Preventing potentially expensive business balls-ups!

It’s been a busy start to the year so far. It’s nice to see businesses that I’ve been talking to and getting to know for a number of weeks, months (or in some cases years) reach critical points in their business lifecycle in either starting new ventures, seeking and raising funding or selling their businesses.

I’ve been privileged to work alongside and advise these businesses across all of the above scenarios in just the past week alone and have sought to put them in the best possible position (and side-step any potentially expensive business balls-ups!).

Having the benefit of working alongside and advising growing entrepreneurial businesses every single day allows me the benefit of spotting latest trends and recurring issues which in turn allows for practical hands-on advice to be passed on – in nearly all cases aimed where possible at ‘prevention’ rather than cure – as digging businesses out of holes that they have inadvertently created is normally a whole lot tougher (and more expensive) than getting things right from the outset.

This is where a good relationship with an accountant who is familiar with your sector can help. Even if it’s just to meet up for a coffee and chat. There’s no need for this to be overly formal or regimented. We’re here to help.

If you’re in the digital, tech or media space (or simply an ambitious business with BIG plans) then please get in touch. It costs nothing to have a chat. I would love the opportunity to show how we can help.

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iPad for accountants

Having promised myself that I would await version 2 of the iPad before succumbing, I found myself in the Apple store on launch day handing over my credit card with the following internal mind wrestle – my head saying “you don’t need this” and my heart laughing: “yes you do, look at it…it’s beautiful”! (Result: Apple win yet again!)

So what are my first impressions one week into owning an iPad?

Firstly, I should caveat the fact that this is my first ‘proper’ week of playing with it as I spent most of last week with my iPad largely out of action (see Getting Started with iPad tips below).

It is a quite brilliant device for consuming media such as video, books and online articles as the screen is unbelievably high res and responsive to touch. Zooming in and out on photos is amazing. I am just getting started with the 1,000s of apps.

Using an iPad for work in accountancy

Explaining difficult concepts in easy to follow and ideally entertaining ways is the key to building relationships with clients and identifying new opportunities. There is little doubt that the iPad will make a stunning tool for flicking through presentations alongside a client or prospect or as a light-weight note-taking tool for meetings etc.

The jury is still out as to how useful the iPad might be for day-to-day work in the office given most PSFs’ ongoing reliance on Excel, Word and the other usual Microsoft Office suspects. Dennis Howlett has already provided a good summary of the shortcomings of Apple’s Numbers yet seems equally enamoured with the device as a new business tool. Richard Messik also seems pretty smitten.

Lawyers are already busy experimenting with iPad applications for work practises (Peninsulawyer has some good summaries of latest experiences and tips, as does Jason Plant) and the overall consensus (hope?) so far seems to be that we have a fair way to go before it transforms the way we work today but that – with enough prompting and feedback – iPad applications will evolve to meet the needs of users and get us closer to a potential game-changer.

Given this, accountants, lawyers and other professionals need to be experimenting with the iPad and feeding practical business needs into the app development community so that the relevant apps can be built. Likewise, our clients will expect us to be adopting latest working practises and business tools, as will the bright young Gen Ys entering into our profession.

Seth Godin is already banging the drum for the ipad applications that he would like to see developed – his requested Fixing Meetings iPad app already gets my vote!

Post script – iPad teething problems and solutions:

Gettting started with iPad
Tip No.1: Never buy an iPad then disappear on holiday (like I did) without first ensuring you have your Macbook or pc with iTunes preinstalled and a wireless network to hand. Why? Because you need to sync your brand-spanking-new iPad with iTunes before it will activate. iTunes also needs to be connected to the Internet to sync. I happened to have my MacBook but no Internet connection – so I had to trudge around sunny Rhosneigr looking for a wireless connection. It literally takes 30 seconds to activate once you get connected – it was just the preceding 3 hours of locating a wireless hotspot that was the hindrance!

Tip No. 2: You also need to be online to active the 3G card (if you have a 3G model). I had activated my ipad via iTunes but had then disconnected before the option to download the “carrier” information had flashed up. This meant that every time I tried to get online via 3G it kept coming up with a “cellular network” error. Grrrr. Lesson learnt.

Professionals serving clients via The Cloud

As a practising chartered accountant and tax advisor, I am finding that the ability to reach out and service clients via The Cloud is getting easier (and even more fun). 

Two recent examples from the past week:

  1. Sat at my Mac when I was pinged via Skype by one of my contacts “Steve, do you have a moment to help?”.  Within seconds he had sent me a link via Yuuguu for me to view his screen.  He was busy trying to file his company CT600 tax return online but was encountering some problems.  There is a further option on the screen that allowed me to take control of his screen so that I could quickly rifle through the online pages to determine if anything was wrong.  Meanwhile we could discuss via online chat.  A v slick experience and a glimpse into the way we will work in the future (now)!
  2. Leaving the gym, a client wanted me to check some recent accounting entries to his online business books.  With no time to get back to the office, I stopped by a local Pret-A-Manger and sat down with my laptop to hook up to the free wifi.  I tried to connect to Skype via my ipod Touch (as Skype is not installed on my work laptop) but unfortunately the connection was patchy.  A quick log-in to Twitter to apologise for the delay and my client sent an access link to his online accounting package, Xero, via a direct message in Twitter.  Within seconds I was logged into his Xero account reviewing the accounting entries.  The review was limited as I wanted to discuss some points with him (and a public place like Pret is not ideal), however, to get a heads up on the fly, this was great. 

Who would have thought this way of working would be possible only a couple of years ago? 

Example 1 could not have happened as I was not in the office at the time.  Example 2 would have meant a significant delay and frustration for my client awaiting my return to the office etc.   In both cases, these tools enabled me to be more responsive and allowed me to work without being chained to my desk. 

Professionals need to be out of the office supporting the business community and these tech tools are allowing this to become a reality. 

On a personal note, many of my clients are technology companies and they (quite rightly) expect their advisers to operate and work utilising similar tools – great news for me!

What might this mean for the way professionals work in the (near) future?