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An accountant’s journey through the cloud

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Charlotte Ing always wanted to be an accountant. Starting as an apprentice, she did her qualifications while working in an accountancy practice – a pretty standard career starting. Fast-forward a few years and Charlotte was at Sagars, one of the largest independent accountancy firms in Yorkshire. During her seven years at the company, she had the opportunity to work with several clients in a variety of industries, and form great relationships with them. 

At the same time, Sagars started going through a digital transformation to modernise its processes and introduce new software. As someone who’s always been interested in technology, Charlotte was at the forefront of that “cloud journey”.

“I loved being involved in that. I self-taught myself to use Xero after using Sage for so long, and soon realised there was a huge benefit of using Xero and Dext together. We could start working in a different way, more closely with clients, and offering additional services that were also cost-effective. So it really changed the way we worked with clients.”

For any big, established company, going through a digital transformation is a complex process. Historical systems need to be replaced, the team must be onboard and available for extensive training, clients need to be educated on the benefits and how to adapt… It’s a transition that doesn’t happen overnight – but it’s as necessary as it’s worth it.

 “We had ‘champions’, members of the team who would learn everything about one app so they could be on hand for team queries and provide training. The entire process is long and it can get overwhelming, but it’s just a pain point any business has to go through and then it gets so much better! It’s definitely beneficial.”

Taking the leap

Came the Covid-19 pandemic and, like many other professionals, Charlotte started thinking about what she wanted from her career. In the past, her main goal was to become a partner at a firm, something a lot of accountants work towards. But the idea of opening her own practice suddenly started taking shape, and in August 2020, Pure Cloud Accountancy was a reality.

“It was quite stressful leaving a full-time job, which is all I’ve ever known for 15 years, but also very exciting, so I took the leap anyway. Thankfully, I had Xero and Dext, which are my core software. That has enabled me to run my business and build good relationships with my clients.”

Her choice of core apps didn’t happen by chance: Charlotte knew from the beginning that her own practice would be built on a tech and cloud-based foundation.

“I wanted the business to be cloud-based so everyone can see where their businesses are at any given time, it’s paperless, it fits with the future, it fits HMRC requirements and it’s what all business owners want. Clients want more free time for themselves to achieve their personal goals and not to be bogged down with paperwork, so they can run their businesses.”

But Charlotte didn’t start with a big app stack: she chose the ones she knew well and were easier to use, then scaled up from there. When you’re starting your own business, says Charlotte, you don‘t want to do too much too soon as you might not yet know what your client base will be.

“It was nice to start with a blank canvas because I could decide what I wanted to do, so clients who want to work with me need to be open to embracing technology as well. But you do get ‘app fatigue’ because there are so many options and it’s often tricky to identify which ones you want to go with.”

It’s crucial to pick the software that will work best for you and for the majority of clients. A good solution, she found, was choosing low risk apps.

“I know that, with Dext Prepare for example, nothing goes wrong. I’ve used other tools and they were not half as efficient or accurate. There’s so much that can be done on Dext Prepare; it’s easy to use, it’s always in development with new features and it ticks all the boxes for me and my clients. So choosing Dext was a no-brainer, really”

Future-proof

Cloud technology has all the elements to assist accountants through all areas of the business and allow them to have regular, valuable conversations with clients. So when Charlotte thought about how she wanted to work, she knew that cloud technology was always going to be the key element of her own business – even if that meant playing the role of tech advisor for her clients, too. 

“Quite often I hear people saying ‘you don’t have to do this, it’s not your job’, and all I say is: if you don’t do it, you will be left behind. You won’t attract the younger end of your client base, so you’ll have an ageing client base that’s not going to be sustainable. But it also allows you to do more interesting advisory work.”

For any business owner, after all, thinking about the future is just as important as ensuring things go well in the present. Making the most of technology, however, brings benefits from day one.

“It certainly future-proofs the business as it puts you ahead of the curve. You have the tools in place to help the clients now and you’re ready for whatever comes next.”

That’s why, since starting her own business, Charlotte has been recommending her core software to new clients. So far she’s had no issues getting them to work with the apps – she knows customers are ready for it or already embracing technology. At every presentation, the feedback has been nothing short of excellent – and there’s a simple reason why:

“It just makes life easier. I can see some of my clients using something that’s not quite right and I can recommend something better, or even change the settings – that can take some time, but once it’s done, it will save so much time for the client and for myself further down the line.”

The industry has come a long way in the past decade, and Charlotte Ing is happy to keep on her cloud journey, continuing to drive the transformation. After all, making the most of technology has even allowed her to work with some clients she wouldn’t consider in the past.

“Years ago location played a part in which clients you could work with. Now they can be based anywhere because they just need to photograph their receipts using the Dext Prepare app and they can be managed by me remotely. It’s so easy and efficient.

There’s always going to be the need for a qualified accountant; cloud-based technology just opens up more opportunities and helps us get more done in less time. I genuinely love helping my clients and I love the software that I use because it makes everything work so smoothly, so… why not?”