It's not every day that you get to have a deep and valuable conversation with someone who is deliberately, consciously, ambitiously looking to shift the profession towards the place it used to hold in the hearts and minds of its clients.
That's why I felt so excited, so privileged, to be able to spend some time with Will Farnell on the Humanise The Numbers podcast, talking with Will about the insights he has captured in his book, The Human Firm.
Will is very open, very keen, to be clear regarding his first book, The Digital Firm, which was about his experience of getting his accounting firm to a place where they were the first to be 100% cloud-based, and how those insights have driven him to realise that it's more about the humanity within the firm, around the clients and the team, that matters.
This is why I was so enamoured and so up for a conversation with Will, where he shares deep and meaningful insights about his progression from an offline to a completely cloud-based firm by 2009, and how those experiences have continued to influence his progression towards being a 75-person firm that's committed to the humanity of what's going on in his business, from his team's perspective and from his clients’ perspective.
I hope you'll join Will and I on this Humanise The Numbers podcast. You can go to Spotify or Apple or your favourite podcast platform if you wish, but please take time out and have a listen to Will Farnell. I'm sure you'll get some real value from it.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to see Will's contact information and to access the additional resources mentioned in the podcast.
We've had the benefit of always giving our staff huge autonomy, and I think that's been the foundation of it.
We let junior staff do stuff that they wouldn't be allowed to do in a typical mid-tier accounting firm.
We have people join us from larger firms where every email is reviewed and it’s like, come on guys, let's give people a bit of autonomy and responsibility and give them a chance to learn.
Whenever I talk about culture, Charles Handy's definition of culture is my go-to, because it just sums it up perfectly.
When people come to work with us, there is an element of them just folding into the way we do things. For example, we get people talking to clients really early on. Yes, there is risk associated with this, but it’s not an individual’s risk; we carry this as an organisation.
We want them to be human, we want them to have conversations. I’m not saying we want them to mess up, but it’s about recognising that we are humans, and as humans we don’t always get it right, and that's kind of okay as long as we learn from it.
Connect with Will
Connect with Paul
Resources relating to this podcast:
Will talks about his books throughout the podcast.
The Digital Firm was released in 2018 and he describes it as very much an outline of what he had done in his business. 'This is where we are, this is what we have done to get closer to our clients and how we have used technology to redesign our business model as an accounting firm.'
The Human Firm was released in 2023 and Will describes this book as 'a blueprint for his firm as well as everyone else's'. It's aspirational for him as a firm owner. He acknowledges that he is doing some of it, but also admits it’s his direction of travel and that he and his team are still working on and towards the things they are currently not doing.
Here are links to them both:
Paul also talks about a book called 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari', a fable about a spiritual journey, littered with powerful life lessons that teach us how to abandon consumerism in order to embrace destiny, live life to the full and discover joy.
Paul discusses the importance of purpose when it comes to understanding the strategic objectives of your firm. This can take time to get right in your firm but, when you do, you will have a 'that’s it' moment.
Paul mentions 8 Questions of Strategy and the difference that understanding the strategic health of your firm can make to your future.
Click here to read more, download our strategy eBook and complete your firm’s strategic health assessment questionnaire.
One of the key subjects in this podcast is the importance of Purpose, the reason you do what you do and the reason why you do it. Will discusses how this underpins everything he does within his firm.
He talks about knowing what he wanted to achieve right from the very beginning. He wanted to change the way professional accounting services were delivered and change the way the people who purchase those services perceive them.
He also says that in most client conversations, no matter the original subject, nearly all ended up being about Purpose, Vision and Values (and Pricing) – so what are you driving towards, why are you doing what you are doing?
Here is a 4-page Business Breakthrough report on this very subject, because being a successful firm isn’t just about delivering your products or services to your clients for a profit – it’s about having a deeper meaning that connects with your clients, your employees and other stakeholders.
Will and Paul also have a conversation about whether an accountancy firm should be team first or client first. Will believes that the right firm balances the needs of the clients with the needs of the team. Paul mentions another Business Breakthrough report called Customer Experience First that contains a great story about the refurbishment of the Ritz Carlton Hotel and the effect it had on their team when their needs were put first.