Today I’m speaking with Lee Duffield, General Manager of All in Advisory
In this episode, we talk about . . .
- Choosing the best of breed in software for a 100% modern future-focused cloud-based firm
- Helping their clients use innovative modern tools through App Advisory
- How vendors can connect with accountants and bookkeepers through drip-feeding content across social media
- How they scope, select implement and review accounting technology.
- Being part of a 100% female-owned and led accounting practice.
- Why female panellists at industry events are important
Lee Duffield what is something about you that not many people know?
Lee Duffield: Well, I think in the last eight weeks, pretty much everything about me has become known if you just have a look at my Twitter, thanks to the video water cooler. I guess most people probably don’t realise that I’m still pretty young, I’m only sort of 34 and I’ve been in the industry for 15 years. So I started very young and racked up a lot of experience but at a really young age.
Heather Smith: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that with me, Lee. It’s good to be young to achieve all these things. One day you were the youngest person and then the next day you’re the oldest person in the room.
Lee Duffield: I already feel that though. I’ve recently been going through some resumes and I look at the date of birth and I think, oh, they’re so young, and then someone points out that they’re actually mid 20s and then like, oh.
Can you share with our listeners a bit about your background?
Lee Duffield: So I guess I started, like I said, when I was 19, I made the choice to move back to my hometown, which is original South Australia, when I was 19, to take on sort of undergrad accounting position. So I’d done one year of uni at that stage and decided to work full-time and study part-time externally. Just to sort of start getting some experience and sort of get money as well I guess. So from there, I stayed there for four years, but I also had a baby in that time, so I was 22, I think when I had her. So I was working full-time studying and I had a baby and we decided to move back to Adelaide. So I continued doing that through that time, and I finally finished my degree and went on to do my CA. And then I finally finished that and I went on to do a master’s in tax. And then all the while working full-time in sort of a mid tier type level.
Lee Duffield: And then a few probably five years ago, I met Ali at our own work. And I was working as her manager, and then in October 2018, we made the big move to move out into our own firm, which is All in Advisory. So that’s now coming up two years, that we’ve sort of been working on that. And that’s a fully cloud based firm. We use all the latest sort of technology, we had the privilege of building it from scratch, I guess so we can choose the best of breed software at the time to run it however, we really wanted to. We didn’t have to worry about legacy systems or moving people over or anything like that. So that’s how we started out with All in Advisory.
Heather Smith: I can’t believe you did a Master’s in Taxation.
Lee Duffield: I’m a bit of a nerd and I really enjoy it. Yeah, look part of it is you had to do some… analyse different things and it was like CGT and whether the discount is relevant and the Bamford decision on whether it’s legal and that kind of stuff, and I loved it, and I read into it. And so probably of all the study I’ve done that was by far the most enjoyable.
Heather Smith: Oh, goodness.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, I would do it again, if I could. But I’ve already done it.
Heather Smith: So you’d do it again if you could. You can do international taxation.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, I could.
Heather Smith: My goodness, you would do it again, if you could.
You describe yourself as a futurist advisor, what does that mean?
Lee Duffield: I think it’s sort of just a buzzword really. But it’s more about helping our clients utilise technology and help them get their business into the future. We don’t want them left behind, and I think now with the state of play in the COVID-19 it’s more important than ever that they’re up-to-date and they’re not using legacy. They’re not using paper, they’re just adaptable and they can sort of… another buzzword pivot, as soon as they can, because it’s just really important to us that they’re sort of up there with the top of their industry rather than lagging behind. And we treat our business the same, we want to be at the forefront, and we want them to experience the same.
Heather Smith: Absolutely. So it wraps up into and I will get to it, providing app advisory back through to your clients.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, we do. So I spend a lot of time researching all sorts of different apps for different industries. We do specialise, so it’s a little bit… once you do it for one, it can sort of roll across a few. But yeah, we do advise them on different apps that they can use and really a lot more than just app advisory though it’s process and change management. That’s a huge part of it, because the app itself is pretty easy to find. It’s how they use it and best use it that’s the hard part.
What does being part of 100% female owned and led accounting practice mean to you, Lee?
Lee Duffield: Well, anyone that sort of follows me, I’m massive on gender equality and the role that women have to play in the workforce, and especially the accounting industry because that’s where I am. And I’m a part of the Chartered Accountants inclusion and diversity panel here in South Australia. So I’m passionate about women working and being given equal opportunity, and I’m so proud that Ellie and I can sort of sit at the front of that. There’s not many fully 100% run CA firms in Australia. I think there’s, like a handful at most. And so I think it gives us a different perspective, and it’s allowed us to run our firm the way we want to. As most female accountants would have sort of come across in their career, at times, a lot of the bigger firms aren’t overly understanding of your situation, aren’t super flexible with children.
Lee Duffield: Ellie’s got three, I’ve got one, you’ve got to be a bit more flexible. But All in Advisory allows us to do that and really get that balance between sort of home and work right. Whereas, before it was when you’re at work, you pretended you didn’t have a family. And then when you’re at home, you don’t have work. So now it’s much more smoother transition between the two.
How can the industry support more females stepping into the roles and the opportunities that you’ve done?
Lee Duffield: First of all it’s around opportunity, I don’t think… a lot of the time there’s that judgement on females like I know I was judged along the way. Even though I had a child really early, it was always well, she’s probably going to go have another one. And no, that’s not their decision to make and I haven’t done that. And my career was my focus. So that’s the first thing is dropping the judgement on females and what they want. Some of them don’t want children, some of them don’t want flexibility. Some of them are very career driven and want to get to the top and that’s okay. And you don’t need to judge people on that. And the second is the integration back into the workforce once you do have children, that’s a really hard thing to balance and trying to still progress while having that home life that you’re responsible for as well because the typical sort of set up is the male goes to work and he can work the longer hours, and he can do all that sort of stuff. And the female she might work school hours or that sort of thing.
Lee Duffield: It’s allowing that and allowing the balance and still encouraging them to progress their career and don’t let it stall. I think in the accounting industry, you see so many females get to a certain level, choose to have a child and then never really go back any further than that. And we need to encourage that it’s okay and that you can achieve the balance, you can still get to a higher level and still have a good home life sort of balance as well.
Heather Smith: Thank you for sharing that, Lee. And it’s important to know that the Associations do have that it was an Inclusion and Diversity panel possible in each state.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, so I think South Australia was the first one to have announced sort of coming out into the working to get it more broadly across all of Australia. But it’s been really great to… because it’s not just females, its different cultures, religions and disability, age.
Heather Smith: And age representation
Lee Duffield: We represent sort of a broad spectrum to sort of get better inclusion and diversity across the whole industry. So it’s a really good start.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you very much for sharing that with us, Lee.
How is your business navigating the COVID-19 pandemic?
Lee Duffield: Probably for us, it’s been a lot easier than most. We sort of picked up our laptops on the sort of first day that we really realised that it was going to be severe. We just went you know what, let’s a work from home, picked up our laptops and away we went. We were set up to communicate remotely. We do have a team in the Philippines anyway, so already we’re used to communicating via video, by chat. And we’re used to not being necessarily with the person you’re working with. So it was pretty seamless for us, all of our phones we don’t have landline phones, everything is diverted through to our mobile’s via an app. So again, as long as I’ve got my laptop or my phone with me, I’m pretty much a full office.
What app are you using to do that diversion?
Lee Duffield: We use Spoke Phone, so it’s an app that we’ve all got on our phones. So we have a landline… Spoke Phone, then it just rings via the app, and we can make calls via the app as well. So it looks like it’s… and personal mobile number is still protected, because it comes out of the landline number. And then we’ve got office HQ set up which is a phone answering sort of Virtual Receptionist system. So they get a real person answer the phone, they can then divert it through to us.
Heather Smith: Okay, so if you had a new staff member on it doesn’t matter if they take their mobile phone with them because you’re just re-pointing it in a different direction.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, because Ellie and I work a lot from home. It just means the clients can still get the same experience no matter where we are.
Heather Smith: Absolutely. Oh, that’s very interesting. What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to start a modern future focus cloud practice?
Lee Duffield: Just do it. I mean, it’s hard, but it’s also not that hard anymore. There is so much assistance out there that the companies that we work with have been so willing to help us there’s so much advice, and the cost is pretty insignificant now to startup. Like I said, we just started with a laptop. We chose to have an office which was obviously the biggest cost, but you don’t have to, not to start with. And there’s all the shared working spaces available as well now. Yeah, I think if you’ve really thought it through and you’ve got the sort of… you need to have a client base behind you, I suppose or at least the ability to build one. But in terms of the apps and the software it’s so easy now to start up that shouldn’t be the thing that stops you.
Heather Smith: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. I took a look at some of the photos of your office on the website – that rug you have in the office, is luscious. It looks like a diving pool.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, Ellie said we import it, Ellie’s husband is a builder so the office when we got it was like a really old school accounting office many, many small little offices, rabbit warranty like and we knocked out every wall and redid the whole thing. And now it’s really modern with sort of polished concrete and very minimal walls and quite open plan and a full kitchen because that’s what Ellie wanted. Yeah, it’s a really nice place to work, we’re very lucky.
Heather Smith: That’s interesting. That actually might be an interesting expose on female run practices because I know Tanya Titman over at Consolid8, she had a creche in her practice as well.
Lee Duffield: Well, that’s funny you should say that because the office across the road from us just came up for rent and I said to Ellie, we could just hire it and put like a childcare in there or something.
Heather Smith: Absolutely, but that does sound quite interesting. So you’re heavily focused on choosing technology for your practice, so I’d like to ask you a few questions around that. I’m still in shock that you did a master of taxation, but you’ve turned out to be the tech guru of your practice.
How do you want an accounting app or an accounting solution to sell their product to you?
Lee Duffield: I’m really fussy about the way they contact me. If they start spamming me and if I think they’ve got my details illegally, I’m not happy at all. I would rather… like I know what I want and I’ll reach out to them. And then it’s around a demo and a clear plan of this is how it gets implemented basically. But yeah, it’s interesting because as soon as… and I’ve had this discussion with a few people, accountants can be scared off pretty easily. We’re pretty introverted and we don’t like a lot of aggressive sales techniques. So we are busy in our office if anyone rings us or yell, like it’s email or arrange an appointment with us. Rather than just out of the blue ringing, because we call it queue jumping. So yeah, don’t ring me. That’s the first one. But yeah, I think it’s just… the really hard sales techniques just don’t work with us. You’ve got to really have a good case of why you would fit in with what we already have.
Lee Duffield: And like I said, I would generally reach out to those that I’m interested in first, because we’ve already got so much already, it’s how does it fit in? And the other thing we’re quite particular about is, do you double up on something we already have? Because we’re finding a lot of the apps these days, do a little bit of everyone else’s, and then you’re paying for features twice. So we want to know clearly where it fits into the stack that we already have, and what it’s going to do that we couldn’t already sort of have done for us. I guess, like the latest one. So just today actually, we’re going to implement, FYI docs, so that’s the latest one. But that has been a really slow process and they’ve had to contact me a million times because I’m so particular about it, before I’ll commit to it.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. So how can vendors of these accounting technologies… and I’m asking you these questions because the solutions are out there listening and you’re the person who’s interested, you’re the person they want to get through. So that’s why I’m asking you these questions.
How can these vendors sell to you during this time, while being sensitive of the circumstances and the stress and the overwhelm that you’re under?
Lee Duffield: I find the best way that I’ve come to know the vendors is actually via social media. If they’re really helpful on the Facebook groups, like your mastermind group, for instance, like I’m watching that I may not be participating in it, but I’m always watching and I do take note of who is giving really great advice, or who seems like just a really great person. And same with Twitter, who’s interacting and who’s posting really informative stuff and who seems to understand the industry and who understands what the accountants are going through? And that’s sort of how I get the best feel for them. And from their I’ll sort of naturally grow a bit of a relationship with them, I guess, in that you’re interacting, they’re being helpful. They’re answering questions, they’re being mindful of sort of what we’re all going through.
Lee Duffield: And they’re just trying to help out without any sort of hidden sort of background thing going on. But yeah, that’s how I sort of get to know them and how I feel they can sort of get their way into the industry I supposed is just sort of naturally integrating.
Heather Smith: Absolutely. Look, you’re singing the song that I completely believe in, in that share education, share information, put it out there answer questions, even if it is just something specific how to… on your solution. A lot of us are just scanning and it’s like, oh, it can do that. And we remember and we retain it in our brain that sort of drip feeding content through social media. I think is a really great way for vendors to share knowledge. So a female tax accountant and practice owner contacted me the other day and said she’d been proactively contacted by a well-known vendor to inquire… She proactively contacted them.
So she contacted the vendor to inquire about their solution and the salesman talked over her, treated her in a condescending manner and totally put her off the solution. Is this a challenge that you face in the industry or you’ve experienced?
Lee Duffield: Yes and no, probably, at this point in time, we’re probably well-known enough with people that doesn’t happen quite so much. But I do think and I’ve… Ellie and I have sort of talked about this, there’s a couple of different sort of in-laws out there that were like they’re very male centric, like the product they’re selling the way they sell, it doesn’t appeal to us because it’s aimed at a male practitioner. And that may be that they don’t have enough females working within the organisation to give it a bit more of a female touch. But yeah, there is a couple that were like, yeah, we’re not really keen on them because it just comes across as a bit blokey to us. And that’s nothing, but they might be really nice people, they haven’t done anything personally, to me, that’s just the way their advertising comes across.
Lee Duffield: So it doesn’t surprise me because I do think there is some out there. And maybe that’s their business case, because like I said, a lot of accounting firms are owned by middle aged males, like that’s maybe it’s just not for me. And so that’s okay, and I’ll just move on from that and plan something that is for me.
Heather Smith: I think it is a combination of those factors you mentioned in that male dominated within their own solution, they’re dealing with males primarily. And I do think it’s just this underlying issue that I’d like to see improved. But I don’t exactly know how we do that other than I guess through education and awareness.
Lee Duffield: Yeah.
Heather Smith: So moving away from simply selling to you we’re juggling the pandemic, the lockdown and incredibly busy time.
Are there things that the accounting technology and the community can do to support you during this time?
Lee Duffield: I think it’s just understanding… I feel like sometimes I don’t understand how busy we actually are. And like I’ve had one and they keep emailing me like really quite aggressively every week saying you haven’t filled out this survey, you haven’t filled out that survey. It’s like, just I can’t right now. Like I understand maybe it’s five minutes, but at this point in time, I just can’t get my brain to that, like I’ve got 50 emails, I’ve got a lot more urgent things to do. Please stop emailing me every five minutes and getting really aggressive in the tone. I think that’s really where it’s at, like the ones that sort of understand you and understand the industry and take the time to understand the industry, that’s where they offer a lot more support. Like BGL have been amazing at it in the last eight weeks, the stuff they’ve done has just been over and above.
Lee Duffield: Like they put on yoga on a Friday morning like that’s being great, like that’s just what I needed. I needed that hour of a bit of exercise because we can’t really do much and just focus. And at the end of a really long week, that’s what you need or… there’s just stuff like that where it’s just understanding the time like just showing a bit of that human side I think understanding what people are feeling and that goes a long way to building a relationship and goes a long way to… that’s inadvertent selling because that product then becomes a lot more noticeable to me.
Heather Smith: Absolutely, thank you very much for sharing that. And hopefully, it’s beneficial for those listening in. So I’d like to work through with you the different categories of tools that you have in your practice. And if you can explain how you scope them, selected them, implemented and reviewed them, so that sounds like a really daunting task but maybe say heavily talk about it for the initial few and then sort of run through it quickly for the other few. But however much you want to share, I just know that there’s other people out there and they want to know what you did and how you did it, and it’s easier to hear it from you than even perhaps the vendor.
How do you scope, select, implement, review Accounting Apps you implemented into your business?
How do you scope, select, implement, review engagement and onboarding tools?
Lee Duffield: So engagement tool, I think all of these leads back to the middle piece for us and that was always Xero. So everything that we used had to connect to Xero, we made that choice to use… And we also made the choice to use Xero Practice Manager. Mainly, that’s a cost decision. I don’t necessarily believe it’s the best Practice management software out there. But that’s the most cost effective for us at this point in time. So everything else then had to connect to that. And then it all had to connect to the other stuff we were using as well. And again, it comes back to… and I’ve written an article about this, a lot of it actually came back to the people that we were dealing with. And I’ve been to five Xero cons, so I’ve spoken to the suppliers a lot. I spent many, many years planning this software, I can’t even explain how long I spent planning it. Because at our old firm I was trying to push to get them to go cloud based as well.
Lee Duffield: So I had already developed an app stack that I thought worked. So it was then about fine tuning it for us at All in Advisory. Like I said, the key point to it was Xero. So the engagement software, I guess, you’ve really got two choices there. There’s probably Go Proposal or Practice Ignition. I liked the people at Practice Ignition. I had spent some time at different events that Practice Ignition had put on. They’d put on sort of a roadshow around the country, explaining software and explaining things for accountants, I’ve met Trent McLaren, I’ve met Guy Pearson. It just resonated with me, it did everything we needed, it connected to everything we needed. So that was sort of like well, it ticks all the boxes. Is it perfect? No. Is anything perfect? No. Does it have sort of annoyances? Yes. But not enough to bother moving and they do so many updates along the way that a lot of that stuff gets fixed.
How do you scope, select, implement, review Deploying Jobs and Collecting Payments on invoices.
Lee Duffield: That one was actually probably… the collecting payments one was the harder one that I found, because there was a lot out there, and because we were collecting a lot of it via Practice Ignition, we have sort of a double up there. But in the end, I chose IntegraPay and it was purely because it actually provided BPAY credit card and direct debit. And that was one of the only ones that I could connect to the invoice that would do BPAY. So that was really how that got chosen, is it had the broadest range available at the time, I have since reviewed it and there is some possibility of moving to another supplier that then has fee funding as well. Because we do use someone else for fee funding, so that would combine the two and that would then be a bit cheaper. So that was sort of on the cards.
Lee Duffield: And I guess that’s the thing we do review it quite often, and if I see someone that’s better or someone that’s comparative I’ll sort of run the numbers to see how cost effective it is to change and how hard it is to change. Like, what are you going to do to help me change over to you because it’s in your benefit?
Heather Smith: So if you change a payment solution, don’t you have to get them to sign up to all the authorities again?
Lee Duffield: Well, I think with IntegraPay, like I said, we’re not really using it because all of our automatic ones are set through Practice Ignition, it’s only really people making ad hoc payments. So it’s not recurring or anything like that. Everything recurring is through Practice Ignition, so from the client perspective, it’s not much different. It would just be that… if they’ve already signed up with IntegraPay, they will now have to sign up with this new one. But there’s only… it’s not a huge majority of that client base anyway. And they’ve probably forgotten their login details a long time ago. And I think, yeah, the other thing with that was, we also chose not to pass on the credit card fee.
Lee Duffield: So that… I know a lot of people are looking to find software that will allow them to pass on a credit card fee and that kind of thing. For us that wasn’t what we wanted to do. Our motto is we want to get paid as quickly and conveniently as possible, so we didn’t want a credit card surcharge to deter someone. And we were happy to wear that cost if it meant we got paid quicker.
How do you scope, select, implement, review Receipt and Expense Management solutions?
Lee Duffield: So this one, again, is a bit of a tricky one, because we’ve always been with Receipt Bank. But Receipt Bank back when we were at our old firm is actually kind of the easiest software to sell to someone who’s just starting out on the cloud journey, because it’s for a client, it’s the biggest bang for your buck kind of experience. And really they notice the time saving. Whereas sort of getting them to move to Xero was something that we did, for our benefit, not so much theirs. Receipt Bank really was making their life easier. And so, we’d been with Receipt Bank a really long time we carried that over with the partner plan. We’re happy with how it works. All our clients know how to do it. A lot of their processes are built around Receipt Bank because that was the first one they had.
Lee Duffield: There’s now the issue of Hubdock being part of the Xero subscriptions, which was sort of trying to navigate through now as to who do changes over and what we do there, because it is more cost effective for some of the smaller guys to switch to Hubdock, but our bigger ones will continue with Receipt Bank, whilst it is the superior product, and it fits the way that they manage their businesses.
How do you scope, select, implement, review Workflow and Task Management solution?
Lee Duffield: Well, like I just said earlier, we literally signed up with FYI docs today.
Heather Smith: And that’s what that is, is it?
Lee Duffield: Yeah, that’s probably been the point for us that hasn’t been as we’ve sort of struggled a little bit with that one. As Xero Practice Manager has sort of task management workflow, it’s not great. We actually use Asana a lot as well. Asana though, is for a bookkeeping… Asana is really great for that. So that is really like every single task for every single bookkeeping client is in there. It’s recurring, and we can all log in and see exactly what needs to be done for each client each day. There are instructions in there, so that anyone theoretically can pick up that job if someone’s always sick. So that’s why we use Asana, but we found it’s not quite right for managing compliance. So that’s where we’re hoping FYI docs will sort of fit that void because we’ve also had a bit of an issue with storage like document storage.
Lee Duffield: And the thing that every accountant seems to want the old client portal we were using SuiteFiles, we’ve sort of moved away from that, we’ve been using bots, but we’ve never really found anything that fit the model that we wanted. So we’re sort of going down the FYI docs line to sort of bring that hybrid solution.
Heather Smith: And that will give you document storage, will it?
Lee Duffield: That’s on OneDrive, yes, so all the documents are connected to OneDrive, then you can access the documents via the client. So that becomes really your one source of information, you should be able to get to everything via FYI docs.
How do you scope, select, implement, review HR management?
Lee Duffield: We don’t have a lot of people, so there’s not a lot of need for HR management, but I do use Employment Hero just to use their templates, keep… the guys do their leave applications through it. I’ve written a lot of the HR policies using their templates just so that we have some, and we were using the free version I’ve then just moved up to the… I did start using the paid version. So for us not being a huge firm with a lot of staff, it’s not the be all and end all. I have been using enableHR for another client that’s a lot better, and that works really well. So there are others out there, but Employment Hero works for exactly what we need.
Heather Smith: Awesome. And I interviewed the founder, Ben Thompson of Employment Hero on an earlier episode, if people are listening in, they can jump back and listen to that. Corporate compliance, I suspect I know who this will be.
Lee Duffield: Well, that’s actually the interesting one, because right up to the very kind of few weeks before I was arming and hiring, and I really… I’d been using Class Super in my previous firm. And so I was like, well, we’ll just use Class Super and NowInfinity because that’s what connects the Class Super. Obviously, BGL doesn’t, and it was actually BGL had their REGTECH roadshow on and I was looking for any excuse not to attend work. So I went, and I absolutely just fell in love with the guys at BGL, and their business model, the way they run their business just speaks to me completely. And that day I was like, no, it’s BGL, we’re using BGL. Because I’d had a bad experience when they first released Simple Fund 360. And then I spoke to Dan at Xero con after that, and I was like, your product really damaged me. And he was like, I’m so sorry, you shouldn’t have had to experience that. We’ve done so much work.
Lee Duffield: And I think it really come down to the people the products themselves are very similar. But just working with the BGL guys has just been such an amazing experience and they’re just… it was that gut feel. Aly and I go with trust your instincts and my instincts were it had to be BGL.
Heather Smith: Excellent. Thank you for sharing that. I know that initially… and I’m not sure of the year. But initially when BGL went to the cloud, there were some issues with the solution. But they… well you would probably know the year.
Lee Duffield: I can’t actually… must have been around about 2014 I reckon, because I remember going to a Xero con and just going to see [clients 00:37:33] and they going you’ve got to get me off of Simple Fund 360. And that was a very early Xero con that I would have gone to. Yeah, the one thing I really admire about them is the way they’ve turned a desktop business into Cloud based successfully. They’ve been around 30 odd years and to still be at the forefront of the industry, with all the changes that have happened is something that I really think is pretty impressive.
Heather Smith: Yeah, it’s a lot of energy behind it. And they do with that solution because I know I’ve used it as a user for over a decade, and now it’s completely different to that initial thing that they brought out. And there’s a lot of bank feeds, etc, share feeds, feeding into that. So I think you’ve touched on there both corporate compliance and super funds in that you’re talking about both CAS 360 and Simple Fund 360. Am I correct?
Lee Duffield: Yeah. Again, it was important to us that they connect. They’re very interrelated. If you’re updating a directory in a trustee company, it needs to go through to the Super Fund. Again, it needed to connect to XPM to update. If we’re upgrading one thing we want to update it everywhere, so that’s why it was either Class and NowInfinity who we are now actually same owner, or BGL because they needed to connect.
How do you scope, select, implement, review security and password management solutions?
Lee Duffield: Practice Protect. We were always with Practice Protect that was a no brainer right from day dot. We wanted… being cloud based, we needed to be secure. They are again really great to work with, their support is amazing. And then when we signed up with TOA The Outsourced Accountants to do outsourcing, it’s kind of a requirement for that anyway. But we’d already signed up with them. Like I said, right from day one that was the important bit that underpinned our whole practice.
Heather Smith: Absolutely, yeah. And certainly they had a run on their books with everyone moving to work from home.
Lee Duffield: Yeah, I imagine they did. It’s just so easy like to start a new employee or to stop an employee. It’s literally just delete, or you just tell them the name and they set up everything for you. And we don’t have… we’re a small firm, we don’t have an IT department. So sometimes something won’t work and I’m like, I can’t get it to work and they’ll log into my computer and fix it for me. So that kind of stuff, that level of service to me is really important.
Heather Smith: Yeah. And I think that’s important. We are small and we don’t necessarily need an IT person or an IT firm we can sort of rely on our partners to support us in these particular areas, are there any other technology… you must be feeling really drained now, but are their any other technology tools you would like to share?
Lee Duffield: No, I love talking about this all day.
Are there any other technology tools that you use in the practice, or you use with your clients that you feel our audience listening in should know about?
Lee Duffield: The other one we use is AccountKit, I suppose, which I probably didn’t cover of on. And that’s more your technical compliance stuff, so we use that for a lot of our workpapers, the div 7A loans, the Hire Purchases, the inter entity reconciliation is amazing. So we’ve got a lot of clients where there’s more than two Xero files, and they’re transferring between them all the time. The inter entity rec tool on AccountKit saves you days to make sure all your loans are reconciled. Especially, where there’s a large volume of transactions, it’s really a life saver. And again, we really like the people at AccountKit and it always comes back to… for me, it’s always coming back to the people. The people we work with are the ones that the apps that we sort of get the most out of.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the holistic experience of running businesses, especially when we’re small. It’s like we’re small, but we’re large, because all of these people are actually part of our business.
Lee Duffield: They really are, like I’ll often say it’s because of them that we were even able to do what we do. And so we are very appreciative, we understand that we pay them a fee for it, but it’s really important to us that they are… like they are the bigger part of our business. And they provide a lot of the experience that our clients have, so it’s really important that the experience is seamless, and it’s a good experience for us and our clients.
Do you use business intelligence and reporting tools?
Lee Duffield: We dabble a bit with Spotlight. It’s something we haven’t gotten hugely into. There hasn’t been a huge demand from our clients. We’re more about use what you’ve already got, so are you even looking at Xero reports because if you’re not looking at them, don’t even bother. And I’ve spent… I’m pretty good at customising Xero reports, so I’ve got some pretty extensive management reports that are available for clients. And it’s more if we want cash flow reporting that we’d move out of Xero. And I expect that’s probably going to pick up a lot more going forward. And so we’ve been using Spotlight for three way forecasting. But yeah, I’m also been looking into some of the others to get more the dashboard style. It’s dependent on the client, really, we work a lot with larger not for profits, and boards. And so Spotlight, the reporting sort of works well with board reporting.
Are there are any other solutions that you want to touch on?
Lee Duffield: I think that sort of covers most of it. But yeah, this stuff is sort of… we do use Microsoft Office 365, so we use Teams for all our internal communication. And we’re trying to utilise as many of the apps that they have available as we can to get the most out of your subscription. And every time I look at it, I’m like, there’s more and more that Microsoft offers that we could be using.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And it is about looking at it, retraining in it, and then sometimes you need to drop something else because it’s covered off in another solution that you’re actually using.
Lee Duffield: Yeah.
Heather Smith: What do you look for in a partner programme other than yoga?
Lee Duffield: Other than yoga… Actually, this question came up on Twitter yesterday, I think. Honestly, it’s about the support and the relationship. We want to know that our client… because for us, it’s not about us. It’s about our client. We want them to feel the full support. So if we’re recommending a product to one of our clients, we want to make sure that they’re going to get a really great experience. And that they’re going to feel valued and heard, so where we can say we’ve got a good relationship and we can say, oh, you’re not happy with that, we can actually go back and we can actually communicate with them more. The clients don’t like this feature, what are you doing? Is there a workaround? They’re not maybe getting the best use out of it? Is there some training? It’s all about that for us.
Lee Duffield: I joke and say it’s all about the merchandise, but… or I think I put on Twitter yesterday might be a tropical destination event. But no, it’s really about just feeling valued, and that’s both us and our client and feeling heard.
Heather Smith: Absolutely, thank you for that. So, prior to this pandemic, I had always encouraged practices and people and bookkeepers and accountants to specialise. And I saw that the specialisation would simplify what they’re actually delivering. And I actually kind of felt really bad because then the businesses that I potentially encouraged to specialise in hospitality, or travel were then completely slammed by… were completely impacted by what happened with the pandemic. And they ended up having all their eggs in one basket when I’d actually felt that they were diversified, and I don’t know. Do you see that there’s an issue… I know that you do specialise to an extent, do you see that’s going to change considering what has happened during the pandemic?
Do you think practice should specialise?
Lee Duffield: We do specialise, we actually specialise in tourism and hospitality, so if anything, that’s the last one to specialise in. But that being said, those industries don’t make a lot of margin on the best of days, so we do have to… whilst we say we specialise, we definitely still do have diversification. And I think that is still important. But it does allow us… it’s more a marketing tool than anything, I think, where we are very consistent in our branding. We go to market very consistently. People know what we stand for, we stand for something, and for us it’s tourism and hospitality. And it’s cloud based, sort of app advisory. And that just allows us to be really consistent with our branding. The reality behind it is we actually have clients in a lot of different industries. But we also do have a lot in tourism and hospitality, and it has allowed us to, like I said, when we do an app sort of recommendation makes it really easy across that industry to just recommend the same sort of thing over and over again, because you know that it works.
Lee Duffield: So I do think it’s important to specialise in something. But also, that being said, you need to… the risk is always going to be greater because if you have one large client that’s a big risk, because if they leave, that’s a huge amount of your revenue that goes. So there’s always a risk in doing anything like that, but you’ve just got to manage it, I think and yeah, with a pandemic no one could have seen what was coming. But I don’t think there’s any reason to suddenly go change your whole business model. Because to do a specialisation well, it takes a lot of years, and a lot of consistent messaging. You don’t just say one day, I’m a specialist in this and it just comes off. We’ve had to invest a lot of time and money into those industries. We do a lot of like… we’ve sponsored different organisations, we’ve attended a lot of events, workshops, conferences, given up a lot of our time to be involved in it to become specialised in that. And then to suddenly flip because, hospitality is not doing great at the moment, it’s not going to be in our best interest anyway.
Heather Smith: Okay. Thank you very much. That’s a really interesting perspective and makes me feel better. Thank you so much for being on Cloud Stories and sharing so much insight and knowledge with us.
I would like to highlight to people listening in that you recently wrote an article on LinkedIn. Why female panellists matter to me, and why do you think it’s important to see females represented in the accounting industry?
Lee Duffield: I think it’s just when you see visually someone that you identify with you, you’re automatically… it just gives you comfort, and it gives you that knowledge that it is possible to be there and to do that. I think I said in the article, because I started out so young, and I was fortunate in that I was in a firm… I was the only female accountant, but I was in a firm with a boss that never made me feel any different to anybody else. I was just an accountant, and I was encouraged to grow and I was achieving really great things. And he was cool with that, and he would push me to achieve more. And I was in a regional town, and I think I was 21 maybe, I was sent off to one of the big conferences, the tax conferences, and the super one. I was sent to a super conference, which if anyone’s ever been to a super conference, the audience tends to be a bit older.
Lee Duffield: So I rode in at 21, and a female, and I looked around, and I was like, oh, my God, I don’t belong here at all. What’s going on? Like the whole audience was men in their maybe 50s. And all the speakers were the same demographic. And I was like, that was the first time I really thought, oh, hang on, what’s going on here? I’m not one of these people. And I was raised by a single mother and she could do anything. She wanted to do it, she did it. And I was never aware that there was any sort of gender bias anywhere. I was just told you could do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted if you tried hard enough. So that’s what I thought and yeah, it wasn’t… And that feeling of going I don’t belong here is kind of daunting when you’ve committed your career to something, and you’ve committed a lot of time and energy and you think that’s what you want to do. And then you look around and you think well, hang on, am I going to get anywhere if there’s no females here?
Lee Duffield: And even the variety of speaking like you don’t get a balanced viewpoint, when you’ve only got all of the same type of speaker. And what they’re talking about doesn’t necessarily resonate with me. And so I don’t get much out of the conference because that’s not how I think, and that’s not what I wanted to hear. Whereas when you’ve got multiple points of view, you can come out of it much more going, oh, I understand, I see what she was saying, but I also see what he was saying. And I can get a more balanced and I can start actually thinking about it and go, actually what do I think, where do I lie? Where do I fit in that? Whereas if you’re just hearing the same thing from the same people over and over and over again, you don’t have that encouragement to really think about it. And like, for me, the very first time I ever worked with a female director was Ellie, I’d never worked for or with a female director before. I didn’t think they got that far. Especially not one that had children.
Lee Duffield: I assumed that he just stopped maybe at manager if you were lucky. And that you had to work nine to five, and then there wasn’t flexibility and that you couldn’t do it both. And it wasn’t until I met Ellie and I was like wow, she’s kicking butt and she’s got kids and she doesn’t work on Fridays. Turns out she does but not from the office. But that kind of stuff, that was that realisation for me of like, oh, this is possible. And that’s, I think why I put myself out there so much because I want other people to realise that it can be possible and you don’t need to… you can do it, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, it doesn’t matter your age, it doesn’t matter anything else, if you work hard enough, you can do it.
Heather Smith: Sounds like you’re breaking a lot of glass ceilings and inspiring people out there both young and old. So thank you for that Lee. Really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners and how can they get in contact with you?
Lee Duffield: I probably shared too much as usual, I’m hopeless, I’ve got not much of a filter. Trying to get in contact with me, I’m very visible on Twitter, very visible on LinkedIn. All the socials sort of find me there and whatever I’m ranting about that week. Yeah, I enjoy interacting, and I’m on most of the chat groups as well. Like I’m on your mastermind group, I’m in the Xero partners group. I’m in small business advisors group, I’m in the change GPS group. So sort of hanging around everywhere, watching everything that’s going on.
Heather Smith: Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. And I’m sure our listeners are going to gain a lot from listening to you.
Lee Duffield: Thank you. Thanks for having me.