The end of the year provides the perfect time to pause and reflect on what has passed. Kieran’s business coach Ian Dickson recommended during his penultimate coaching session of 2021 to carry out a review of the year. This includes writing down the highs and lows, considering the learnings, and thinking about the things we enjoyed and the things we would change. In this week’s blog post Kieran details how 2021 was for Cloud 360 Accounting in his reflection of this year…
The high point – becoming an award winning accounting firm
Why not start at the top? Without doubt the biggest achievement for our business this year was winning Xero’s, ‘UK Small Firm of the Year Award’.
The awards were a virtual event on Wednesday 3 March. We already knew we were nominated in the top 3 in this category, but in all honesty we had no idea we’d actually win it.
The judges commented on how Cloud 360 Accounting handled the impact of COVID-19 for our clients and client relations which saw our team individually call each client to check how they were coping. Kieran provided further support with his weekly, free Facebook Live, ‘Coffee with Cloud 360’ which provided business advice on the latest developments from the government alongside loads of other free tools, video guides etc. Xero were also impressed with our client onboarding process and ability to harness technology into our full range of services.
For us, this was a HUGE achievement. We had already set the mark for our industry way back in 2010 by becoming Northern Ireland’s first Xero certified advisors and first digital accounting firm. The award was a great recognition of our place as market leaders in our industry, our ability to focus on client experience and emotions as part of our professional service standards. Given that this award was UK wide with thousands of entrants, we will be proud of this moment for many years to come.
Celebrate your wins
This is something that most small businesses don’t do enough. We hit a target, we achieve something good but we just keep going and move on. Small business owners have a particular mindset which keeps them on the treadmill each day, so celebrating your wins is really important especially if you have a team helping the business achieve its aims.
Here are our wins for the 2021 year!
- 42 sessions on Facebook Live hosting our weekly ‘Coffee with Cloud 360’
- £5k per month of new monthly revenue for client services
- £20k generated for one-off services for our clients and customers
- Helping 6 clients move on to new accounting firms who will be a better fit for a more light touch service that they want
- Recruitment of two brilliant new team members who are starting their journey with us towards becoming chartered accountants
- Full implementation of cloud tech for monthly reporting services for clients
- Conclusion of my ‘Success From The Start’ coaching group for start-up accountants
- Running 3 quarterly webinars to provide useful tips and advice to small business owners on how to improve their numbers
- Completing the process to step away from statutory audit services and the end of our position as a registered audit firm with our regulators
- One team member passing their next level of exams with Chartered Accountants Ireland, moving on to their final year
- Another team member grows their family with their second little one arriving in October
- 78 individual tax returns completed and filed for our clients (so far!)
- Remaining on course to complete 94% of all tax returns before Christmas
- Delivering 1,400 hours of cloud bookkeeping services to our clients through our Digital Finance Department
- Reducing the level of tasks running outside our own internal targets from 45% to under 20%
- 25% increase in MRR (monthly recurring revenue) from 2020 year
Challenges we’ve faced
OK, time for some honesty now. There is no point bringing bullshit to social media and looking at everything through rose tinted glasses. The world needs to know that not everything is perfect. In business there are naturally highs and lows and we must acknowledge both in equal part. There is no doubt many small business owners will relate to these challenges that we’ve faced during 2021. So here goes…
- Bringing an end to our offshore arrangement and saying goodbye to Jeff, who was a great member of our team based in the Philippines
- Introduction of new time recording systems and pushback from the team
- Finding it tough in the recruitment market to get the right people without paying an absolute fortune
- Designing and implementing a new team structure and the emotional rollercoaster that it seems to bring
- Losing a team member in very challenging circumstances
- Working over 2,200 hours myself this year with 55% spent on client services hence losing the balance of working ON versus working IN the business
- Keeping the team motivated through the first 3 months of lockdown (with further restricted working measures in the pipeline by the looks of it)
- Dealing with the emotional breakdowns of a number of clients as their financial situation drifted beyond repair
By taking stock of both the highs and lows I can acknowledge and accept both, which in turn will help drive the business forward in 2022. It is so important as business owners that we look at the full picture and take our learnings from there.
What really counts
It has been a really useful exercise to write about our reflections for 2021 but it isn’t complete unless certain life events are brought into the whole equation. After all, if you aren’t running a business to help improve your life and the lives of others, then what the hell are you actually doing?
Personally, a number of things spring to mind this year.
There was the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines which has helped us get back to some kind of normality as a society. There was the first Holy Communion of our daughter Emily back in June, a really great family occasion. We had natural gas installed at home and we changed one of our cars to a fully electric vehicle. Myself and Emma completed a 5k-a-day challenge for Autism NI and raised £2,000 for the charity.
Our youngest daughter Kara has faced many challenges this year as she learns to cope with her additional needs. As we still await an official diagnosis so that Kara can get the extra classroom help she desperately needs, we started some private therapy for her and this is starting to show some great improvements in Kara’s understanding and ability to handle her explosive emotions. But every day brings new challenges for Kara and for us.
Everything that has happened this year has helped bring some clarity in terms of the direction of our business. More will be revealed in the New Year with the launch of a new website. Our focus as a business and a team will be to go deeper with our clients, getting to the root of their problems and issues, and launching services built around a new ‘life-focus’ for small business owners.
One thing has become clear this year. Growing a huge monster of a business isn’t on the roadmap. Ever. Keeping our team small, consistent and built on our core values will be permanent. Working with a lower number of clients and customers but offering them a better range and depth of services is paramount, and giving them a super client experience throughout is where we want to be.
Think about how you can help your business to excel in 2022 by building on existing relationships in your own business – with your team and your existing customers. And if you need any help with this, keep your eyes peeled on what we’re bringing forward next year to help small business owners in this area.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!