPal to store all financial information in one central location.
Powerful tools like Prepare can offer dedicated onboarding and support. Our team provides clients with a seamless and efficient bookkeeping experience. Whether you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur or a global enterprise, our platforms are designed to help you stay on top of your financial data and focus on what matters most – growing your business.
With our team’s guidance, you can set up Dext Prepare quickly and easily, and start enjoying the benefits of streamlined data management. And, with continuous support, you can rest assured that you’ll always have the help you need to stay on top of your financial information.