Believe in Better

On Saturday evening we went to hear my good friend Lauren Currie speak at the University of Dundee. Lauren is one of the people who’ve inspired me on my journey in the world of design over the last decade, so it’s always a delight to see her.

When she introduces herself on stage she’ll typically say, “I’m Lauren Currie and I believe in better”. It’s a simply phrase, but one that sits at the core of everything she is and does.

Lauren has this ability to make you look at the world in a different way, to see the things that aren’t working, and then to do something about it. All with a focus on social change and making our world better.

It’s become a mantra for me too over the past few years. It’s why I do what I do. Why I get involved in the things that I do. It’s a question I ask of myself each and every day – are you really making things better today?

Let me explain.

My world is the world of business. It’s where I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life. For several years I’ve been trying to find my ‘thing’. Where can I make most impact; how can I help people the most?

It was staring me in the face, and it was my son & business partner Andy who helped me to see it. You see, I’m an accountant. Always have been and always will be. An accountant with an ability to communicate often complex things in an easy to understand way. An accountant who’s embraced the world of design and who believes in better.

That’s why we setup our accounting business last year. We could see that the world of accounting wasn’t delivering what customers needed. Accounting needed to change and we were up for the challenge of leading the way.

We’re now 9 months into the journey and I believe that we’re making a difference. But there’s still lots to be done. We’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Do you believe in better? How can you use your skills and experience to make a positive difference? I’d love to hear your thoughts….

Let’s talk about paper

It’s been a week of talking about paper. Specifically, organisations that continue to insist on printing & sending information to customers, whether they like it or not.

In 2018 there’s really no excuse for doing that. The common refrain is, “well, we’ve always done it like that”. However that doesn’t mean you should be.

Last weekend I recorded a video about accountants posting financial statements to their clients for signing, without any explanation of what these statements mean. It’s a practice that many accountants have used for decades, but what we found in our research before we launched Ashton McGill was that clients really dislike this. They often don’t understand what they’re being asked to sign, it feels cold and impersonal, and there’s no attempt to explain or educate.

That video generated a lot of interest and people shared their individual stories with us. We got a bunch of enquiries on the back of it, and so for we’ve won 3 new clients as a result. There’s a message there for the luddites who insist on continuing to send stuff out in the mail……

The second example this week was a local college whose finance department insist on posting paper invoices out to customers. This seems to be a practice that many education institutions still use. They also expected us to phone them to make payment. I mean, really?!? Their process couldn’t have been less customer-friendly if they had tried.

And yet we see this sort of thing time and time again. Systems designed around the needs of the organisation, without any thought for the user or customer. Systems that are never reviewed, they just do it that way because……..well, because that’s how they’ve always done it.

Surely we can do better than that? You have my email address, you know my name, company, and our physical address (because you insist on mailing stuff there!), so why not email me a copy instead? It’s costing you money to post documents to me. Not only the paper cost, the ink, the envelope, the postage, but also the cost of someone’s time to do this.

Then I’ve got to do something with the paper documents. I’ll sign them if I have to (assuming I understand what I’m signing!), scan them, then email them back to you (see the irony there?) before shredding them. What a waste of time.

So, come on. If you’re the recipient of this type of behaviour, then insist they change (unless you like receiving mail!). And if you’re printing, stuffing envelopes, sticking on a stamp, then mailing them – ask yourself why? More importantly, ask your customers what they want.

We don’t need to print. Not only will it save you time, it’s also better for the environment. It’s time to be better.

Xerocon day 1 – highlights

Yesterday I travelled down to London to attend my first Xerocon – the accounting software giant Xero’s annual conference for it’s accounting partners.

Although we’ve only been in business as an accountant for a couple of months, our history with Xero goes back a few years. Last summer I delivered a webinar & Masterclass Programme on Customer Experience as part of their Summer Camp for accountants, and we’ve been using the product in our business for a couple of years.

Xerocon gets a lot of love on social media, so I was intrigued to see if it would live up to the hype.

The opening keynote address this year was from futurist Richard Susskind. I’ve been a fan of Susskind’s for several years, so for me it was worth the ticket money alone just to hear him. He didn’t disappoint.

susskind

In a thought-provoking talk, Susskind challenged the room to reimagine what we do and to focus on what it is that our clients truly value. The best way to predict the future, he said, is to invent it!

The other session that grabbed my attention today was a panel discussion on ‘Frictionless Finance’. We heard from a variety of speakers from the traditional (HSBC) to cutting edge FinTech firm Curve. This on the same day that Challenger Bank Starling announced they’d be entering the business banking market in 2018. I’ll be writing more about some of these companies, and the opportunities they open up, in the near future.

Apart from that, it’s been standard fare for a product conference – product updates, a glimpse of the future roadmap, that sort of thing. All good, and it I’m excited for the future as a Xero Partner.

And I mustn’t forget about the catering – it’s epic! Scattered around the Exhibition hall are, in no particular order, an ice cream van, several barista coffee stations, a couple of smoothie bars, heaps of great food, and tasty Kiwi juice.

Day one’s been good. Tonight is the fabled Xero Party – they say there ain’t no party like a Xero party! Guess we’ll find out soon…..