Martin Caruana, Director of Beverston Accountants, set up his own practice after twenty years of working in large accounting firms. He has recently celebrated Beverston’s one year anniversary. Having already outgrown two offices, Beverston has grown to a team of three and has achieved Xero silver status.
Plymouth-based UK accountant Martin Caruana started Beverston Accountants in his garage. He had a vision of working in a tech-savvy environment, surrounded by enthusiastic staff and working with clients that want his advice. For Martin, running a business that serves clients who can rely on him gives him the kick he needs to get out of bed every morning.
David and Goliath: the benefits of being small
Martin believes being a small firm, with just three staff members serving approximately 100 clients, there are great advantages. He says being evangelical, trying to win hearts and minds, and changing the philosophy of accounting within a large firm takes a lot of time.
“I’m impatient and I couldn’t see change quick enough in the large firms I worked for. I wanted to be part of something that fitted my vision,” he says. “Now with Beverston, we have this David and Goliath mentality. We feel like we can compete with bigger accountancy firms, because we can make quick decisions with the technology,” he says. “Using Xero means we’re more efficient and it makes us more credible.”
This agile mentality has also been passed onto Beverston’s clients – giving them the tools at their fingertips to make big decisions based on real-time data. They too can compete against the bigger players in their industry.
“It’s not a hard sell”
Martin says Xero is the glue in the relationship between client and advisor at Beverston, allowing him to have meaningful conversations with clients to build long term relationships. “Our clients don’t just want the basics, they want advice,” he says.
“We recommend Xero for any new client. Their perception is, ‘if you think it’s the right thing for me to do’, they’re happy to get onboard because they trust us. And once we show them a 15-20 minute demo, they’re won over. It also helps that Xero can be used on any device.”
Martin says for Beverston, building management reports in Xero has helped to kick off the conversations about business performance and becomes the talking point in meetings. “It’s a tangible thing for business owners to talk about: ‘Why has margin gone down and how can you increase your sales?’ Xero helps you get to the point quicker and helps you to discuss the results. If you don’t know the numbers, you’re only going to have superficial conversations.”
No niche needed
While many firms and marketers highlight the benefits of focusing on a client niche, Martin says in a place the size of Plymouth, it’s not the same as serving London or Manchester where it’s big enough to focus on one sector.
Beverston is situated within a business park where there are a host of clients working in different industries that they’re able to service. “We see it as a strength being able to adapt the product so that it suits any client. And we think working with clients in different industries is a good indication that we’re pretty good at using Xero.”
Practice what you preach
As a small business itself, Martin runs Beverston’s own accounts using Xero and he loves the experience. “We use Xero, not only because we believe it’s best in market, but because it’s much easier to tell our clients to use Xero if we are. We have to practice what we preach.”
“I enjoy interacting with Xero. I have a daily routine where I go into the app each morning to see who has paid us and keep on top of the figures.”
Martin says getting set up on Xero was pain-free for Beverston. “It was really easy to set my business up on Xero because I’ve done it so many times for my clients. I keep it simple by entering conversion data to get opening balances.”
“You can also import your own tailored chart of accounts,” Martin says. It’s more flexible than having a default chart of accounts as with some competitor software.
When it comes to pricing, Beverston mostly adopts a fixed-fee pricing model. “But for an occasional job where we go in to scope how long it will take and we charge by the hour, we use Xero Projects to keep an eye on those jobs.” A new product on the platform, Xero Projects give Beverston the ability to track time and assign costs to each project, and it’s integrated directly with Xero.
Get ready for Making Tax Digital with Xero
With the Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT deadline drawing closer, many accountancy practices are rethinking their choice of software. Others are burying their heads in the sand and approaching it with negativity and cynicism.
But for Beverston, Martin’s treating MTD as an opportunity to get his clients into a healthier routine. He wants his clients to stay on top of their accounts, by meeting with them more regularly. “Even if clients are not VAT registered or don’t meet the current VAT threshold, we encourage them to come in and drop things off on a quarterly cycle to get them into that discipline. We work hard to engage and meet our clients as much as possible. We want them to feel reassured that we’re future proofing their business.”
And using Xero means there are no upgrades or added fees required for businesses already submitting VAT returns! Martin’s recommendation? “Get yourself ready and in the meantime you get to use some great software.”
Making Tax Digital: Your questions answered
HMRC has confirmed that from 1 April 2019, businesses that are above the VAT threshold (currently £85k) will be required to keep their records digitally and submit VAT returns to HMRC using MTD-compatible software. For businesses, including accounting practices, above the VAT threshold with a 30 June 2018 year-end, it’s recommended to begin using MTD-compatible software from 1 July 2018 to avoid facing the complication of changing part-way through their accounting year.
For more information on Making Tax Digital, check out our blog: Making Tax Digital: Your questions answered.