This is podcast four of five in the ACCA strategy series.
Where's the payoff for an accounting firm in getting absolute clarity on the values and the behavioural standards that are expected in their firm?
In this podcast discussion, you'll hear from Cheryl Sharp of Pink Pig Financials and Phool Ashraf of Gains Accountants on how the behavioural standards and values they have in their business impact on their lives as business owners, their teams' lives and their clients' lives too.
"It's the whole person, it's the whole business, the whole journey. It's more than just the numbers. Unfortunately, not every client understands that initially, but as they get to know us, they get to realise, and then they get to see the magic happen, and they get to understand why we're asking these questions and how we can help them.
"They (the team) are not just here to work. I would not go by their technical skills and their intellect. I would go by who they are and whether they fit within the firm, whether they are committed to do what we want to do only, then we can add value into their lives beyond careers and they can bring value into our firm."
Connect with Phool
Connect with Cheryl
Connect with Paul
TRANSCRIPT - unedited
Paul Shrimpling: This is podcast four of five of the ACCA strategy series. Welcome to the HumaniseTheNumbers 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.
Cheryl Sharp: I don't think you can only focus on the numbers. Just like Paul said, it's the whole person, it's the whole business, the whole journey. It's, it's more than just the numbers. There's a lot more to it than that. And. Unfortunately, not every client understands that initially, but as they get to know us, they get to realize, and then they get to see the magic happen, as we say, and they get to understand why we're asking these questions and how we can help them.
Phool Ashraf: I mean yesterday, I was having a conversation with one off the potential client who said that he wants to work with us, but he's not yet there. It said that it is a strategy business plan. It sounds very big words, very complex words, but we do not want to make it complex necessary, but not in a simplest way.
Paul Shrimpling: Where's the payoff for an accounting firm. in getting absolute clarity on the values of the behavioral standards that are expected in their firm. on this podcast discussion, you'll hear from Cheryl and Phool and how the standards in their business, the values they have in their business impact on their lives as business owners, their team's lives and also their client's lives.
Let's go to that podcast discussion with pool and Cheryl now.
Phool Ashraf: Hi, um, I'm Palosh Ruff. Um, and I'm founder of gains accountants. Um, I started my accountancy carrier about 12 years ago, and most of the time I've spent working with the hospitality businesses. Um, it's it's it's, I wouldn't say I'm foodie, but I it's my love of the culture that.
Took me into hospitality industry beside being able to have opportunity to work with them. So I run a dedicated, um, small team, uh, at Gaines. We are quite closed, very friendly, uh, open chilled environment in the office. Sometimes get us, uh, it does get stressful. Since we are accountants, we have to work with numbers and challenges, particularly during COVID time, but we still try to help each other.
And we particularly work in addition to hospitality shot service sector, which services, food and beverage businesses initially was restaurants, cafes. But now we are moving into take-away or as we say, docketing or cloud kitchen, I am. I, um, I'm quite confident. And I pride myself to say that, um, we equally know hospitality industry, as we know accountancy now, um, by working with hospitality, business owners, working through and helping them to overcome their real challenges and then exactly knowing what exactly they need to do in their businesses to make it successful.
As we often have hospitality, businesses are very challenging, but I equally see accountancy. In the same way. So I'm, I'm proud to say that we have got to a stage where we understand both industries equally and glad to work together
Paul Shrimpling: before we move on to shell. Co can you just give me an idea what your, your background before you found it gains?
What, what, what scale, what type of accountancy firms did you, um, develop your knowledge and your skills
Phool Ashraf: with. Sure. I started working with, um, uh, I started my career by working in a telecom industry. And so, but in the central London, Waterloo, where I got most of my training, then I went into, um, a co working for accountancy practices.
Um, as you would imagine as a trainee accountant, moving to the next step of the, um, accountancy. And then I started working as a freelance consultant for some time. And, um, then working with quite a lot of different accountancy firms and I chose to work with most. Most progressive firms. Um, when I started my accountancy training, things were very different.
12 years ago, we were not into zero. We were not into cloud space. It was, we were entering that space. So I had that experience of transitioning from like debit and credits and quite desktop based softwares to completely cloud-based right. And then I would say I I've been very, um, it's been a great opportunity for me to see both areas and, um, learn from that.
Paul Shrimpling: Fantastic. Thank you very much. So, uh, Cheryl, if you would, uh, give us a little bit of background about yourself and your firm as well.
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah. So hi everyone. I'm sure sharp. I'm the founder of pink pig financials. Um, and actually I started in telecoms industry as well in a business, um, and similar to Paul. Um, when I first started my career, God, about 18 years ago.
Um, Sage was the thing. Um, everyone was on it. Um, and that's how I learned. Um, and then I actually went back a little bit and went to a company where they were still on paper records. So I've done the paper records, I've done the Sage. And then when I was in practice, um, that's when I fell in love with working with loads of different companies and actually helping them to get, get more out of their businesses really.
Um, and then I set up on my own as pink, pink financials. We're actually going back a little bit. It was called search council before then. So we've evolved ourselves. Um, and from day one, I needed to have the flexibility of being digital. So. I wanted to go of being cloud based from day one. Didn't quite happen as I wanted, but got there eventually.
Cool. Um, so in my team, we're currently a team of four, um, in the next five weeks, we'll become a team of six and excited about, um, we predominantly work with parent led companies. So, yeah. Being a mum myself, um, it kind of felt that natural step I can interact with other parents. Um, initially I worked mostly with moms and that's now moving to both parents, um, quite often husband and wife companies.
Um, but I think it's, it helps me because I know exactly what their challenges are. I know that juggle of mum or children and a business and trying to fit in school runs. And then work in within school, run time, because come three o'clock, you're running around like a headless chicken, trying to get them to all the different clubs and stuff.
So I get that. I get where they're coming from and their struggles. And it's easy for both of us to sympathize with each other. Um, and one of our core values, I'm going to hit it where they understand it. Um, because we do understand our clients and equally they understand where we're coming from. So if we say to them, Oh sports though that I can actually do a meeting or something.
They totally get it. And they're fine with it. Whereas previously I've found that's not always been the case.
Paul Shrimpling: Let me, um, let me dive into, given that you've brought, brought straight to values, which is great, cause it's a key component of any successful strategy. If that's what we're setting the scene for, which is exactly what we're doing.
The fact that you've recently interviewed a whole raft of people and narrowed that down to two people that are just starting with you. Explain to me, would you share how your and I've looked on your website? So I know there are seven values there, how those values showed up in the interview process. If indeed that is a tool.
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah, they did say initially we asked, um, for videos from the candidates and in there I wanted them to. State how at least one of the values they live by. Um, and then I'll say that's helping us to get to know them a little bit better. Right. And throughout when we had the team meeting with each of the candidates, we could get to know the limits a bit better.
We would ask them some things around our values. We probably wouldn't make it as full more as how do you fit in with our value of X, Y Zed kind of thing. We kind of ask questions around it to get. Get it out for them without them realizing. Um, so we can understand. And then of course, just in general conversation, we can understand.
And quite often I think because we're quite publicized what our values are and we use it in our hiring process, we find candidates will come to us and say, well, this is what I do that fits in with your values. And it's really nice to see that, that they go into that. Those links initially.
Paul Shrimpling: Right? So you've gone public on your website with the values, if it candidates not referencing them.
Presumably that raises a question Mark in your head as to whether the series about your does it.
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah, definitely. And, and it helps despite any red flags. So certain things people may say maybe against one of our values, in which case at that point, I probably very rudely and shouldn't be, but I do switch off and just.
They get the red cross and it's move on to the next page.
Paul Shrimpling: Do you finish the, you finish the interview at that
Cheryl Sharp: point course you do.
Paul Shrimpling: Or you're not really, really gentle and kind in the
Cheryl Sharp: next thing I have Delta card, but at that point, um, we did kind of just. Yeah. Yeah. I'm not blunt and that's it. You're out the door kind of thing we do.
Just wrap it up quite right.
Paul Shrimpling: My next question is, do you show up and I'm going to just have a quick chat with get cool involved in this, but my next question is going to be about, um, what, why value is so important, but before we get there, I just want to get to pill's views on how values show up in your firm.
On a day to day, week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter basis. What's what, what's your views?
Phool Ashraf: So for, for, for us, when I say us, I mean, old team, we have five. Yeah. And, um, so it's for customers, for team, for me, for everyone around us. It's, it's, it's all about people. It's people behind businesses, but BB bill behind the computers and, uh, Eventually it's just for, for me, for, for gaining this about people.
And then when we talk about people, it's all about their beliefs, their attitudes, their, their behaviors, and that we need to make sure that we know that certainly there are differences. So values at that stage guide us, who we want to work with, who we want to be part of in their businesses, who we want to build our community with.
So values, I think would be. for us is to have utmost value. This is something that leads us for example, is, um, she already was talking about hiring, like I've, um, I've um, I've got a new team member. Um, We had to replace, uh, because of COVID then one of our team members and what, what I was looking for in a member when I was hiring a team member, I mean, I would never call them an employee.
I mean, I don't, it's just kind of giving them some sort of respect or not. Making them feel like they are part of something. They are not just here to work. So I would, I would not go by their technical skills, their intellect. I would go by who they are and whether they fit within the firm, whether they are committed to do what we want to do only, then we can add value into their lives beyond careers and they can bring value into our farm.
And beyond that, the people we help. Because it's having a Vida impact than just helping a few businesses, getting their accounts and compliance done, and maybe. Going into advisory.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. Yeah. We you've said something very powerful, I, which is, you know, can we, can we run our businesses so that all the people involved and I mean, yes, yes.
Team members, yes. Clients and maybe the broader company community feel part of something. So what, what are people, what are people part of in gains? What is the, what's the core thing that you, you focused on? It's
Phool Ashraf: about helping people achieve what they desire. Right, which is much more beyond numbers beyond money.
I mean, we often talk about financial freedom, mental freedom and time freedom, but it's not only these things. I mean, I, I'm a, I'm a mom and I appreciate for me, um, At times, there are certain things that matter to me throughout my career of 12 years and accountancy. Um, I see there have been a lot of changes when I was, I wasn't when I was individual.
And then I, when I became mum of young kids and now mom of school-going kids, then to the priority changes as a result, my aim is my ultimate goal, but my, I do require different things at different stages of my life. And then we try to. Cater for those internally as well as externally. So if I have a mum blacking for me, we would want to accommodate their needs compared to if I have a trainee accountant working for us and we want to accommodate them, maybe their lifestyles it's much more beyond that.
It's as I said at the beginning, it's all about people. Yeah,
Paul Shrimpling: it is. So I just want to recap that, cause you mentioned three freedoms. What were the three freedoms? That was a brilliant setup.
Phool Ashraf: Time, freedom, money, freedom, and mental freedom. And I believe mental freedom is the top one that, I mean, if I would prioritize any of those out of any of those three, I would prioritize mental freedom.
Okay. Because it's my personal experience I have at points in my life. I had a lot of money at point in time. I had a lot of time, but the mental freedom has always been a challenge. I mean, when you start working for, to get some money, then you sacrifice certain things that put pressure on you. On the other side, when you try to manage time, then you are somehow sacrificing some other things in your life.
So it's managing the balance in your mind, right? So ultimately you achieve you achieve satisfaction. You feel. That you are somewhere that makes you happy is ultimately, I mean, we are living life and we are doing business, not just, I mean, obviously people run their business for hobbies, but those are not real business.
So there are always people behind it. And then it links to this and affection happiness.
Paul Shrimpling: Cool. So that part of something is adding value to their lives so that they are actually contributing fully wholeheartedly to you in your. Business,
Phool Ashraf: absolutely three way relationship chief among us. I always reverted to a triangle.
I mean three parties involved, not three relationships, three parties. I always refer to as a triangle. One is from the other one is steamed. The third one is client, and we need to make sure all of these three parties keep everyone happy, contributing. Positively eaten into each other lives and
Paul Shrimpling: goals.
Brilliant. And so therefore, the behavioral standards you have in your firm, the values that you set for your organization didn't have to work for all three parts of the firm, the team and the clients. So Cheryl, why, why values are, so why, why are, is so important to you and your, your business that think pic?
Cheryl Sharp: Um, I think the fact is very similar to Paul actually is you've got a purpose and. My purpose is to provide for my family and give them what they want out of life as well. And our purpose for clients is to help them achieve what they want out of. They've got their businesses and their lives. And for us, I didn't just want to focus on the numbers and things like that.
I wanted to build. Something bigger. And I wanted to really feel like we had a purpose and that we was making a difference to people. And it's funny, my values have changed over time as I've changed as a person. And I think it's having those values. Gives me something to live by every day. So, and it helps me to make decisions.
Um, it helps to hire a fire, start up outside staff, either team members. Um, it helps with clients making sure we're working with who we want to work with and who fits in with our values. I want my team to want to come to work and not dread speaking to a client because they don't fit with our values or they don't treat us very well or something like that.
So we. We, we also use our values with the clients as well, similar to Paul and, um, make sure that they fit with us as well, so that we don't so we can work better together at the end of the day.
Paul Shrimpling: So if I dropped into a team meeting shell and asked the team to describe and list out the seven values you got on your website, how well will they?
Yeah. You have to share them,
Cheryl Sharp: they should be able to share them pretty well. I'd like to think they would. We do. We do. And we don't necessarily talk about them necessarily as in, let's talk about this value today or that value story, but just in our everyday conversations, it's all around the things it's just ingrained in us.
Um, and everything comes back to those values really. And. Yeah. I thought to think they, they pretty much know what they are off the top of their head, but
Paul Shrimpling: one of the, one of the challenges, because I worked with many accountants firms over many years, and one of the challenges in this value space and purpose based because those two things are connected.
Aren't they is, it's like, well, it's, it's so difficult to get clarity on what they are. On what, you know, this, you know, use the, the phrase part of something Paul and Cheryl use that, you know, you gotta have a purpose, you know, very much a similar, similar thing. Um, but you know, I've, I've gone to several firms and I've sat down with the leadership teams and go right there, go let's work out what we stand for here as a firm, or, you know, what's the raison d'etre.
For this business and they go, huh, that's too hard. We do, you know, you know, is there a real value payoff, you know, hard-nosed cash, money, wealth payoff for getting clear on what you stand for, what your purpose is. Do you think, how would you respond? How would you help me? And there's these things where I think, Oh, this is good.
We've got to go here, but they're not, you know, they're not necessarily getting it. Cause it just feels either too airy fairy in one way or too difficult in another. What w w w w where's the payoff.
Cheryl Sharp: I think, um, for us as a school, small team, we needed to make sure we was all on the same page, more so than because no one can hide, no one can go and, um, do something without some, without sort of knowing. So we all need to be on the same hymn sheet, really. So for me, that's. That that's what is key is making sure that we're all on the same hymn sheet.
So that's why probably we don't do it as formally as such, but we all know what the end goal is, where the MSO is and where are we going and how are we going to do it? Because that's what makes you gel as a team
Phool Ashraf: for, for, for us. I mean, we live in breathe. I mean, I can't. Make people to remember a lot of views.
The only way I can make people's remember is first, they are on the same page. And that's what we do when we. Get any clients on board or when we get any team member on boat and then we live and breathe every day. I mean, our values are not very long, less complicated. It's just three simple words. Having clarity about that.
You are a client. You need to have clarity of what your w why you are doing business. What's the reason, core reason behind it. As a team member, you need to know why you are working with games. And as a firm, we need to know what role do we want to play, and that is having an impact, a positive impact on our community.
Then effectiveness, everything that we do in our lives, including in our businesses must be effective. Otherwise in such a busy world, we are not utilizing our resources and time efficiently, so we need to make it effective and then empowering. And that's being part of every day that we do something, whether we spend money, whether we spend on knowledge, whether we share something, it should empower you and others.
And we live in breathe. I mean, simply we do not, um, We do not use his words every day, but certainly we share. Does client know this? They don't know it's okay. Whether it's part of the engagement or not, let's educate them. And I have been saying over the past 12 months, after having a lot of planning, marketing campaigns, everyone I meet, I say, I'm not that I do not want to make sales or generate sales.
This all I want to do is educate people. Create awareness. And that's the only way I can get right. Kind of clients coming on board. Um, I don't want people who are not ready to learn because for me, knowledge is
Paul Shrimpling: applied. So I've got the three words, right. At pool clarity, impact and empowering
Phool Ashraf: total clarity, effectiveness, and empowerment.
Paul Shrimpling: Right? Brilliant.
Okay. So, um, have you ever, um, asked a client to leave because they contradicted your values?
Phool Ashraf: Yes, not very long
Paul Shrimpling: ago recently.
How did that pan out then? What happened and how did you resolve it?
Phool Ashraf: We, uh, we started working with them recently. Um, and it's um, but what we found is that they were not aligned. They were, they wanted to do things very fast. They did not want to have clarity over what actually they want to achieve before taking any actions.
And that was some sort of hindrance in how we can make everything effective, every action that we do for them, or whether they do it in their business. As, uh, as a result, despite our extensive efforts, they could not see the value we were bringing into their, into their business. And whether it's a client or a team, or even myself, I would immediately disengage where we are not adding value into any of these three parties.
Paul Shrimpling: Brilliant. So
Phool Ashraf: if
Paul Shrimpling: together I get that. So how, how can you be effective if you're not clear on what you're doing or why you're doing it? Exactly. And therefore, if you've not got both clarity and effectiveness, there's no way you're going to be empowering it. Yeah, absolutely. And so you kick them out.
Did you kick this client out?
Phool Ashraf: Obviously we did it. We politely said that where we are, what we are thinking and what we suggested them, they might be better off working with someone else not
Paul Shrimpling: Well, then you're welcome to share a little about you, what, you know, any experience of either the clients or a team member that dusty didn't stack up to your values and that you've, um, you know, politely. You know, professionally to less than to go as opposed to my style, which is just kick him out.
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah. I mean, not directly as such, but we, we there's some that we've noticed, one of our, um, values is continuous improvement.
And, uh, we, we have lived by this quite a bit, especially in the last few years where we've been improving our processes and things, and we've found that some clients. So want to meet with us. Um, they're quite happy to do it the same way. They've always done it. Um, so naturally that relationship has got to come to an end because we're not still doing it that way.
We're doing it this way and this way. And obviously we would.
Paul Shrimpling: That sounds a bit like my way or the highway, Cheryl, that
Cheryl Sharp: it was just about sites like that. Obviously we try and educate them as to why we're doing it this way, what ha what the benefit is, um, and why we've changed and why we won't do it the old way, because it's of a benefit to them.
Um, and to us, because obviously we want to understand it both ways as well. Um, So, yeah, there has been a few occasions where it has felt like my way or the highway, but the end is they were doing this for a reason and we're improving for a reason. And if they're not willing to see that and benefit from it ultimately, then there's going to be friction there.
So why continue the relationship? Right.
Paul Shrimpling: So you've both there by definition limited the revenues and profits of the business. By one client in this case, because they didn't fit with your behavioral standards the way you wanted to work with them. Whereas the payoff of that was where's the benefit of
Phool Ashraf: that
Cheryl Sharp: for me.
I see it is if you're disengaging with one client that doesn't quite fit, you're making room for more clients who do it. So you are. Yeah, because initially at one point I was very like, Oh, I can't let them go because we can't afford to. But then yeah, I've had a very, very. Shifted my mindset, very big shift.
And I can see now you are making space for those who are more aligned. Yeah, there's a,
Paul Shrimpling: there's a great line. I think it's from, um, uh, uh, either pulled on a Ron Baker. Can't remember which, and this is for, you know, every client you work with every hour, you invest in the client that doesn't fit is an hour.
You can't invest in someone who does fit. And so, you know, you're disenfranchising your team, your clients, yourself, and the, uh, you know, what really matters. Um, Cool. What are your thoughts on that? Okay, so you're actually restricting the revenue, the fees and the growth of your business, because you're actually asking politely and professionally a client to perhaps find another accountant.
Phool Ashraf: Um, I don't think so. I have a different opinion. I'm not restricting I'm opening opportunities better and more because if there's a friction, that means that both parties would not get any value and the value we can not only put it into monetary value. I mean, for me, time is. Of more importance than money.
So if we are saving their time and our time, then we are playing smart. We are making room to make more money. And, and that has happened actually at Gaines, we started biking with almost everyone. Then we gradually found out ways. Because we had to build the practice. We had to build resources to survive.
And then what I found is now the more and more we are, I wouldn't say picky, but the more we find aligned and people who fit within our, uh, within the way we work, then the more benefit we can give to them. And then we have, we are growing at a much faster pace, more, um, jointly. We, I mean, one of the things I use in, during my interview calls and meetings and say with our clients and.
Most leave with our team is I want everyone to wake up and say, yeah, we are going to work. Yes, we are going to work. We are not, it's not like, Oh, it's another working day. So you need to feel motivated. I mean, I discouraged any sort of de-motivation among our clients and our team that makes me come to work.
Paul Shrimpling: Very good. Very good. Well, let, let, let's just shift this to clients then. So to begin with, let's just have a couple of numbers. So total number of business clients. How many have you got pool? How many of you got to,
Phool Ashraf: we've got about 80 you're. You've got
Paul Shrimpling: 80 clients, but
Phool Ashraf: the clients we have are kind of multiple side businesses, hospitality businesses are not like.
One business and that's it. They would have three, four or five different
Paul Shrimpling: locations, Alex. Yeah. Yeah, of course. Multiple businesses within one unit, but you've got 80 of those. Yes. Great
Cheryl Sharp: stuff. Cheryl. We've got about 94, I think, on our books at the moment.
Paul Shrimpling: So I just, I, I wonder if you can point to a client that either does or does not have a crystal clear set of values and the challenges and problems that.
The client has as a consequence of not working this act. And that's all, there's the clients who've worked it out and they get the upside benefits. There's clients who haven't worked it out and they're getting the downside results of that. So just want to see if you can think of a client who's maybe struggling without naming them clearly because they haven't nailed the values and the client who's succeeding because they have what, um, w w where can we go with this?
What story would you like to tell us? I
Phool Ashraf: mean, my personal experience with the hospitality industry is that yes, they are in serious trouble with team members because they haven't locked their values. And as soon as they lock it, I mean, one of our oldest clients I've been working with, I see them as soon as the, all-clear, what they want to achieve, how they want to achieve, what are their business values, then they start to.
They immediately stopped retaining their stuff. And as we know hospitality before COVID was mainly human resource based industry. Now it's no changing. Um, it's very important for hospitality businesses to have staff retention, at least for the key management staff retention and what I've recently. One of the examples I would like to use one of our clients, massive business potential.
Everything was restricted. Even they have to. I mean, they joined us fairly recently in 2021, before that they were working with general accountants. Um, and they were not getting that sort of insight and value from the general accountant that we add. We are now adding it and the journey. I will just explain them.
Yeah. It's it's not it's to undecided. And the understanding Mesa you use different. So what happened was that they was struggling to retain staff members. Business was speaking up through docket and online sales, but they had to restrict the operations. They have to reduce their working time. Opening times they had to reduce the deliveries.
And at one point they had to even close their online operations, which was the core of the business for survival and purely because they didn't know. Exactly what they want to achieve. What what's the business about? What are the core values of the business, how they want to work there? What they could not bring everyone onto the same table.
Everyone was doing things in a split way and business was not getting anything out of it. It's just a high staff turnover. Now what we did is. We had a few conversations with it, with them, even it was beyond our engagement, but as a, as a health, because we do, we've been wholeheartedly helping hospitality businesses.
So we were, we had few discussions and we unlocked quite few things after having, I mean, they understood what exactly was the problem where they were going wrong. What is the business about what is, what are the potentials? And it's all at the end, it goes back to the. Their understanding and their assumptions and believes in one way that we help them to understand clearly and then do things in a way now they are on set to grow in 2021.
Paul Shrimpling: So it's perhaps a bit early to point to whether it's made a real difference sustainably over time. But your sense is that they're in a better place now than they were. They
Phool Ashraf: have made a difference. They have, they have 'em now they were based on two outlets. They have opened the third one right in the short period of time.
So we can already see things are moving. They are open, they are set to open their operations up in preparation of opening the online operations again at a big
Paul Shrimpling: level. Right. Okay. It's interesting. There was, there was a point you made in that pool about, we're talking about purpose and values, mainly values, but ultimately they result in the behaviors.
It's the things people do that, you know, it's not what they say is it's what people do that determines whether yes,
Phool Ashraf: exactly. Yeah. It all comes from having clarity of where you at in the business, what, uh, how you want to do things as a business
Paul Shrimpling: owner? Well, there's two big questions then is why what's your purpose?
How they're your values is that that's the, they're the two, two, two big questions and interesting that, yes. It's not normal. The normal remit of an account visit to have a conversation about values and purpose, or is it, I would argue that maybe that's where the profession is heading.
Phool Ashraf: I would say, certainly this is, this is the feature of profession.
I mean, uh, we are often seen as an accountants. I mean, uh, uh, pardon me if I'm speaking on behalf of others and they disagree, but we have much more poverty than, than just, uh, crunching some numbers and why shouldn't we use it? And I think this is when we talk about advisory, I feel it, this is what we need to do.
Beyond just management reporting and beyond yes. That's necessary. Absolutely. I don't disagree, but then getting to the bottom of it, I often seen over the past 12 to 18 months that we provide advisory some sort of reports, right. Wouldn't make much difference until we go down into the exactly how and why you want to do things.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. And actually helped your clients to make decisions and therefore do something which then results in taking actions, which then results in you having an accountability conversation. And then all of a sudden we're not behaving like an accountant we're behaving as an advisor, which actually the two together is where the real power is that that's.
Um, I, I, I got into working with the profession, you know, 18 plus years ago because of my experience as a business owner, two times working with accountants who, um, gave me reports that I didn't understand. Yeah, exactly. And it's like, well, what's the, where's the value. And, and the counters you just gives me reports that I don't understand that I've got it.
So, um, thanks bill. That was brilliant. Cheryl example of a client who either has, or has not nailed the values and the impact it's had on their business.
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah. I was trying to think of one in particular to speak about. Um, and I think it comes back to one that's is probably one of my longest serving clients really.
And, um, when I first met her, she kind of had an idea of what she wanted, who she was, where she was going and, but hadn't really nailed it. And she kind of. What around the house is, did a little bit, did quite well. Um, and then all of a sudden, I don't really know what happened, but things started to go quite badly and her business got smaller and smaller, smaller.
Um, and I don't know, she lost the love for it or what, but for awhile, she was just plodding along. I miss like, excuse me. Um, and then yeah, then she kind of got some clarity of what she wanted out of her business. She got some clarity. Okay. That's karate. Now she'll
Phool Ashraf: be working with
Cheryl Sharp: clarity. They are what she, who she was and who her customers was and what service she wanted to get.
And I think that was the biggest part of it is what service she wanted to give. Um, because heavy industry was changing in social. Well in marketing in general, um, the industry was changing and what she started off with, or I think, well, that's where she realized is what she was offering wasn't needed anymore because the market was over saturated.
So she changed her offering. Really defined who she was as a person, her values, purpose, what she wants to have for business, what she wanted to do, um, how she wanted to do it, who she wanted to work with. And as soon as she'd made those co Mo like really got those clear and put down on the paper, her business just completely turned around fairly overnight.
And. Yeah, her business is absolutely thriving now. Um, two years later, she's just growing and growing and growing and it's so lovely.
Paul Shrimpling: How about it is if you were with the,
Cheryl Sharp: for a long time? Yeah, it really is. Is, and it's, it's, it's amazing. It's life-changing I think it's, I know that's a really bold statement, but it is once you actually know where you're going and what you want.
Hmm. And who you are and who you want to work with. I think it just, it makes all the difference. I don't feel you can grow as a person or grow as a business until you know exactly what you're doing and how you're going to do it. Yeah.
Paul Shrimpling: So H how do you, what sort of conversations, what sort of questions do you ask clients to help them establish what their values are and what their purpose is?
Cheryl Sharp: Um, so we've got a set. So the questions, but I've read, how do you usually go off, completely off script? We kind of just have a conversation and I ask, I usually kind of ask, so what's the dream. What do you want out of life? Where do you see yourself? And then. The conversation just goes from there. And every single conversation is different.
And then it's just listening out for those little cues of little things, and sometimes they don't even realize it themselves. And it's just those little, uh, hard moments. I mean, I have it all the time with my own coach when she's digging deeper and I've probably actually learnt quite a lot of techniques from her as well to question and go.
But what about this? Or what about that old boss? If what if is a brilliant one? She's taught me. What if there was no. Barriers. What if there was no, um, issue of money, no issue of time. Um, you know, what, if you could have whatever you want in life, what is what you want and just giving them options. And, uh, sometimes I think it's things they don't even think about that they actually eat what they want, or they're just maybe too scared to say it.
Um, yeah, but you've got to build that trust first. Haven't you? So it's, it's hard to pick it out so it could take quite a while to do some of them. We're not actually getting those juicy things out of maybe until two or three years down the line, because they're not so open initially. So it is like peeling layers.
Phool Ashraf: They'll be alone. You're like Shrek. Yes. Yep.
Paul Shrimpling: Uh, if a tissue from strike that, isn't it. If I forgot that, right. He still talks about peeling the onion. So if you've got children, you must have watched Shrek. If you haven't, you've got, yes. The
Cheryl Sharp: only pair of that probably has a
Paul Shrimpling: very funny, um, so it was one of my kids' favorites.
It was, um, when you write show Louis that, um, you can only help those who want.
Phool Ashraf: Helping. Yep.
Paul Shrimpling: Um, and if you stay in the race and then, you know, they match in your values and fit with your business, then you, you, you play the long game with that. And if you consistently asking those questions over time, without being too overzealous and rude, um, eventually maybe you'll establish the trust that, uh, that, that it was with time, because trust is, or, yeah.
Why is time? Doesn't it, it's not something that happens in one meeting with one. Business owner. It doesn't, but there was a point that Charlotte banked, um, the questions talking about the goals and vision of a business owner, as opposed to something which is very different, which is the purpose. And values of a business.
Um, have you, have you got, um, the other particular questions that focus in on, you know, what people stand for is that, is, is that scripted even if you do go off script.
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah, no, I haven't kind of scripted that it, well, I normally find it comes out as part of the general conversation and the vision. Yeah.
The goals and the vision. So it kind of then. Goes from there when we do do business planning meetings, quite often, I will ask specific questions in, what are your goals? What do you stand for? What are your, what is your purpose? And we'll get to. Go into that bit further. Do you know
Paul Shrimpling: that quizzical looks when you asked that, you know, what do you stand for?
What's she purpose? Do you not see them go?
Cheryl Sharp: Yeah, sometimes, sometimes it's really like, yeah, they, haven't got a clue what I'm talking about and even more so, like, you're not meant to deal with this. You're meant to be dealing with numbers and I'm like, yeah, my diary, but this is how we get. To the numbers side of it.
It's econ. I don't think you can only focus on the numbers. Just like Paul said, it's the whole person, it's the whole business, the whole journey. It's, it's more than just the numbers. There's a lot more to it than that. And. Unfortunately, not every client understands that initially, but as they get to know us, they get to realize, and then they get to see the magic happen, as we say, and they get to understand why we're asking these questions and how we can help them.
Paul Shrimpling: That was double dose. Thank you, Cheryl. Cool. What's your process for engaging accountants typically, and I don't mean to offend anybody typically are uncomfortable with ambiguity. So asking a question, they don't know what the answer is going to be about. You know, goals, vision, purpose, values, all those strategic style questions.
You know, some accountants feel uncomfortable with that. There's a high degree of uncertainty attached to it. So what do you do to overcome that? Cool in your business,
Phool Ashraf: we have trained ourselves. You're absolutely right. It was very difficult at the beginning to ask people questions, which we think are unrelated to numbers, or we are not engaging to ask those sort of questions, but we understood that this, if we want to.
Impact our clients business positively. If you want to add value, if you want to offer them solution rather than a service. And I often say we do not provide service. We provide a solution to your problems. Then we have to go into those kinds of conversations. We have to raise those questions. And for us typically, I mean, uh, even before we engaged, during our initial conversations, we would, we start with.
Too. I mean, related to purpose and values, we would start with two key questions. What are your goals? What are your challenges and be going in reverse order? They would say, for example, often from the hospitality industry, we say that VAT is a bell that they often fall behind to pay, and then we start digging into it and then it often ends up where we, they understand how, why, what of their businesses and eventually purpose.
And values and why things are going wrong. What they are. Hang on, hang
Paul Shrimpling: on, hang on, hang on, hang on. So, so we have a good conversation about VAT problems and it turns into a conversation about their purpose and goals. Yes, I
Phool Ashraf: do manage that one often. I mean, this is one of the common problems I hear that, um, the, our VAT is, is, is something that takes their, um, profits away.
I mean, margins are quite slim and then, and then we stopped. Why do you think, so, have you checked your numbers? No. VB we know on a rough basis. Okay. Then now what do you mean? Are these close to what exactly should happen? Is a VAT real problem, or is it that you don't save up enough or you use a VAT? Um, yes.
We kind of manage cashflow to save up for VAT or keep it on the side, but yeah. It actually doesn't happen. Okay. And then how do you manage cashflow? It's not regular because we are so busy working. Is this quite dynamic and if we have busy. Okay. But why do you walk in your business wide venue, have full team to manage your business, but it happens during busy time again, then they, some, some sort of operational things that you need to do.
Okay. Operations are fine. And then it leads into like how you have set up operations. And if you have set up operations that way, why have you set up operations in that way? Because that's how I started business. It does not necessarily mean that how you should do it. And why did you start a business in this way?
Did you actually want to do do this? No, I wanted to do this. This is what I have planned, but things have changed on a, through the way. And then by the end of the conversation and it typically takes, I mean, we plan 15 minutes, but typically such kind of long conversations not happen with every client, but who is entrusted ends up in 30 minutes.
I almost get to a point where I understand why. They are doing things wrong and whether they have realized not even locking and having clarity of it is something completely different. Have they realized why they started. How they want you to do and what's going exactly
Paul Shrimpling: wrong. Yeah. Brilliant. Brilliant.
So, so here we got Arthur, I think that's genius. Um, you've got to focus on their challenges and their goals, but where they throw the challenge to VAT. And then the conversation goes from VAT to profits, to cashflow operating systems or processes for managing the cash flow. Why are you involved? Is that how you want to set up the business in the first place?
No, it's not. What did you order? And then all of a sudden you've gone from VAT in three or four or five steps to a place where their share, bearing their soul on why they set the business up in the first
Phool Ashraf: place. I mean, if I say it's strategy strategy, I mean, yesterday I was having a conversation with one of the potential client who said that he wants to work with us, but he's not yet there.
It said that it is a strategy business plan. It sounds very big words, very complex words, but we do not want to make it complex. Necessary, but not in a simplest way. Brilliant,
Paul Shrimpling: brilliant. So I'm just capturing notes. I'm sorry if I'm delayed, it's just so many great comments here. So, um, we've got, um, Uh, there's, uh, a strategy for pink peg.
I'm guessing, and there's a strategy for, for games. And if there is a strategy, we've got a crystal clear vision of the future of your business. What is it?
Phool Ashraf: So at Gaines, we, we want to have, I mean, obviously if you say I wouldn't have an impact on businesses, it's a very big thing to say. And, um, to be honest, I'm still working through.
To what extent we can make an impact and for how many businesses, but what we want for the next. So I said to plan in stages, a first immediate goal over the next three years is to have a bigger impact on hospitality, businesses, restaurants, cafes, and take away and help them transit from human resource based industry to more technological based industry.
As we see the transition. Cause I've gone through that. And then for gains it, the strategy is to have automated, digitized workflow to give, um, fell, inform decision-making power to our clients and support them on their journeys to achieve what they want to support. I see all success to success of our clients,
Paul Shrimpling: right.
Brilliant. Well, it's great that you start that piece put with it's sort of a work in progress, but we've got a sort of vision. And then you say very bluntly. It's an also, did you say it was workflow process and that we have a bigger impact on our clients so that the move from HR to tech and then, um,
Phool Ashraf: Absolutely.
Sorry to interrupt you. It's it's a gap. I've seen a big gap in the market that I want to fill in for hospitality. I mean, I might be naive to say that, but I have researched industry. And to the extent I have researched it, I haven't seen any, any, uh, any, any organization related to numbers where the financial advisors, accountants, tax advisors, or management advisors offering the kind of service that actually hospitality businesses need, which is having VPs latitude.
Having operational efficiency over the numbers over what's happening in the business. And that's the gap we want to bridge. We often see either management texts or business, um, via just bringing everything together for them. Yeah.
Paul Shrimpling: Yeah. You know, re re retail and hospitality to weekly businesses. And that there's a weekly rhythm to it.
Just in my view, that's the same with accountants, by the way. I think there's a weekly rhythm to accountancy, not monthly or quarterly it's weekly or possibly daily. Depending on your perspective. Uh, but the fact that you set out something which is very close to my heart pool, our role is to help our clients make well informed decisions.
Yes. The accountancy work enables that where's the value in the accountancy or in the well-informed decision. It's in the well and follow that. I love that. Well done. Well done. What's your show? Um,
Cheryl Sharp: Big thing is to help our clients do the things they love with the people they love. Um, that's one thing that we are really key and focus on and trying to lead by example, a little bit to show that it is possible.
Um, it is possible to run a family and also achieve your goals. And I've got quite a few personal goals. I've got very one very big one that we're working towards and hoping to achieve in the next two years. Um, and I think the fact that I can S I can work towards my goals helps me then in turn to help clients as well to their goals.
Um, and I'm also helping my team to work to their goals. So. That they've got things they want to achieve. They've got things they want to do. And thankfully all of our goals were aligned. So they'd show a part of that apart. The PR interview process that our goals were aligned and it's helping them to grow as well.
So we've been a very small team up until now and growing and seeing where they're going is it's been amazing and giving my team the opportunity to. Have a career around the children is really key, I think as well, because what I found, especially when I had my children and was trying to find work there wasn't the availability.
There, there wasn't the opportunities. So being able to give that back to other, working moms that do what only want to work part-time, but they've got such fabulous skillsets and they're often overlooked. Um, so it's, yeah, it's all about helping everyone achieve their goals and make sure that they will work in towards what they want out of life.
And yeah. I'm actually enjoying life.
Paul Shrimpling: What a great way to, to finish a podcast discussion about humanize the numbers with a strategic focus. When we ended up talking about, you know, look what you're doing, love, where you're going, love the journey you're on. And the point you made there, Cheryl about leading by example.
You know, if, if we don't, then it's a false word. Isn't it. You've got to be real and authentic. And that's very cool, Leah, from the discussions today that you, you two are both very much leading by example and driving your businesses. And actually I would suggest maybe even leading the professional little in this, um, softer space, which is more meaningful conversations in order to help our clients make bigger, better decisions.
Yeah. Thank you for reassuring me. I set this business up for 14 years ago and my goal was to have every school holiday off with the kids, which is what we did. And the kids have now all left home and we still have all the school holidays, um, which is, which has limited, limited the performance, the business.
Um, however, you know, there's a life to be lived, which is part of business, which we love. And one of my values is whole hearted. And if you can't do it whole hearty, then why would you want to be here in business? And, um, uh, Cheryl I've loved this today. Thank you very, very much. I really appreciate you taking time out and, uh, sharing us.
Oh, sharing your views and thoughts on purpose values in that whole strategic setting of our businesses, your businesses and clients as well. Thank you very much.
Phool Ashraf: It's been a pleasure. Thank you, Paul.
Paul Shrimpling: You'll find more valuable discussions with the leaders of ambitious accounting firms at humanized, the numbers.online. Go to the show notes for this podcast and click the link to get access to the full series on strategy for accountants, you can also sign up to be notified each time a new podcast is made available. .
Values within the recruitment process
Values on a day to day basis
Gains' values and the 3 freedoms
Values at Pink Pig
The advantages of getting clear on values
Making time for the right clients
The challenges in not having clear values
Helping clients to establish their values
Channelling conversations towards values
What is the vision
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