What would it be like knowing with absolute certainty:
Where you're taking your firm?
What the vision of your firm is?
The goals you've set for yourself - for the next ten years!
Knowing with concrete certainty that you're going to get there.
In this discussion with Jo Drinkwater of Grant McKnight in the West Midlands, you'll see, hear even feel Jo's confidence and optimism about the future of her business, her growing team and the work she's doing with her clients.
You'll really get a sense of her zeal, enthusiasm and joy of running her relatively new business.
Hopefully you'll be inspired by that energy and get something of real value from this discussion.
So please join me on this podcast and meet Jo Drinkwater and feed off the positivity and optimism she shares.
"As a CEO, as managing director, I should be spending 70% of my time on marketing!
- Now, when I first heard that I nearly fell off my chair!!"
Connect with Jo
Connect with Paul
TRANSCRIPT - unedited
[00:00:00] [00:00:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:00] Welcome to the humanized, the numbers podcast, series leaders, managers, and owners of ambitious accounting firms, sharing insights, successes, and issues that will challenge you and connect you and your firm to the ways and means of transforming your firms results.
[00:00:20] Jo Drinkwater: [00:00:20] As a CEO, as managing director, I should be spending 70% of my time on marketing.
[00:00:27] Now, when I first heard that I nearly fell off my chair.
[00:00:31] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:31] How do you think it feels as a leader of an accounting firm knowing without any doubt what the vision of your firm really is on this discussion with Joe, drink water from Graham McKnight in the West Midlands. You'll hear a joke quickly and easily describe her vision of her firm and see the enthusiasm she's got for her business.
[00:00:54] Let's dive into that discussion with Joe. Drink water now. Joe, would you please give us a bit of a an [00:01:00] introduction and some background on at night and then we'll let we'll see.
[00:01:03] Jo Drinkwater: [00:01:03] Absolutely. Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Paul. So my, my accountancy practice grant McKnight was registered two and a half years ago.
[00:01:13] I started grant McKnight's back in November, 2018. When I spent a lot of my, my later years in my career. Doing a lot of different contract roles. So setting up my own practice has been on the cards for a long time. So I finally decided to take the plunge after I felt that I'd got to my highest point of my career being FD for a global footsie 100 company.
[00:01:39] So I. Set up grant McKnight limited in November, 2018. And the name comes from both of my grandmas. So my surname drink water. I didn't feel as a very accountancy it only name. So my mom's mom Mabel grant is where the grant comes from. And [00:02:00] my dad's mum, Gracie McKnight is where I'm at night comes from both the Scottish.
[00:02:05] So names. Right. And I just thought it just sounded much better than yeah. Or my married name Teasdale. So that's where the name came from. So I am got my offices back in 2018 was thinking about setting up in December, 2018. And then I was approached again to do another contract. So my office sat dormant until the summer of 2019.
[00:02:28] And I then decided to launch on Halloween 2019. So grant McKnight's was officially launched in October, 2019. And it's funny how things turn out because had I set my practice up back in November, 2018, I would have done it very differently to how I did set it up. Purely because of the pace at which technology software AI had come along in such a short space of time.
[00:02:59] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:59] So, what, what [00:03:00] do you think is so different in that short 12 month window, Jen,
[00:03:03] Jo Drinkwater: [00:03:03] without naming any names with the top software providers, I originally was going to start just accepting all of the big boys. And when I decided to set up officially in 2019, I actually went along to the ICW. So the Institute of chartered accountants Actual webinar called setting up your own accountancy practice and digitalizing your practice.
[00:03:26] Now at that, that conference digitalizing your practice. I was made aware of the full suite of the advisory software that integrates with cloud accounting. Right? In the early days, some of the tools that are out there now, some of the big advisory players weren't as well known or as well used in the accountancy space.
[00:03:48] So by delaying it two year and going to market, when there's been other people that are tried and tested software, they were able to give me some solid advice on, on what to use, what not [00:04:00] to use, perhaps go down. You know, advocating one type of cloud accounting software as opposed to offering the full suite.
[00:04:09] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:09] Okay. So, so therefore it sounds as though from the get go, you're starting your firm, not just as an accounting, a compliance accountancy firm, you wanted it. You want it to be an advisory accounting firm. Why, why is that? What's the, what's the raison d'etre behind that.
[00:04:24] Jo Drinkwater: [00:04:24] So I believe this compliance services with the use of AI, blockchain technology.
[00:04:30] Software is happening kind of at such a fast pace that this box standard compliancy services, I think one day are going to be taken over by robots software. So the role of an accountant in my opinion, has changed a lot in such a short space of time. So offering the advisory services. In addition to the compliance services was where I felt I needed to pitch my firm.
[00:04:57] And again, going back to the timing when [00:05:00] I was looking at doing this in October, 2019 versus October, 2018, all of the, the markets were moving towards. That's where accountants are going. They're shifting towards the trusted advisor role, as opposed to just being a box standard accountant tick in your compliance boxes.
[00:05:19] Paul Shrimpling: [00:05:19] Okay. I've got an issue with that I have, and it's this compliance and added value added advisory into compliance. Cause I'd like to just check whether you agree or disagree with this, which is my, my suspicion is that what's going to happen is accountants are going to be advisory first and compliance second, because compliance is going to be driven by the tech as opposed to what you've just said, which is yeah.
[00:05:42] Yeah. Compliance, compliance, compliance, compliance, and let's bolt on some advisory. What are your thoughts around that?
[00:05:47] Jo Drinkwater: [00:05:47] I think again, timing at the moment. I believe that being a relatively new practice, a lot of my bread and butter clients come to me for compliance services. [00:06:00] And in all honesty at the moment that is that the easy sale to practices.
[00:06:04] So in my eyes, I completely agree with you Paul, in that each think that advisors should be at the forefront of. They accountancy services and compliance comes afterwards. I'd like to move towards that shift, but in reality, for me as a relatively new sole practitioner, The compliance gets me in the door first.
[00:06:25] And I want to move that shift to advisory is what you should be looking at first. And the compliance is just stuff in the background, but at the moment, like I said, getting new clients, winning new customers, people come to me as a, as a necessity to do their compliance services. And they're just, they're just not aware of the full suite of advisory services.
[00:06:45] So I think once you've got that foot in the door and people understand what it is exactly. That what advisory means and what services you could offer, then they listen. But initially if you put yourself in a business owner's [00:07:00] shoes yeah. They're not looking for this top advisor that could help their business grow right now.
[00:07:05] Their main concern is finding their accounts on time, making sure their VAT returns are done and making sure that the compliance things are looked after first. So I'm hoping that the shape foods.
[00:07:16] Paul Shrimpling: [00:07:16] Yeah, I accept that. I think there's, and it's not even whether you're in startup mode or you've been in existence for 10 years or a hundred years.
[00:07:24] There is the profession is still in that space where it is compliance led. Yeah. Partly because of the accountants, but partly because the expectations of business owner clients is that accountants deliver compliance. You know, let's hit the tax return deadline. Let's hit the filing deadline for our, our limited company accounts and so on.
[00:07:40]But it's this we are on a journey. You know, and it might you say it is a timing thing, isn't it? Where eventually the expectations fingers crossed in my view, anyway, that business owners will seek out accountants to help them improve their business, not just deliver some
[00:07:57] Jo Drinkwater: [00:07:57] numbers. Absolutely. And it's that added [00:08:00] value in business improvement is the part where people, I think need a bit more education.
[00:08:05] Paul Shrimpling: [00:08:05] Agreed. And there is, I think the you're right education is the key. I still have this real hangup though, Jay, when, so it goes added value and it's like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Let's start out with value. And then dish demonstrate what we're going to do for them, both from a compliance and an advisory perspective.
[00:08:21] It's not added value. So I get quite heated about this one, just cause it's a, it's like a secondary issue is adding value and it's like, no, no, no, no, no. You're going to win clients. If you can demonstrate you deliver value. Yes. Like you say, initially around their expectations on the compliance services and later when you've established trust and a way of working that maybe you can do something more for them.
[00:08:41]So tell me, I know you there's, there's more than you in the family, in the in the practice. Can you just, just run me through how many people, so far you got in your firm and who's involved and so on, just so we can get a census to the, you know, the scale of the business and also the number of clients you've got so far as well.
[00:08:55] Jo Drinkwater: [00:08:55] that'd be absolutely. So with total, including myself, there are [00:09:00] now 10, including a work experience, student placement. So there's technically nine staff. Including myself now of those nine staff, my financial director is my younger brother. So he left his, his big job after PWC exactly. A year ago, actually fab 2020 to join me full time.
[00:09:23] Yeah. I have my mum who left her full-time job last January. She used to be a university lecturer. She's now joined me as my operations manager, AKA. Kind of office does everything. Really. My dad has come out of retirement to help with my business development. So I've got three, three close family members working with me and my sister in laws.
[00:09:52] Oh, we're also involved. So my one sister in law, so she's came on board as our client account executive. So she's come out of [00:10:00] being a full-time mom for 11 years with her history, with a high street Lloyd's bank. She's come on board as our client account executive. And my other sister-in-law has come on board as our office.
[00:10:10] Office PA and also client account executive. So we do have some non many members and we're looking to grow that
[00:10:20] I'm at the moment. I just thought, you know who better to start with when you need good quality, reliable, trusted staff than, than family really. Brilliant.
[00:10:30] Paul Shrimpling: [00:10:30] Brilliant. I got my, my background is I've run well, this, the business I'm in now remarkable practice. My wife's involved in an early business. It was Madame Mormon Mae.
[00:10:39] And so you know, I'm quite familiar with both the upsides and the downsides of you know, found family business. This is as a loaded question and not necessarily easy to answer, you know, the scales presumably around the O rather than the D the pros, rather than the cons. But I am interested in, if there are any challenges you've come across from it being.
[00:11:00] [00:11:00] Jo Drinkwater: [00:11:00] Satin laser. I mean, the bad thing about it is when there's family, you can't really switch off and ignore outside of work, our queries and questions. So from that perspective, I'd say that's the downside to it. Because with all my non-family staff members, I do not expect anyone to log log on outside of normal working hours, unless they're doing flexible working.
[00:11:21] So from that side of things, it's been a bit of a, yeah. I'd say stressful in some, some occasions for family members, because when we are extremely busy, we go the extra mile and put in the extra hours. Now in terms of working with family, I absolutely love it. I couldn't wish for a more solid team, but one funny aspect to my business and my, my family won't mind me saying this, but my mom and dad got divorced when I was about eight years old.
[00:11:49] So now that being 35, having mum and dad work in my practice can sometimes be a challenge. So I've had to. Separate, [00:12:00] not in a bad way, but yes, for the early days, it was very evident that there were some conflicts with, with mum and dad, but not on a, on a per, on a, on a business scale, more, more professional, but that's to be expected, isn't it.
[00:12:14] If they've not been used to being with each other for a
[00:12:16] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:16] long time, It it's funny. I, I, I, one of the hours when I was making the decision to actually go into business with my father for the second time I was challenged by a couple of friends and go, do you really want to do that? So actually, no, actually what I want to do is build a stronger relationship with my dad.
[00:12:33] Strangers. And you know, that was one of the big upsides of those working together. And I don't get me wrong. We had some almighty. Yeah. You know, he's managing director, you or me. And he's like, well, I am. And it's like, well, I thought you made me managing, you know, it's one of them. So we had a few of those.
[00:12:46]So in terms of that, you know humanizing a bit is nothing quite like having a, you know, a family and you've gone for it big time, the sisters in laws, mom, dad, brother. And I, I know you've got a couple of parents. When are they starting?
[00:13:00] [00:13:00] Jo Drinkwater: [00:13:00] Yeah. Well, I'll put a teacher to speak first. They can hear me say hello.
[00:13:05] Paul Shrimpling: [00:13:05] Brilliant. So, so how, how many clients have you got?
[00:13:08] Jo Drinkwater: [00:13:08] So we've got about 150 clients now in total. Right now, if I were to narrow that down in terms of compliance versus advisory, I'd say 99% are pure kind of sorry. About 90% of pure compliance. And I'd say 10% are compliant, sorry. 9% of compliance and advisory.
[00:13:30] And I'd say 1% of pure advisory, but we're working on them on moving them over to compliance as well.
[00:13:38] Paul Shrimpling: [00:13:38] Okay. So there's the, it sounds as though you've got a bit of a vision for the, the business. Do you want to, do you want to let us know what that, what that is? So, you know, essentially you're a startup of less than 18 months ago.
[00:13:50]You're up to 150 clients, 19 members, and 150 clients already. So I'm going to be quizzing you on how, how have you managed to win [00:14:00] 150 clients in such a short period of time, but we'll get to that in a minute. I, I it's it's, what's the vision for the business? Where, where, where are you taking this
[00:14:05] Jo Drinkwater: [00:14:05] from of yours?
[00:14:06] So if I were to sit back and go, what's the vision coming back from the big four. PWC in particular, I am aiming big. So the vision is to be the go-to firm for accountancy tax and advisory. And when I say big, I have got plans to expand rapidly in the UK and also overseas. I've also started my joint venture into wealth management.
[00:14:38] Right. So in terms of the vision. In 10 years time, I say ourselves up back as one of the top providers of advisory.
[00:14:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:51] Right. And what, what sense have you got in terms of how that looks in terms of scale? Nature of work
[00:14:58] Jo Drinkwater: [00:14:58] and so forth. [00:15:00] Absolutely. So I've got my detailed business plan where I've gone 10 years, five years, three, two, one.
[00:15:05] I mean, I've worked backwards. So in terms of what that looks like, I want offices. I've already got office in certain Coalfield and Birmingham. Yeah. London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dubai, Singapore, Los Angeles, and Sydney.
[00:15:23] Paul Shrimpling: [00:15:23] Right within 10 years. Yeah. Okay, cool beans. So yes, going, going
[00:15:27] Jo Drinkwater: [00:15:27] large. I mean go big or go home, right?
[00:15:30] Isn't that what they said?
[00:15:32] Paul Shrimpling: [00:15:32] Great line. Great line. How does it feel when you actually go, publicans going now? We've got, I've got a 10 year vision you know, multiple offices in multiple city locations around the world when you're this you know, modest size business, working out Birmingham and certain kinds.
[00:15:48] It's the
[00:15:48] Jo Drinkwater: [00:15:48] feelings feeding. Yeah. It's quite, it's quite bolshy of me. Isn't it. To, to kind of go in there and just tell you in all honesty, what the plan is, but in all honesty, I've got nothing, no [00:16:00] secrets. I don't want to hide anything. And funnily enough, this morning with princess who is fantastic, has been helping me be for our business plan.
[00:16:08] So it's no secret to the whole team, my clients and suppliers, where I want to be. And in all honesty, by pushing it out there to everyone. I've got that accountability to myself. So if I don't get there, then it's going to be a bit embarrassing if I don't fulfill what I've set out to do.
[00:16:25] Paul Shrimpling: [00:16:25] So you're using the peer pressure of in your case, your family, as colleagues, not family colleagues, if you're not too many of them yet, but we get there.
[00:16:34]And clients. And, you know have you gone public on your website?
[00:16:38] Jo Drinkwater: [00:16:38] No, not yet. Not yet. No,
[00:16:40] Paul Shrimpling: [00:16:40] not yet. All right. I just I know that cause I look on your website now. Cool. So so what, what are the priorities in your firm over that for 2021? So I'm now looking at that, you know, you got a vision for the 10 years.
[00:16:53]What, what do you think are the priority or priorities for this year for gram
[00:16:58] Jo Drinkwater: [00:16:58] at night? Then number one [00:17:00] is to grow. The virtual finance director, suite of services. So the advisory side of things this year, we are, we are going out there and we go into market and we getting our target number of virtual finance director clients.
[00:17:15] So that to me is my number one priority because I have spent the last 12 months as soon as kind of my team came on board, completely getting on point with my internal systems, processes controls. So now that I've got that suite operating effectively, I can then concentrate on the advisory.
[00:17:38] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:38] And so what's your target number of advisory clients then for this
[00:17:40] Jo Drinkwater: [00:17:40] year 20?
[00:17:42] Full-on VFD clients by December.
[00:17:45] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:45] Right. Okay. And what will the average Phoebe for those
[00:17:48] Jo Drinkwater: [00:17:48] 3000 pounds a month? Right? So that is full suite of finance services. Outsource to us as well as, as well as having grant midnight [00:18:00] as your virtual finance director, which means that each month we provide a, a board board report, high level, deep dive analysis of the business, dig it into the key drivers of the business, helping understand the numbers, making sense of the numbers.
[00:18:19] And obviously looking at the budget versus cashflow and helping business owners really understand where they need to go in order to drive their business.
[00:18:28] Paul Shrimpling: [00:18:28] And the minute you've got one and a half of those clients, if you've got 1% of your 150 clients,
[00:18:34] Jo Drinkwater: [00:18:34] right? Wow. Yeah. It's actually two, but yeah, so she got two of the twins full on, right.
[00:18:44] Paul Shrimpling: [00:18:44] Sat in the middle of February and you've got to, yeah. And by the end of December, you want, you're going to have 20. I nearly said you, you want 20, but the way this conversation's going, I guess it's, you're going to get a, gonna have 20. Okay. So 20 with an average fee of 36 grand a year. So you're going to [00:19:00] have annualized fees by the end of this year of 720 K attached to the VFD, the virtual FD services.
[00:19:06] Jo Drinkwater: [00:19:06] Absolutely. And to help me achieve that plan, we have taken on a, another accountant. Right. Have you, has that come out of retirement? He recently left a big 10 practice to join me as my, my third qualified director accountant. So it is, it is numbers and I will be taken on a fourth in, in April. All right.
[00:19:29] Okay. So it's going to be five per, per accountable director, so to speak.
[00:19:35] Paul Shrimpling: [00:19:35] All right. So brilliant. So what do you think the So we've talked about priorities this year. What do you think are the one or two key challenges facing the firm this year, then?
[00:19:44] Jo Drinkwater: [00:19:44] So obviously COVID is a huge challenge facing everyone.
[00:19:49] Now it's a funny one because in a way we've grown with COVID because of so many businesses need that additional support. But on the flip side of that, [00:20:00] Our hospitality and entertainment clients have suffered drastically. A few of those were on target to be VFD clients. And at the moment, it's still a question Mark as to when they're being picked up.
[00:20:12] So for me, the key challenges. The original targets and existing clients that we're going to use those services. Those are on pause for now sort of shifting towards, okay, well, which, which industries, which areas of clients need that support. Now it's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario because the hospitality clients will need those services ASAP.
[00:20:34] But right now they can't quite afford to budget that into their cashflow when they've been closed. In Stacy's really on the yeah. They radio. And then the other thing is marketing. So you said you've had a look at my websites. Yeah. I'm looking at overhauling, the website this year and also bringing in in-house marketers and social media.
[00:20:57] So my social media game is not [00:21:00] strong and that's going to change this year. Okay,
[00:21:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:21:03] cool. Cool. So tell me about the so you. Not much over a year old as a firm. And you got 150 clients. How have you managed that
[00:21:13] Jo Drinkwater: [00:21:13] through word of mouth at the start? It started off with word of mouth networking. Has been K so without D no name dropping any names, I've joined a few different networking.
[00:21:29] No, go on. Tell us, tell us failed business connections are a free networking collective. They tie I joined very early on and that has been a lifeline for me. I've I've had quite a lot of customers move over from existing accountant. Startups come to us purely because they've seen our name out there because we're actually sponsoring certain business connections.
[00:21:54] Oh, right. So that's been a key one for us, and we're actually supporting certain business connections [00:22:00] by sending out the, the business of the week newsletter every week, which showcases for free a local business and their suite of services. So by just having that, that has increased our local. Uptake out the chamber of commerce have been absolutely fantastic.
[00:22:19] And I've joined both the Setton Coalfield chamber of commerce and the future faces chamber. And I sit also set on this set and exact committee. So via the chamber of commerce, I did win an award last year. Future face of finance. Yes. I was going to quiz you that has opened doors. Right. And also prior to.
[00:22:41] March last year when we had a global pandemic, I was actually hosting networking breakfast events in my office in partnership with NatWest bank. So we carried on that monthly networking by doing monthly webinars. So I've got to exposure via NatWest as well.
[00:23:00] [00:22:59] Paul Shrimpling: [00:22:59] Right. How did you manage that as a startup?
[00:23:02] Because normally a startup might have a bit of a hesitation about approach approaching an international bank to do a joint event with Kasama Mia startup.
[00:23:12] Jo Drinkwater: [00:23:12] Absolutely. So I'm a big believer in, it's not what you know, it's who, you know, Yeah, I can tell
[00:23:16] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:16] you whether you've got the gumption to ask
[00:23:18] Jo Drinkwater: [00:23:18] Joe, I like that you don't get absolutely wrong.
[00:23:21]Just by networking again, through the chamber and through such for business connections, I was put in touch with, with NatWest kind of business builder entrepreneur platform. And it almost came about by chance cause the, the venue that they were using previously, sadly went burst. So someone said, Oh, have you seen Joe at grab that night?
[00:23:41] Seen her recent launch party and her office is in migraine and it kind of went from there really. So before, prior to lockdown, we had a large uptake in my, in my office. Right.
[00:23:52] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:52] Do you know, it sounds from what you're doing. You've actually got a distinct marketing budget to invest in promoting [00:24:00] the firm.
[00:24:00] How have you established what that is? So
[00:24:04] Jo Drinkwater: [00:24:04] at the moment we're still in the marketing budget for this year is 10,000 pounds, which isn't a lot for an accountancy firm. But to date I've managed to get by with free marketing, via networking. So in terms of the marketing budget this year, we are taking on a Kickstarter.
[00:24:22] Yeah. Which will cost us six months, the government pay for the Kickstarter 25 hours down. Exactly. And we have got an external. Direct market tier on a consultancy basis who will provide their services for half a day a month. And we'll draw up our marketing strategy, help implement it and work with our Kickstarter.
[00:24:44] He will then turn into apprentice. Mm.
[00:24:47] Paul Shrimpling: [00:24:47] So you've been very specific, same key components of you building the businesses. You can't do it if you're not investing time and
[00:24:53] Jo Drinkwater: [00:24:53] money in marketing. Absolutely. It's impossible. And at the moment I've been very lucky with my marketing because it has [00:25:00] all. Touch with being free,
[00:25:01]Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:01] Looker, or have you actually set out to do what needs to be done and you've got time, not money.
[00:25:07] So you use the time to actually, you know, go down that networking word
[00:25:11] Jo Drinkwater: [00:25:11] mouth piece. Absolutely. And I originally thought that after all days and the last
[00:25:15] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:15] bit, you're not buying the lock that you're doing
[00:25:17] Jo Drinkwater: [00:25:17] the legwork, I always missed though. If I approach, you know, X number of different networking groups, then.
[00:25:23] I I planned for, for one of those to pull off. I didn't plan for all, all of them. All of them too.
[00:25:29] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:29] Yeah. Yeah. No, well done. But presumably you, you, you must have time allocation then to the stuff as well. You know, there's one of the, one of the challenges that comes back from lots of the firms that I work with and associated with is you know, the, the sparsity of time availability.
[00:25:45] Cause we've got that much to do, whether it be team issues, client issues, client emails, phone calls, zoom calls you know, whatever's going on in the practice and, and marketing plays a second fiddle all the time. For a lot of firms, but it sounds as though that's not the case [00:26:00] for you. Well,
[00:26:00] Jo Drinkwater: [00:26:00] I've had to make time for marketing.
[00:26:02] So I was very lucky to have a business coach provided to me for free from the ICU w the Institute of chartered accountants very early on. So that coach taught me in session one that as our CEO, as managing director, I should be spending 70% of my time on marketing. Now, when I first heard that I nearly fell off my chair, I thought I've got to do a client work, but as, as I've started it, as I've realized, what I do now is I color code my calendar.
[00:26:36] So for example, blues, client delivery, green is strategy, oranges, marketing, and business development. And actually when I look at my calendar and I'm doing webinars for the chamber of commerce, But not West for certain business connections. I'm doing calls with, with other people. It's actually taken up a lot of time, which you have to plan for.
[00:26:59] You have to, [00:27:00] and if you don't, if you don't make the time, you're not going to get anywhere. And also I think being a business owner, you need to be on top of the business, not in the business. Yeah.
[00:27:09] Paul Shrimpling: [00:27:09] And I I'd argue with you phrase make time. Cause there's 24 hours a day. It just goes round and round and round.
[00:27:15] However blocks of time for blocks of work, scheduling it in is what's needed. And I've, I've just been, I've just come off a a consulting call with a firm this morning. Who's run ragged a little bit, but bottom line is, it needs more capacity in the firm to take action, you know, lumpy client work off him so that he can then in his mind, it's a can actually go and do what needs to be done to grow the business into the next stage of their growth, which means adding, you know, three, 400 K over the next two years for them.
[00:27:43]So blocks of time for blocks of work. And if you. The you do like you've done and I've done, which is color code diary with not too many different colors. Otherwise it starts to look as though someone's been sick in your
[00:27:55] Jo Drinkwater: [00:27:55] I like to describe it as unicorns, not sick [00:28:00] unicorns and rainbows pool.
[00:28:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:28:03] That's a better reference into, yeah. Yeah. Okay, brilliant. So This VFD bit, this virtual FD, and that's the reputation you want to build it at gram at night. So what, what, what do you see as being a fundamental long-term challenge attached to
[00:28:20] Jo Drinkwater: [00:28:20] that? Jen, you know what, on this day it's going to be delivery and resource because when I said to you 20, that's the capacity that we can manage and want to manage.
[00:28:30] So. If you think that people are approaching us now for those services, we will almost having to benchmark a level of ideal client and size turnover to where we want to be. So I see my challenges being once we, once people use that uptake and we get new clients, it's going to be like, well, we can't drop our existing ones, but I can't then go, Oh, I would have loved to have that one.
[00:28:53] And not that one, because you can only serve so many. Yeah. So that's the part that. I [00:29:00] haven't quite figured out yet if it will list. Oh, right. Okay.
[00:29:02] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:02] So there is that willingness to not choose a client yeah. As bad as that sounds quiet. No, no, no. Joe I worked with Rob Walsh on a practice down in the Southwest for well over a decade and Rob achieved everything you set out to achieve in that business and sold it last year, the year before The one of Rob's key insights was be very clear about who you do not want to work with both in terms of employees and with customers.
[00:29:31] It was with clients and you know, and they were very clear about who were EV every quarter. They ran a review about who they shouldn't be working with. And if they drop below a certain line metaphorically they they were asked to leave. They were very, very, very clear about it and it takes some guts to do it that way.
[00:29:47]Because you're walking away from revenue and margin. But actually what you're doing is freeing up people to do high quality work with high-quality clients. Aren't you?
[00:29:54] Jo Drinkwater: [00:29:54] Exactly. And it's that balance. That I think is going to be my challenge and struggle this year. [00:30:00] It's who do we say no to now? Or say yes to what the detriment of potential one further down the nine.
[00:30:05] So it's striking that balance, isn't it? Yeah.
[00:30:08] Paul Shrimpling: [00:30:08] How, how clear are you on what your ideal VFD client looks
[00:30:11] Jo Drinkwater: [00:30:11] like? So in terms of size turnover, I don't want to. Pigeonhole or bracket something because obviously it's industry location, sector specific. So we haven't gone with, they must be this tiny of a bracket this size I've gone in going, where are they now?
[00:30:29] Where do they want to be? And then how can we help them? So for me, it's more about where that business is, and I'm not going to say added, but the value. That we can bring, because I don't want to take on a client who's operating perfectly effectively and just taken over an FD role. We want to help businesses grow scale up.
[00:30:50] So in all honesty, we've got a bit of a mix where we say, okay, well I want five of those 20 to be started. With long term vision. So we've already got a [00:31:00] few tech clients that have to
[00:31:01] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:01] be well-funded startups. If you
[00:31:02] Jo Drinkwater: [00:31:02] can be paying them. I was about to say, sorry, the tech clients, which we have got a few of those on our books that are starred for those services.
[00:31:12] Yeah. And then in terms of the other kind of ideal target clients, as I said before, we've not got criteria on turnover and size we're looking at will have they got X, Y, Z. And where are they looking to go and can we help them get there? Really? And also, I haven't been picky about industry or sector or location, but I do feel that that plays into a large part.
[00:31:37] So by, as I was mentioning earlier, hospitality clients that we had to benchmark this time last year, I've now said. This year is going to be a no. So I've kind of deleted those off the list and put them on next year is less.
[00:31:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:51] Yeah, it does. It does, essentially. You might want to look up there's I did an interview, a two-part interview with a guy called Luke Smith and Luke's got an advisor very [00:32:00] much an advisory lead.
[00:32:01] Accounting firm average fees in excess of 20,000 pounds. And Luke talks clearly about the, there is a for him in his experience. There's w if businesses dropped below the million pound turnover, the, the, the nature of the mindset. Not always cause you've got high growth businesses, but in the vast majority cases, the, the mindset funding and willingness to change, isn't there in order to actually take on board.
[00:32:28] Now there's a difference between VF, you know, virtual finance director type roles, as opposed to a full on. You know, business growth, advisory role, that they're two very different elements, isn't it? Absolutely. And so, you know, that, that therefore that might be, but you might want to look into your check out.
[00:32:43] Lead is really good. He's he's built a very, very, very, very nice business. He has
[00:32:49] Jo Drinkwater: [00:32:49] give me an
[00:32:49] Paul Shrimpling: [00:32:49] intro. Well, well, from the beginning of this conversation, I think, Oh God, yeah, Joe should really have a chat with Luke cost. Joel, enjoy. And Luke would as well, because I'm just, you, you seem very [00:33:00] like-minded.
[00:33:00]Okay, so the, let let's turn, let's turn this one around a little bit. Is there anything you want to ask me? Joe. I just, you know, you seem as though you've got it, you've got your, your vision. You've got it mapped out. You, you've got some clarity over the challenges you're facing and, and what if there's one thing that stands out for me so far in your, in your conversations as you go and look, it's all very well having grand plans, but you have got to deliver, so we're limiting it to 20.
[00:33:26] Yep. We've got the resource to deliver for 20. Yeah, which will, which will result in us getting 720 grands worth of annualized fees. By the time we get to the end of the year, whether it's a couple of months earlier, a couple of months late, you're probably not going to worry too much about that. So what, what w you know, based on where we've got to so far in this conversation, what do you want to ask me?
[00:33:46] Like a bit of a pompous thing to say, but I was just like, Oh my goodness,
[00:33:49] Jo Drinkwater: [00:33:49] was that? But you were in such a privileged, privileged position where you get to interview accountants, such as myself who are what I like to call. New age accountants if entry [00:34:00] aren't to the advisory side. So do you come across a lot of accountants who have got that kind of vision and then something happens and the whole thing shaken and turned on its head and they've had to completely pivot from the advisory side of things or do all of your stories result in success from the advisory?
[00:34:19]Paul Shrimpling: [00:34:19] There's a lot of talk about advisory. And and, and there is definitely more appetite and activity towards re-engineering firms so that they deliver advisory There's there's no one being steered away from that, that, you know, it seems to be that, you know, whether you're a 20 million pound turnover firm or a 1 million pattern of the firm, that that conversation is gone.
[00:34:42] Now we've got to do more of this. We've got to do more of this. And I can point to, you know, like I say, million pound turnover firms. You know, 2 million pound turnover, three, five up to 20 million all go look, we've got to be more advisory there's there is a commitment there. And, and that is the, you know, [00:35:00] it's the word of the moment.
[00:35:01] Isn't it. Pivot and pivot is what's gotta happen really fast, which is what had to happen in that adrenaline fueled change associated with lockdown and remote working and, and all of that. I think the tone has changed now because we're in the perhaps heading towards the end of the storm, if you will.
[00:35:19] And now we're going to be picking up and dealing with the aftermath. But I do think what the profession's done brilliantly is respond well, not the profession. Lots of firms have responded well to the client care needs. When the proverbial blood and bullets is flying around COVID and pandemic and remote working and all the rest of it.
[00:35:37]And it's I guess if there's a question that or something that concerns me is whether that level of client care client contact client conversation that has been taking place goes back to where it was before, and it becomes compliance. Get the work out the door driven rather than. Client care, client contact, client conversation driven.
[00:36:00] [00:35:59] And I think what you're doing in terms of blocks of time for blocks of work, there's blocks of time in blocks of work for marketing there's blocks of time and blocks of work for client care and there's blocks of time and blocks of work for doing the compliance work. And it's, you know, if you've got those three things running on a weekly basis, Then you, you're likely to, whatever's been thrown out yet, be able to pivot or work out how to make the most of it.
[00:36:27] And it's if there's something that holds firms back is that they've not got that blend and balance every week around the leadership team on marketing client care compliance, get it out the door as well as, by the way, grow your team. Because if you don't grow your team, you ain't grown grow your practice, a team development.
[00:36:44] So, you know, what, what time, what blocks of time are being allocated to team development? And, but you've already pointed out there's that systems development piece as well. Yeah. So you know, it, you know, don't get me on this. There's a lot of moving parts, running the businesses. So, so your question is interesting and I don't think there's any, there [00:37:00] isn't anybody who's turning their face away from advisory on the grounds.
[00:37:04] Like you said, everyone can foresee technology being the one thing that reduces the. Cost of an time invested in compliance work and therefore, you know, clients will see that. And if clients see that, there'll be wondering why they're paying so much for a compliance service. Perfect. Hopefully that answers
[00:37:25] Jo Drinkwater: [00:37:25] it and more, and that has given me your thoughts as well about the triangulation with the client graph.
[00:37:32] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:32] So let me flip it back then. So how, how many people are you going to end up hiring this year? Joe,
[00:37:36] Jo Drinkwater: [00:37:36] another five.
[00:37:37] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:37] And how many clients are you going
[00:37:38] Jo Drinkwater: [00:37:38] to win in total this year? So in total it will be two 50 by the end of December. So you're going
[00:37:43] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:43] to win another hundred clients this year of which 19 and a half of them are going to sorry, 18 and a half of them are going to be 18, are going to be a VFD star.
[00:37:52] Jo Drinkwater: [00:37:52] And the rest will be compliant.
[00:37:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:55] Right. So one last Cresco is it's, it's a joy for me to have a marketing [00:38:00] conversation. Actually, the What's the where does your credibility come from to justify and demonstrate that you can and will deliver on the VFD work?
[00:38:11] Jo Drinkwater: [00:38:11] So I'm quite fortunate that before setting up the firm, I was FD for Goodyear Dunlop.
[00:38:18] UK and helping out globally. So I like to portray my expertise and knowledge around what needs to happen in the workplace for an FD role. I like to believe that well, if that's where I'm coming from, then I can put that into practice with whether the firms and also my, my background with, with PWC training.
[00:38:43] I didn't realize it at the time, but in hindsight, Starting off in audit, looking at large companies, such as Jaguar land Rover itself, which is Cadbury's actually gave me such an insight into how large companies operate and what finance director should or shouldn't [00:39:00] do. So in terms of credibility, I believe that my, my CV, so to speak speaks for itself, if that makes,
[00:39:08] Paul Shrimpling: [00:39:08] okay.
[00:39:09] So let me ask you a question around that then. So is 2021. The credibility of the grant midnight offer for VFD work built around Joe. As opposed to built around grand McKnight. It sounds as though you're in that space of, I understood that, right? Yeah, you
[00:39:26] Jo Drinkwater: [00:39:26] have yet. And that's the space that only men at the moment, and now I need to now put it out to the world and the wider network that I've got an, a star team of accountants who have also got their own level of credibility with their past.
[00:39:39] But now my challenge, like you said, it's via marketing is getting that credibility with my brand, with grub McKnight, rather than me. As an individual. And that's what I'm finding hard. If I'm honest with you, Paul it's, how should I move to that shift? Because grab McKnight could be anyone wherever. Yeah.
[00:39:57] You could
[00:39:59] Paul Shrimpling: [00:39:59] argue. [00:40:00] I think you're wasting your time in 2021. I think in 2021 is good. You come hail rain or shine, whatever you have to do, you get the 20, which to be honest, is going to revolve around your credibility, not the firms. And then B your team are going to be delivering a huge chunk of that. And then all of a sudden you'll be building internal stories and client facing stories, because clients will be working with them as much, if not more than they're working with you.
[00:40:27] And then all of a sudden your case studies, if I can call them that your case studies stories in. Two years time, we'll be team-related rather than Joe drink water related. And so I think you, you, you P excuse my French, I think European in the wind and trying to build the credibility of your team when you should be just actually riding the surf wave, which is called Joe Drinkwater's credibility.
[00:40:51] Jo Drinkwater: [00:40:51] Thank you, Paul. I'll take that on board and I think you're absolutely right, because at the moment, You know, my, my firm is still very new. [00:41:00] And like you said, at the, at the moment it sits on my credibility and I think that's reflected, like I said to you before, I really need to up my social media game, which at the moment I would admit is poor.
[00:41:10] So I'm just kind of getting used to LinkedIn and it's that LinkedIn profile in my name. That's, that's getting our credibility, but our business page, you know, amount of likes on there and content is, is limited until we take on that, that marketing kickstart and. Right.
[00:41:27] Paul Shrimpling: [00:41:27] It requires like work there doesn't it.
[00:41:28] But actually, you know, the the, the argument goes and I think this is absolutely rock solid is what are you marketing exactly? What are you promoting? Exactly. Who's the hero you want to push? And I would argue that the hero you want to push or your clients not you grumpy at night
[00:41:46] Jo Drinkwater: [00:41:46] like the success of the client's growth story.
[00:41:49] And I don't think you can quite beat things like video testimonials in this day and age. And we're quite fortunate that one of our clients who's about to switch the tap on to his VFD services. This [00:42:00] month is a media, a credible media kept. Yeah. He's on your
[00:42:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:42:03] he's on your website, isn't it? Yeah.
[00:42:05] Jo Drinkwater: [00:42:05] Yeah. He did a great
[00:42:05] Paul Shrimpling: [00:42:05] job.
[00:42:06] Yeah, no, he did a great job. And you know, I'm on, I'm on video, on my accountant's website, cause they do a great job for me and that, and that more of that is needed with it's. You know, you'll find this interesting Joe we've. We've been experimenting with video on LinkedIn short ones. And if we post something in written form on LinkedIn, we might get 150 200, 250 views.
[00:42:30] If we post a video, we'll get over a thousand. Wow. You know, so, you know, have we got any choice, but to go down that video route? I don't think so. But then you go, well, what, what, what stories are you going to tell now? All arms, all I'm telling is I'm going to be telling her when we finished, I'm going to record a 92nd ago.
[00:42:46] Go-to video promo video about Joe drink, water and Gromit night. It's not about me. It's about you. So yeah, there's that, that video? Yes. Social media maybe. Yes, but it's who we pushing, but let's push our [00:43:00] clients' stories, not our story. And, and a lot of accountants go, you know, look how good I am. Look at me, look at me.
[00:43:05] And social media is all, look at me, look at me, go hang on a second. Yeah. How do you stand out from that
[00:43:10] Jo Drinkwater: [00:43:10] grade? Yeah. And I don't know if Pete with that
[00:43:14] Paul Shrimpling: [00:43:14] and you know, it takes a lot of energy to compete with that. Yeah. When actually it could be different and go look at what our clients are doing and be compliant focused saying this has turned more into a consulting session then as an interview, I think, but Hey Joe, tell me what's what's w what Sudan have been of most value and interest to you in this discussion today?
[00:43:33] Jo Drinkwater: [00:43:33] would say your expertise and knowledge on digging deep. No, no, no.
[00:43:37] Paul Shrimpling: [00:43:37] It's not about me. No, don't go there. Don't go there. What practical outcome? What practical insight have you got from, from, from what we've talked about? I'd
[00:43:46] Jo Drinkwater: [00:43:46] say my marketing strategy for this year. What you've just given me hints about focus on myself and my credibility rather than the brand, which is going to take a while to develop.
[00:43:55] I'm going to go away and implement that straight away, because I can honestly say that in my [00:44:00] strategy, we were looking at building the social and grant McKnight. And from that discussion, I think I need to focus that on my LinkedIn and videos and do it on me. So that's a really good takeaway that I'm going to, you're shaking your head now, Paul.
[00:44:18] Paul Shrimpling: [00:44:18] No, you are right. The credibility piece is around you, but if, if it makes you out to be the hero, then if you make your client's activity, the hero of the story, then all of a sudden, so you're the voice of the stories. Now, sometimes they have to be anonymous because clients don't want to people making a fuss of it.
[00:44:38] Yeah. And sometimes people like your your media guy on your website is more than happy. Yeah. And so can see the anonymous ones. You can be the face and the public ones. You can get your clients on the case. If so they're very good. Very good. For me, it's refreshing. And inspiring that here's someone who's got a crystal clear ambitious view of their [00:45:00] future and with a a reasonably detailed insight in terms of priorities and challenges for the year ahead.
[00:45:05]And if you have more time to dive into, or what specific actions are you taking to overcome the challenges and so forth, but this podcast interview doesn't allow that. So I've really enjoyed it. Thank you very much for taking time out of your day and and being so open and Frank and candid, Joe.
[00:45:16] Jo Drinkwater: [00:45:16] Brilliant. Thank you. Thank you for having me, Paul. It's been wonderful.
[00:45:25] Paul Shrimpling: [00:45:25] You'll find more valuable discussions with the leaders of ambitious accounting firms at humanized, the numbers.online. You can also sign up to be notified each time a new podcast is made available. This podcast series humanized, the numbers has been made possible. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, my work papers, advanced track and VFD pro.
[00:45:50] Visit humanized the numbers.online, click the logo of each sponsor. And you'll hear what our podcast interviewees have to [00:46:00] say about the sponsor services. .
Compliance work as a means to advisory work
A family business
Priorities for Grant McKnight
Challenges facing Grant McKnight
The importance of marketing and networking
Challenges in providing VFD services
Is advisory work essential for success?
Where does your credibility come from?
Should I shift my credibility to the brand?
The client is the hero
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