Howard Smith is the founder and managing director of the numbercrunchers, an innovative technology-led accounting firm, where Gaynor Hutton works in business development
Tell me about your business
Howard: I started the practice in 2014. I soon ended up with a client who needed to go multi-currency, and I found Xero and developed from there. Shortly after that, we had a phone call from Dext. I’d seen the demo, the moment I saw it, I knew it was right for me and for growing the practice. I was able to take on far more clients, and manage them quite well. Clients thought I was an amazing bookkeeper, but I just had the right technology. Seven years later, with seven staff, we’ve grown 50% each year and are managing about 200 clients.
How have your service offerings changed?
Gaynor: We are now a scalable business, and that means we can then get bigger clients. Our client profile has changed from when any client was a good client. And I don’t think we are now scared to ask for payment for our services.
Howard: The technology is really good to get these more valuable and higher value clients to us, but it’s also there for us to be able to just bring in the smaller ones, but we don’t have to worry about them. Because at that level Dext manages it all, they’re no trouble to us anymore.
How is your business changing?
Gaynor: I think I’m sort of interacting with clients instead of spending time doing the bookkeeping. And we’re now delivering management accounts to clients who have never had them. While a lot of the traditional accountants are sort of catching up, we can tell clients we’ve been using cloud technology for years.
That makes our end of year accounts flawless, because you have three points or four points every year when you’re checking those management accounts or 12, in some instances. And so by the time you get to year end, there’s actually very little work to be done.
Howard: From our website, you can choose your packages — we work monthly and deliver monthly, so you can select the package that’s closest to you. Within that, you have Xero and Dext built into that fabric from the very beginning. So they’re all getting the same quality of consistency in their data.
How do you sell yourself to potential clients?
Gaynor: At the minute, we are still small enough to offer personal service, but we won’t be able to forever. What we can offer is that quality of service. In general, what we are ultimately delivering as an accountancy service.
How do you see accountancy services changing in the next 1-3 years?
Gaynor: I think clients are becoming much more aware of what they want. One of the things that really engages me is when somebody wants to scale a business. They’re looking for a lot more than just the figures – they want business advice as well.
What do you think is the biggest innovation in accountancy?
Howard: I think you can get as good as service out of a small practitioner like us who are working hard at the technology as you could from a much larger, mid-tier firm now because of good software. If you look at our model, we practice what we preach. Our invoices from numbercrunchers will raise themselves, pay themselves, and reconcile themselves. Dext is a key part of that, because we automate that little bit further each and every time.
What has had the biggest impact on you?
Howard: I have my weekends back. It’s a time-sensitive industry, and for us to be able to manage more clients than we’ve ever had, and actually still have all our weekends off – that’s working really well for us.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Howard: My advice is to learn which customers are a good fit for you, and don’t be frightened of losing some. Last year, we lost our biggest client because I told them they were too big and needed someone in house. But our growth has been exceptional since then, because we’ve freed our resources to get the right clients.
Do you have other innovative ways of delivering services to make you stand out?
Gaynor: I think it’s really difficult to be unique in accounting. And I think all we can do is be unique in our consistency. It’s ultimately a service industry. The key to any service industry is considered, good, and consistent service.
We deliver the same product that any accountant does – the law tells us how we must account for things. We all deliver the same result — you work out the profit and you’re taxed on profit, and you apply that, you know, various allowances that are available. It’s how you deliver it.
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