In this podcast you'll hear how Mark and his team take seriously, deadly seriously, the five behavioural values they hold true in their firm.
It's impressive for one core reason.
Mark and his team have worked remotely for years. It's not just something that they've created over the recent months thanks to the pandemic.
They worked remotely for a long time. They've got this tight knit, coalesced, highly motivated team, partly because they genuinely wholeheartedly live these five behavioural values. In this podcast interview Mark shares what and how they do that.
There's also one other thing that stands out well in the interview and the discussion with Mark.
His team's commitment to the weekly rhythm, so there's 52 opportunities a year to be successful. Not 12 (if you're rolling a monthly rhythm).
So why not dive into that interview? And you'll be able to access Mark talking in detail about the what and the hows and the whys around Telford accountants.
Hope you enjoy the podcast.
"I deliberately went the route of recruiting people who can do the work I can do. Cause I don't want to be having to train them and check the quality of their work. All the time"
"So a big thing again is making sure that team members know exactly what's included in the services that we provide for our clients"
Connect with Mark Telford
TRANSCRIPT - unedited
00:00:00] [00:00:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:00] welcome to the humanize, 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.
[00:00:16] Mark Telford: [00:00:16] We want to build better businesses in lifestyles for ambitious business owners.
[00:00:21] So that business owners that. You know, want to improve where they are and they want to, they want better quality of life that want more for the children. And I look back and that's an awful lot of what drives me to do what I do.
[00:00:36] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:36] How does a firm of accountants build a highly committed, enthusiastic team of people that work entirely remotely?
[00:00:44] Well, that firm is tough as chartered accountants in Kent and Mark Telford and his team have worked remotely for years, not just in lockdown. They've worked that way for years and they've. Built a firm that revolves around five core values [00:01:00] and Mark shares those five core values. But what impressed me most about the conversation with Mark is how this committed team of his is building efficiency, profitability, and client care because of a weekly rhythm they have around their communication.
[00:01:15] Let's dive into that interview now. So I'm just gonna ask Mark to give us a, an introduction, please, Mark to the firm, a little bit of background about your team and, uh, and you can't bank, if you would.
[00:01:28] Mark Telford: [00:01:28] Yeah. Hi Paul. So I, I founded Telford's chartered accountants back in 2012. Uh, my background was I quantified a long, long time ago, 1994 left practices quickly as I could.
[00:01:44] Cause I hated it. It was very, very old gray, old fashioned practice. And I swore I'd never do it again. 2012. That is exactly what I did because my time in industry and then towards. The end of my time in industry working with lots of small [00:02:00] businesses, I found they were just getting underserved by accountants.
[00:02:03] So primarily my driver was to provide a better level of service roll forward to now we're a team of five. Everybody works remotely and always has done. We've got just over a hundred clients. That's a hundred mostly limited companies or very, very few sole traders turnover. This year will be in excess of 400,000.
[00:02:29] And we're just looking for steady growth. Really? We're at where, what are the good size? And we just want to. Keep delivering a great level of service to clients.
[00:02:39] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:39] Brilliant, fabulous introduction and prompts the first and very obvious question. Uh, if we on a podcast called humanize the numbers, you've always worked remotely w
[00:02:51] Mark Telford: [00:02:51] one
[00:02:52] Paul Shrimpling: [00:02:52] or rather, how do you get that sense of comradery if everybody's working remotely in order to have a, a humanized experience as [00:03:00] a, as a, as a team?
[00:03:00] Or is that just not,
[00:03:03] Mark Telford: [00:03:03] no, it is an issue and, um, I I'm really focused on core values in a business. Right? One of our core values is communication and that's gotta be effective lines of communication, regardless of who it's with, where it's team members, whether it's clients, whether it's suppliers or the third parties.
[00:03:23] So we've got to have really clear lines of communication. So we like to kick that off every Monday morning, we have a team meeting on zoom, right? That's with, uh, most of the time, four of us before w worked most closely together. And then I have individual one-to-one zoom calls with the team members, looking in a little bit more detail into what they're doing over the course of the week.
[00:03:47] So the idea behind the team meeting is just to make everyone aware of what everybody else is doing. And that's, you know, that's, that helps build that team [00:04:00] camaraderie. But it also makes people aware of what other people are dealing with in that week. So if they need help or if another person thinks I need help, but, um, I don't think Mark's that busy this week.
[00:04:11] Maybe I can ask him to help me out with something. So, so it's that it, it comes back to having great communication.
[00:04:18] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:18] Right. And have you got a set agenda for that team gathering?
[00:04:22] Mark Telford: [00:04:22] Yeah, we
[00:04:23] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:23] do. All right. How does it start?
[00:04:25] Mark Telford: [00:04:25] We do it. It starts off firstly, I have a very brief one-to-one with my virtual assistant Tracy, and then we'll primarily run through bits that are relevant for us to write.
[00:04:37] And that normally takes around about 10 minutes. Okay. Uh, then we have Tim and Dan who joined join in after that. And it's a quick run through. We've got some, I don't like the phrase KPIs, but we have some KPIs which we measure and it's very much geared around output it's delivery. That's all I'm interested in.
[00:04:58] What, what do you, what are you going to [00:05:00] be doing this week? And what do you expect? What do you expect to be your outcomes? Right. So, and the measurables for me are very much focused on things like sets of accounts, sets of management accounts, tax returns. How many are we going to get done this week?
[00:05:14] Paul Shrimpling: [00:05:14] So the focus is on completion of those this week.
[00:05:18] Mark Telford: [00:05:18] Yeah. All right.
[00:05:19] Paul Shrimpling: [00:05:19] So what's your definition of a, a set of, uh, annual accounts actually being complete so that you can go, yes. We achieved that this week.
[00:05:27] Mark Telford: [00:05:27] Yeah, that's that's then being passed to me for a final review. Okay. And, and if I just take it back a step as well, Paul, we, we use, um, a practice management solution called onco.
[00:05:40] Alright. Um, we we've got that such set up in such a way that the we've got two or three focal points within that. One of them is the planner, the work planner, so everybody can see visually. What's coming up for them in that week or that
[00:05:54] Paul Shrimpling: [00:05:54] month. Right. Okay.
[00:05:56] Mark Telford: [00:05:56] And then we've got color coding for which denotes what [00:06:00] stage that work is at.
[00:06:01] Right. So I can look in that and I can see what still needs to be completed. So for a month, and then Tim or Dan will go through and say what they're going to be completing that week. What's going to be passed to me. So I'm very much focused on this idea of, um, It's focusing on measuring what still needs to be done, not what has been done, but what still needs to be done.
[00:06:28] So, um, I'm, I'm not so concerned with how many sets of accounts that we have done. How many have we still got to do a tax returns? Yeah. Or a very interesting how many we've done at this point in the year. How many, if we still got to do between now and the 31st of January,
[00:06:45] Paul Shrimpling: [00:06:45] right? Okay.
[00:06:46] Mark Telford: [00:06:46] Um, and, and by, by having that focus on what I might call exception, what still needs to be done.
[00:06:53] We've got more of a handle on what we need to get done over the next week, month, three months.
[00:07:00] [00:06:59] Paul Shrimpling: [00:06:59] Okay. Yeah. So I find that interesting cause there's, um, one of the conversations I'm regularly having with the firms that I, I work with on regular basis, is this a shift from what is the natural rhythm and accountancy firms seems to be monthly, you know, in terms of that focus on KPIs.
[00:07:14] And, um, I'm curious about why don't like KPIs. We're going to dive into that in a little while. Um, So there's, I, I find typically either a monthly or a quarterly rhythm to billing, to completion of work and sexual thought where you were talking about, which is where I'm at as well is what if we can get this set weekly rhythm around getting work completed.
[00:07:32] Um, so I'm curious as to, um, how much of the emphasis for you and your team is on the weekly performance or the monthly performance in that weekly team discussion.
[00:07:44] Mark Telford: [00:07:44] Right. It's there's elements of all of that. So if I just take it back a step, we, we outsource nearly all of our annual accounts prep. Okay.
[00:07:56] And the big driver there is to get the annual accounts [00:08:00] completed quicker after the year end. Right. So in order to do that, If I look at, for example, I say, all right, we've got it. We got a hundred limited companies, a hundred set of limited company accounts. That's that's eight and a quarter a month. I want to speed up our rate of production.
[00:08:18] So I'm going to set you a target of 12 a month, right? So that's going to bring forward the time. Or the amount of it's going to shorten the time after the year end in which your own accounts produce. So if we think a few years back are probably still now some, some firms they're deadline driven. Yeah.
[00:08:38] I'm not, I want to change that. Right. I'm more output driven, right? So the focus now is on 12 sets of accounts a month. Sorry, I, um, eight sets a month, but I want 12 case. If it's 12 a month, I want, I want you to be passing three a week to me. Yes. For approval. The [00:09:00] next stage is I want to speed that up even more.
[00:09:02] So I want to push to 15. Right. And, and this allows the focus for everybody knows. And I hate the reference to a sausage machine. Yes. But in a way it is
[00:09:14] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:14] relevance to it. Isn't the AA.
[00:09:16] Mark Telford: [00:09:16] There's the prep. There's, there's, there's, there's a, there's a completion and there's a review stage, this certain number of jobs at every stage.
[00:09:25] Right. Brilliant. Very good.
[00:09:27] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:27] So, um, so you'll have had that meeting this last Monday at the beginning of this week. Got another one on Monday. Um,
[00:09:35] Mark Telford: [00:09:35] is the focus on
[00:09:36] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:36] three a week or four a week or is it on two week in terms of completions at the
[00:09:40] Mark Telford: [00:09:40] moment? Yeah. It really varies depending on the, on the, on the, the jobs in hands and their complexity.
[00:09:48] Right. So sometimes it might be four or five. The other times it might be one or two. Right. But, but overall, my main driver is I'd want to average 12
[00:09:58] Paul Shrimpling: [00:09:58] a month. Right. Okay. All right. So there might [00:10:00] be that flexibility and ups and downs during the month, but by the time you get to the end of the month, it's 12 a month.
[00:10:06] So that's the focus at the moment.
[00:10:08] Mark Telford: [00:10:08] Yeah. And, uh, and again, we w we can look on our practice management software and we can see at the end of the month, how many jobs have, have actually been completed.
[00:10:18] Paul Shrimpling: [00:10:18] Okay. So one of my, sort of, um, classic found call it, that sounds as I'm blowing my own trumpet. And I mean, two questions is how do you, how do you team know they've had a really good week?
[00:10:32] Mark Telford: [00:10:32] But they've got that flow. You know, they they've requested information from clients for a number of jobs it's come in. They've been able to prep it. They've been able to send it to the outsourcer again. They've had the flow, they've had the jobs back from the outsourcer. Yeah. And there'll be in a state of view that they'll they'll have had jobs that they've been able to pass to me.
[00:10:54] So it's, it's, it's really flow the flow of the work. Right. Um, and again, a big [00:11:00] thing that I focused on trying to avoid is this stop starting of jobs. Right. Which is, um, it just drains efficiency and productivity yeah. Profitability,
[00:11:14] Paul Shrimpling: [00:11:14] all of the
[00:11:15] Mark Telford: [00:11:15] above, move away from that. So what can we do to eliminate that stop start?
[00:11:22] So, so a big part, as well as on our systems and processes. Yeah. How can we improve? And cause again, another core value, continuous improvement. We can always do something better. So, so reflect on what we're doing. And if we do have that team meeting and there's something going wrong in part of this flow, when I have the one-to-one with that team member, you know, it'll be all right, Tim, Dan.
[00:11:47] What, what should we be doing differently here? What could make this work better for you? And in the same way, I have fortnightly zoom meetings with our outsourcer and that will be open. That'll be two [00:12:00] way. Um, these are the things that aren't working for us. Uh, can we discuss, and then also, how are things going for you?
[00:12:08] Is there anything that's not working effectively for you?
[00:12:12] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:12] So. We could check in to weekly, check in with your outsourcing provider. Um, how long does that team meeting last
[00:12:21] Mark Telford: [00:12:21] at the moment? The, probably about 40 minutes. I'm trying to get it down to half an hour, right?
[00:12:27] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:27] And then that leads on to one-on-ones with your, your, your, your people and how long do they
[00:12:32] Mark Telford: [00:12:32] normally?
[00:12:33] 30 to 45 minutes. All right.
[00:12:35] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:35] So you've got, um, three one-on-ones your team meeting? So four one-on-ones and your team meeting? Um, all taking 30 to 40 minutes. So that's a good chunk of your
[00:12:44] Mark Telford: [00:12:44] Monday
[00:12:45] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:45] done without you actually doing any productive time.
[00:12:50] Mark Telford: [00:12:50] That's how I position my week. I want to get all that admin stuff done on a Monday.
[00:12:57] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:57] So you get all that, um, [00:13:00] prepare for a good week, Dawn in day one or morning one, which leaves the other four and a half days for, um, in inverted commerce, productive, valuable work.
[00:13:11] Mark Telford: [00:13:11] Yeah, my, my week's very, very structured and it's very different from how it was when I started. Because again, when I started, it was just me a part-time bookkeeper.
[00:13:20] So essentially it was, and you know, that terrible thing. I'd turn up on a Monday morning and the thing, right. What am I going to do today? Let's check my email. Let's see. How do folks bursts?
[00:13:31] Paul Shrimpling: [00:13:31] Yeah.
[00:13:33] Mark Telford: [00:13:33] Whereas, whereas now it's very, very structured, so I know what I'm going to be doing every day of the week.
[00:13:38] Paul Shrimpling: [00:13:38] And what does your diary look like for all of you people?
[00:13:42] Mark Telford: [00:13:42] Aye. I, I very much leave it up to them to plan their week. They know what the deliverables are, the output that's needed. Yeah. So it's structured. They need to structure it from themselves. It's going to work in the most efficient way for [00:14:00] them.
[00:14:00] Again, they're not all full time. They're all. Part-time. Yeah, I'm the only full-time person
[00:14:07] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:07] in the thermometer.
[00:14:08] Mark Telford: [00:14:08] So
[00:14:09] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:09] what is it when you add it all up? How many full-time equivalents is that Mark?
[00:14:14] Mark Telford: [00:14:14] Well, the, the other, the four or work three days a week. So once that there's two and a half full-time
[00:14:20] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:20] equivalent, two and a half.
[00:14:22] And then there's you that's three and a half. And you do in about 400 K. So you've got more than a hundred K per full-time employee.
[00:14:29] Mark Telford: [00:14:29] And, and I have a coaching business that takes up. Around about a day, a week as well.
[00:14:34] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:34] All right. So you could actually say you were part-time in this business as well.
[00:14:38] Mark Telford: [00:14:38] Yeah.
[00:14:40] Paul Shrimpling: [00:14:40] So that gets down to maybe three or that's slightly over three. Um, so doing very well, uh, over the cause was one of the reference points that I'm bringing to it. Uh, a quick assessment of a firm is whether doing a hundred K per FTA. Or whether they're doing 120 K or whether they're doing 80 K per FTA.
[00:14:57] And obviously some firms are doing less than that. And some do more than [00:15:00] 120, uh, but it's, it's an interesting, quick reference. So that that's, um, that's brilliant. So, um,
[00:15:06] Mark Telford: [00:15:06] so
[00:15:08] Paul Shrimpling: [00:15:08] these two, I think things are connected in that. Um, you're looking to stop, pick up, put down. So I'm just wondering what, uh, what key things, if you put in place that I've actually actually knocked that out because you know, I've been working with accounting firms for over 18 years now.
[00:15:29] And one of the things that derails the motivation productivity, profitability zeal for doing the work is the pickup put down too many jobs on the go at once. And so when, and if those people, those firms can. Prevent or reduce, pick up, put down every, all, all of those good things or bad things turn into good things.
[00:15:48] I everyone's more motivated. The profitability goes up and so forth. What are the key insights that you found? The things that help you stop the pickup
[00:15:56] Mark Telford: [00:15:56] put down. The first thing [00:16:00] was delegation, because again, going back to when it was me, I request information that would come in. I wouldn't look at it for a couple of months.
[00:16:07] Right. Okay. And I know I'm not the only person who does that. And then I know when I would look it up, I thought, Oh, there's loads of stuff missing. Okay. I've got to go back and then it. You know, if I was the client in that situation, I'll be saying, well, what you've been doing for two months, if you're only coming back to me now.
[00:16:27] Paul Shrimpling: [00:16:27] So there's a customer care issue there. Isn't there. And that's one of my big arguments as well as if you don't respond to the client when they get the books and records off them, whether it's access to the Xero file or access to that, you know, a box or whatever methodology they're using. Um, you're not acknowledging the fact that you've received things for kickoff.
[00:16:43] Nevermind. Discover whether it's. Missing.
[00:16:47] Mark Telford: [00:16:47] Yeah. So I was very keen to move. Yeah. If away from that. And S so delegation and empowerment is, is a big one there so far. If I look at the, you know, the process now say for year end accounts, Now, now [00:17:00] nearly all of our clients use zero. Okay. So, and, and the typical thing will be we'll we'll we'll we'll we'll look at our planner.
[00:17:10] Okay. This is a job we want to start next month. Start the year end accounts. Right. So you really need to be requesting that information from the client, the start, the start of November. Right? So first thing, go in, check zero. If they're doing their own bookkeeping, it's the bookkeeping up to date? No, right.
[00:17:27] Well, the first thing is contact the client and ask them, uh, when they can complete the bookkeeping. So we can start the year. End job complete the bookkeeping in standard bank, state, your urine bank statements across. So that's, that'd be the star. Get that information, check it. Yeah. Is the bank or reconcile properly.
[00:17:46] Yeah. Yeah. Right. Okay. We can move on. Yeah, no. Now again, this is a great example where scope creep comes in. If it's a no there's, there's the inclination, the [00:18:00] accounts and accounts. Uh I'll I'll fix it very long. Number of problems that, and it doesn't train the client to do things properly. They don't think they've done anything wrong if they haven't reconciled the bank.
[00:18:13] Yeah. Uh, two, it drains your profit and you're doing stuff for three and three. You missing out on this training opportunity. You train them so we can do it properly themselves. Yeah. So, um, and now myself as a business owner knows that, but if I have communicated that to my team member, they'll just think, Oh, I can do this.
[00:18:34] I'll just, I'll just do it there. So a big thing again, coming back to communication. Is making sure that team members know exactly what's included in the services that we provide for them. Um, so there's, there's no doubt. Um, and, and again, practice management solution is working well there because anyone can go into that client.
[00:18:56] What are the services we provide? Right. [00:19:00] And again, if you're not sure ask. Okay.
[00:19:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:19:03] And so do, do, do the conversation show up in your team meetings or your one-on-ones that have you stopping your team, doing things that the client should do or that if you're going to do them, you should be agreeing a fee in advance?
[00:19:14] Yes. All right. Okay. And how does it, how does it prompt that then? How does it flag that up? Ma what's what's going on for you to identify that
[00:19:22] Mark Telford: [00:19:22] again? Each, um, each job there's. There's um, now, now we don't bill based on time. Okay. But there's, there's a time estimate that I would allocate for each element of a job.
[00:19:37] Right. So, you know, like to prep, something to set before you send it to the outsource, it should, between it be between an hour and two hours. It's any longer than that. There's a problem. Yeah. What, what's the problem? Right. Okay. Um, And again, it's also emphasizing with the team members, how important it is that we don't do the bookkeeping for clients, or if we don't do the bookkeeping, [00:20:00] there's zero has to be accurate.
[00:20:01] If it's not stopped, we need to have a conversation. Now, when team members first come in, Those conversations between me and the team members are more frequent because they've got to, they got to understand what the ground rules are. This is what we do. This is what we don't do. I don't care what you did before this.
[00:20:19] This is what, this is what you do now. And this is why. Yeah.
[00:20:23] Paul Shrimpling: [00:20:23] So how do you assess your accuracy then in that
[00:20:26] Mark Telford: [00:20:26] moment? In, in, in, in the very first instance, it will be to the bank accounts reconcile. Yes. Right. Okay. Let let's. Now, again this again, thinking in terms of productivity, productivity, and efficiency, again are, and again, this is more being built out of a good relationship.
[00:20:47] I've built up with our eye, our outsourcer. Now our relationship with our outsource or I compare to having your house, having, having a cleaner into clean your house. Now people are, I don't [00:21:00] know. Cause my wife does most of the cleaning. Yeah,
[00:21:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:21:03] good dodgy territory here.
[00:21:07] Mark Telford: [00:21:07] I'm going to stop right there. But people tell me that they get a cleaner in, they, um, they clean the house the first time before the cleaner comes around and I was doing the same with an outsourcer.
[00:21:15] I was doing too much preparatory work. Right. Which my cost is higher than the cost of an outsourcer. And when I, when I got comfortable, And I could see, see how good they were at doing their work. I reduced the amount of preparatory work I would do because I knew they'd spot it in and highlighted anything needed to they, they, they, they correct it.
[00:21:38] Yeah. So. In the very first instance, zero, uh, accuracy of zero. Okay. Well does a bank reconcile? Yes. Okay. Let's let's review the balance sheet, right? Do the control accounts look right? Typical ones, age receivables, age payables, PA PayU. Do they all look accurate? [00:22:00] Yes. Okay. Uh, if not, and then if we start to think a bit deeper, right.
[00:22:06] And, and I'm only talking about probably if, you know, 15, 20 minutes checking if there's loads of issues to do with the bookkeeping. Yeah. That's a point to stop, go back to the client and say, look, we found a lot of issues in your bookkeeping. Uh, we don't currently charge you for this. So, and that's when I had the conversation and it's three options when you correct it yourself.
[00:22:28] So we correct it for you, but we charge you for it. Or, or three, we provide you with some training to show you how to do it properly, and then you can do it yourself.
[00:22:38] Paul Shrimpling: [00:22:38] I was, I was having exactly the same conversation with a film on Tuesday, um, around that zero accuracy piece. And like you, they've got a checklist, it takes about 15, 20 minutes or less.
[00:22:48] And then there's a conversation with a client around. We do it. You do it with training or, um, you, you, you think you can do without the training, you know, get on with it. Um, uh, interesting. [00:23:00] Interesting.
[00:23:00] Mark Telford: [00:23:00] Okay. So, uh,
[00:23:01] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:01] you've got time element for jobs, one to two hours max to prep the job before it goes off to outsourcing.
[00:23:06] Mark Telford: [00:23:06] Hmm
[00:23:07] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:07] Hmm. 15 minutes, 20 minutes to assess the accuracy of zero. Um, what else is, um, uh, helping you with that? Um, uh, I guess the, the efficiency of the job and the stopping the pickup put down pace.
[00:23:22] Mark Telford: [00:23:22] It's it's really communicating with the team, the sort of building blocks in that process. What, what we need to do to prepare a job, to send it to our outsourcer.
[00:23:33] Right. Uh, now I, I don't like massively complicated workflows and checklists and steps because then that becomes an admin burden. Right? You're not doing the work. You're checking to see what you should be doing. Right. Uh, and again, the other thing is the Tim and Dan who work in the business with me, they're both qualified accountants, 10 years plus experience.
[00:23:58] And I deliberately went the [00:24:00] route of recruiting people who can do the work I can do. Cause I don't want to be having to train them and check the quality of their work. All the time. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And it's, um, yeah,
[00:24:15] Paul Shrimpling: [00:24:15] it's simple as hiring good people. Isn't it. Mark.
[00:24:19] Mark Telford: [00:24:19] It is, uh, hiring good people. Uh, Uh, being open and honest with them and then being open and honest with you, um, and, and making sure everybody's clear on exactly what they should or shouldn't be doing.
[00:24:32] Paul Shrimpling: [00:24:32] It's interesting. I've written expectations down two or three times in my notes here. And what you see is this absolute clear expectations in terms of what's going on this week, what not to do as well as what to do. And, and that's back to that core value of yours, which is good, clear communications, I guess.
[00:24:48] Mark Telford: [00:24:48] Yeah. I mean, if we, if we, if we look at core values, I mean, just to give you an a, you know, an idea of, well, tell you what ours are, that this th this, this clarity, and again, everyone's got to be clear on what, [00:25:00] why we're doing it. Yeah. Yeah. That leads into communication. We thank God. Um, continuous improvement as well.
[00:25:11] Um, one of them,
[00:25:12] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:12] what does that mean now? I've got them in front of me, cause I wanted to quiz you on this area anyway.
[00:25:17] Mark Telford: [00:25:17] Uh, so, um,
[00:25:18] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:18] what, what's continuous improvement. In? What ways does that show up in you for. Cause it's, you know, lots of firms talk about this Mark, but actually the reality is, um, you go from one year to the next and, um, or one quarter to the next, if we'd been really on it, um, and not lots actually improved.
[00:25:35] So I'm just wondering, what do you do to track and measure and show for real, for real that the firm's improving.
[00:25:41] Mark Telford: [00:25:41] Okay. So, so one of these continuous improvements, things is what we spoke about earlier. That is how quickly after a year, and we can get a set of accounts done,
[00:25:50] Paul Shrimpling: [00:25:50] right?
[00:25:53] Mark Telford: [00:25:53] Then other things such as how many sets of accounts are we actually turning around and getting done every, every, every quarter.
[00:25:59] Right. [00:26:00] And then, you know, measuring it, and again, you can't improve something if you're not going to measure it. So I think these things have got to be measured. So, so we break that measuring down into, onto a weekly basis. Um, again, it's moving away from this thing and this is where I think a lot of practice management tools fall down.
[00:26:20] Is because they're deadline driven. Oh, I don't have to do it yet. It's a bit like people complaining about clients not sending the records until the middle of January. Yeah. Just have to be done until the end of January.
[00:26:32] Paul Shrimpling: [00:26:32] Yeah.
[00:26:34] Mark Telford: [00:26:34] Fine. It's fine. So it's, it's this idea again, coming back to this idea of flow on day one, or it wasn't really day one, but what I found in my practice.
[00:26:48] Um, the first year, it was great winning all these clients, the premium, monthly direct debit standing order. I haven't got a lot to do all of a sudden, I call it the wave. The wave hits you when it comes around [00:27:00] to doing your ends and tax returns and Bosch, all of a sudden, you've got this work to do, and you've got all these tight deadlines.
[00:27:06] Why have I got all those tight deadlines? It's because I wasn't planning what I was doing earlier in the earth. So it's this continuous improvement. Yeah. That set of accounts doesn't need to be done until September clients. Your auntie's December. Okay. Well what stop it is definitely February nothing.
[00:27:25] Paul Shrimpling: [00:27:25] Um, I'm I'm curious Mark, just to put you on the spot here. So, um, uh, we're in the middle of November, I'm just wondering how many March year end clients have you still got there? Okay.
[00:27:35] Mark Telford: [00:27:35] Yeah, we still got a couple now again, that's that's not because of us. That's because of them or really?
[00:27:42] Paul Shrimpling: [00:27:42] Okay.
[00:27:43] Mark Telford: [00:27:43] Yeah, assuming affirmation show me through.
[00:27:50] Paul Shrimpling: [00:27:50] um, yeah, I, I can't tell you how often, uh, an accountant will say to me, uh, how come, you know, asking them the same question I've asked you, how [00:28:00] come you still got, you know, so many March year Institute. Oh, it's the client's fault. There are really don't. You mean actually your ability to either select the right client?
[00:28:09] Or educate the client to get stuff into you earlier.
[00:28:13] Mark Telford: [00:28:13] Yes. Yep. That's a fair point. And I think part of it become obscured because we're still hitting our targets of 12 sets of accounts a month.
[00:28:25] Paul Shrimpling: [00:28:25] Right. Okay.
[00:28:26] Mark Telford: [00:28:26] And because again, I can throw into you, you know, I know there's a set of org. I know there's a set of August year end accounts that have been finished.
[00:28:34] There's a set of September year end accounts that have been finished yet because that client is. Right or records already. Can you get it done please? Yes. Wow. Well, if it's ready. Yeah, we'll do it because we're still waiting on, on Paul to send these records across it. We've been chasing for the last three months.
[00:28:49] Paul Shrimpling: [00:28:49] Not me, mate. It's not me. I get my year in the camps 10 days after my year end. So I know it's not all us
[00:28:56] Mark Telford: [00:28:56] cause we know systems. So, but again, [00:29:00] that's a fair point for this. Um, so continuous improvement will include client
[00:29:04] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:04] education for sure. For sure.
[00:29:06] Mark Telford: [00:29:06] Uh, yeah. So there's all sorts of things that continue to improve anything that, that we are doing.
[00:29:13] And if there's a bump in the road and we think we're all, okay, let's have a look at why we've had that blip. What could we be doing better? Um, you know, one of the big things for me was choosing the right practice management. So it's, it's my third one that I'm using at the moment. So which of those have you used them
[00:29:32] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:32] up?
[00:29:33] Mark Telford: [00:29:33] I used one that didn't really happen. One called M trio.
[00:29:37] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:37] Right. Okay. I remember that. Yeah.
[00:29:39] Mark Telford: [00:29:39] Was around very long.
[00:29:40] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:40] And that wasn't no, I remember
[00:29:42] Mark Telford: [00:29:42] it. Uh, I then used accountancy manager and that's that w that was an, an admin nightmare. It just generated lots of. Form filling in a box ticking. And rather than [00:30:00] again, this idea of focusing on the exceptions, what still needs to be done.
[00:30:03] So if I look at my dashboard at the moment in my practice management tool yeah. It's telling me what still needs to be done, not what is done. Yes. So
[00:30:12] Paul Shrimpling: [00:30:12] that, that brings, and that relates back to your, one of your core values. Clarity is there because you've got the right practice management to actually guiding that clarity as well.
[00:30:20] So it's actually that, you know, I just think, you know, just to add into your continuous improvement, actually using the right tools is a way to, um, uh, you know, uh, push forward that continuous improvement piece. Um,
[00:30:33] Mark Telford: [00:30:33] yeah. And, um, You know, with the clarity as well. I think clarity is important at the moment, not just in terms of, you know, where, where do I want the business to go?
[00:30:42] What work do I want to is doing? But as you mentioned, their tools, the tools that we use and you'll know that accountants are constantly getting sold to about this new shiny toy, they should be using
[00:30:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:30:55] the silver bullet. That's going to fix everything. Yes.
[00:30:57] Mark Telford: [00:30:57] Yeah. And my approach there is [00:31:00] always, well, okay.
[00:31:01] Let's have a look at this tool first off. Do I have the time to evaluate it properly right now? Yeah. So many people sign up for something get too busy. And then, so it didn't work. Didn't work cause he didn't give it a chance. Yeah. So there's this, you know, evaluate, evaluate it properly, then, then have a look at it.
[00:31:22] Is, is it providing a solution to a problem that we all clients have? No. Well, what we're looking at it absolutely. Um, And then you, you, you know, fi finally is. You know, is this going to allow us to make improvements in our business, whether that's doing things quicker or generating more fees? Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
[00:31:43] Paul Shrimpling: [00:31:43] And I, you know, I think your approach is certainly above on mine. And if you look at, you know, I, I often find myself, uh, talking about, uh, Jim Collins and good to great, and his book, that book, which has got 20. Person years of research into that book on some of the, you know, 15, or if there's 11 of the most successful [00:32:00] businesses of all time that grew exponentially every 15 year.
[00:32:03] And they grew every year without fail during that 15 year period and outstrip their best local, most obvious competitor by an amazing number. And, uh, they all use technology, but it was a facilitator for what they were focused on. Um, it wasn't the be all and end all. And I do think sometimes, um, accountants have a tendency to maybe drift towards looking for that silver bullet, which is a piece of technology and it just
[00:32:25] Mark Telford: [00:32:25] isn't terrible.
[00:32:28] And the other thing accountants are guilty of, and I think this especially comes when with talking about additional services is thinking like an accountant instead of a business owner. Explain. Management accounts, cashflow forecasts, three-way forecasts, budgets, accountants know why they're great business owners don't necessarily.
[00:32:49] Yes. If we look at lots of small business owners, they they've got KPIs in their heads. How much cash have I got in the bank? What's my VAT bill going to be [00:33:00] for the next quarter. What's my order book looking like for next month, how much am I owed by my customers? They know those KPIs. So if an accountant says, would you like to set a management account so you can understand your business better?
[00:33:14] Was fine. Thanks. I understand my business sign. Yeah, very well. Thank you,
[00:33:18] Paul Shrimpling: [00:33:18] indeed, indeed.
[00:33:20] Mark Telford: [00:33:20] So I think they need to, we collectively need to pull it back a bit and this is a lot of what we've been doing over the last eight months. Right. Okay.
[00:33:29] Paul Shrimpling: [00:33:29] So what do you mean by pull it back? Mark? What do you mean by pull it back?
[00:33:32] Mark Telford: [00:33:32] Go back to basics and think right. What keeps a business owner awake at night? Right. And it will be things such as I haven't got enough cash in the bank. Uh, to pay the wages on Friday. Um, I'm absolutely wiped out. I've been working too many hours. Uh, we don't seem to have any cash. I don't know why we seem busy than ever.
[00:33:56] So if, if it, if an accountant can ask questions [00:34:00] related to that, rather than would you like a set of management accounts so you can better understand your business? That's in a way. You know, positioning as solution before you've identified the problem. And then, uh, a bit, uh, another fault is focusing on a symptom rather than a cause.
[00:34:21] Right? I haven't got any cash in the bank. I need a loan. No, I don't think you do. You're quite busy. Let's let's let's strip this back and have a look. Uh, what's your, what's your credit control? Like how quickly after do you do the work you're billing your customers? How much profit have you made on that big job you did last month?
[00:34:41] Uh, and it's looking at those things instead as a starting point. Now, if you do that with a client and then you can demonstrate how a good set of management accounts can. Help them spot those problems earlier. Yeah. All of a sudden, the client thinks, you know what I do need to [00:35:00] manage when it counts.
[00:35:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:35:00] Yeah.
[00:35:00] And I think that's a really, really a profound point there might, you know, is that yes, go hunting for the problem and then go hunting for the cause of the problem. And then connect that up with whatever service line you've got as a firm, um, that. You know, th th the client buy it themselves. They want your need to persuade them, persuade themselves.
[00:35:18] If you have to ask the questions in the right way, like a business owner would write as opposed to like an accountant would,
[00:35:24] Mark Telford: [00:35:24] um, so
[00:35:26] Paul Shrimpling: [00:35:26] two more pieces, and then, then, then we're done. One was, you've mentioned clarity. You mentioned consistency, continuous improvement in communications, your fifth value that's on your websites is congruence.
[00:35:36] Mark Telford: [00:35:36] What,
[00:35:36] Paul Shrimpling: [00:35:36] what, what, what's that all about? It's a big, long word for me. That one.
[00:35:42] Mark Telford: [00:35:42] Yeah. Firstly, I wanted another word that began with
[00:35:48] Paul Shrimpling: [00:35:48] go for the full alliteration count. I've got four fingers in the thumb we're going for the thumb, which is congruent squad. I'm sure it was more than that. I'm sure it was worse than that.
[00:35:57] Mark Telford: [00:35:57] It is. It's very much, you know, no guesswork. [00:36:00] We, you know, walk the walk, you know, we've got the t-shirt we're not going to tell you to do something that either we haven't done ourselves or we haven't done with another client and we know it works. Yeah. You know, we're not just going to make something up because we bought some software and we think you should be using it.
[00:36:17] Right. Okay. It's an F this, this is also an important makeup of my practice, Tim and Dan, who work in the practice. They're qualified accountants, but they've worked in industry as well. They've worked in businesses, right? So for me, that adds another layer of. Another skillset that week where we can add value for clients.
[00:36:41] Paul Shrimpling: [00:36:41] Yeah. It's another layer of competence is what was what rings true for me there, Martin. That's fabulous now. Brilliant. Thank you very much. And I can't let you go, you, you, you mentioned business owner KPIs, but at the right, at the beginning, you mentioned that don't really like the phrase KPIs. How cool
[00:36:56] Mark Telford: [00:36:56] it's, it's it's a bit of a buzzword.
[00:36:58] It, you know, you ask a [00:37:00] business that what are your KPIs? Oh, right. Okay. Tell me what you mean. All right. So we're
[00:37:05] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:05] back to, uh, accountancy speak as opposed to business owner speak.
[00:37:08] Mark Telford: [00:37:08] Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and F I think, you know, if you'd say to a business owner, how do you know if your business is working well?
[00:37:18] What, what, what do you look at? What do you measure? Yeah. And it comes back to those things like cashing the bank and all the boat. Cause again, as accountants are very, very spoiled because we got such a fantastic business model where work keeps coming back to us year after year. If I look at say we've got a lot of construction clients, a lot of those don't know what work they're doing in February.
[00:37:45] Imagine an accountant being in that situation, that'd be pulling their hair out.
[00:37:50] Paul Shrimpling: [00:37:50] Indeed, indeed. Um, brilliant answer. Thank you very much. And, uh, sorry to throw one extra. I'm curious as to what, what would you say the central purpose of your firm [00:38:00] is? What's the core theme, the raison d'etre of the business.
[00:38:04] Mark Telford: [00:38:04] We want to build better businesses in lifestyles for ambitious business owners. So some big business owners that. You know, want to improve where they are and they want to, they want better quality of life that want more for the children. And I look back and that's an awful lot of what drives me to do what I do.
[00:38:23] Right. And it's this idea of understanding what your ideal client looks like. And it's, it's not just them, but what you can do for them as well.
[00:38:37] Paul Shrimpling: [00:38:37] That's pretty much it. And it fits right into, you know, w w w frame this podcast series of humanize the numbers. And if you're setting about building better businesses and better lifestyles, you've got the, yes, there's the numbers piece around the business, but there's the, uh, The humanity around it for the business owners, their employees, which is applies to you and your business as much as it applies to those.
[00:38:57] Mark Telford: [00:38:57] it absolutely
[00:38:58] Paul Shrimpling: [00:38:58] fantastic. Really [00:39:00] enjoyed this discussion. Thank you very, very much for, for being part of, uh, this humanized, the numbers series of podcasts. Thank you very much.
[00:39:07] Mark Telford: [00:39:07] Thank you very much for having me on Paul.
[00:39:13] Paul Shrimpling: [00:39:13] You'll find more valuable discussions with the leaders, managers, and owners of ambitious accounting firms at. Humanize 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.
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Telford Accountants' camaraderie
Completing Accounts weekly vs. monthly
Structuring the working week
Good Communication with Clients
Employees doing agreed work/Xero software
Hiring good people
Core values of Telford Accountants
Accountant mindset vs. Business Owner mindset
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