Listen to this episode here: Transition to Cloud-based Accounting System
Welcome to our podcast TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz, Paul interviews stars from the accounting industry, sharing all the important numbers and stories behind them. In the last episode, we spoke with Rebecca Mihalic, Director at businessDEPOT Sydney and Head of Accounting (APAC) at Practice Ignition. We’ll breakdown some of her knowledge and experience in this article to share with our audience.
Can you share some of your stories – how did you get into this industry?
Growing up, I never thought that I would be an accountant. For a long time, I thought I was going to be a lawyer, until I actually tried to do some subjects and realised it was not for me. Then, strangely enough at my wedding my father got up to give a speech, he said, “I always knew Rebecca was going to be an accountant” and I found that really weird. When I talked to my dad about it, he said “What you really, really like to do is to help people.”
That’s how I see a role in accounting; you help people by solving their problems with numbers and by understanding their whole business. Even my dad understood the concept of an accountant moving more into a trusted advisor role, and saw that in me at a very young age.
Community connection has always been really important to me. It’s what gets you through that sense of belonging, knowing that there’s a lot of people out there that have your back, and being able to give back.
What are your thoughts on cloud accounting and the technology side of this industry?
I think that it is hugely important in the last five years and will continue to become even more important. It’s had an importance for different people in different ways.
It helped me to keep a great relationship with children and my husband, whilst at the same also being available for my clients. It means that I can work from anywhere, at any time, courtesy of tech. It’s also not just me, I extend out that flexibility to the whole team, which is so important for them because everyone goes through different things in life stages.
Portability and the cloud have changed the way that we can interact, not just with each other, but with our clients. Tech has also made it possible to deliver the service that we want to our clients.
Technology allowed us to give our clients better real time advice. Plus, it’s made clients a little bit more responsible, hopefully some circumstances anyway, around the numbers because they have access to them.
Can you share some stories about your firm?
We won ‘Start Up Firm of the Year 2020’. This team award is important to me because we have been recognised as a whole, and it’s something that the team can hold on to and really feel valued for. The way that I described is we’re a 25-year start-up because, between us, we have over 50 years of experience that we bring into the table as a start-up.
We were able to develop these cloud ecosystems that work, integrate, and automate. We’ve reduced admin, reengineered processes, and challenged the status quo.
One of the best things we ever did was we brought in a guy called Mark, who isn’t an accountant. We said to him, challenge everything that we’re doing because if it doesn’t make sense to you, we’re just doing it because we’ve always done it that way. He would challenge us, and we would literally sit there and say, “We’re doing it this way, but there’s got to be a better way”.
It was really nice to have it done. We were able to challenge all of these preconceived ideas.
What are your top three techs that you couldn’t live without?
Xero is always my number one, it’s like the backbone of our business. My second one is going to be Practice Ignition. It helps to manage my whole client relationship. Third is Slack, which I’ve always used quite a lot.
Can you give us a bit of an idea about what Practice Ignition can bring?
I’ve been a massive fan of Practice Ignition for at least six years now. After Xero, it was the second piece of tech that we implemented in the business. It was not fully integrated properly straight away, but when we gave it that effort, it completely changed the way that we work with our clients. Now, it’s an app that everybody has opened all the time at work.
The way that we use Practice Ignition is to manage the front-end and ongoing client relationships. It’s a proposal and engagement tool. We use it primarily for that engagement. When we’ve had the meetings and the client knows what services they want, we fill in this proposal with Practice Ignition, then send it off to our clients and it includes all of our terms and conditions.
It feels like in all of the services that we’re offering that client are stored in our service library. We put in what we’re going to charge the client, and how we are going to charge it, whether it’s upfront bill and completion or monthly reoccurring. We have a variety because we’re quite flexible with our clients and it works for us. Then we send that off, the client reads and checks it and then electronically and signs it. They put in their payment details as well, so there’s no paper.
There’s no surprises for anybody. We told them very clearly what the expectations are on both sides for the whole relationship. They know what they’ve got to pay and when, and we’ve taken their payment details. That means great client relationship.
Can you share your experience with Slack?
It’s a communication platform at the end of the day. So for our larger clients, I actually have Slack channels with them. We set up separate Slack accounts. Now that’s only for a handful of our much larger clients that we are working with even more often than a monthly basis.
If we’ve got to touch base with them every week, and Slack is the easiest way for us. In Slack people respond quickly with a one liner. I think people are hesitant sometimes to do a one-line or a one-word response in an email, because it comes off as rude. In Slack you can just get to the point really quickly without the “Hi there” or “You too”, which is sometimes not necessary.
If we look more internally, we’ve got a few things and Slack itself has some integrated apps. All these channels internally make it easy to talk to the team around particular items.
We’ve got another function: the polls. If we put a social post, it copies the social person to Slack so that everybody in the team knows that there’s been a social post, that they can look at it and reshare it themselves
Last year you merged your brand with businessDEPOT. What’s that done?
As a smaller accounting firm, you don’t really get to focus all the time on what you’re good at because you’re responsible for everything, and sometimes it’s just not feasible to outsource all of the things you do.
I’m good-ish at the numbers, but I’m really good at the business stuff and with my clients. I am not great at HR or marketing and there was this opportunity. We had actually been working with businessDEPOT for about 12 months. They had taken over our marketing as an external supplier.
It was an opportunity to get to know them better because my business partner, James had introduced me to John. I remember the first time I went up to their office in Brisbane, I walked in the door and thought, this place feels like the place that I want to be. John’s done an amazing job of building out a multi-service offering, which is what I always wanted to do. We can offer my clients a better solution by just joining.
We didn’t fully merge – we’ve paid them a license fee. I’ve got access to basically everything in businessDEPOT, and we’ve rebranded. We have a solid group, share resources and talk often across all the directors. However, I still have autonomy over the decisions that occur in my piece, which is great.
Can you share a piece of advice?
Implementing change is daunting. Trying new things can be overwhelming. Accomplishing what you want to do can be scary, but please be brave.