Firm of the Future Profile: Hemingway Bailey

Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2016 Firm of the Future finalists. This edition features Alan Hemingway of Hemingway Bailey, UK’s winner. Stay tuned for more information on how to enter next year’s Firm of the Future contest and continue visiting our blog often.

Danielle Ernst: Hi Alan. Congrats on winning the Firm of the Future contest! First, share a little bit about Hemingway Bailey.

Alan Hemingway: Hemingway Bailey Ltd. is based in Beverley in East Yorkshire, in the north of England. Since 2010, when I started it, myself and four wonderful team members, Joanne Overment, Evie Molloy, Ruby Magson and Dave Good, have been serving around 100 clients, a mixture of individuals and limited companies. We also offer QuickBooks® Online for our clients and non-clients, and we are increasingly providing software solutions to clients with apps. With my strong manufacturing background and the team being very customer service focused, clients are offered a full implementation service, with the aim of improving their management information and making them leaner in their processes.

DE: What makes yours a Firm of the Future?

AH: My background is in industry, so when I started Hemingway Bailey, I brought my non-traditional accountancy practice background experience of providing high quality information as the priority of an accountant to the firm. In the spring of 2015, we decided the way forward for our firm was to move into the cloud, and we gave all our clients QuickBooks Online in their fixed fee packages. All our processes are now in the cloud, and the entire team uses Chromebooks and Google Apps. We work with Mark Wickersham, and for the past 18 months, we have followed value pricing principles with three-tier prices.

DE: What’s your best advice for getting online today and adopting online technologies?

AH: Do not be afraid of change. The new technology is happening now and the sooner you adopt, the sooner you will be moving into the new business order. If you do not make the jump, you will be left behind. 

DE: What apps does your firm use, and how do you choose software and app partners before recommending to your clients?

AH: One Page CRM, Practice Ignition, Taxfiler, PandaDoc, InvoiceSherpa, Entryless, AccountantHub, YouCanBookMe and GoCardless. It has to be in the cloud; if it is not, we walk away from it straight away. Cloud software future proofs your business. We always look on the Intuit® App Store for app solutions, but we will look for others if we do not have the solution that our firm or our clients want. We then confirm if it integrates with QuickBooks Online. Whatever app we choose, it must improve our clients’ business by improving cash flow, increasing revenue or making it more efficient.

DE: Has Hemingway Bailey come across potential clients who are hesitant to adopt cloud-based technologies? If so, how do you convince them of the benefits?

AH: We have, and what we do is explain to them that the cloud is secure, and by moving to the cloud, they are making their business more secure for the future because cloud software, like QuickBooks Online, provides great reporting and solutions. We tell them that the industry is going to the cloud and the apps mean that they get solutions for low monthly fees, whereas previously firms would pay a lot of money for desktop solutions.

DE: How has using real-time data changed the way you work with your clients?

AH: No longer do we have to wait for backup copies to come to us, and if clients have any issues, we can quickly sign in remotely and give them support. Having real-time data means that we can show them the apps that benefit them. InvoiceSherpa and Satago are great examples.

DE: What makes Hemingway Bailey a trusted advisor?

AH: We give impartial advice, and we advise clients on what is good for them and not what is best for us. We offer free support and advice, and they have access to our online diaries to book in to see us whenever they want.

DE: Do you use wholesale billing, and if so, why? How have your clients responded to that?

AH: We do because it means we get the best cost possible. It also encourages us to sell the software. We give all our business clients free QuickBooks Online in all their packages.

DE: You mentioned in your contest entry that when getting their monthly invoices via QuickBooks Online prompts, clients end up asking a technical query, increasing interaction with the firm. How does this impact Hemingway Bailey’s ability to be a trusted advisor?

AH: We give free advice and support, which clients appreciate, and this builds up their trust. The invoice is sometimes a prompt for them to ask a minor question that might not be asked straightaway.

DE: How do you find new clients, or how do they find your firm?

AH: From traditional methods, such networking and client referrals, to doing a lot of CSR (corporate social responsibility) work, which raises our profile. We are also very active on social media and we use Adwords and Facebook ads, when needed. We try to hold two to three events a year as well.

DE: How do you find the balance between marketing and run-the-business type work?

AH: Taking on a highly skilled team has meant I can step back from a lot of the day-to-day accounting work and concentrate on networking and marketing, in addition to finding new apps to both use for Hemingway Bailey and our clients.

DE: For accounting firms not yet using the QuickBooks ProAdvisor® Program or social media, what would your advice be for them to take that first step?

AH: Do not be afraid of social media, be human and try and do it yourself, if possible, so that you can get your company personality out to the social community.

DE: In your entry, you mentioned your firm is less likely to tweet about tax changes and more likely to tweet about a tasty sandwich from a local deli. How does this strategy create engagement with current and prospect clients?

AH: People on social media do not want to read about highly technical posts; they can find that on Google, or come in and have a chat with you about that. The more human we sound, the more they will want to work with us. Plus, every one of the big accountancy practices talk technical all of the time. We want to stand out.

DE: What future invention are you most looking forward to?

AH: This is said tongue in cheek, but if we could have software that gave users a mild electric shock when they were about to press the wrong buttons in the software, it might reduce errors!

DE: Any favorite client stories worth sharing?

AH: One of our clients is dyslexic and has always struggled with figures and dealing with other advisors. We spend a lot of time with her and are always available, so she now is really at ease with us and always recommends us because of the time we spent with her to conquer her problems. She will often pop into the office with one of her dogs and brings us biscuits, which are always a winner!

DE: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?

AH: Don't look too far back at what you used to do and focus more on what new opportunities, such as becoming a Firm of the Future, will give you. Change is happening; do not fight it, but rather, embrace it!