On or Offsite?

Online working or Onsite?

Our work of book-keeping with management accounts plus a payroll bureau was about 85% online before Covid-19, now of course it’s 100%. 

Gradually over the last 10 years our clients have moved towards an offsite service and nearly all new prospects want this. We’ve always delivered payroll this way – for 25 years. But now the remaining few have been forced to change. Perhaps surprisingly the transition has been pretty smooth - it helps a lot that we are very used to such a change. It clearly begs the question as to whether any of this should revert to onsite after this virus - time will tell.

Of course it’s not all positives - it does rely on the client to communicate efficiently. Most clients do but not all. There may be a bit of work assembling data to be sent to us but this is rapidly dwindling as more and more source data becomes electronic, such as purchase invoices. Documents now tend to be sent to software that routes the data automatically into Xero and the like. Such changes always improve efficiency and in some cases literally transform the business – it’s great to behold.

We abandoned going onsite to London years ago – the added costs and travel time were just ridiculous.

Canary Wharf – would you travel there for a new client?

We were all set to be appointed to a major new client with the first task being to sort out a huge reconciliation mess. We offered to do all this offsite as travelling to Canary Wharf was impractical for the staff we would have used. The prospective client declined our proposal and politely insisted that all the work had to be handled onsite and to a very demanding timetable.

The company needed an immediate start and wanted someone to work totally onsite full time for two weeks in Canary Wharf as it required working closely with their Finance Manager on a complex task. We questioned this as our 25 years experience told us that none of this work needed to be done that way. We therefore suggested that some initial work could be done onsite but other work could be completed remotely. 

Instead the company decided to use an onsite contractor to handle this phase 1 with a view to appointing us ongoing in the phase 2. Half way through phase 1 the contractor left, without notice. The work had been left in a poor state and the need was even more urgent with an extremely tight timetable for completion looming. We picked up the baton to achieve the complete reconciliations. The extremely tight deadline was achieved after the BookCheck team had unpicked and resolved the errors that had been made.

•    Our staff (from 60 staff) were split into teams, allocated to different streams of the work in order to get up to speed quickly and within the completion deadline 
•    We worked extremely long hours, including a full weekend and pulled together to complete phase 1, facing considerable time pressure to complete everything by an immovable deadline. This included a two year VAT reconciliation - transactions from Sage had to be manually ticked back to transactions migrated to Xero to ensure the first MTD VAT return was completed accurately and on time as it was. This work started on 2nd September for the VAT quarter that was due to be filed with HMRC by 7th September
•    FD and Financial Manager of the client provided schedules to show how things should be appearing in the accounts; BookCheck were tasked with making sure the accounts matched up
•    A lot of the work that the contractor had handled was unpicked and corrected.

The point is that All of this work was done offsite, without the BookCheck staff meeting anyone at the client. We acknowledge the full support from the client in assisting and communication with us – this was essential in achieving the objective.

It left us wondering why not use us in the first place? I suppose it’s a matter of trust - if you can see it you can control it? Obviously not.

So a silver lining from this virus will be a big push to much more working offsite for a whole range of jobs, after proving that in most cases it works well. Not before time in our opinion.

Horses for Courses – why would Accountants handle bookkeeping?

Now we’ve had our 25th birthday I think I can afford to comment on our relationship with firms of accountants which we are not even though our Team includes eight qualified accountants. We’re purely what it says on the tin - bookkeeping with management accounts + a payroll bureau.

All our clients have their own external accountant with whom we liaise at the year end. We also win new client referrals from some firms. We can see a great range in their attitude to ‘wanting’ to handle bookkeeping - this varies from absolutely no wish whatsoever though to being keen to provide.

So where do the horses come in? Well, if you are a firm of accountants, do you have the right horse, or should you focus on a different course? To put it another way - why would you be interested? Is it really improving profits or is it just turnover?

Some months ago, we proposed to a £1m business. They were a very good fit for our service. They liked our proposal and showed it to their accountants who quickly undercut our fee. The prospect thought that it sounded like a good idea, a one stop shop at lower cost, so we lost it. I couldn’t help commenting to the prospect at the time that the chances were that it wouldn’t work out.

Some 4 months later the prospect told me – “You were right. They’ve never got to grips with data communication, scanning, or a routine and despite charging us for management accounts we’ve never received any”. So we now have a chastened new client.

So why did they do it and why didn’t it work out?

I guess they did it because of some combination: they didn’t want to say no, thought the client might leave them and they wanted the billings.

I would say it didn’t work out because they were not set up or resourced to ‘do a good job’, including management accounts which we find is often missing.

So, what would we suggest to a firm of accountants? The key point is to check the course. Are you really geared up to win that sort of race otherwise why not concentrate of what you are good at which is a different race.

By the way, have you noticed how progressively it’s becoming more and more difficult to recruit quality staff - all the more reason to harness them to much more profitable work, which is what they prefer doing anyway, rather than book-keeping.

Do you have the Horse for the (Book-keeping) Course? 



This entry was posted in Accounting, Business Development, Management Accounts and tagged in Bookkeeping by Caroline