3 Apps to beat accounting blues and scale your firm

Chris Downing catches up with three accounting app innovators to discuss the apps that they have developed that directly help accountants.

We can all suffer from app fatigue… (Muting the Duolingo Owl for the tenth day in a row.) When it comes to our firms, it can be similar. There’s so much out there and it can be hard to know what you need and when you need it.

Headshots of Chris Downing, Hannah Dawson, James Ashford, and Brian Carolan.

Director for Accountants and Bookkeepers, Chris Downing, caught up with three accounting app innovators to discuss the apps that they have developed that directly help accountants. Here’s what Brian Carolan from AutoEntry, Hannah Dawson from Futrli, and James Ashford from GoProposal had to say.

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Chris Downing: Brian, what do you believe are the opportunities for using apps effectively within an accountancy firm?

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Brian Carolan: Having a clear end goal for what you want these apps to achieve, you unlock significant opportunities. When you identify the necessary apps and ensure they seamlessly integrate, they collectively enhance the efficiency of your practice. This improved efficiency allows you to serve clients more effectively.

"We should be looking to automate processes as much as possible, so you can be more hands-on with your clients and hands-off with the mundane."
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Chris: Business reporting and data insights are essential to achieving an accountancy firm’s goals. However, the apps and tools that could help them here may be overlooked. Tell us about your experience, Hannah.

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Hannah: I guess as a non-accountant, I bring a business owner’s perspective. My background is in hospitality before I went into forecasting technology.  

One of the main reasons why Futrli exists is because I nearly lost my pub because I didn't forecast VAT properly.

With Futrli, we wanted to give users the opportunity to look at the past, present, and future of a business. Business owners have dreams, they have set their businesses up to provide a life for themselves and their families.

So how do we best get them there as an accountant? If we can get the software to do the heavy lifting for you, you can go into that client meeting, ask them what they want to achieve and come up with the methods for your client to get there. We help you achieve that through budgets, forecasts, and reporting in Futrli.

Chris: James, what are the key challenges that you think accountants face?

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James: You run an accounting business or a bookkeeping business, not a bookkeeping firm or a practice. And the primary function of a business is to make money. If you don't make money, you can’t fulfil your ambitions. The primary function of the business must be to make money. And that's the core problem for so many firms.

If you don't charge enough in the first place, you can't deliver the level of service that your clients will be happy to pay for.

Accountants need to consider what they want their business to look like. Once you've got that clear in your mind, work out what revenue you need to generate and what team you need.

Hannah: You then absolutely should take that forward and create a forecast for what that looks like. So, consider, “What would the costs be?” and you work it through. I’m a massive fan of doing bottom-up forecasting.

With Futrli, put your costs in first, and then it'll tell you what sales you need to make to be able to cover that… and then you're in a confident place to talk to your customers.

James: Absolutely! Be your own client.

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Chris: How should accountancy firms think about their advisory services? What processes need to change?

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Hannah: You have to empower your staff to do this work. If they're on timesheets and all they have are blocks of time to do compliance work, it's never going to happen. So fundamental change must happen within the business.

Use your existing compliance meetings as an opportunity to start the conversation. Ask, “Where do you want to be? What is it that you want to do?”

When you know what they want, you can tell them, “I'm going to help you, we're going to set out a plan.” And that plan is a forecast or a budget. That's it. But then how do you retain value? Well, you tell them that as their accountant, you are going to hold them accountable. It's that simple.

"I think “advisory” has been blown into something that people are a bit afraid of… It's not scary at all."

Chris: I agree. The key thing is to have the right conversations with your clients at the right time. But this work takes time. I think as accountancy firms and bookkeepers, time is the most finite resource. So how can you be more efficient and more effective?

Brian, you are the expert here. How is AutoEntry used to make accountants and bookkeepers more effective?

Brian: AutoEntry buys you time.

I always ask the question, “Who dreamed of performing data entry when they were younger?”  

No one ever put their hand up. However, that's what AutoEntry does.

I like to think of it a bit like when supermarkets first came along. Traditionally, you had the shopkeeper, who would go and get everything. These days, you walk into a shop and the customer does their own shopping… You even scan your own purchases now, then pay for it, and you walk out the door.  

AutoEntry does that with your data entry. As an accountant or bookkeeper, you give your client the AutoEntry app and when they have an invoice or a receipt they snap an image on their phone, and upload… The invoice goes in the filing cabinet, and they continue working.

AutoEntry extracts that information, categorises it, and puts it into your accounts package for you. The client technically isn't doing much, and the bookkeeper certainly isn't doing anything, but you now have all that information within the accounts package. We’re trying to create a live flow of data.

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Chris: How does good data affect GoProposal?

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James: Ideally, we want daily bookkeeping, we need that data in the system. You need to use systems such as AutoEntry to get the data and then use Futrli to interpret it and give you the forecasts and reports you need. If you put your firm’s data into our system, GoProposal will build out the pricing for you.  

If you want to make this work, you must empower your entire team to do it. I like to use the example of a restaurant. If you go to a restaurant for a meal, and you ask for the price of a meal, the waiter doesn’t have to go and disturb the head chef, the busiest person in the building, to figure out what the price is.

And yet… that's how most accountancy firms work because they don't have a clear menu of services.  

One of the founding principles of GoProposal is that the most junior member of the team should be able to price the most complicated client. If you can't do that, you’re going to face problems.

Chris: I think everyone watching this webinar recognises that we must nail our firm’s efficiency. We know that we can get data into our practices no matter what the source may be with AutoEntry. When it comes to data visualisation, reporting and forecasting, we can use Futrli. GoProposal enables you to get those important engagement letters and pricing communications.

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