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Turning into support mode: How this digital practice is pivoting to help their clients

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Flaka Jasari

Apr 24, 2020

Xero award finalists de Jong & Phillips have spent every hour on the phone with worried clients, advising on the latest government schemes and running free webinars. 

We caught up with Pam Phillips, founder of de Jong & Phillips, to learn a little more about how her practice has adapted over the last few weeks. 

Tell us a little bit about your practice

We’re a young, tech-focused accountancy practice with a commercial mindset, specialising in helping ambitious agencies scale and thrive.

This means we not only do all the stuff a traditional accountant will do, but we make our clients’ businesses more efficient and profitable, while helping them understand their numbers – so they can make better decisions to help their business survive and grow. 

We basically shine a light on where they are, versus where they want to be. We help them build a plan and then hold them accountable.

How has your practice adapted to these uncertain times?

We’ve been a fully digital firm for a few years and this means we’ve been able to embrace the ‘working from anywhere’ benefits of being on the cloud. This has meant the transition from being office-based to home-based working has been an easy one.

I’m a strong advocate in people being able to fit work around their life, and not the other way around, so flexible work arrangements have always been available to everyone. Many of the team are tag-teaming with their partners to fit work in around childcare, but this hasn’t caused us too many issues, as it’s actually pretty normal for us.

As we do daily bookkeeping for our clients and full month-end reviews each month, so we know the data in Xero is good and can be relied on which has helped when we’ve needed to turn around information to support clients loan applications in super quick time. 

We already use Float (cash flow forecasting software) across a number of clients. And because all of our clients are on Xero, it’s been pretty simple to turn on cash flow forecasts quickly where needed. 

What are you doing to help your clients?

Since Covid-19 began affecting businesses, we’ve turned into support mode. For the last few weeks, the team and I have spent almost every hour on the phone with clients; listening to their worries and offering support through this time of uncertainty.

We’ve also built a Facebook community for our clients to have open conversations, to learn and support each other through these uncertain times. This has been welcomed by clients looking to share their experiences with others in the same position.

Trusted information sharing is key. We’ve been keeping up-to-date with all the government support announcements and sharing this with our clients to help them understand what support is available to them. As well as one-to-one phone calls with all our clients, we’ve been sharing this information through regular blogs, videos, newsletters and webinars.

Helping clients access government support has also been keeping us busy. We’ve been making furlough claims, as well as advising them on the process and paperwork they need in place to put an employee on furlough.

Cash flow is obviously crucial for many businesses right now, so we’ve been building cash flow forecasts for clients to help them better understand their position and we’ve been helping clients apply for loans through the  Coronavirus Business Interruptions Loan Scheme (CBILS).

In our calls with clients, we’ve been helping them to think creatively and positively about how they can pivot and bring in other revenue streams and work remotely.

We’re living by our values. This is why over the last month we’ve been doing everything we can to support our clients for free. Like free phone support, free templates and free webinars. We know we’ll all come out stronger for it.

What have you learnt about your practice in this new environment?

I’ve learnt that I have an amazing team (but actually I already knew that). The team has shown themselves to be resilient, dedicated, adaptable and caring throughout the whole Covid-19 experience so far.

It’s also become apparent that going all in on being 100% digital was the right thing to do. Investing early on in being fully digital has made us a much more resilient firm than we would otherwise have been. We can work from anywhere, which in times like these has been shown to not just be a luxury, but absolutely essential.

What have you learnt about yourself?

This is undeniably a very, very difficult time and everybody has been affected in some way or another. And yet I find myself seeing the opportunities and things to be thankful for.

I’ve learned that I have a very positive outlook and I’m grateful for that – otherwise this would be a far more emotionally difficult time to live through.

I’m thankful that we’re a fully digital firm, so making the transition to working during isolation was possible without much drama.

I’m glad for the new hires we made, which has meant we’ve had the capacity and bench strength to adapt to the high volume and variety of work we’re doing right now.

And I’m positive that when things quieten down for us, which they undoubtedly will, we can turn any extra capacity in on ourselves and use it to improve and develop what we do and how we do it.

Have you experienced any silver linings that you can share?

Covid-19 has brought us closer than ever to our clients. Even those who were not so engaged with their numbers before are focusing on the financial health of their business and are communicating with us on a different level.

Covid-19’s impact on businesses has shone a light on the importance of having accurate and up-to-date financials. It has also raised the profile and importance of accountants in being well placed to help businesses survive.

Do you have any valuable advice for businesses currently enduring this climate?

First and foremost, speak to your accountant. They know your business and will be well-placed to support you through your next steps. If you don’t feel you’re getting the best support from your accountant, then look for another one! There are plenty of great, proactive accountants out there that will be able to help you.

Right now, things are changing fast and the focus is on surviving the short term crisis. But when the dust settles, it’ll be important to have good records of the choices and decisions you’re making at this time. This is particularly important if you’re furloughing staff or if your balance sheet is showing you have net liabilities rather than net assets.

If your work has suddenly dropped off a cliff, there are lots of things you can be doing to get your business into a good position so that you can come out of this stronger. 

For example, you can be improving your marketing activities, tweaking your website, reviewing your processes, planning for the future and developing your team. This is just for starters. Think about all those things you’ve wanted to do but have not had the time to focus on before because you were so busy delivering client facing work.

What are you doing to look after your wellbeing?

This is probably one of my biggest personal challenges. I get very focussed on work and forget to step away and enjoy downtime.

I do try to do a bit of exercise each day, like going out for a run or a walk. I’m also enjoying taking time out each day to have meals together with my family.

I’m learning the piano which is a nice change from work. And is quite a mindful exercise, in that I have to be present in the moment, so there is no space for thoughts of work or chores I might feel I should otherwise be doing.

Visit our dedicated site for more inspirational stories, webinars and resources to help you navigate through this time. 

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