Accountancy Firm Roll Out Business Advisory Services After Just 3 Months With FUTRLI
Posted on 12th April 2017 in Advisory
Written by Freya Hughes
Chapman Robinson & Moore (CRM) Accountants in Kidlington, Oxford has been established for over 30 years, and its team of 15 work closely with businesses within the SME sector. Like most firms, this business traditionally supported its clients from a compliance perspective. However, in late 2016, Mike Foster was brought in as Commercial Director to continue the development of the practice. Currently, just 5% of the business has an advisory package but they have big plans to change that. We caught up with them 3 months into rolling out FUTRLI.
Sum up your strategy for us – why do you think the industry is changing (and that CRM needed to too)?
I think compliance has done its job. While it’s a valuable service, we’ve noticed that traditional styles of accounting aren’t quite hitting the mark for clients anymore. That’s why we’ve put advisory on the top of our list.
Redesigning the way we work has allowed us to understand our clients’ needs and help them develop their businesses, hitting their goals and objectives. Only around 5% of our clients are using our business improvement programme so far. While we realise it’ll be a gradual transition, it’s an exciting one.
What software do you use to run your practice?
We’re 95% a Sage-operated firm so it’s been really valuable working out how to implement our service. Before we could scale this new future-focused way of working, we had to find the right platform for our team and clients, that’s FUTRLI.
You chose FUTRLI over 9 competitors – why did you choose our platform?
Yes, we looked at basically the entire market and then narrowed it down to just three. In the accounting industry, there’s a big buzz around FUTRLI. I had experience with it previously so for me it was paramount to include the app in our shortlist. From there, our top three were FUTRLI, Castaway and 4Cast Solutions.
We presented them to our strategy team and the rest is history – FUTRLI is truly the only integrated platform in the market that would let us scale. You could tell it had been built by business owners and advisors because it works for both.
Our favourite feature of FUTRLI is its flexibility – it fits the different aspects of our eight-step advisory service and it has really intuitive usage to it. Some of the others we looked at were more than a bit clunky…
What were you using before FUTRLI?
We were using Sage forecasting software previously, which obviously hasn’t been updated or upgraded for a number of years and only really reported on a bank of numbers. We wanted something a little bit more interactive and attractive to support our business advisory services.
With FUTRLI we’re able to really develop our understanding of clients’ numbers. We make sure we’re talking the language of our clients (rather than accounting language), by using the dashboards to visualise the trends that we’re always talking about. When we were using Sage it was this wall of numbers, and even the accountants were going number blind just looking at five years of numbers and trying to see the trends within those!
We always try and encourage our clients to look at the trends using the financial ratios, seeing profits go up, but also to delve into each number in their forecast and truly understand what the makeup of that number is. We’d probably have to use other calculations outside of the old forecasting software to make up the number for say, turnover, whereas, with FUTRLI, we’re able to build that all in one and drill that through the non-financial stuff as well.
You mentioned your new Business Improvement Programme – can you tell us more?
It’s our lead product and what we wanted FUTRLI to support us with. What we’re trying to do is create a differentiation in the accounts space with our local competition. So rather than coming into our business and see the products that we offer, ie. accounts, compliance, tax returns, audits, etc., we’re bringing people into our eight-step business improvement programme.
And how are you introducing the process to your clients?
We made a conscious decision with our client base: we didn’t want to jump right from compliance to advisory services. We wanted to have that integration taking our clients through a programme each year. Our focus is on the vision business owners have, and their goals and objectives, and make sure they’re aligned with all the stakeholders in the business. That’s where it leads into using FUTRLI: forecasting and getting clients to really understand the numbers that come out of that forecast, and delivering that goal and objective.
Tell us more about the eight-step process?
After forecasting, the second stage is measurement, which includes management accounts, measurement of their KPIs. This is where the boards are really useful, as we can really get into specifics. After this, we’ve got compliance – actually doing the accounts, doing the returns, which obviously shouldn’t be any surprise. We then benchmark and compare their last five years performance in terms of trends and analysis. Those are the compare and evaluate stages, comparing trends and ratio analysis.
The last stages include what the business can do in terms of improvement, the ‘What If’ sensitivity analysis that we use FUTRLI for is a fundamental part of the process. Being able to show our clients varied results for a given event allows them to rest assured their cash is in safe hands. Step eight is implementing the improvements that might be needed.
How often do you meet with your clients to discuss their progress?
Most of the monthly meetings we’re having with clients are around the measurement stages, ie. the management accounts, things like the evaluation and the valuation – they kick in after the completion of the annual accounts. So we’re doing some of the stuff once a year and with the others, we’re more hands-on and running with them – a bit like a virtual CFO.
What advice would you give accountants looking to re-engineer their practice like you have? Was it an easy transition?
For us, we looked at where our core strengths were. Following this, we needed the most powerful and reliable software to carry us forward. We identified what would match our existing client base, but also tap into the ideal client profile we wanted to attract towards our business. We’re perfecting our unique selling point to the people that are likely to refer us.
Banks like the way we operate, for example, because there’s the visibility in the numbers, more detail in the numbers, so when we’ve been presenting it to the banks their eyes are lighting up! We’re keeping our other referral partners ahead of the game with forecasting – they can make informed decisions about growing their teams or putting down roots in premises.
Do you have any advice for other firms looking to use FUTRLI?
From our perspective, we wanted a tool that would a) help us deliver the programme effectively, and b) felt intuitive to use from our side and our customers’ point of view because we want to work with them in a collaborative way. This has been achieved fully, and we’re all really happy with the results we’ve got from it. It’s also about the numbers, of course – we can talk about our strength and passion for understanding the numbers but we wanted to deliver the information in a way that was user-friendly for our clients.
I think the thing that stood out the more than anything was the flexibility FUTRLI has got in terms of really being able to drill down the boards and be very specific to the KPIs that our clients really needs to measure. We can be the accountants our clients really need, rather than have no choice but to work with. Forecasting and scenario planning are incredibly powerful tools and with our business advisory services, it would be hard work finding software to match up.