How to find an accountant in the UK

Small Business Guides

4 min read

Business owner Phillip Schöne had a lot of bad experiences with advisors. He even started to wonder if he’d ever find an accountant for his mould-breaking architecture studio. Here’s how he finally did it.

Phillip’s cool business

Almost a decade into his architecture career, Phillip Schöne felt the industry was failing many of its clients.

“We architects sometimes treat ourselves as though we’re a bit special – gods of design. We shut clients out of the process and think it’s an irritation if they want to be involved,” he said.

“But that doesn’t work anymore. People come with their own ideas and they want to be involved in design. Modern architects need to be collaborative.”

An architecture firm with a difference

So Phillip opened an unusual architecture firm in 2009. Hone Studio doesn’t dictate design to their clients, which means that unlike most practices, they don’t have ‘a look’.

Instead, they have a design process built around the client. Hone Studio’s customers can participate in any aspect of the project that they like – from making mood boards to picking decor. And they only pay for services they actually use.

Phillip wanted financial advisors who were just as open about accounting as he was about architecture.

Unhappy start with accounting

As a partner at his previous firm, Phillip was involved in the financial side of the business. It wasn’t a great experience.

“We had accountants who were happy for me to be confused. They’d talk to me in a way that made things sound complicated. I hated not being able to understand how the business finances worked, but they made it impossible.”

He was equally baffled by their billing policies, with the accountants taking a share of the tax deductions they found.

“I’m OK with an incentive scheme but there was no transparency, so we couldn’t tell if they were doing anything clever for us. They could have been claiming bonuses on standard deductions for all we knew.”

A breakthrough accountant

For a short while, Phillip wondered if all accountants were hard to work with.

“I worried that it was an industry-wide thing – much like architecture had a lot of the same personalities. But we got on the right track when we went out on our own.”

Hone Studio’s first accountant used online accounting software, which overcame the transparency issues straight away. Phillip could log in at any time and check the cash position of the business.

That didn’t mean there weren’t teething problems. Payroll costs showed up as a liability rather than an expense for a while, which made the business appear more profitable than it was. But Phillip says a good accountant can fix issues like that quickly.

“You can learn all that stuff yourself if you have a heap of time but, when you’re running a business, it’s so much easier to find an accountant who can do it.”

Finding accountants in the UK

So when Hone Studio’s UK accountant relocated to the US, Phillip made sure to replace him with another technology-focused practice. They went to a networking event for accountants in London (hosted by Xero) and hooked up with The Wow Company.

Wow already had a tonne of creative clients, which made them an ideal fit for an architecture business. And although they’re based outside of London, their use of online technologies meant Phillip didn’t need them to be in the same neighbourhood.

“We can call them with a question and they’ll bring up our data so we’re both looking at the exact same screen,” he says.

“Wow is helping us get even more out of accounting technology. We’re starting to use budgeting and forecasting tools so that we have instant access to all the business’s financial information.”

I'd had accountants who were happy for me to be confused. They made things sound complicated.

Taking control of the business

That puts Phillip in complete control. He can see how the business is going at all times and can make strategic decisions faster.

The double act of good accountants plus good technology means Phillip has less to worry about.

“I’m comfortable delegating accounting tasks to office staff. It’s not convoluted or complex, so I don’t feel as though I have to be involved in everything.”

Find a UK accountant that fits

Phillip’s search for the right accountant had hits and misses. It started in a bad place, with advisors who locked him out of the accounting process and made it hard to understand the business. But he persevered and found that digitally-minded advisors were far more inclusive.

The online tools they use make it easier for clients to see what’s going on in their business. And that enables a much closer and more trusting relationship to develop.

It’s easy to find a UK accountant who uses online technology. Just go to our directory and punch in your industry and location.