Smart Accountancy Systems is an accounting firm based in Dorset. Founded in 2011 by Chartered Certified Accountant, Jon Jenkins, Smart Accountancy Systems (or Your Smart Team) specialises in helping small businesses solve problems and get to grips with their finances.
THE STORY BEHIND THE SMART TEAM
Throughout college, university and the workplace, Jon loved working with numbers and helping businesses polish their processes. He became a Certified Accountant in 2006, and graduated Oxford Brookes with a BSc in Applied Accounting, then spent just under 15 years in industry. Just before founding The Smart Team, he became disillusioned by the accounting industry. Then, technology changed things.
“I stumbled across FreeAgent and Xero, and had a ‘wow’ moment. I realised this is going to give us the information we need to give to clients, and the time and resources to do it.”
In Jon’s words, the company “grew up” with cloud accounting solutions, and now uses a combination of general ledgers. Yet, the journey with Receipt Bank and cloud accounting software included two major hurdles.
“When we first started using Receipt Bank, we actually wanted a white-label solution. We didn’t want our clients to know we were using technology, particularly automation, for their work. However, now there are apps available for everything. It’s not really the software but how you use it. Clients are not paying us for processing data, and they don’t expect us to be doing data entry anymore.”
The other struggle point was pricing. “Charging by the hour doesn’t work anymore because the more we automate, the less we earn. So now, we charge by transaction rather than time. We haven’t kept time-sheets for 3 years.”
“It’s not really the software but how you use it. Clients are not paying us for processing data, and they don’t expect us to be doing data entry anymore.”
“We were automating all the jobs we were charging for. Even though we were losing fees, it felt like the right thing to do. [Manual data entry] was the type of work my team didn’t want to do. I didn’t want them to do it, and thought my clients’ money was much better spent on advisory work.”
DOUBLING DOWN ON TECHNOLOGY
As an early adopter of cloud technology, Jon noticed that accountants were approaching The Smart Team for advice.
“We decided to split into two entities. Smart Team continues to help businesses with cloud accounting and bookkeeping. Just Add Tech is designed to help other accounting firms implement cloud accounting software and bring great experiences to their clients.”
THE FUTURE OF ACCOUNTING
“The accountant relationship will not be what it is today if it still exists at all,” says Jon. “We are all going down the advisory route, and many accountants I talk to say they are already. If they want to raise their fees, many small businesses I know cannot afford that kind of advice.” Jon’s solution is to run group workshops for other business-owners, sharing best practices and benchmarking other businesses’ potential.
WIDENING THEIR CLIENT-BASE ACROSS EUROPE
With Receipt Bank, Smart Team and Just Add Tech have added bookkeeping to their existing services.
“Receipt Bank offered a cost-effective solution without spending hours laboriously doing manual data entry. For some clients like local construction companies, we still collect their paperwork as before but can now scan in their documentation with Receipt Bank.”
“For small businesses, this is saving a couple of hours a week. I used to spend 40-50 hours a month on bookkeeping, and now do it in half the time - usually just 20 hours.”
What’s more, Just Add Tech’s client-base has expanded.
“As a small practice, we’re interested in doing work we enjoy with clients we believe in. Our interest in technology means we do attract a lot of creative, tech-savvy clients. There’s a lot of synergy in what we’re doing, and they understand that the only constant is change. When we have a change in software or a change in features, it’s not like pulling teeth to get them to adopt it. Instead, they’re also changing all the time in their day-to-day jobs.”
“I’m not looking to double the size of my business, but to be more profitable and efficient while helping other businesses to be the same.”
HELPING SMES FULFIL THEIR POTENTIAL
With the firm’s specialisation in technology and accounting meets problem-solving, Jon has helped a number of tech companies succeed - notably one tech company that exited for £11.7 million.
“They had no internal bookkeeping or finance teams. We were their outsourced finance department, and supported them on R&D tax credits, due diligence and account management.”
JON’S VISION FOR SMART TEAM AND JUST ADD TECH
“It’s not in our DNA to big ourselves up,” says Jon of the accounting profession. “Yet, having real-time data on the cloud means we can help small businesses with budgeting, forecasting and finance.”
In the next 2-3 years, Jon is looking for “consistency and stability” in an era of change. “We want to start looking at verticals. There are so many apps we’ve learnt about. Now, we want to put more consideration into 8 key industries our local council is investing in, and build a modular tech stack for each. We also want to do one for startups and scaleups.”
While for the past 7 years, Jon described his company as a “moth to the flame” for clients, he is now looking to use cloud technology to specialise in specific niches, and achieve a greater work-life balance.
“4-5 years ago, I was working over 100 hours a week. I did that for 3 years and it nearly killed me. Now, I spend 2 days a week on Just Add Tech, and 3 days a week on the Smart Team. I finish at five o’clock every day on the dot, do the school run everyday, spend more time with my family, play more golf and never work evenings or weekends.”
Jon’s plan is to use automation and AI to “spend more time on what we enjoy. I’m not looking to double the size of my business, but to be more profitable and efficient while helping other businesses to be the same. Last week, I was able to go to XeroCon London. When I came back to the office, I spent an hour catching up on invoices. Before Receipt Bank, I would not have been able to go to XeroCon. Now, I spent a lot more time working on, rather than in, the business.”
“I finish at five o’clock every day on the dot, do the school run everyday, spend more time with my family, play more golf and never work evenings or weekends.”
So, what exciting things can we expect from Just Add Tech?
Jon is building an app to work within the cloud accounting ecosystem, to help businesses manage projects internally and provide insights. “It’s about spotting things before our clients do, and starting conversations.”