Accountants empowering their client base through podcasting | Tim Garth and Dan Osborne
Accountants empowering their client base through podcasting | Tim Garth and Dan Osborne
“What we want is for our customers to be able to take the bull by the horns with their own information, their own understanding, and make some decisions, and grow their business.”
–Tim Garth and Dan Osborne, CATS Accountants.
Today I’m speaking with Tim Garth and Dan Osborne co-hosts of Two Drunk Accountants podcast
In this episode, we talk about . . .
How Tim’s dad has led a culture of having an open mind to something new and always looking for a way to make something easier, less friction and more efficient, which has enabled this firm started in the 1990s, to remain modern and future-focused
The Apps Advisory conversation they have with their clients. One of the first things they think about when working with clients is what do their systems look like. They don’t actively set up apps, but they often get involved in finding the solution.
Using a podcast, to empowering small businesses in a relaxed, open non-judgmental format, so they can share accurate information.
The tech stack of this Central Coast of New South Wales accounting practice.
Building a business around systems and efficiencies
Evolving their advisory journey, to meet their clients’ needs
You’re based in the town of Wyong, on the central coast of New South Wales. Wyong is an indigenous word meaning, an edible yam. What’s your favourite yam recipe?
Dan: Well, being from the town of yam, I like mashed yam, baked yam, all yam.
Tim: You can’t go wrong with yam in a smoothie as well. Nice bit of protein there, and some very good nutrients.
Dan: When’s the last time you actually ate a yam, Tim?
Tim: I don’t know. Does an Oyster count as a yam? Isn’t that in the yam family?
Dan: No. Isn’t a yam like a potato?
Heather: Yeah, it’s like a potato.
Tim: I was way off.
Heather: You know the really purple ice cream in Asian stores? That’s yam ice cream.
Tim: Right. Cool.
Dan: Yeah. So, I would say a baked yam.
Tim: Baked yam.
Heather: Yeah. Baked yam is my favourite as well.
Tim: I like them deep-fried with salt.
Heather: I don’t even think that is a thing, but maybe Wyong needs to start that.
Dan: Yeah. Wow.
Tim: Yeah. That should be.
Heather: Maybe you can suggest that to one of your small businesses.
Tim: True. Cool.
Dan: It’s a great idea.
What is your origin story? How did you both first meet?
Dan: It was a beautiful sunny day. No, so Tim and I actually later in high school, in the senior campus of high school, that’s where we met. So, two feeder schools feed into one senior high school, which is year 11 and 12. Tim went to one, I went to the other. And our friend groups became friends in year 11 and 12. And that’s how we first got introduced to one another.
Tim: Yeah. I think the truth of it is, that some of my friends were in extension maths, and they all referred to themselves as mathletes. And Dan was one of the mathletes. He was one of the high up mathletes.
Dan: I was. I was the mathlete, to be honest.
Tim: So yeah, I was never accepted into that group, but I was technically better than them all at maths.
Dan: Not true.
Tim: So Dan and I became competitive friends that way.
Heather: Competitive mathlete friends. What a great origin story.
Dan: Yes. And then, I guess, what happened from there is we remained friends, high school finished. Tim’s, and we can get into this a little bit more later, but Tim’s family started CATS Accountants, which is an accounting firm. So, straight after the high school, Tim started working here and knew what he was going to do. I went off to uni, and a couple of years later…
Heather: What year was high school? What year did you finish high school?
The accountancy practice had been running since ’93 as an established firm. Did you leave from high school straight into a practice?
Tim: Yeah. I actually started working in reception the week after my final exam, so … But it took Dan another 18 months before I ran into him at the pub and was like, “Dan, what are you doing these days?” And he was travelling to Sydney and studying accounting and film. And I was like, “Accounting? Oh, do you want a job?” And he replaced me at the reception desk.
Dan: Yeah, I later found out that Tim had a secret motivation there. He wanted desperately to get out of his current work into more productive work, and he was trying to find a replacement. And yeah, that was me.
Tim: Good place to start though, there, you learn all the basics.
Dan: Yeah. Exactly.
Tim: And I think it was a good progression.
Heather: Absolutely. And you get to go up through. So I’m assuming that you went up through the accounting practice while you were studying.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right. So, I studied part-time. Took me about five or six years to get through the course. And I was working part-time as well, three or four days a week. And Dan was pretty similar. Did you do a double degree, Dan?
Dan: I started off in a double degree. Once I committed to doing accounting, I narrowed that down. But yeah, so I studied full-time mostly. Finished my degree. It was a four-year degree, so I finished it in four-and-a-bit years, and worked here part-time throughout that time. And yeah, exactly what you said, Heather, we worked our way through.
Dan: Starting at the very bottom, and now we’re at the top.
Tim: But I feel like that was really good because uni is uni, but, I found in my degree at least, there wasn’t heaps of practical knowledge. And actually, one of the assignments that were most practical was an MYOB assignment.
Tim: So …
Dan: They didn’t even have that at my uni.
Tim: Yeah, right.
Dan: There’s a lot of theory. I think they were assuming everyone was going to go work in a mining company, and do internal accounting.
Tim: Yeah, yeah.
Dan: But that was not the case.
Tim: Yeah. So, for people listening, not in Australia, MYOB was one of the main accounting softwares, when we finished university, and were going through uni. So yeah, it’s quite interesting to see, even just in the short amount of time, since then, how much has changed.
Heather: And, I think, that there is a massive cry-out in the industry at the moment saying, “You’re sending us graduates without the skills that we actually need.” And I know that you gentlemen are CPAs, and I’m with the CA ANZ, and they asked me to speak to the local universities. And it’s like, “What should we be teaching our students?” And I’m like, “Pen and paper, debits and credits, and T-balances.”
Heather: And, I actually taught at university. I’m really old, I’ve done lots of things. But, I’ve actually taught accounting at two universities. And I didn’t have control over the actual subject matter being taught. And they would just throw the MYOB assignment at them. No time was given to actually training them in how to use it. And they’re like, “No, that’s not what a university does.” And I’m like, “Yeah, possibly needs to be.”
Dan: Yeah. And I know, when I went through my course, there was a lot of debits and credits, and there was a lot of management accounting stuff. So, it was all about running these different reports, and making sure that you knew what your ratios were, and all these things. And there was no small business, practical component in any of the degree. So, that is why, I think, what Tim was saying before, that working in an accounting practice that focuses on the small business, gave me the other side of that equation.
Dan: And so, I was able to understand all the management stuff, and the theory behind the accounting, but then see the actual practical use that was missing from the degree. Which, I think, there needs to be some practical component to all these degrees. Otherwise, you leave not knowing really the reality.
Heather: And I don’t know whether it’s changed. I know both of my children do engineering, and they both had practical hours to graduate. But we definitely need to see that in the accounting qualifications worldwide.
Tim: For sure.
Talking about the origin story of CATS Accountants and Financial Planning, where did the name CATS come from?
Dan: So yeah, I’ll let Tim, take this one.
Tim: Okay. Okay. So, the business did have a few different names in its progression since mom and dad started it in 1993. Actually, when they first started, they started as a bookkeeping firm in 1993. Recently, we started a series on the podcast called, Brewing your Business, which is talking to small business owners about their journey in business. And our first guest was my dad.
Heather: I saw the photo on Instagram. Would that be right?
Tim: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, basically CATS stood for, Computer Accounting Taxation Services.
Dan: Cutting edge stuff.
Tim: Yeah. And so, that was actually quite a big thing around the time that GST was unveiled in Australia. Because there’s this new tax that was going to be charged on goods and services, similar to VAT, that’s charged around the world. Australia didn’t have that until the early 2000s. And a lot of small businesses were really struggling to grapple on how they’re going to deal with that.
Tim: And so, a software called MYOB really came to the fore at that time. And so, I guess, a lot of people transitioned from book accounting to computer accounting, at that time. So yeah, that was, I guess, the reason they named it that. But it was just too much of a mouthful to answer phones and to tell people who you are. So we became CATS.
Heather: That’s amazing. Yeah. I’d thought it was chartered accountants, and I was like, “What’s happening? I don’t understand.”
Tim: Yeah, yeah.
Heather: That’s a great origin story there.
Dan: We tossed with various, different acronyms over the years to try and modernise it. So, it could be Cloud Accounting or CARE, or a bunch of words. Eventually, we’ve just said, “You know what? It’s just CATS.”
Tim: It’s just CATS. Yeah.
Dan: We’re just CATS now.
Tim: Yeah. Cool CATS.
How do you meet the challenges of keeping your business modern and future-focused?
Dan: Yeah, I think a lot of credit goes to Tim’s dad because, obviously, he ran the business until we came along, and after that. And he was always very open to new ideas, new concepts. He wasn’t stuck in one way of doing something. And that really enabled people like us, the couple of youngsters who hit the scene, to jump on board with new technology, and new things that we could see happening. And he was open to incorporating that into our systems and pushing that out to our clients.
Dan: So, I think, really the answer is just having an open mind to something new, and always looking for a way to make something easier, and less friction, and more efficient.
Dan: And, if you have that mindset, then you’re always going to be able to adapt to any new technology because you’re not relying on one thing, you’re open to whatever’s best.
Tim: I think dad always had a pretty good saying which was, “If there’s a mistake made, then don’t blame the person, blame the system.” And, I think, that said, that mindset, and that culture, fed really well into building a business around systems and efficiency. That, actually, when technology started to become really available to small business, it just enabled us to just launch into that as soon as we could, because we were just so keen to build better systems. So yeah, interestingly enough, the culture did really fit. And as Dan said, dad gave us almost full ownership to just try things out, and just go for it. So, without any repercussions. Yeah.
Heather: Your dad sounds like a bit of a legend there. And nice to hear … You know, we’re bombarded with stories of being told, “Oh, management doesn’t want to change. Management doesn’t want to change.” Which I don’t necessarily think is true. We just don’t hear enough stories of the people who are lifelong learners, open-minded, and ready to embrace efficiency.
Tim: Yeah. And it worked out well for dad because, in the end, giving us the ownership meant we took it on, and he grew the business without having to do it himself, basically. So, a very smart leader there.
Can you share what tech stack you’re using to actually run the business?
Dan: Yeah. So that’s a good one that’s ever-evolving, leading from the last question. Where we’ve taken on that lifelong learner, and a lifelong seeker of new information. So, we’re constantly reviewing what we’re using. Is there anything better? Should we be doing something different? Talking to the apps. But XPM, Xero Practice Manager, that runs our jobs and things.
Tim: Client database.
Dan: Client database.
Dan: Tax. All that information is all in there. We obviously use Xero internally for our own bookkeeping, but also a lot of our clients use Xero. But we’re not specifically targeting only Xero. We’re happy to use any software that our clients bring to us, but we’d always recommend that one.
Dan: But then, internally, we’ve also got Practice Ignition to do our client engagements, our monthly package management-
Tim: Direct debit billing.
Dan: Direct debit billing. We use, what else we got, Tim? We use …
Tim: Well, there’s NowInfinity. That’s our-
Dan: NowInfinity, for our corporate compliance.
Tim: Yeah, corporate compliance and-
Dan: Entity setups.
Tim: Entity setups, which we really like doing.
Tim: As a technical work.
Dan: Yeah. We use, obviously, just the Office Suite, Teams is pretty integral to a lot of our internal communication. So …
Tim: That comes from our IT support. So, Leon Black and Inspired Techs, who we’ve had on our podcast three times now?
Tim: They really push the tech. And so yeah, the SharePoint and Teams became a big part of our stack. Even though we actually … so, we do have SharePoint, but we use SuiteFiles.
Dan: Yeah, SuiteFiles.
Tim: For our document storage. So that’s another part of it.
Tim: And we weighed up FYI Docs and SuiteFiles there. So, interestingly, yeah, we went down the SuiteFiles path.
Dan: Yeah, that’s right. We’re starting to use more PlanRight to actually planning capacity and planning jobs.
Dan: Is another one that we’re using.
Is PlanRight a project planning solution that you use often?
Dan: It imports jobs and tasks from XPM, and turns it into, essentially, like a Gantt chart that you can move jobs around, reallocate them to people, duplicate things, and really map out people’s capacity. And if you enter in say, this person’s got X amount of hours available every week, you can clearly see who’s overworked, and who needs more work.
Heather: So, a capacity planning, Kanban-style board?
Tim: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And that’s a relatively new app that we’ve using, so still feeling that one out. But, I think, it will be a good one for us.
Tim: Yeah, I think, that’s probably the progression for us from here, is just seeing, where Xero is moving with their suite of apps. We’ve been using that for the last four or five years. A lot of that app … that stack, that we just went through there, we’ve been using for four or five years. And so, that’s been awesome because it’s allowed us to really hone in and, I guess, use the efficiency. But it is interesting, I guess, there probably is some room for more development in that space now in our business. PlanRight is an example of that, where we found a weakness in XPM around the jobs and tasks. I think a lot of people would complain that it’s a little clunky in that area.
Tim: So, we’re trying to overcome that. So yeah, it will be interesting to see where we move to from here, and what other new apps we potentially find.
Heather: It’s a shame that they don’t seem to be evolving that solution to actually stretch out, and provide that feature stack because people have been crying out for it for a long time.
Dan: Yeah. And it is something that we, and particularly Tim, like to bring up with Xero to every opportunity we get.
Dan: I’m sure-
Heather: Oh I know a lot of people have brought it up with them.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I do hear that some development is coming in Workpapers?
Tim: Sounds interesting.
Dan: Some Excel functions Xero seem to be rather excited about. But yeah, it’s more investment needs to be done.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. Keen to see that happen.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. Completely agree with you. And I ran a session with some people the other day, which was how to influence feature development, and what you’re doing by growing, like a podcast, which you have done, and growing your influence in that way. And then, turning around and saying, “This is what I need.” Is exactly one of the ways to do it.
Dan: Class Super is another app.
Tim: Oh yeah.
Dan: Which is now essentially, NowInfinity as well.
Heather: Pardon me, what was that?
Dan: Class Super is another-
Heather: Oh yes.
Dan: Yeah. Which is essentially NowInfinity, as well. Same company.
How involved are you in advising your clients what technology they could be using? And, how involved are you in-app advisory?
Dan: It’s a fair bit. Almost every advisory conversation you have with the client … because we’re so involved in our own systems, often the first thing we think about when we look at our clients is, what do their systems look like? What are they using? We’re not actively trying to set up these apps for people, but we’re often trying to find solutions for them.
Dan: So, if they’re a tradie we might be looking at, “All right, do they have a problem with their scheduling? Do they have a problem with quoting? Do they have a problem with job costing?” And these kinds of things.
Dan: So we go, “Okay, well, why don’t you look at ServiceM8? Here’s the contact for them, get in touch.” So, it’s more about trying to find a solution, pointing them in the right direction, let them explore that, and help them evolve it. Then it is so much setting up the actual app itself. But definitely, looking at the bigger picture, and trying to figure out what solutions are there, especially in the Xero marketplace that can make your business run smoother.
Tim: See, I think it’s an interesting one. I think it is a double-edged sword when it comes to advising our clients. Because often, as accountants, we’re number nerds, and so-
Heather: You’re mathletes.
Tim: Yeah, we are all mathletes.
Dan: Well, one of us is a mathlete. Yeah. Tim is not.
Tim: Yeah, I wish I was a mathlete. So yeah, we do really love looking at the data of our clients, and the information that their business is producing, I suppose. So, a lot of our advisory does come back to, “What systems do you have to collect data? What goals do you have around that data? And how can you change the results of that data?”
Tim: So, that’s often where we then come to the conversations around, “Well … oh, so you’re not tracking profitability on a job-by-job basis? Maybe we need to have some sort of software there to do that because that’s a really important thing to track for you if you’re a builder.” And it’s actually surprising how many people don’t. They’re just flying in the dark, often.
Tim: So yeah, for us, with small business at the moment, I think it’s still in its infancy. People are at a very simple stage of it, in that sometimes they just need something to track it.
Dan: Yeah. I think that’s exactly right. We often try to find what are the problems you’re facing, first. And then it’s, “Okay, based on that, we think maybe you should be using something in the marketplace to do this, this, and this. Here are some options, let’s explore those.”
Dan: Yeah. So, it’s very much solutions focused. You know, finding the problem, and then helping to find a solution, rather than saying, “All right, you’re a builder, you need these.” Or, “You’re a professional service, you need this. Here’s an app suite that we’ve organised already.” It’s more, “Everyone’s individual. Your business is individual. What are the problems you’re facing? What are you trying to do? Okay. Well then, here are some solutions for that.”
Heather: I think it’s really good for our listeners to hear that conversation about how you’re actually trying to drive accurate, and timely information data, data and information out of their solutions, but you’re not necessarily rolling up your sleeves, and getting dirty in the implementation of the apps.
How do you navigate the situation where you’d see someone needs something? How much do you go down that path of exploring what is the solution that they actually need? And, how do you navigate when someone comes to you and it’s a bit more complex than that? What would your processes be there?
Tim: Very true.
Dan: So, we’ve definitely done that.
Dan: We’ve definitely gone both extremes of this to one end, diving in, sitting in webinars with the client, trying to implement the software in their system. And then, just wasting a lot of time. To the other end, which is having a brief look at what the solutions could be, providing them with those options, and saying, “Why don’t you go look at these, and chat to these people, and then decide on one, and we can go from there.” So yeah, we’ve definitely done either extreme.
Dan: I would say, it all still ties back to the same thing. That we’re figuring out what is the problems that they’re facing, and then maybe recommending one or two solutions, letting them explore those. Because each of one of these softwares have people that do a webinar, they do a consultation to talk about it. Letting the client go do that. They’re going to have a better feel for their business than we do, and what’s going to work for them. And then let them come back to us and say, “We think this is the option.”
Dan: I’ve found that’s worked better more recently.
Dan: In a month, I could have a different idea again.
Tim: Yeah. I think our current approach is that that would become a goal and an action for them to work on in their business. And if they wanted our input, I’d be explaining, “Look, I’m not an expert in this software. I’m happy to work on it. It may not be the most cost-effective thing for you, for me to be working on this, in my experience. So, I’d recommend you book some demos. You try and find out a lot about it by yourself.” Then, there are the implementers, so the cloud implementers. So, if they really, really are set on software, and it is worthwhile because often you can see … I guess, conversations we’re trying to get to now, we’re trying to work on, as an accounting firm and advisory, is to find opportunities, and what value that has for them, to put a dollar value on things.
Tim: And so, that’s, I guess, the conversation we’re trying to have. “Well, okay, so fixing this problem would be worth $10,000 a month to you, potentially. Well, don’t you think it would be worth spending five to $10,000 on the proper implementation of this software to get it set up properly?” And I found that that makes our job a lot easier too if there’s an expert that comes in, and does the support from start to finish.
Tim: And it also doesn’t then, if we do the job, and there are constant problems, then it also doesn’t drag our time, and drag our resources, when we should be focusing on their business, and other opportunities they have in their business as well.
Dan: Yeah. How software works is not our area.
Dan: But the data that comes from that software, and the results that we can help change, that is our area.
Dan: So, as Tim was saying if we can get them to have it implemented by somebody else. We guide them on that journey, but we don’t generally implement it. Then our job returns back to, “Okay, well, let’s review your figures again. Let’s see how this is affecting your business. Let’s see how you’re going.”
Tim: I actually often find that our role to play there is to understand the client needs but to sometimes be a middleman between the software provider and the client, to just really say, “No, no, no, these are the problems they’re trying to fix. And these are the solutions I think your software could provide.” And then, actually, make sure that they’re on the same page. Because often clients can’t put into words what they’re trying to solve. Whereas we can more quickly formulate a picture of how that looks for them. So, I think, that’s actually the value we can bring there. Is just being the middleman and facilitating, not doing the setup whatsoever. We don’t have the resources to do that.
Tim: We’re a small business, unfortunately. I think it would be an amazing thing to do. I’d love to go down that path, but just can’t unfortunately.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And, I think, it’s really beneficial for the listeners to hear that’s where you’re going down that path. And some people may go, “Okay, drop the compliance, and just keep going down that path.” Which is fine. But then, they can then turn around, and assist a business like yours. So, I’m all for accountants and bookkeepers at least being aware. But it sounds like you’re actually a lot more aware than that, and you’re really pushing for the data.
Heather: Which is the end goal. The data is where it’s quiet.
Tim: Definitely, definitely.
Can you briefly describe the apps you work with and the type of business they would suit?
Dan: Our based accounting software, give that one a tick.
Heather: Trent will be sending you a bottle of champagne for that or beer, I guess, or wine. I should have asked what your favourite drink was. So, the next one was Hubdoc.
Tim: Yeah. Hubdoc. What’s Hubdoc, Dan?
Dan: That’s a common joke in our office. What’s Hubdoc? Like, “What’s up doc?”
Dan: So, Hubdoc-
Heather: Oh, I see.
Dan: Yeah. So, I think, essentially, its best feature is, an accounts payable tool to import invoices into your accounting software, and automatically have them create it as a bill to pay. So, it can link to a number of online systems like, I think, Bunnings perhaps, and a few other ones, where it imports invoices that you get on accounts, and then creates those invoices ready for you to pay in Xero, automatically, without you having to do anything. But it’s also very good at reading receipts. So, if you go to Woollies, and it can read that, and split the GST and create that as a bill, and you can match that off properly. And you can forward invoices into it to create. But essentially, it is an account payable system. So, if you run a lot of accounts payable, that would be a software which is good for you to use. Also, owned by Xero.
Tim: Yeah. So, a couple of good uses of this. Like, for example, if you are in trades, you would have a lot of accounts payable. You would have a lot of suppliers who buy on account. So, it’s really important to actually enter those bills in, to give you accurate data. So, that’s the key thing there. If that’s less important to you, if you don’t need to match your expenses to invoices that you’re sending out, then maybe it’s not as useful.
Tim: But I found some interesting uses even around recipient-created tax invoices. So, people who are paid on commission, or paid like say, in medical centres, where you’re paid a percentage of what you earn. But the fee for in the medical centre probably includes GST, whereas your income is probably GST free. Well, then Hubdoc’s really cool for that because you could potentially get the document that the medical centre is sending you with your income, and their cost, and then, accurately input each fortnight, or a week, or how regularly that would be, the GST portion of that, and set up rules in Hubdoc for that to happen. So yeah. There are some cool ways to use it if you really think about it.
Heather: Yeah, so Hubdoc is a horizontal solution. So, it’s typically suited to most industries. So moving on, we have WorkflowMax.
Dan: Otherwise known as XPM.
Tim: XPM, yeah.
Dan: In our world. Xero Practice Manager.
Tim: Yes. So, this one could be good for any professional service business, I think. So, when you’re entering time against a job, and then tracking write-offs or write-ups, and then billing people out. It’s especially useful if you’re using Xero as well because it syncs with Xero. So, as we said before, it does have its limitations with jobs, and tasks. It can be a little bit clunky. But overall, it does the job for us. Yeah. We quite like it. And WorkflowMax, I think, it works in very many similar ways to XPM. So yeah.
Heather: Next one there is, Celo.
Tim: Another practice management suite, that we actually looked into using before we went with XPM. So that one’s out of the States. Actually, I think it was founded by an Aussie, but he moved over to San Francisco or something like that. So yeah, it’s pretty cool. They’re quite leading edge with what they’re doing. But, with a client that I have that uses them, they also have a lot of complaints too. So you end up, I think, with what you like. Yeah, there’s things you like, there’s things you don’t. So, I think, they’re really good at managing jobs, and projects, and building in systems, and tasks.
Tim: But then, we find that it’s a little bit difficult with writing off time, or managing lost time on projects that are recurring work each month, so retainers. So yeah. And they’re constantly developing, but I think they’ve been promising things like a direct debit for a long time now, direct debit for retainer work.
Tim: So yeah, creative agencies, professional services.
Dan: Yeah. It’s an alternative to WorkflowMax, essentially.
Tim: Yeah. But for us, we get XPM for free for being a Xero partner. So, it’s just a no-brainer, really. Yeah.
Heather: Yeah. Absolutely. The next one, which we have mentioned before, which is ServiceM8.
Dan: Yeah. So, this is a great tool for any tradies, who have jobs on the run. They’re quoting, they need to do some job costing, they need to schedule different members of the team to go to different places. Essentially, it’s just a big organisational tool, and tracking tool for your various jobs, as a trade.
Tim: Yeah. A couple of things here, I think, it can mean. Really, ServiceM8 is about delivering a wow factor to your clients when you’re in trades. So, you can really build some cool things like-
Dan: Automatic text messages.
Tim: Automatic text messages, yeah.
Tim: And like, taking photos of the job when you’re quoting, and when it’s finished. Getting them to sign off on it, and things like that. You build in systems if you’re doing the same job over and over, you can make sure things aren’t missed, or that the quality control is there to say new staff. Or, you can build in systems so that phone support … so that it’s not a plumber or an electrician, can actually talk to a client, or a customer, properly around the problems they’re having. And then actually, properly put in the job to know just what type of job it is. But a downside it has is, I wish it would do better with profitability jobs. It doesn’t have an exact profit on jobs, unfortunately.
Are you talking to the guys at ServiceM8 because they’re based up in Darwin, aren’t they?
Dan: No idea.
Tim: We’ve had them on.
Dan: Yeah. We’ve had them on the show, I think, at Xerocon last year. We interviewed them. And we’ve obviously met them at various conferences and events. But we haven’t specifically spoken to them about that.
Heather: No. Oh well, hopefully, we can influence them, because reporting is important.
Heather: DEAR Inventory.
Dan: Yeah. So, an inventory management system that allows you to do purchase orders, inventories, stock-taking, invoices. It has a POS system, it has a business to business, it’s an online portal system. But essentially, it’s an inventory management software to help you keep track of your inventory needs.
Dan: Lots of great features. Yeah, it’s not much else to say about it really.
Heather: No, inventory’s a very complex area, and there’s a number of solutions out there. But DEAR does seem to be quite a popular one.
Dan: Yeah. So that, and Unleashed seem to be the two that I hear the most about.
Heather: Yeah. But they all have their nuances and features, so people need to still look at them to make sure they’re going to adhere to what they’re actually wanting.
Dan: Yeah. They have very different ideas about how to sync that information into Xero as well. They both do it very differently. One, if you don’t do everything accurately, properly, in DEAR, it can create a lot of headaches in Xero. And Unleashed, from what I understand, is a little bit simpler with its integration, but not as specific.
Heather: Absolutely. And finally, Kounta, the hospitality solution.
Tim: Oh yeah. Kounta. Yeah, yeah.
Tim: Yeah. So, that’s a great one for hospitality. You do see a lot of people using Kounta. It allows them to … I guess, it’s got some really cool features, specifically for hospitality, where you can see your busy times. You can see your gross profit or your margin that you’re making on meals and drinks. And all those things that are super important to hospitality businesses.
Tim: It also feeds really well into systemising taking orders, and sending that to the kitchen. So, I really like that. Some of these softwares really actually make me want to start a business in that industry.
Dan: We often say that.
Dan: We often look at software and go, “Oh, we could do that. We should set up a café.” I’m like, “No, terrible idea.”
You’ve got a bar starting in the office soon, don’t you? Would you use Kounta?
Dan: Yeah, exactly.
Tim: That’s true.
Heather: And so, interesting Kounta has been bought by Lightspeed, which is a Canadian company.
Has Lightspeed’s purchase of Kounta and the closing down API access to some of their information impacted your clients?
Dan: Not that I’m aware.
Tim: No, not that I’m aware of. Yeah. And again, this is where it can be hard to drive clients towards actually using the functionality in software. So, some of them may not have even been using the reporting function that they had available to them, because you’ve got to set it up, and make sure that it’s accurate. So yeah, I haven’t heard anything about that.
Heather: That’s one of the things that I hope that, in our days of artificial intelligence, and machine learning, when someone is not using the full functionality, the system can actually generate an email to them, or to us to say, “They’re not using this feature. They’re not even opening up, and going across it with a mouse or a finger or anything. How about we do some training on this? Because it’s going to massively improve the functionality.”
Tim: Well, that makes sense. And it would also, I guess, you’d think for those softwares, who would do something like that, it’s going to retain more customers for them because people are going to be getting the full benefit of the software. A very smart thing to do.
Heather: Yeah, that’s always what I will say if I hear someone moving from one software to the other, I’m like, “Have you had proper training in that one before you’re going to move? Because what you’re saying doesn’t make sense. Just jumping ship, it’s not necessarily the answer here.”
Tim: True, true.
You’ve not mentioned any BI, or management reporting, or analytical, or forecasting apps. Is that anything that you’re using?
Tim: I actually did leave that out of the answer.
Dan: Yeah. So, Futrli, is one that we use a fair bit, both internally for our own business, and then with a few clients. We have found though, recently, that the clients didn’t appreciate it because, obviously, being mathlete, singular, and number nerds in general, that we get very detailed. So, when we first started in this advisory journey, what we would do is we’d get very specific with information, and we’d be like, “Look what this is showing. Look what this has showing. Look what this is showing.” And most of the time the clients just went, “Yeah. Great. What does that mean?”
Tim: Yeah, yeah.
Dan: So, we’ve moved a little bit away from using those kinds of tools, to really have it a little bit more basic. Getting the data from Some very simple metrics, and very simple data from Xero, or from whatever other software that they’re using, and really just setting actions and goals from those.
Dan: However, there definitely is space for things like Futrli, Spotlight, all these softwares. One that is actually a local business around here that we’ve been discussing a lot with, is Jazoodle. You might not have heard of those guys. But he’s a local guy that set up a software, that’s just about to release their newest edition, which is a total overhaul of their system. But yeah, so there is definitely space for those tools. The clients, themself are never going to look at it, I’ve found.
Tim: Yeah. I’ve found that one of Futrli’s things was having like a live board that clients could access, and then setting up alerts, and things like that.
Dan: They’ve got that new feature, the Flow, where information comes through a newsfeed, and all that kind of stuff, which I think is better. And we might start pushing things like that out to some of our clients. However, we have found that, yeah, they come to us because they don’t have time to do it. So, if we’re able to provide them with very simple metrics and say, “Here are the actions that you should be taking from these things. Let’s discuss, and set some deadlines, set some accountability.” That gives results more than a dashboard of ratios does.
Heather: I love how many times you’ve said the word ‘goals’, ‘action points’, and the fact that it sounds like you really spend a lot of time actually talking with your clients.
Tim: Try to.
Heather: You’ve got the data sorted, we’re surfacing the data. And now, we’re just going to talk to you.
Tim: Yeah. That’s right. Well, yeah. In our journey in advisory, we’ve found that’s more what the clients want.
Tim: So that’s feeding into where the demand is. And so, the other side of the advisory stack, I suppose, is The Gap.
Dan: Yeah. The Gap is a big one that we use actually.
Tim: Yeah. So, have you ahead of The Gap?
Tim: Yeah. So yeah, there are great things about The Gap, and there are parts of it that are frustrating in terms of it being templated, and things like that. But I really do think that for accountants, that’s a really good starting point in the advisory space. Because it’s giving you a great concept, and education, and idea around what the advisory piece can be for your clients. And the reason I’m more than happy to share this with the world is that you only get out of it, what you put into it. So, you do need to spend the time learning the system, and the tools, and the content, and then putting your own spin on it as well. Because, if you’re just doing the exact content from The Gap centre, then it’s going to be a little bit boring.
Tim: So, yeah.
Heather: Well, you take a recipe and you evolve it to your family’s needs.
Tim: That’s it.
Dan: Exactly, exactly.
Tim: Yes, yeah.
Dan: And, I think, the journey that we’ve described here, and what has actually happened is, yeah, we did go from this number crunch nerds, “Hey, look at all this data.” To realise that this is something different to what a business coach might offer because a business coach generally isn’t an accountant, generally doesn’t know the numbers, generally, just come at you with a bunch of models they’ve been given. And charges you a lot.
Dan: And so we thought, “Okay well, the alternative is, we actually know the information. We know the things in your business, the levers you can pull that will make real change. Let’s throw that at you.” And we found it needs to be a mix of the two, and The Gap filled that for us. Because, as Tim always says, what people really want is us to be human. We give them information, but they want us to be human. So, being able to provide them with that more framework around actions, and goals that The Gap give us, but then feed that with the actual data that we can narrow down to specifics to them, that’s the winning combination.
Tim: Yeah, yeah.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. And, I think, Tim made a good point, is that it’s a good starting point. And I sometimes, when I’m having discussions with people, they spend too long choosing something and I’m like, “Just choose something and go with it.” And in that time of learning it, using it, exploring it, more features, and functionality may come out. But also, you’re actually in a better position to choose the next one. If you do need to go to something else, just get started.
Heather: That’s going to be far more educational process than that.
Tim: Totally agree.
Dan: Yeah. Sure.
Tim: And throw yourself into it. Whether you like it or not, spend time in it for a while, and take the good with the bad. But yeah, like The Gap, for example, a big part of their thing was workshops in Melbourne, and Queensland, and New Zealand. They’re New Zealand-based.
Heather: Yes. Yes.
Tim: So, Dan and I went along to a bunch of those, and we’ve got some amazing outcomes.
Tim: Sometimes the content was amazing, sometimes it was not amazing. But we also met other accounting firms. And that was really interesting because now we’re all talking about the different apps we use, the metrics in our business, sharing our challenges, and our opportunities. And basically, we’ve got a peer network to lean on. So, that was another great outcome from The Gap.
Dan: Yeah, for sure.
Heather: Yeah. Immersive learning is very important, especially when you’re on the cutting edge, and you’re just constantly trying to move forward. And move forward without marketing noise. Move forward with real noise from real accountants, even if they are drunk.
Dan: Absolutely. Yeah. Even if they are drunk.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right.
Who do you think was the person who told me about your podcast?
Dan: So, the first question’s an interesting one because there could have been someone from Xero because they were fairly quick to jump on our podcast as a supporter of us. But you’re nodding, so I’m thinking I’m down the right lane here.
Dan: All right.
Heather: Go on, make a guess.
Tim: From Xero? Oh, who could it be? I mean like maybe, maybe Trent.
Heather: Ah! Well done. Well done.
Tim: Really? There you go. Yeah, we got it. Well, he’s a big friend of the show. So …
Heather: Yes. He said he was a big fan of the show that I needed to listen to it.
Dan: Yeah. So, being the owners of CATS Accountants, we obviously have an accounting firm first, and foremost. But our purpose there was and has always been to support and to educate our client base.
Tim: Business owners.
Dan: Which is business owners. And we don’t feel that it makes a lot of sense for us to hide behind a wall of knowledge, and drip feed that to the clients. What we want is them to be able to take the bull by the horns with their own information, their own understanding, and make some decisions, and grow their business.
Dan: So, our purpose really matched perfectly with podcasts. So we thought, we’d been discussing it for a long time. We’re both big fans of podcasts. And we just thought one day, “We sit here talking about business a lot. We sit here talking about what our client should be doing. We sit here talking about tax. We sit here talking about changes. Why don’t we record this?”
Dan: And a lot of the podcasts, out around the time that we started a couple of years ago … there are some great ones, but there are also some ones, about small business specifically, that might put you to sleep. And we thought we need to change that. So, we’re lively people. We know how to speak to someone without throwing jargon at them, and making them glaze over. So, we thought, “Let’s do it. Let’s just dive in and start recording topics about … so, questions that we get from our clients all the time, or topics that we often discuss, let’s start with those. Let’s make an episode about each one. And that way people can find that information, be educated, and help them make decisions in their business.” So, really it was all about empowering small businesses to have the information themself, and to use that information in their business.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah.
Dan: And then, there’s a lot of banter.
Tim: And having a bit of fun.
Did your early education in the film industry help you, Dan?
Dan: It helped with the technical side of it, to be honest. And, I guess, as well as being able to speak on a microphone, and not get in front of a microphone, and then become completely stiff and rigid, and speak monotone, and have some inflexion in my voice, and be a little bit more natural, and a bit more exciting.
Are you suggesting there are accounting podcasts out there that are totally monotone?
Dan: Yeah. I’m not suggesting it. I’m saying it. But yeah, that definitely helped. And especially the technical side. I knew about sounds, I knew about editing, I knew about microphones, and what to do.
Dan: So, that side of it definitely helped make it a lot easier for us to dive in, and know how to do it. The next step was just figuring out if we could do it. And if people would actually listen.
Tim: Yeah. From my perspective, it helped massively. Because Dan has always edited the podcast. He’s researched where to post it. He found out how to share it amongst all of the different podcast sites like Spotify, and things like that, iTunes. So yeah, from my perspective, it wouldn’t be possible without Dan having those skills, and knowing how to set up a microphone, and where the chords go. And so, yeah.
Dan: I think we would have got there, it just would have been longer. This would have taken us longer to get there. We would have been unsure of where to start.
Heather: I do think that having creative skills in the accounting industry is important, or can be very useful.
Tim: Yeah, I think so. Definitely.
Heather: So, the tagline of the podcast is, “Dispelling the myths of running a small business.”
What are the myths of running a small business that needs dispelling?
Dan: So, I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you. A client comes to you, and they say, “So, I was talking to a friend of mine, and they told me I can do this, or I can claim this.” Or, “They told me that they get massive refunds.” Or any other variation on that sentence.
Heather: So, you’re telling them, “Don’t listen to Joe’s Pub advice, come to us Drunk Accountants and listen to us?”
Dan: Exactly. It’s the same amount of drunk, but it’s more accurate information.
Tim: Yeah. It’s ironic. Isn’t it? Actually. That is quite funny. I guess people … it is quite weird because it frustrates accountants when clients don’t listen to their advice. But perhaps it’s the setting that they’re receiving it in. So having a more relaxed, open, non-judgmental way of delivering knowledge, perhaps has been a bit of a winner for some people.
Dan: Yeah. And, I think, a lot of people have responded to … we call it, “The Two Drunk Accountants”, which is just having a bit of a laugh. And we’re trying to set it up straight away to be, “We don’t take ourselves seriously, but the content is serious.” So, there are 20 minutes of banter, normally, before you get to any nuggets of wisdom. But we do find like we always say, people come for the business, but they stay for the banter.
Tim: I always say they stay for Tim’s Tight Ass Tips, but that’s just me.
Dan: I think it’s true.
What’s your favourite part of running a podcast?
Dan: I think, we probably share this, the most unexpected thing to come out of the podcast, was the network of people that we’ve been able to be introduced to, and become aware of that, as a small accounting practice on the central coast, you just don’t know, you don’t meet. You don’t know all these interesting businesses that are out there, or these interesting softwares, and the interesting people that work in those softwares. People like you, Heather, we would have never spoken to.
Dan: But, because we have this podcast, and because people listen to it, the door has been opened to this community of people that really have helped us push our business forward. And, in turn, then allowed us to provide that information to our listeners.
Tim: I really like it. I don’t know, this is going to sound silly but, I like it as a barbecue conversation piece as well. So, often you’re at some sort of thing with maybe people you don’t know, and they could ask you what you do. And in the past, I’ve said, “I’m an accountant.” And that usually just like ends that topic, basically.
Dan: They do this, they go, “Oh yeah.”
Tim: “Oh, interesting.” And there are a few nods, and then we move on. But if I can also, at some point, I like to discuss the podcast. Now people actually tend to know about it, before they meet me, just through friends of friends, or something like that.
Heather: Is that because you’re walking around with a microphone, and headphones on?
Tim: Wearing my Two Drunk Accountants jumper.
Dan: And his shirt …
Heather: With, “I’m a podcaster” on your back.
Tim: Yeah. I don’t know, it’s just nice for people to see that you do something else other than just accounting, which they imagine to be really boring. Which is way more people-focused, and relationship-based than people actually know. So yeah.
What does the future hold for you? And, is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners?
Tim: Yeah, cool.
Dan: Good question. What does the future hold for us? I think two sides of it. One is the podcast. I think the world is our oyster with the podcasts.
Heather: Not your yam?
Dan: Not our yam, no. Not our yam.
Tim: They’re different things, apparently.
Dan: Well yeah. Same thing, according to Tim. I think what we want to do is, continue to grow the community of people that listen to our podcast. And we want to continue to help the businesses that are out there, who might not be able to access this information in as much of an accessible format. So, that is the plan with the podcast, is to continue to get more people to listen, because we want to help more people. And to continue meeting interesting people, and learning interesting things. So that’s the goal of the podcast. And for the accounting firm, it’s almost the same thing. We want to keep helping. We want to keep supporting. And we want to keep ensuring that our clients, and the listeners to the podcast, are able to get the most of whatever it is that they want from their business.
Tim: Yeah. I would say very similar to what Dan said there. But, I really think there’s some cool ways we can bring in more education. And, strangely enough, we’ve found that a lot of accountants, and a lot of accounting students, listen to the podcast. And I would really, really love to release some education, or be part of some sort of content for that group of people.
Tim: Because like you said before, Heather, accounting firms are shouting out for ready-made accountants. And there is literally jobs. People are begging for people to come in with some experience, and knowledge to be important members of their team. And sadly, we’re seeing accounting jobs going overseas. And, I think, there are awesome people in Australia, which, if with the right content, the right…
Tim: Experience when they’re learning, that could be taking those jobs, and keeping that economic activity local. So that’s actually something that I’m really passionate about. And I’m not really sure what shape that’s going to take, but I’m hoping that we might have some part to play.
Dan: Yeah no, absolutely.
Heather: And, I think, it was great that you started off by saying, “We both started in reception.”
Tim: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
Dan: We did.
Tim: Yeah, and I’m so glad we did because it taught us so much just about answering the phone, which is a huge part of being an accountant.
Dan: Yeah, absolutely. It started with communication first.
How can our listeners get in contact with you?
Dan: So, for the podcast, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get in touch on any of the social medias @twodrunkaccountants. We love to respond to your messages. So, if you’re sending us something on Facebook, or on Instagram, in particular, we like to try and write back to every single person that writes to us. So, get in touch with us there. You can find CATS Accountants, just Google it. Or you can go to the website, catax, which is C-A-T-A-X.com.au. To our website to find CATS Accountants, and all our contact information is on there as well.
Tim: And, thanks so much for having us, Heather. It’s been awesome having to chat with you.
Dan: Yeah, thanks, Heather. It’s great.
Tim: Some of the questions you asked, it’s just really nice reflecting. So yeah, I really enjoyed it.
Heather: Thank you so much, Dan and Tim, for being on the show. Really enjoyed having you here, and I’m sure the listeners will have enjoyed it too.
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About Heather Smith
USA Accounting Today listed Heather as one of 21 people helping shape (and reshape) the accounting industry in 2020.
A technology and lifestyle accountant with a deep understanding of automated integrated cloud business tools and how business apps can be implemented and utilised effectively to improve workflow and surface information useful for data-informed decisions. She extensively shares her methodologies, business strategies and work-life balance practices through the ‘Cloud Stories’ podcast, multiple Cloud Accounting books, the Accounting Apps newsletter, blogs and social media platforms.
A FCA, FCCA, FICB, commerce graduate, and accredited trainer.