Wayne Findlay, The Back Room CEO and accounting genius, shares everything you need to know about prepping services. What is prepping and what are the benefits? And in case you didn’t know, prepping is the newest, hottest, most cost-efficient offshoring service we offer accounting firms at The Back Room. He talks to Ed Martin.
Wayne Findlay tells us about himself
Wayne is proud to be an accountant. He grew in a small farming community at the bottom of New Zealand, called Tuatapere. There are not many career choices when you grow up on a farm. You either become a farmer, a stock agent, a banker or an accountant. Wayne chose accountancy and studied at the University of Otago. He worked for a number of firms and picked up lots of good ideas before starting his own accountancy firm, Findlay and Co, in Wanaka – a beautiful town in Central Otago, New Zealand in 2000. From there the firm grew.
Wayne’s brother, Scott, who is also an accountant and not a farmer, came on board three to four years later.
The Back Room was born from a chance meeting at a rugby game in the Philippines. Findlay and Co already had some staff in the Philippines and, during a visit, Wayne went to watch the rugby and met a Kiwi living there. They got talking and the rest is history!
The Back Room started with around 12-13 employees and now has closer to 250. It has been quite a journey.
Wayne and Scott have carried the same values from their accountancy firm to The Back Room. They are big tech fans and believe in continuous innovation, or Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and include all employees. Family is also really important for Wayne and Scott.
What is prepping?
The Back Room work with Xero, an accounting software program. Xero is an New Zealand based firm and the software is successful worldwide. Wayne has worked with them since the early days.
Prepping was part of the journey with Xero. The cool thing about Xero and most accounting software is that it is very data centric. So the data is available all the time to both accountant and client.
Wayne started thinking about how The Back Room could use that data proactively. An analogy to prepping would be preparing a patient for theatre. A nurse does the preparing, while the doctor performs the surgery. As accountants, The Back Room use junior accountants to prepare the data for the senior accountants to do the work.
What are the benefits?
Wayne began using the process of prepping with Findlay and Co three to four years before starting The Back Room. There were some big changes for them. He found that throughput on jobs was much faster to around 10 days a job. In addition, there were not many open jobs – around five at a time. This means as a firm they could concentrate on job they were working on.
Prepping is also awesome for training junior staff. A lot of accounting is systems – so knowing where to find the data and understanding the system is key to success.
At Findlay and Co they found that they had better staff engagement. Senior accountants could be more customer facing, including Wayne, as CEO, spending more time with clients, and less with compliance. They had really good quality control in place, and they scheduled jobs.
One of the key advantages was the ability to have personalised questionnaires for clients, prepared during the prepping service, that asked for specific information. This resulted in a good response rate and accurate answers. Overall, this led to better margins and a lot more capacity within the firm.
How about the onshore team – what did they think?
Wayne says this was something that they worried about at the start, but actually it was the opposite. The senior accountants saw the benefits too and it was a win-win situation. They were also able to pay the senior accountants more and soon found they wouldn’t pick up job unless it was prepped!
Facing clients and adding value to their business was extremely satisfactory for all the team.
What did clients think?
Wayne says that they didn’t advertise to clients that the accounts were prepped. So, in fact the clients didn’t really know. What the client saw were the benefits. The personalised questionnaire, so they could provide accurate answers, and improved turnaround times.
The clients didn’t know what prepping was, but they loved Findlay and Co as a result.
Why we created the prepping service at The Back Room
Offering this service to accountancy firms was a natural progression. The traditional way of doing year end has gone. With a prepping service margins increase, and it helps to improve your business and team. The team are more efficient, it helps with capacity. If you undertake the prep at start of year, it’s nice and easy at end of year. Then your accountants can do more value-add services or business advisory as well as year-end accounts. If The Back Room do all the prepping for you this will only make the job a lot easier.
At The Back Room we scope the job, get the data, do the work and provide the feedback. We have a checklist to ensure everything is covered, that can be fine-tuned and tailored to firms.
Or just get in contact with Wayne or Scott. At The Back Room we are always keen to talk to accountants about if and how prepping can work for them.