Published on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 in category:
First of all, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of our clients who I’ve spoken with over the last month or so. At times the process was uncomfortable, once it was stone-cold horrible, but more often than not it was enjoyable. And it was always enlightening. Over the piece, I managed to speak to 138 clients which was less than I’d have liked but I’m content that the feedback we have gathered gives us a good feel for what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and where we could be much better. (Incidentally, feedback gathering is now an embedded part of our business and is ongoing – if you never had the opportunity to give us your feedback yet, please feel free to get in touch by email and we can arrange a call.)
Lesson one: you don’t like to feel ignored
Fairly obvious this one. For the most part we respond to you within an acceptable time. Not always, however, and when this happens, you become frustrated. To fix this, we are implementing a new system which ensures we get back to you when you need to hear from us. We do love you, we just don’t tell you enough.
Lesson two: you’d like to know exactly what your tax obligations are in advance
This was a very popular request and we are pleased to say we have three possible solutions. If you are a Freeagent user you can link the tax timeline functionality to your iCal, Google or Outlook calendar. If you’re a bit more old school, drop us a quick email and we’ll send you a PDF with your key dates preloaded. The third option is again for Freeagent users: the mobile app will soon be able to send push notifications to your smartphone so that all your tax timeline events will be front and centre. This is one of the reasons why we love Freeagent: they are constantly innovating to make your life that little bit easier. A bit like us really.
Lesson three: you want to know who you’re dealing with, and you want to deal only with them
Every one of you, whether you are longstanding clients, or have only recently come on board will have a named personal accountant. Your personal accountant will be your main point of contact within BroomeAffinity and pretty much all communication will be through them. Of course, you may also hear from me, or perhaps a member of the admin team, but for the most part, you’ll be dealing with your personal accountant.
Lesson four: you want us to hold you hand more during the start-up process
Many of you have said that when you first started contracting, the whole experience was daunting and you wanted us to help you as much as possible. Initially, we employed a less hands-on approach but over the last year or so, we’ve improved our onboarding processes. But we recognise that this could still be better and we’re constantly tweaking this to make the experience as straightforward and informative as possible.
New contractors will now be able to benefit from a monthly webinar which covers a lot of the things you need to know when becoming a contractor. And it won’t be limited to accounts or tax planning either, you’ll also learn about insurances, financial planning, contract reviews etc. The webinar will be first broadcast on 8th December. Full details here.
Lesson five: you want us to educate you
Of course you do – it’s obvious now that you mention it. We’re embarking on writing a series of guides and webinars designed to educate and inform on a number of topics. The first guide is called ”Understanding Your Annual Accounts”. It’s written in plain English and is put together entirely with contractors in mind. Indeed, before publishing it, we had a few of our contractor clients road-testing it for you. Please contact your personal accountant if you’d like a copy.
Remember, these guides and webinars are for your benefit. So, if you have any topics you’d like us to write or talk about, please let us now.
Lesson six: you want us to be more pro-active
The biggest lesson of all. By some distance. And it has prompted a seed-change in the way we do business. We are moving from being a “redundant-data accountant” crunching numbers after the event, and telling you what you should have done, to being a “real-time adviser” providing tax planning advice at a time and in a manner that ensures it is effective. This isn’t just a change, it’s a series of changes so please bear with us while we work through this process. One thing we are implementing immediately is Pre-Year end tax planning sessions: In the last couple of months of your financial year, we’ll analyse your financial data and come up with strategies you can implement straight away, with an immediate effect on your tax bill.
We do need your help with this, though. Before we can advise you in real time, we need your data in real time. Spreadsheets just don’t cut it any more. You need to be on the cloud, man. As you will know, after a lot of research, we threw our hat in with Freeagent (www.freeagent.com). This was the best fit for both BroomeAffinity and you as it was designed with contractors and freelancers in mind. In addition to giving us the real time data we need to do our job, there are massive benefits in terms of time saving for you, data security and portability. You can do your books anywhere you can get online. And the mobile app is getting better all the time.
(As an aside, if you look at our What We Do page on the website, you’ll be able to see our commitment to this new way. It used to be a list of the compliance tasks we’d complete for you. It isn’t now)
Other lessons learned
A lot of other improvements have also been identified many of which will be natural by-products of the six big lessons above. We want to be in a position to file your annual accounts with Companies House and HMRC within six weeks of your year end. Becoming a real-time adviser will naturally give us more up-to-date information and therefore reduce any time lag in accounts preparation.
You want us to provide you with comprehensive explanation and email responses. Increasing the size of the team and working smarter with the systems at hand will mean we can do just that.
You want us to tell you we’re dealing with things, as opposed to just dealing with them. Again, our improved communication channels will help with this.
A few (not many) of you mentioned implementing some sort of tiered service. Many of our competitors offer a three level service: Bronze, Silver and Gold, for example. It's always something we've shied away from in the past but if there's an appetite for it, we'll certainly look at it. The alternative service levels were "Lite" where we had a much softer touch and you managed much of the compliance in return for a reduced fee and "Premium" where we do everything - all book-keeping, expenses management etc for an increased fee.
One client also asked for pizza to be sent to him every month. Not happening, I’m afraid, unless he ups his referrals.
So once again, thank you for being a part of this process. We want to become one of the largest independent contractor accountants in the UK. And to achieve this, we need to be the best. With your help, support and feedback we will get there.