How to Fuse Personality and Technology
“Not all accountants are the same - going beyond the usual!”
That’s Aimeé Hargreaves’ tagline on LinkedIn. And it sums up her approach.
She helps clients with friendly, honest and jargon-free advice. But she uses new technology too.
“What you see is what you get,” says Aimeé. “I wear my heart on my sleeve whilst delivering an honest, jargon free service.”
How Personality Has Been the Key to Success on LinkedIn
Aimeé was clear which marketing has been the most effective for her business.
“Absolutely, hands down, it's LinkedIn.”
Her approach is “being on LinkedIn, showing up and being consistent. By showing up regularly and interacting with people I can get my personality across.”
And Aimeé also learnt a simple way to be effective with the tool.
“It was three words, so quite simply, just be me.”
“You can be marmite, they'll either love your content, they'll relate to it or they'll hate it. If they hate it, they're not the clients for you.”
“[But] if they love it, they'll interact and you'll build up trust, build up a good reputation and I have. I've stuck to my values, stuck to what I believe in, being honest, demystifying and "just being me" - nobody else can be me!”
And now she’s begun to use videos too.
Aimeé added, “we don't advertise, we don't post blogs on our website, simply because we want to invest our time in our clients.”
A New Type of Accountant with the Help of Technology
From the start, Aimeé has used technology to support her clients.
One important area is the virtual finance director service.
Aimeé explained that many businesses, “can't afford a full-time person to sit and deal with finances.”
Instead, she helps them as a hands-on financial expert rather than a full-time employee. So companies only pay for what they need.
“What you will get for that service is an all-inclusive package, where you've got a virtual finance director. But at a fraction of the cost of employing someone full-time.”
In fact, after our interview, Aimeé was heading off to meet with one of these clients to deliver this service.
And because every business is different, they create a package that fits each client.
“The service doesn't always have to be face to face - you can choose to have a Skype call every month, depending on your budget.”
Making Tax Digital
Cloud accounting is another area of the business where technology is key.
Making Tax Digital means that businesses will have to use this software to manage and file their accounts.
But Aimeé has seen this as an opportunity. That’s why she became the first specialist in Yorkshire for the Zoho accounting software.
Aimeé said “to be one of the first, and to hold it for so long is absolutely brilliant. That's one thing that makes us different, as well, that's our niche.”
Early Recognition from Happy Clients
Early recognition came for Aimeé after she made the shortlist of the ‘Yorkshire Accountancy Awards’ in 2018.
“A client put that forward for us, they wrote a pitch, and they PR'd about it.”
Whilst she didn’t win, Aimeé was delighted to be on the shortlist after less than 18 months in business.
Aimeé went on to explain how she works with clients.
She talks clients through their, “future tax-paying objectives, and thinking about the future. Rather than sitting at the end of the year and saying that this is what happened.”
And the clients she helps range from startups to larger firms.
Aimeé says that these include, “the SME market, a one or two director firm ...with a turnover of anything from £60k up to £5 million.”
And “the growing businesses” who now need a different type of accountant.
These are businesses who need “somebody that is going to be a sounding board ... to help them and educate them about what's actually going on.“
How Ultra Accountancy was Born
Aimeé and her husband, Martin, set up Ultra Accountancy in November 2016.
Whilst on maternity leave Aimeé realised that she wanted to make a change. She’d worked as an accounts manager for a firm of accountants and realised that there was more to be done in the world of accountancy.
Aimeé says “it was always inevitable that we were going to set up our own business, because we're both accountants, we work with an IFA, so we've got the network there - it was just a case of building the confidence and taking the leap at the right time.”
Helping Clients to Choose the Right Systems
A major part of the business is helping clients with their systems.
And for Aimeé, it’s important to offer clients a choice.
“A lot of accountants will say ‘that system is right for you’, because that's the system that the accountant uses … and that makes it easier for them and not necessarily for the client.”
So Aimeé always asks “why are clients using it and are they using it to the full potential? If they're not, is there something they could use that's better suited to them.”
How to Find the Right Accountant to Help Your Business
Aimeé finished our interview with a few tips for how to choose your accountant.
She began with advice for startups.
“People often have a misconception that they don't need an accountant right from the start. Or when they've got a business idea.”
“I would always say tip number one is, when you've got an idea, run it by an accountant to see if you've got a feasible business idea.”
“That initial consultation. Most accountants will, these days, offer an initial consultation free of charge.”
Aimeé said that they’ll explain how you need to set up your business and how it should be structured (as a sole-trader, partnership or limited company).
She added “things to look for are:
- Do you get on with them?
- Are they straight-talking?
- Do you understand what they're saying?
If you don't understand what they're saying, that's not going to help you and they are not the right accountant for you!”
“They've got to know how you work, they've got to have been asking questions.”
“Have they worked with people in your industry before? Say, for example, you're a manufacturing company. And your accountant only deals with service companies. They're not going to understand the mechanics of your business.”
For businesses who want to change their accountant, Aimeé recommends that you find out:
- Do they understand your role in your business?
- How well do they know your industry/profession?
- Do they understand exactly what your business does?
- Have they seen your business objectives?
- Do they support the systems you use?
- How do they look for ways to improve things?
- Do they understand where you want to go, what your targets are, or how to get there?
“Changing accountants is often compared to changing bank accounts - people are naturally reluctant to change, whereas change is often a good thing! Misconceptions are that ‘it's going to take me ages', 'it's a long process' - actually, it's as simple as ABC.”
“So, do your research, have a chat with them and take note, are they asking questions and are they interested in you and your business?”
Aimeé Hargreaves shows that you can blend experience, technology and your own personality.
So even in a traditional industry like accountancy, you can bring new ideas and a new approach.
And Aimeé’s example shows that this has lead to respect and recognition from her clients.