Accounting has been revolutionised many times over with the emergence of new technology. From calculators to Excel spreadsheets, accountants wouldn’t have gotten far if they weren’t willing to adapt for the good of their practices and their clients.
For Ravi Shah, partner at Vinod Shah & Co, change is being embraced in a practice that was first established by his father in 1989.
Now, the team is using cloud accounting software to drive efficiency and better serve clients, with the goal of steering this long-standing practice into a paperless future.
We spoke with Ravi to learn more about Vinod Shah & Co, and how Xero is helping achieve this ambition.
Ravi’s father, Vinod, founded the practice in whatever spare time he had between teaching on professional accountancy courses and spending time with his family.
Ravi’s mother, Punita, also an experienced accountant, worked with Vinod to grow the business, which was operating from the bedroom in their home.
The practice was soon big enough to become a full time role for Vinod. The house, however, needed to be extended to make room for the burgeoning business. After many years of the business going from strength to strength, Punita became a partner in 2008.
Two years later, Ravi entered the fray. He says:
“I graduated around the financial crisis in 2008, and due to the state of the industry at the time I found it hard to get a graduate scheme for an accountancy firm. I was working in personal insolvency, but I could see my parents’ practice was doing really well and had even more potential. I realised I could help it grow and thrive. I had a conversation with my dad, and we decided to work together.”
A journey with technology
Ravi talks about how rewarding it’s been to bring newer technology into the practice:
“Change can be challenging at any age. My parents had been using the same software for around 25 years. It had been my intention to start using Xero from around 2015, when I first saw a demo at Accountex, but there was some initial resistance because learning a new software can be hard.”
Thankfully, the adoption process was smooth. Vinod Shah & Co were fortunate to have Ashok Shah onboard, an IT expert and former senior partner in a top 100 accountancy practice. Ashok’s support sped up the change management process.
He tells us, “Xero is so user friendly. With the video tutorials, community support and the learning portal, it’s like my parents have been using it for years. We love that you have the flexibility to request a call back from the support team. When you’re juggling a busy workload, this is a much easier way to find the time to have these conversations.”
With onboarding a success, Ravi looked to solve a problem that had been plaguing the team for a long time. He elaborates:
“Before Xero, our greatest challenge was paper – there was just so much of it, and keeping on top of everything became a real burden. If one thing was filed in the wrong place, staff could spend an hour looking for a document. It was hugely time consuming.”
The team had to get to the root of the problem. “We knew we had to go digital, and began scanning all our documents and moving them onto a shared folder. Then, we started making payroll digital. The process took a long time.”
With Xero, this once-onerous task of manually scanning and digitising paper documents was lifted – it now happens automatically and takes seconds. “This has transformed our lives. We were stressed and struggling to find the time to carry out these smaller admin tasks. Xero has freed this time up, and had a hugely positive impact on the business and our clients,” Ravi says.
Now, Ravi’s goal is to make the practice entirely paperless, and wave goodbye to the bulging filing cabinets and stuffed shoeboxes of receipts.
The journey to Making Tax Digital
For Vinod Shah & Co, ensuring clients comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD), the government’s push to digitise tax, has been high on the priority list too.
But this potentially daunting task has been made straightforward, according to Ravi: “With Xero, MTD for VAT was so easy because returns are all documented properly, and as soon as we file a return we get confirmation that it’s MTD compliant.”
As for how they’ve been helping clients get to grips with MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment (MTD for ITSA), Ravi adds:
“It’s all about communication – offering clients a quick, clear explanation of how it works. If someone isn’t willing to change over, we’ll convene one-on-one meetings to explain and show them the software, and demonstrate the value of digitising tax.”
Small business tips
We asked Ravi for his advice for small businesses over the coming months:
“First, get to grips with cash flow management, and understand any issues that may be impacting cash flow,” he explains. “Key to this is knowing your payment terms and identifying when you are being paid late. Chasing up late payments from business customers isn’t easy, but it’s vital you keep on top of debtors.”
Ravi’s second tip is to build strong relationships with larger suppliers to negotiate discounts if they’re available. “Bigger businesses can be more willing to give discounts to loyal customers. Communicate why you’re asking for discounts, and they may be happy to provide them.”
As for the final piece of advice, Ravi concludes:
“With high inflation, rising interest rates and the energy crisis, don’t be too afraid to increase prices. If your prices stay the same, but your overheads go up, you’re going to suffer. Have difficult conversations with customers, communicating why this is happening. Everyone’s in the same boat, and many will understand why price rises are needed.”