Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2016 Firm of the Future finalists. Our newest edition features Fiona Fraser of Fraser+ Accountants, one of the UK contest finalists and continue visiting our blog often.
Kim Amsbaugh: Hi Fiona! First, share a little bit about yourself.
Fiona Fraser: I am Fiona Fraser, director at Fraser+ Accountants. We are based in Perth, Scotland, but have a UK-wide reach, particularly working with clients in South East England. I have been in business since 2000. Fraser+ Accountants consists of myself and my son, who is currently training to be an accountant. We have an extensive client base, covering a range of professions and industries.
KA: Share with us a little background about your firm: What type of clients do you serve? What are the services you provide?
FF: We are specialists in dealing with small- to medium-sized enterprises. We provide the following services: tax strategy, contractor tax, R&D credit consultancy, loss claim relief, VAT scheme reviews, company, PAYE & VAT registration online accounting consulting, pension auto enrolment, payroll services, bookkeeping, VAT returns, business and personal tax returns, annual returns, annual accounts, and management accounts.
KA: What makes yours a Firm of the Future?
FF: We are forward thinking and are working hard to convert all our clients onto the cloud-based accountancy apps we recommend. We also believe in maintaining excellent client relationships by not only doing our job to a high standard and efficiently, but also by being nice to deal with! This has paid dividends over the years, as we have retained many clients who speak very highly of us and of our services.
KA: How do you choose software and app partners before recommending to your clients?
FF: Primarily, they must be easy to use and designed for use by those without a financial background. The benefits of the product must also be tangible. For example, they must be time saving, more accurate and have up-to-date financial information.
KA: Regarding your firm’s use of apps:
KA: What apps do you use for your firm?
KA: What apps do your clients use?
FF: QuickBooks and Receipt Bank.
KA: Which app do you recommend most frequently? Why?
FF: QuickBooks – it’s pretty! It has a very client-friendly interface. It is easy to use and the language is straightforward (not too many technical terms). Clients are reassured by the fact that they cannot do anything on QuickBooks that we can’t fix. We include the cost in our fees – it saves us time, so it’s a win-win situation.
KA: How have you saved time for your firm and your clients by leveraging cloud-based accounting technologies, including QuickBooks Online and/or any third-party applications?
FF: The automatic bank feed saves hours on data entry. The bank feed is easy to post into QuickBooks.
An application like Receipt Bank saves our clients time by enabling them to upload pictures of receipts on the go. Receipt Bank then sorts the receipts appropriately. It saves hours of manual data entry! It’s a great tool for the disorganized.
KA: What is your advice to clients, or other accounting professionals, who are hesitant to adopt cloud technologies?
FF: They are missing out on a great opportunity to make their life easier. It is the way to go. Some worry about not having a back up, but my answer is that if the cloud disappears, then not having your accounts backed up will be the least of your worries!
I would also suggest that they try it before they dismiss it. When they realize how much time it saves and how easy it is to use, there will be no turning back.
KA: Tell us the impact the cloud has had on your firm, and was it difficult to transition your clients?
FF: It has had a huge impact. Previously, most of our clients were using Excel, with a view of desk-based software. We never encouraged the use of software, as it could be expensive and difficult to use. Our basic mantra was to keep your records in a way that is easy for you, and we will deal with whatever you give us.
Now, we have full confidence in recommending QuickBooks (it is our preferred software), as it is easy to use and clients love it!
KA: How have cloud-based systems allowed your firm to take on more clients and grow?
FF: We are spending less time on data entry, so we have more time. Being able to access records remotely means that problems can be sorted without lengthy site visits, cutting down on travel time.
KA: How has using real-time data changed the way you work with your clients?
FF: Having easy access to their records means we have more control – we can see what is going on and can give them better advice.
KA: Have you introduced value pricing to your clients? If so, what was their reaction, and what changes have you seen in the way you collaborate with them?
FF: We have always believed in “fair pricing,” and have found that even if clients aren’t highly profitable in the first instance, they do become more profitable over time. We also believe in sharing the savings that we make.
KA: How do you find new clients, or how do they find your firm?
FF: Word-of-mouth referrals through our new website and, more recently, using social media to raise the company’s profile. We have also had a couple of inquiries through the ProAdvisor® profile.
KA: How do you find the balance between marketing and run-the-business type work?
FF: We outsource our marketing. We believe in working to our strengths; we are accountants, not marketers, so we let the experts do what they are best at!
KA: For accounting firms not yet using the ProAdvisor program or social media, what would your advice be for them to take that first step?
FF: Social media is a powerful marketing tool that businesses cannot afford to ignore in this day and age. While there is no cost to setting up social media (accounts), we would recommend hiring a marketing/PR expert who can manage these accounts on your behalf. We have received several new business leads from having a presence on social media and actively engaging with it.
KA: What are your plans to continue growing your business?
FF: We are looking to expand, recruiting young tech-savvy, forward-thinking individuals. We want to embrace all that technology has to offer, and marry this with 30 years of experience, so that we can offer an excellent, responsive quality service.
KA: What future invention are you most looking forward to?
FF: With the majority of my clients being small micro clients, any time-saving app is good. My clients span a wide age range, so apps need to be easy for us older folk as well!
KA: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?
FF: Get into the mind of the client and ask yourself what would help make their lives easier, and then act to bring those things about.