Nel & Vennote is an established auditing practice situated in Upington, in an economy largely dependent upon agriculture. Here’s their story of how they are using technology to meet their clients in the cloud, save travelling hundreds of kilometres to drop off paperwork and more effectively budget with real-time data.
Pierre Nel’s career has seen him study in Stellenbosch, work at PwC Paarl then PwC’s international unit In Amsterdam. When Pierre returned to South Africa, he became a manager at PwC before joining his brothers at Nel & Vennote in 1999.
“We like technology. That’s one of our big passions. Way back in 2009, we went paperless at the practice. In a small town like Upington, this is almost unheard of.”
FIXING THE CHALLENGE OF CONNECTIVITY
Around 70% of Nel & Vennote’s clients are in the farming industry, with the remaining 30% spread out across a variety of industries. One of the greatest challenges facing their clients is that of connectivity.
“Connectivity is a huge challenge among farmers, as many sit within a radius of 300 km. Getting their books to our offices and processing them is very time-consuming. Farmers will bring their invoices and receipts in a plastic bag or box, and dump it at our office. Then, we’d give all those to a staff member, who would add them to excel spreadsheets.”
“It became a lot harder to finish our clients’ financials on time to meet deadlines, and we also had some staffing issues.”
“The internet is becoming more and more valuable; that’s why products like Receipt Bank and Xero are giving our clients an opportunity to avoid travelling to our offices and submit documents online, instantly.”
“Our clients’ main concerns are those of cost. As theirs is a seasonal business where they only get income 2-3 months a year, the other months are spent incurring costs and invoices. The other concern is that of financing. The banks now are looking for up-to-date financials. If our clients want to get a loan, they need management reports. We can help them with that.”
GETTING STARTED WITH RECEIPT BANK
Pierre got started with Receipt Bank at the beginning of 2017.
“When I realised how much cloud-based accounting could mean to our firm, the light-bulb switched on. I saw how incredible this could be, and I don’t think everyone sees it. This is where we want to be in the next few years - in the cloud.”
“Every time I demo Receipt Bank to clients, it’s amazing to see their face when they see it for the first time. They can’t believe what they’re seeing. They never imagined how the process could be so much better,” says Pierre.
“One of the nicest features is the Receipt Bank app. We ran a test between running the OCR through a pile of invoices and giving them to a clerk. Receipt Bank was more accurate.”
“Before, converting client bank statements to data took us around eight hours to complete. Now, it takes just one to two hours with Receipt Bank: an eighth of the time.”
Thanks to this, Nel & Vennote have increased their client-base without hiring more team members. Their team of 45 employees has stayed largely the same for the last four to five years, mainly due to a lack of local resources to recruit.
Improving their client to staff ratio to continue their growth was essential. Each team member now looks after between 85-100 clients.
CREATING UNICORN CLOUD ACCOUNTING TO EXPLORE THE POTENTIAL OF CLOUD
Alongside Nel and Vennote, Pierre started another company called the Unicorn Cloud Accounting. This is designed to radically change the way they approach accounting.
Clients of Unicorn Cloud Accounting will have a virtual accountant, that they pay for on a monthly fixed pricing (like a SaaS service). This price includes Receipt Bank and cloud accounting software.
“We will give the client a virtual accountant in their business. That said, we also want to communicate with them regularly.”
The motto? Omotenashi: the Japanese way of receiving guests.
“Omote means public face, an image you wish to present to outsiders. Nashi means nothing. Combining them means every service is from the bottom of the heart - honest, no hiding, no pretending. “Omotenashi”, therefore, does not ask for flawless skills, but a pure heart - which leads back to the message of serving wholeheartedly,” describes Pierre.
“Cloud accounting has the power to create a virtual accountant in our client’s business. From data capture to consultation and establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), we will give clients weekly up-to-date financial information that will help them sleep at night and plan for the future.”
“I’d like Unicorn to grow fast, and give an outstanding service delivery. Every time I sit with clients and show them what we can do with a monthly service, it’s a no-brainer. They just say yes. I just need people [team members] to come with me on the journey.”