How do you really humanise the numbers in your firm? And by that, I mean, how do you deeply connect with your team and with your clients, so that you transform the results of your firm?
In this podcast discussion with Carl Reader, the first of two podcasts recorded. you'll hear Carl's passion, verve, and zeal for the humanity that he believes is necessary to run a successful accounting firm.
You'll hear his take on the processes and systems that tie him and his team to the work they do with their clients. He also talks about the use of technology but also the importance of making a connection with your business owner clients.
I hope you'll take a little time out and invest in listening to what Carl has got to say and share around successful firm, d&t. I'm confident there will be one or two gems, if not more, for you and your firm to take away.
So why not please join Carl and I on this Humanise the Numbers podcast, the first of two podcasts we've recorded together.
"I hate the word client… I just don't like it because it indicates a hierarchal relationship and 'you'll believe me' and 'you're the client' and 'I'm the professional' and 'you must be spoon-fed by me!'
"But when it transforms to my business partner that I’m speaking to, and by the way, I know my business partner's husband as well, and I know that 'John' is really hoping to take my business partner away on holiday, and I know that their kids are desperate to go to Disney and all of this stuff that goes around it, then it's really hard not to be empathetic...
"But ultimately the main intention of these calls is just for our partners to know that we are there for them, that we know them, we like them. We're on the same level as them as humans."
Connect with Carl
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TRANSCRIPT - unedited
Carl Reader: [00:00:00] Welcome
Paul Shrimpling: 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
Carl Reader: firms. And I hate the word client and I, I just don't like it because it indicates a hierarchal relationship and you know, your, your belief, me and you're, you know, you're, you're the client and I'm the professional and you must, you must be spoonfed by me when it transforms to my business partner, Phil I'm speaking.
And by the way, I, you know, I, I know my business partner's husband as well, and I know that John is really hoping to take the business partner away on holiday. And I know that their kids are desperate to go to Disney and all of this stuff that goes around it, [00:01:00] it then it's really hard not to be empathetic.
But ultimately the main intention of these calls is just for our partners to know that we've ever them. We, we know them, we like them. We're on the same level as them as humans. Do you
Paul Shrimpling: rapidly grow an accountancy firm to a place with 2,600 plus clients from the Northern reaches of Scotland to this Southern reaches of Wales and.
Whilst retaining a real deep human touch human focus. Well on this podcast, which is podcast one of two with Carita of DNT, you will hear Carl share some deep insights into how he and his team take humanizing the numbers deadly seriously, which has contributed significantly to the growth and the success of DNT.
Let's go to that podcast
Carl Reader: now. So Paul, I am called reader. [00:02:00] I am joint chairman of DMT. DMT is a multi-million turnover, multi award-winning firm. And primarily we specialize in serving niche industries. Our biggest industry that we serve is for franchising industry, but we we learned about the concept of niching, funnily enough, through martial arts.
So we've had experiences with a couple of things.
Paul Shrimpling: Through martial arts. Okay. We might have to dive into that one in a minute, but before we before we get into the nitty-gritty, can you just give us a guide to the, you know, the scale of the firm, the number of team members, you've got number of offices, the number of customers you work with, just so that people listening into this can get a real census to the scale of your operation.
Carl Reader: of course. So in terms of team numbers, I'm going to be very honest and vulnerable and say, I don't know. The truth of the matter is Paul we've gone through quite a few changes and the organizations internally. So not just reorganization in terms of changing the structure in the UK. But also through him [00:03:00] placing offshoring a whole lot more than we have done before.
So the reality on team numbers, I don't know. At our peak, we were about 60 to 65 team members, our financial planning arm plus a few others. Where we are today, it's less than that, but I don't know if the numbers in the UK, as it stands in terms of client numbers. I can be a little bit more accurate with that.
We've got 2,653. So they are clients all over the UK. Within all four corners, you know, we go up as fathers in Vanessa and Elgon down to Cornwell over to Belfast and so on. So we've got quite a wide geographical spread. And in terms of offices, we are actually based in a single location. Although we've pretty much taken over that industrial park, we've been a lovely ruble industrial park, just off of junction, 15 of VM four, thankfully the other side of the enforcer Swindon, but we were a couple of minutes and it's a it's a ranger converted, bounds, fair.
We've we've taken a few of [00:04:00] those, but we've very deliberately decided to stay in one location at the moment, rather than spreading geographic. Okay. So
Paul Shrimpling: we've got customers all over the UK, we're in one location, which means that you've mastered the art of digitally working, you know, from a distance with all of your clients.
So we're getting to that in a, in a few moments. But my starting question is, you know, this podcast is label is humanized the numbers. What does that phrase humanize the numbers actually mean to you and your firm? How do, how do you interpret
Carl Reader: that phrase? Yeah, sure. So it's a place for, can be interpreted in a number of ways, but for me, One of the challenges for let's see in the profession as a whole, and often where we as accountants let down our clients let's be honest is, but we fail to realize that there are humans behind the numbers.
What do I mean by that? So it can be very simple when you're working on eight. Yeah. If we go down to nuts and bolts on [00:05:00] this, if you're working on a set of accounts or a tax. And you see a number on the screen as an individual, who's working on a task focus rather than a people focus. It can become very easy to forget the fact that an extra zero or mat number has a very real impact on the person that you're dealing with, whether positively or negatively.
So if it's a tax bill, an extra zero is pretty scary. And if you get it wrong or you don't actively try and help them to reduce. You're not doing your job properly. Likewise, when it comes to profitability, if you're trying to help a business, if you're, if you don't have that obsessive focus over every 500 quid for that client being as valuable as you treat 500 pounds yourself in your own life, if you don't make that connection, but there's a real person behind it.
There's a real family whose family has. Depends on the numbers that you come out with. If you don't [00:06:00] understand, but various fat reality that humanity behind it, then you can never be an effective advisor. So for me, that's the essence of humanizing the numbers. So
Paul Shrimpling: it's, it's even the small numbers within any, whether it's P and L balance sheet cashflow.
Payroll, whatever it is. There's a, there's a set of humans behind that. Obviously it's, it's more obvious isn't it with payroll, but let's just take that out of this scenario for a minute. So it's treat those numbers as if they were your own because of the impact on that person. That client is as big on them as it would be.
If not more so on you
Carl Reader: let me relate a personal example. You know what I do okay. For myself poet, you know, I'm not, I'm not scraping by every month. It's not beans on toast. I think it also
Paul Shrimpling: beans on toast car
Carl Reader: this morning. I I had a trip into vetting and I decided to go on the train. I decided as my youngest my youngest son junior was off of school.
So he started his half term a day. Yeah. [00:07:00] I thought, do you know what we're going to jump on the train. We're in a new area. We could jump on the train. We're going to go two stops down. He gets a little train ride. I can go out and have my coffee for breakfast, and then we can come back. And it, it feels per day up a little bit.
So we did that and I lost my train ticket. Now, Paul, that's not unusual because one of the very rare bleeds of accountants, but it's also adult ADHD, which is really challenging in my personal life, in my business life and so on. But I lost my train. And it was six quid, six quid is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Sure. The pain, but that calls me where's my ticket. I've gotta go to the ticket machine and buy another poxy ticket for six squared, 6 46 quits. And I grew up knowing the value of a pound. The challenge often that we have as accountants is when Ben numbers on the screen. Six quid could be 60 quid. It could be 600 quid.
It could be 6,000 pounds, but because we're taught about the concepts of materiality and [00:08:00] focusing on what is apparently important sticks, quit is just six pounds. It's a number on the screen and we, we do lose that connection.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. I've been with two firms the last couple of days in a team setting with, with their sets of managers solves one group of eight managers in one and a group of 12 managers with the other.
And we were talking about the emotional impact of the work that you do, which I think is what you're talking about. This might be 600 tickets, but the emotional impact on you in terms of the uncertainty, the discombobulation, the stress that that
Carl Reader: brings.
Paul Shrimpling: And if that if, as a firm, you and your team help clients either prevent or overcome that, but it's the emotional impact that has a bigger result.
Don't you think in terms of the relationship then actually the number themselves, or do you think I'm off kilter there?
Carl Reader: No. No, I think, I think you've absolutely right. You see, the problem is logically, we all know that six pounds wasn't worth me worrying about [00:09:00] in the nicest possible way. So I shouldn't, I shouldn't have wasted.
15 minutes of my morning, worrying about six pounds. You know, I pay, I paid far more than the equivalent of six pound, per 15 minutes for services around the house to save me back time, to buy family time. Yeah. But in that moment, in that heat of the instant. Via motions to Cova and they overtook the logical side.
And if a challenge, but I see a lot of business owners have and apologies, Paul, if we're going off on a different tangent here, we're not going we're on their exactly the right tangent. Fantastic. But the challenge is that a lot of business owners have is, but the unknown tends to cause from FA. At disproportionate worry, compared to what should reasonably be expected from a logical mindset.
Now, plus as accountants, we know tax, we know accounts, we understand the legislation. So when stuff happens, we know, yeah, we've got that sixth sense of what we can trust and rely on and [00:10:00] what we can, you know, I'm thinking about a business owner for I've known for about 20 years. He's become a good friend of mine over the years.
He was having an issue with his bank, where there was an issue of a bank. And the bank manager said, look, it's fine. This is fairly routine. This is what's happened. I'm going to sort it. Now. I was able to gauge pretty quickly, but the bank manager was being honest. Veiled, a place for situation quite well.
And to put my trust in that bank manager it just felt like to me, but to him, this was new to him. This was the first time you'd experienced any challenges with. I think he was having sleepless nights. He was having difficulty believing and so on. That difference where we, we, as as trained accountants who are highly qualified and I've seen it over and over again, sometimes we can lose that empathy and that understanding of the pain and the fear of young certainty that business owners go through when it comes to thinking.
But tax bill that's around the corner that they don't know [00:11:00] about, or the changes that the government is telling them, they have to make this stuff can be really quite terrifying for a business owner who just wants to get on with doing the job that they do, serving their customers, making some money and enjoying their time, their family now.
Paul Shrimpling: So you've clearly got a crystal clear appreciation. Or you call empathy of what's going on in the business. Owner's mind and heart in and around the stresses and strains of yes. Run in the business, but of the unknown and also the numbers. Cause they're not the expert then obviously captain Sal, we all know that, that, that stating the blame, the obvious.
So how do you and your team. Overcome this number's obsession that accountants have, but don't have the empathy or emotional obsession in terms of the impact of those numbers, whether they're on screen or not with your customers, what's going on in your firm. That actually, what are your people doing that enables those conversations, those [00:12:00] interactions to reassure and, and build certainty in the heart and minds of your customers.
Carl Reader: Really good question. So in our firm, we've got a few layers and I believe, and I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet here, but I believe that this feeling comes strongest to me and at the top, and it's been reinforced our MD. Dave is a non. So he was a former operations director at Papa John's pizza. Our commercial director feel, again, he's a non accountant, he's come from a commercial background.
So we don't have accountants at the top end, so to speak. When it comes from for me, I think very honestly, Paul I, I mentioned earlier that my upbringing kind of taught me the value of a quit. What I call a normal upbringing. I realized that it's not a normal upbringing. It was actually a quite scrappy upbringing, you know, working class or whatever you'd want to call it, but, you know, Weber's often more money for money.
My dad was a locksmith and mum was a school cleaner, so I [00:13:00] kind of learned behold. About the pains for lack of money can bring the need to be on top of it. But also understanding that ability to juggle and understanding that I guess, for pains of, you know, when I was 16 and living on my own in a bed sit at glossy, but bedsit, it was the worst you could think of, but having to take my record decks and my record collection down to local cash converters being given 75 quid or whatever it was.
But help to pay for them. So I I've had that personal pain myself. So that's where it, I guess it becomes passionate from me. The top end of our leadership team, a good proportion of non accountants. So they've sat either on the business owner side or supporting business over. Outside of the numbers.
But don't get me wrong just because we've got this perhaps evangelical view of the fact that we need to have empathy. And we need to think about our clients first. And when we actually, we call out clients [00:14:00] partners, rather than clients, for way we see the relationship with them. Whilst we have that message internally, the challenges, but we have ears, but as we go down the organization, regardless of what we do, regardless of what systems we put in, regardless of a training, we give it still does get diluted.
Particularly as you bring new team members in with trained learnings from other firms and their own way of doing things, it's a message that has to be repeated over and over and over. We've realized, but as with any message you try and share in your firm, the only time that people are starting to listen to you is by the point that you're bored of saying it.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah, we have, we've got a saying when we work with firms about who blinks first on this stuff. So if you blink first and give up too soon, then it doesn't wash it. Yeah. But if they blinked. And it does wash in then you've you, and it's an earn until your horse and board and sake of it. You haven't said it enough.
I think that's what
Carl Reader: you're saying. Is that right? Yes. Yeah. And it's [00:15:00] crazy, isn't it? Because the problem is when you believe in something so much, and this comes with anything in a firm, whether it's trying to drive change throughout the organization, trying to reinforce confidence in the team members, but they can build relationships, whether it's bringing in new servers.
By the point that you're prepared to talk to your team about it. You are so convinced, but it's the right way to go because you've done your due diligence yourself. You've been thinking about it in the shower and you've been chewing it over at home and all of this stuff that by the time you're telling you that.
You've said it yourself several times anyway. So you're already bored a bit at the first point, but you're saying it alone 10 or 20 when it, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Paul Shrimpling: Amazing. Amazing. So you touched on there, the fact that you got systems and processes that reinforce. This value of money, let's be empathetic.
Let's have conversations that attach something to the emotional experience of your [00:16:00] customers. Can you run us through one or two of the, those systems or processes that stand out in terms of, you know, the 20, 80 rule, you know, 20% of what you do delivers 80% of the result. What are the one or two systems in the 20% section that deliver 80% of that empathetic human
Carl Reader: result that you've gotten.
Yeah. Do you know, do you know what Paul, I would love to say to you, I've got this magical bit of software that we use, or we've got this fantastic trick that we use for our clients, but it's really simple. We, we proactively speak to our clients. We don't hide behind emails. We don't hide behind tax filing deadlines or or perhaps the lieu of being more proactive accountants, upcoming deadlines, rather than past deadlines.
We just pick up the phone, which pick up the blower and speak. And by doing that, what, what I found is, but when you know the names of a client, rather than just the company name, when you then Nova husband or wife's name, when you then know the kids' names, you then know the [00:17:00] pets names. You then know where they go on holiday.
All of a sudden the relationship with them transforms and it transforms from that. Or. Yeah. W w w and I hate the word client and I just, I just don't like it because it indicates a hierarchal relationship. Brilliant. Yeah. You'll you'll believe me. And you're, you know, you're, you're the client and I'm the professional and you must, you must be spoonfed by me when it transforms to my business partner, Phil I'm speaking.
And by the way, I, you know, I, I know my business partner's husband as well, and I know that John is really hoping to take the business partner away on holiday. And I know that their kids are desperate to go to Disney and all, all of this stuff that goes around it, it, then it's really hard not to be impacted.
So I would have loved to have given you a magic trick that would, but people would get, oh, I haven't thought of that yet. I'm still fishing
Paul Shrimpling: for it. I bet. You've got one. I bet. Yeah. I'm still [00:18:00] hunting. Carla. I'm still hunting. So that sounds amazing. But I can't, I mean, you know, I've worked with the counters for 20 years now and I'm going to go, what's the best, what what's, what's the, what's the client's peak experience and eventually it will do it whole process and they re and there's a realization and acceptance of God's blatantly obvious is.
The meeting, face-to-face meeting with the client's peak experience and they go, right. What's the second most peak experience? Well, it's either a zoom or a phone call interaction with them and we're in the hierarchy to the emails show up, whether they don't show up really that's just, you know, it's an interference, isn't it.
We're all sick of emails. And so. Lots of firms, Cal state to me. Yeah. But we don't use email. We pick up the phone and then when I do some digging actually the reality is the latest thing that's, what's going on. And one or two of the managers are saying the right things. But when I then talked to the team and they go, right, how do you chase the client for some books and records or some information, or, you know, and I send them anemia in AMIA, in email.
So most for. [00:19:00] Say they have more calls than emails and don't, so I'm not saying you don't do that, but how do you ensure that. Your clients are getting more calls than they are emails so that you have really got a human service taking place between you and your, especially as clients yet. So
Carl Reader: this is the I guess the act of dilution, but I mentioned earlier, so I'm not going to say, but we have more calls and emails.
I would just say that's, that's the trick that delivers the empathy. However, We get that dilution down the organization. We've put in place some ways, but we can help in coverage calls, but we still find that there's there's a couple of issues. Firstly, if somebody is disengaged, we find faith tend to lean towards emails rather than cause secondly, we find a miss might sound extremely ageist.
It might sound, it might be something I'm not allowed to say, but I'm going to say it anyway. Paul, you have to be at a certain age. Right. [00:20:00] That just seems to be a societal issue, but we're up against, but when we, when we take on a 20 year. The likelihood is that, you know, if they're between, let's say 18 to 22, the likelihood is 90%.
They will lean towards written communication. 10% that they'd prefer to speak on the phone. On the flip side, if we take on somebody older, it's the other way around. And that's a very broad stereotype, but it's just what we've seen. So what we've done, there's a couple of measures that we put in place to try and improve it.
The first one is, but we use a system of OKR objectives and key results. And what an OKR is, I'm not wanting to teach anyone how to suck. X is rather than having the KPI KPI be the very end result. It's the actions that can be measured, that move you towards your KPI. So for example, an OKR we miss, and I don't know.
The precise metrics that Dave's put in place Dave BMI MD, but [00:21:00] the OKR might be to make six phone calls each day. We are. And it's I know it's not popular management theory, but we're quite obsessive over the data behind the scenes as well. So we've got our VoIP system. We monitor how many calls are made, so on and so forth.
I know that that's seen as quite old fashioned micromanagement, but Hey, it's an, it's a way of just just sanity checking. What people are saying, they're entities and they've actually made those calls. So we've got that. But then on the other side, we're very conscious for various an issue, first of all, we've age.
But secondly, for the counter. Don't naturally tend towards wanting to have unprompted conversations. They tend to find it difficult. They, they, I dunno. They're worried about feeling awkward on these phone calls. They're worried about what do I talk to the client about? What if they're unhappy? What if they ask me something?
I don't know. So we, we try to first of all, give them training. We've got a [00:22:00] business coach who gives them training on how to talk. We try to scatter our team with a mix of different backgrounds as well. So for example, Laura, who's heading up operations at the moment on maternity. So she's on maternity cover at the moment, but her background is call center.
So she is very comfortable to pick up the phone if normally the complete knowledge, but she's going to have 10 nasty phone calls because of. Yeah. Experience is selling whatever she sold in the past yellow pages or whatever it is, she's the people shouting at her. So actually the conversation she has with our partners are a whole lot better than that.
So we find that helps as well. So we, we have Patreon in, we have the mix of experience. And we've always looking for hooks that the team can then use for conversations as well. So for example, we have investing in some AI software and I know [00:23:00] epi software has AI now, but I really believe there is a bit of AI w which is based on predictive tax planning so that we can, we can have a stair on clients, but might have a tax opportunity in the future.
Just to have that in the back pocket, if the conversation goes flat, but ultimately the main intention of these calls is just for our partners to know that we've ever them. We, we know them, we like them. We're on the same level as them as humans.
Paul Shrimpling: Amazing. It's a powerful statement. That is, you know, we want our business partners and I love your commitment to not clients business partner, the language, because language patterns are key in terms of hard-wiring people's views and perceptions and emotions and around this stuff.
But we want our business partners to genuinely feel. I think there's your words that we are a partner that we're there for them. I think that was your language.
Carl Reader: Absolutely. And the language we use is. [00:24:00] In our firms or practices, or as I prefer in our business is it's amazing. The impact that it has.
It really is. Even when we look at job titles, when we look at all of these things, you know, we, we look at the waiver. A traditional accounting practice is structured. It's very hierarchical and it's often built in a way to serve the ego of the next person up the chain. And that doesn't serve the client when we look at how firms yeah, I've been, I guess this moves vending to a more structural view.
When we look at the waiver accounting practices and I, I always love using the word practice for people who are practicing this stuff while I'm doing it properly. And they have their tax team and they have their accounts team and their audit team and their corporate finance team. And it's all based around helping their factory be more effective.
And helping their factory members be more [00:25:00] specialized in a certain area, rather than thinking about the overall customer experience and what the customer client, if you prefer business partners, we'd prefer whether they want to be dealing with 10 different people. Mm
Paul Shrimpling: it's amazing. There was a bunch of managers not yesterday day before when I posed the question, what do clients really want?
And all credit to them. Okay. Well actually we want one point of contact or two at most, but they want, you know, one person to deal with that has got a real sense of their business and also really cares. It's all credit to them for that. And yeah. It took us an hour of discussion to get to you not to extract that and everything they described when I asked the question, so what do you can't really want?
And they went, oh, they wants to fund time and not this and that. And that all the answers were true, but they were task-related answers. Yeah, how do we get an efficient job done [00:26:00] was driving their perception as to what really mattered to the clients. And at some point someone said, well, they want us to care.
And another point is why they want their business to be successful, but it took a long time for that to come
Carl Reader: out is phenomenal because if we look at how our partners are served, you know, we work with minibar. So we've tried to have in pots of five we've we've we've toyed with a lot of different models, right?
And we, we have for each portfolio of partners, we have a portfolio manager and a portfolio assistant. So it's actually very similar to how the likes of NatWest and Barclays and so on would work with their corporate customers. You know, the moment that you're dealing with a bank and your over a certain turnover level, you know, if you're over a couple of million.
Typically you then get mobile phone numbers for your manager, and that's a sign that you cared about. You're no longer chucks to be an offshore call [00:27:00] center. You've got somebody on the end of a phone. If you can't get hold of them, you've got somebody who's office based who can make sure that it gets under their nose.
So we've gone with that kind of approach. And you know, the interesting thing, Paul. When we look at the job spec now, now we've gone through the majority of the lease structure and moving away from skillset and task and moving towards partner experience. When we look at the job spec of the portfolio manager of a portfolio, a system, do they need to be a qualified accountant?
Hmm. Yeah, we we've got one with a banking background. They've we are the first accounting firm made work for, and they they're managing the portfolio. But the reality is they know how to deal with people. They know how to win business. They know how to keep business. They know what a profit and loss and balance sheet should look like, but they don't need to know FRS 1 0 53 disclosures and tax rules and so on because [00:28:00] between behind the scenes can handle all of that stuff for them.
Paul Shrimpling: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. So it's clear that. Your passion is clear for the care of the client, the impact to use your word, that your work as an accountant or as a part, a blended party, or use another word of yours delivering for your business partners. And you've got the OTRs in place. And I just pick up on that car.
I, I. It might be old fashioned to hold people to account, but once upon a time, it was old fashioned for kids to play a game of football and want to win as opposed to get an, a metal.
Carl Reader: Part it's like, you know,
Paul Shrimpling: For those on video can see I'm wearing a, a real BRF useful hoodie. I'm not a hoodie sort of guy, but I've got my first ever job for the England rugby football union tomorrow I'm refereeing, a grown-up
Carl Reader: skate and getting paid.
I've got a new job.
Paul Shrimpling: So I'm going to get 20 quit tomorrow for referee and it'll be a match. And [00:29:00] clearly I'm not doing it for the money, but that's why I'm going to wear this in my podcast. People play games to win, getting clarity on what does winning mean? And it sounds as though in your firm winning means making a six course.
And so let's be transparent about exactly what we've done or not done. So I love that. I think accountability, accountability is something that accountants often, in fact, all of us are sort of uncomfortable with.
Carl Reader: And what we have is you know, the time sheet debate. It's a it's a big debate in the profession at the moment yet again, and Paul, I'm more than happy to save it.
We've scrapped time sheets, three times. We put them back in three times at the time. I can't tell you this week, whether we've got them or not, but Allity is, but there's a lot of noise and quite frankly, nonsense out there about the fact that we should have this idealistic management approach.
Virtual reality, however, is completely different. Some of the old fundamentals of what gets measured gets managed, et cetera, get sick. True. Yeah. And [00:30:00] we've found that sometimes we just need to cut through the noise and do what's right for the business. I
Paul Shrimpling: agree. And therefore what's right for our business partners or clients.
Absolutely. Therefore let's track and measure it so that we can see whether we're winning. Yeah. And then, you know, my views on this is are we winning every week? Which is why I love the fact that you say we want to do six calls a day. Now I was brought up in the recruitment world before I got into the accountancy world.
And, you know, we used to have a phrase which 10 calls before 10, 10, before 10 you're walk in to make 10 phone calls before. Yeah. And and it's just, it stuck with me. That's 35 years ago. That is but it's like, you know, it is the conversation. It's the relationship. It's the empathy. It's the emotion where the real value lies.
So anyone who's seen me on stage knows that I go down that path
Carl Reader: lot. This is, this is the thing with, I mean, endeavor, you know, if you, if you want to do anything, it's actually the path to success is actually really. You know, if I want to, I do a weightlifting for example, but I'm, I am admittedly [00:31:00] very casual with it.
So I, first of all, don't want to be a rich 6% body fat athlete because. I've never been 6% body fat in my life. I think I'd be really miserable without stuff like ice cream. I just, that's not my bag. However, I'm also casual in, but I don't drive myself enough to improvements. And so when he met, he met weld, but if I wanted to, I know, but it's not going to be a protein shake or a tablet or any magic pill.
That's going to do this. Hmm, it's going to be progressive overload. It's going to be consistency in position, not going to be Friday morning, jumping on the train and having a coffee in another town just for train journey is going to be spending two hours in the gym, making an incremental improvement over and over and over and over and over again.
And the same goes for everything. Wherever we want to Excel on social media, whether we want to Excel in sales, whatever it is we're doing, it's doing the boring stuff over and over again. [00:32:00] Yeah,
Paul Shrimpling: I agree. Is that rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat rinse, and repeat repetition is the route to install in the habits that bring you the success, whether it be weightlifting success, or phoning client success, or family business partner success.
I absolutely agree. So I love the fact that even though you say we haven't got any systems or processes you have gotten. Measurement process, which tracks the number of calls an OKR. I love that phrase and we're a huge fan of OKR is from a quarterly perspective within remarkable practice and see the merits that that brings, especially when you bring accountability to the place and, you know, well, you know, we've got a.
A full page ish web based report on accountability because it's one of those areas, those key moments, key issues that if accountants can ramp that skill up, they become better. Yes. They become better leaders, managers and the actual performance as well. So I love the OKR piece. Love the fact that you've got training in place.
Love the fact you've got blended teams. They're not just accountants in and around your pods and. Love the fact you're looking for you call them hooks. I [00:33:00] call them triggers that prompt a conversation about something of value to the client. Yes. And I think so there's, there's definitely processing system going on here even though where you were sort of playing it down.
So I love that love that rulers through, would you, you know, the, the, the firm's approach to tech and the use of tech, would you please
Carl Reader: say. So I'm not going to I'm not going to paint an extremely pretty picture as many will. I think we have a a fractious relationship with tech. We don't particularly enjoy it.
There's let, let, let me just state this now. And I'm going to upset a lot of this. Counsel to not innovators generally and buying licenses to software does not make you innovative, et cetera, et cetera. Why did we start on the tech journey? Our tech journey? If we, if, if we use the conversion to online as tech, which seems to be the conf the conflation that's going on at the moment in the world, when we start our [00:34:00] online, our tech journey, 2002, why did we start our tech journey?
Because floppy disks were getting broken in past. Okay. It was none of this always on business partners. It was none of this vision of cloud accountancy. And so on in 2002, I had martial arts schools up in Inverness and gain down in Cornwall and over in Belfast. And when they sent me back floppy disc or CD, when we have a post, it was getting broken and I'd have to phone them up and say, can you send it again?
And it just was a pain point on both sides. So we used I cash which was overseas, online accounting tool started using about 2002. I don't know the numbers, but I would guess we were probably their biggest partner given we had 170 clients on online accounting by 2007. We. We bought into the convenience of the delivery of information, but from the reality is Paul.
When we look back to that time, when we look back to 2002 and even [00:35:00] 2007, for, for some people in move areas, it took longer to process a transaction online, but on desktop software. Yeah. There's no such thing as broadband, which is, this is a different world today. This was a different world. We, we solely had to do it.
We had plans of servicing niche industries nationally. Yeah. And Wolf mouse simply wasn't good enough. So that was what drove our TAC journey. We became Xero's first partner outside of New Zealand in 2007 because and again, it wasn't a flash of inspiration. It was because I have this pulled for plug on online accounting thinking there's no future in it.
We did that. And then our journeys kind of went on since then. What is our approach was your question. Yeah. And I would like to share some of our learnings along the way. So I think that's integrated our approach to tech initially, you know, in 2007, we got, we bought into the hype. And when I say we bought into the hype, we bought [00:36:00] into the perceived need to be not of the cutting edge, but of a bleeding.
To be trying everything out to be the first partners to wherever t-shirts beaver fan bullies, all of that stuff that we see people doing now. And I think what on earth are you doing? We were using our partners as Guinea pigs. Why are we doing that? So we were at the bleeding edge of tech, and then I worked out as, has been true in many areas of my life.
The better way to do things is to sit back, let other people make the mistakes and then copy what works. So that's how I approach now in terms of our approach for. For choosing vendors and how we weigh up what we go with, what we don't. We had three very simple questions when we took on zero. So this was in 2007, zero were in competition with cashflow at the time.
So I know Dwayne, [00:37:00] I actually know Dwayne better since she's left cashflow than before really inspirational guy, but the software wasn't wasn't to our needs at the point. So zero, if that was cashflow and then there's a couple of others, like nipping it in the bud, but never actually went anywhere.
We just weighed up just for software, do what we needed to do. Well, quite simply we needed at the time, it was primarily stagecoach. And by the way, I guess a story about humanity and keeping relationships. We found out that I cash was being discontinued from David Sprig for franchise or at those stagecoaches happened to be in the pub with someone from IVIS.
Right. So despite our account managers protestations at the time what David told us was true, it was being discontinued. So we had urgency. So we actually look at what could do the job right now, which business was well-capitalized. Yeah. Have they got the money to be in business going forward and then finally do for globe map sit well with us.
Are [00:38:00] they likely to be acquired? Is it on the right path and Zerbo was for choice at the time. Yeah. We've applied those questions for epi better tech since we had it kind of worked. So in 2015 within. Right. Yeah, we were weighing up. Are they well-funded what's their vision of, yeah. We'll give you a line for them to do the job.
Vote, vote, similar questions. Yeah. And we've done it with every bit of software since. Brilliant.
Paul Shrimpling: And so I've got this thing, accountants love. It's almost as if they're looking for the silver bullet and the tech will deliver the silver bullet to resolve all the rails of their firm. Now that might be over criticism, but you know, that won't work all, we'll build it or we'll buy it.
And th th th the tech will fix it. There's, there's a resistance to, you know, that you talked earlier about the repetition process. Repetition, repeat, repeat, repeat. And actually what will happen is you will build the knowledge and the skill and the habit.
Carl Reader: So this is part of my factory's relationship with.
And I say this being involved on the other [00:39:00] side of the table as well, but I, I, I need to talk openly about this stuck pole. The first challenge, but a lot of firms have is that they buy into hype. They don't necessarily, they don't necessarily love for tech, but they love the hype and the perceived reassurance.
But if everyone else is doing something, it must be blight. So they buy into hype. And what does that end up resulting in a load of licenses, but don't get you. We've had it. And many other firms have, if you look at text bending, a piano of most firms tech spend is massively disproportionate to the business.
So that's the first issue with texts. Secondly, I think tech is something that's quite comfortable to hide behind. Yeah. So the modern equivalent of talking about when the firm was established and so on is to talk about protection. Yeah, I hate to break it to everyone. But your clients of the monkeys, what tech use do you ask?
Do you ask your [00:40:00] car mechanic? Whether they use Mac tools or Snap-on tools? Yeah. Brilliant. You want your car to work? And unfortunately it's a nice blanket to have and to talk about the check and so on, but. There's only a few geeks who really care about that stuff. Yeah. So I think that's another side to be protecting, but ultimately, but I tend to look at this, how I look at all forms of automation and.
I don't want to say job protection, because that sounds incredibly socialist and said, that's not my bag. But in terms of what roles are going to flourish in the future, you need to look at what roles have got high interpersonal skills and what roles have got high specialist skills and tech chips away at that stuff.
And for accountants, the specialist skills can be very easily automated. And it doesn't need artificial intelligence [00:41:00] or machine learning because most of the stuff we do as, as accountants, when we knocking to get a tax return or a set of accounts is formulaic. We follow a flow chart. Yeah. We might not have that flow chart drawer now, but in our heads, we know that we do this and then we turn over this page will be like, And it can fairly easily be automated.
The thing that can't be automated is what we said right. At the start of this podcast, picking up the blower, had that conversation. Yeah. How the misses how's the Abbey, where are you going on holiday? But share,
Paul Shrimpling: do the stuff the tech can't do, which is humanized stuff. Yeah. Do the stuff that the numbers can't do, which is humanized.
Is tap into the empathy, the relationships, and so forth. Let simply brilliant. And it's a great way of rounding off our, our conversations the passion and enthusiasm as always, which is why I wanted you on the podcast is, is clear. But the, the clarity of insight. And the practicality of what you shared is is something to behold.
I think it's extremely generous of you to, to go into such depth. I really appreciate your time and your energy and your [00:42:00] zeal for yourself, your business partners, and the way your team are interacting with your with your business partners. Thank you
Carl Reader: very, very much. No. Thank you, Paul. It's been an honor to be a guest and yeah, I look forward to listening when it's when it's finding agitated,
Paul Shrimpling: 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 visit humanized the numbers.online,
Carl Reader: click the logo of each sponsor.
Paul Shrimpling: And you'll hear what our podcast interviewees have to say about the sponsor services.[00:43:00]
Far, I know you've recently done the hard graft of writing your own in-depth book bought it. I've got that. Right. And I've had the great privilege of of, of pulling out one or two quotes and using them on presentations, always referencing you by the way. Tell me what was the kernel and the reason for starting that process and, and, and how's it.
Carl Reader: So I'm really glad that you've referenced. Basit quotes to me because I probably nicked them from someone else. So thank you so much. I probably shouldn't admit that, but Hey there's very little bits of original these days. Absolutely. What was the driver behind boss? It, I so I broke my first book startup coach in 20 14, 20 15.
And to be honest, Paul, I wanted to redo the startup coach. I wanted to. Make it something I would want to eat, but more importantly to me, something my kids would want to read. So I wanted it to be a letter to my [00:44:00] kids. And I guess the textbook, that's not giving us scores. So for me personally, there's a couple of things that really drive me.
So the first one is poverty alleviation. And I believe particularly for kids. And I know I shouldn't discriminate, but I do work with the Trussell trust and with Buttle, they're both around poverty alleviation and my view is, but no kid chooses to be in poverty. You have a parents might make choices, but lead to it, but the kids don't choose and they will have to be given a, a fair start in life.
I remember second is entrepreneurship at a young age because. I believe that for many people, entrepreneurship is a very not an easy way, but it's a way out of poverty and it's so way to build so many life skills that can help you, even if you don't end up being Richard Branson. It kind of hit my sweet spot there as well.
It's about what the combination was trying to, trying to serve people, trying to [00:45:00] get people out of tricky situations, but giving the next generation hope that they could do something. But the challenge we've got is, but there's no textbook for business at score. We don't do business studies. If you'd have asked me what business was, it was all shiny glass buildings and shared valuations and so on it, wasn't the reality of buying something for five and selling it for a tenner.
Yeah. So I wanted to create that, that basic textbook on how to start a business. But I also didn't want it to be a textbook because startup coach was a textbook. I wanted it to be a combination of checklists, but also cheerleading. Yeah. It's motivation and the inspiration as well as application. And hopefully I hit the spot.
It was best-selling in wh Smith's fucking mum. I
Paul Shrimpling: keep seeing it in every railway station. I go in brilliant com again, really appreciate your time and your effort and your energy today. It's been outstanding.
Carl Reader: Thank you very much. Have an awesome weekend and enjoy the roughly.[00:46:00]
What does HTN mean to you?
Rinse & Repeat
Technology with d&t
Click the play button below and use the slider on the audio below to get quickly to the chapters in the podcast.
Resources relating to this podcast:
Quarterly OKRs in your firm
This podcast discusses client contact, by phone or email. To monitor and encourage his team to make more calls Carl uses an OKR (Objectives and Key Results) system with measurements in place ensuring his team deliver on the calls commited to. Read more about OKRs below.
Business Breakthrough: Breakthrough Accountability
Paul and Carl also discuss accountability in the podcast. If accountants can improve their accountability skills they become better become better leaders and managers. The actual performance of the firm improves also. Read more about Breakthrough Accountability below.
Boss It: Control Your Time, Your Income and Your Life