The growing firm of Rodliffe Accounting has used its three-year relationship with Liberty Accounts as the basis for its expansion and diversification. Prepare to be impressed…
Relationships matter: clients are the life-blood of an accountancy firm, and everything is geared towards providing them with the most appropriate advice, and the highest standards of service and support. ‘Looking after people is important,’ says Steve Blissettt, co-founder and director of Rodliffe Accounting, ‘so the team at Rodliffe works closely with our clients to deliver the best service for each and every one of their businesses’ ? and they do this with the help of Liberty Accounts.
‘When we first decided to use an online accounting system we looked at a number of alternatives, including Sage and NetSuite. We even considered writing our own,’ recalls Blissett, but he’s glad he chose Liberty, because the developer works closely with the accountants that use its system. ‘They’ve been very proactive and open to system development ideas,’ says Blissett, adding: ‘There are regular meetings to discuss the product roadmap, great technical and accounting support, and excellent help text,’ covering the product and the processes associated with online accounting.
‘The firm and its clients are benefiting from using the system,’ says Blissett, because Liberty provides them both with the maximum flexibility and functionality. It offers all of the features you would expect of a small business accounting system (plus integrated payroll). But instead of being installed on an office-based PC, the software is accessed ‘on demand’ using the internet, and all of the client data is stored in a secure database, so authorised users can access it remotely from wherever they happen to be ? as long as they have a PC and internet access.
Marry this to the fact that Liberty doesn’t require the latest and greatest hardware, or the repeated software upgrades associated with traditional accounting solutions, and the online approach can save the firm and its clients a lot of time and money. But the practice also appreciates being able to work remotely (and simultaneously) on client data, and the ease with which it can manage Liberty – and tailor the system to meet the varying needs of a wide range of clients. ‘It helps us to relieve clients of the drudgery involved in managing their business finances,’ says Blissett.
‘Some clients want to do the basics and leave the bookkeeping to us, and some want “full control” of the input,’ he explains, ‘though this normally excludes more specialised areas of Liberty such as fixed assets, payroll and VAT,’ and giving the client access to as much or as little of the system as they are comfortable with does wonders for their confidence. ‘Liberty improves the financial awareness of the client even when they choose to maintain a minimal amount of the bookkeeping information themselves,’ asserts Blissett.
‘Because it always provides an up-to-date view, the client can be forward looking not backward looking,’ he enthuses, and because the client data is available online Rodliffe’s can respond to complex queries and requests very promptly. ‘If a client calls and asks “Have I got enough profits to take a dividend?” then we could tell them in as little as ten minutes,’ he says, ‘and we can get a bank reconciliation done quickly too.’ As Blissett observes: ‘The relationship between the client and the accountant becomes much more dynamic.’
Using Liberty has also helped Rodliffe’s to achieve some unusual and exceptional back-office efficiencies, in potentially time-consuming areas such as P11D production. ‘Previously, somebody had to sit and transcribe all of the necessary data by hand,’ recalls Blissett, but payroll and P11D preparation, and electronic filing, are integrated into Liberty’s core accounting system. ‘P11D returns can be produced instantly, ‘ he says, using the base accounting data, saving Rodliffe’s an enormous amount of time. ‘We can kill three birds with one stone,’ enthuses Blissett, ‘and one transaction can tick the boxes for bookkeeping, statutory accounting and P11D.’
All of this has helped the firm to develop dynamic and strong relationships with its clients – and build a strong and dynamic accounting practice. ‘We have automated as many processes as we can, to make everything as easy as possible for clients and the staff,’ says Blissett, and Liberty makes it easier for Rodliffe’s to take the sort of proactive approach that clients appreciate. But as he adds: ‘Because all of the firm’s processes and support complement the online approach,’ the system also provides a solid and secure platform from which the accounting firm can grow its business.
In the three years since they founded Rodliffe Accounting, the two directors have been joined by a tax manager, senior accountant, five account managers, plus a team coordinator and administrator, and the range of services Rodliffe’s offers now includes: bookkeeping, statutory accounts, company secretarial, forecasting, corporate tax planning, personal compliance and tax planning, and more ? and the firm has diversified from being a specialist in freelancers (called Accountants4Contractors) into one with a mix of clients from across the small business spectrum.
‘Having a foundation in terms of the contractors has helped with the diversification,’ says Blissett, but so has working with Liberty Accounts. Now, in addition to 500 contractors, Rodliffe’s has 20 sole traders and 50 small business clients, and the numbers are rising. ‘The processes and procedures we have implemented with the help of Liberty enable us to deal with higher volumes, and all of the economies of scale that brings,’ he says enthusiastically, and the firm is doing so well that it can expand without the need to advertise. As Blissett observes wryly: ‘Once the tap is turned on it’s hard to turn it off.’