After a tough year for small businesses and their accountants, we were more eager than ever to recognise the outstanding work of small business accountants with our annual Xero awards. We even added a new category – the People’s Choice Award – giving clients the opportunity to celebrate their Xero accountant.
The deserving winner of the inaugural People’s Choice Award this year was CDC Accounting, led by Chris Cheeney. After working in finance and helping his wife launch her business, Aesthetics Clinic & Salon, Chris decided to set up his own accounting practice to support salons, spas, and aesthetics practices. Through the pandemic, Chris has gone above and beyond to support his clients, so it’s no surprise he won the People’s Choice Award. We caught up with Chris remotely to learn more.
Supporting clients in a hard-hit industry
The Covid lockdowns were extremely difficult for businesses in the beauty sector. To support clients, CDC set up a Facebook group to stay connected. The team also offered regular calls to discuss cash flow monitoring and government announcements while answering the influx of customer questions. Chris started off by hosting calls on his private Facebook page without a formal plan, but as the numbers quickly grew, he formalised his approach.
“When our clients saw the value of these calls, they began inviting other salon owners who they were friends with,” Chris says. This evolved into a daily Monday-to-Friday schedule, including expert guest speakers from the sector. At the peak, these virtual gatherings attracted around 30 beauty business owners, each seeking advice on immediate steps they could take to move their businesses forward. The events eventually expanded to cover non-accounting topics, such as conversations about appropriate PPE, making it a one-stop forum for the beauty community.
Above and beyond
Like everybody else, Chris entered the pandemic not knowing what to expect, but CDC’s customer-centric ethos guided the business to do everything it could for its clients. “I set up my business to change my clients’ lives – I wanted to help people achieve their dreams – so it was important to me to keep their dreams alive,” Chris explains. With regular communication, enabled by social media, Chris was able to keep his finger on the pulse and ensure the team at CDC was providing the information and support that their clients needed on any given day. Xero has “helped keep things up to date so that we can offer support where we can,” he adds.
To provide this support as effectively as possible, Chris needed to also keep his own staff happy and healthy. He took measures to ensure that the team was well and able to adapt to working from home from scheduling regular check-in calls to organising team quizzes. “The team has done an incredible job,” Chris emphasises.
Building back better
Winning a Xero Award “means everything” to Chris. “My wife ran a salon, and it wasn’t going well. When I implemented a simple system, her world changed forever. I set up my business to create that sort of change in the lives of other salon owners, and I’m honoured to be recognised for my effort,” Chris says. He found inspiration to set off on his own at Xerocon 2013, and he started the business the following year – and since then, he says, “it’s been one hell of a journey.”
Looking forward, Chris says that CDC will continue to do its best to support its beauty sector small business clients, but that ultimately “they just need to get open and start making money again.” Once things reopen, he anticipates, “it will be like they’ve had a fresh start.”