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From numbers to notes then back again

Posted 5 months ago in Advisors by Emma Izatt
Posted by Emma Izatt

When you think of an accountant with 30 years experience, what sort of person springs to mind?

York-based Hilary Dyson likely doesn’t fit the bill. Hilary is Business Services Manager at Garbutt + Elliott, an accounting and business advisory firm with offices in York and Leeds, made up of 110 staff with a broad range of clients. Of her 30 years as a chartered accountant, Hilary has worked with accounting software for the past 20 years as a software specialist. Joining Garbutt + Elliot three years ago, Hilary currently leads the accounting software support for their clients and also provides internal software support.

In her spare time, Hilary is the Chairman of York Opera, where she both performs and directs. She is also a member of York Light Opera, performing and directing musical theatre, where she is currently directing their youth company for a performance of Westside Story. Among other performance roles, she’s appeared on stage as a dancing plate in Beauty and the Beast, as well as the lead role in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’.

Part of Hilary’s role when she joined Garbutt + Elliott three years ago was to seek out the best cloud-based offering, after clients began to express an overwhelming interest in moving their finances to the cloud. Strongly believing in “not being the jack of all trades, and master of none”, the firm wanted to be able to recommend to clients a specialised service that they felt was best in the market.

Garbutt + Elliott knew that in order to support and exceed client expectations, their own staff needed to be properly supported with up-to-date training. Having looked at various options, Hilary realised that Xero was the obvious choice for them. “When I looked into different accounting software providers, it was obvious why Xero was the market leader. It was the most intuitive for both accountants/bookkeepers and small business owners, and therefore we decided that was the one we wanted to partner with.”

In 2014, Garbutt + Elliott made the move to Xero and haven’t looked back. The main benefit their clients have experienced through using Xero has been its ease in breaking down complex numbers, a lack of frustrating accounting jargon, and de-mystifying the bookkeeping side of their business. Being able to look at the same data as clients means the firm doesn’t have to receive a backup over a large mail link, spend time restoring it, and then go back and forth with the client explaining the problem — they can just log straight on.

“Immediately we saw that we now had an efficiency in how we worked with our clients, meaning the quality of our service improved as well. It’s certainly revolutionised the way we work.”

Indeed, through using add-ons like Crunchboards means Garbutt + Elliot could now extract more value for clients and a more in-depth level of advice, opposed to just churning out books.

For the firm itself, using Xero has opened up a lot of opportunities and changed the way they work. They are now able to offer Skype training and support sessions using screen share, recently running a training session for a client in South Africa. It allows them to work from the office when necessary, but also provides the freedom to work at any time and place. On a personal level, Xero enables Hilary to fit work in around her rehearsals at York Opera, picking up work after a rehearsal at home from where she left off if need be.

While Hilary admits the specialisation of accounting and software would be perceived by most to be rather boring and stale, she believes that the everyday innovation and rapid pace of change in the industry actually makes for a unique day job.

“There is so much change taking place in the industry and it’s only going to continue over the next few years. The thing I really enjoy about working with Xero is that change. It’s always responding to the needs that people have and it’s not static — things are happening and improving all the time.”

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