5 min read
Ross Hughes spends his days working alongside his sister, Laura, and father, John, at their forward-thinking, local family company Signs & Labels Hereford. A Hereford institution for 20 years, Signs & Labels produces custom signage, graphics, and labels on almost any medium they get their hands on. What started as a humble backyard operation for John Hughes now sports a tight-knit, passionate workforce. And a bold strategy for growth.
A few years after coming aboard the business, Ross started to see its finance function bursting at the seams. Despite his and Laura’s push for modern technology, the business’ finance function needed untangling from the past. Use of QuickBooks Online for quotes and invoices was juxtaposed by a fortnightly visit from a Sage desktop-using bookkeeper. Invoices were being manually printed, to be sent in the post. Records were frequently out of date. And cash flow was often a question mark.
“We were double handling everything. Our processes were very long-winded. We never knew where we were at cash flow-wise, and it started to become a real issue.”
Laura would regularly set aside Fridays to call customers and and chase payment, but with mixed success.
“We’re not pushy people, we don’t like chasing money. It’s a really stressful thing to have to do.”
The cumulative effect of multiple overdue invoices was beginning to have a devastating effect on their business.
“Something needed to change. It just kept getting worse. And worse. And worse...”
“She’s so helpful and enthusiastic, especially about these apps. We completely trust Sharon.” That’s how Ross Hughes describes his accountant, Sharon Pocock.
Sharon is the MD and Principal Accountant at Kinder Pocock, a modern accountancy firm based in Herefordshire in the UK, just a few minutes walk from Signs & Labels. With 15 years experience in the accountancy profession before establishing Kinder Pocock, Sharon loves getting involved in her clients’ businesses and helping them grow. She hasn’t gone unrecognised for it either. Xero awarded her their Most Valued Professional at their renowned conference Xerocon in London 2016. AccountingWEB also awarded her firm Client Service Firm of the Year at their Practice Excellence awards in 2017.
When Ross and Laura came onboard as clients of Sharon’s, she immediately put a solution in place. Consolidating their split data across QuickBooks Online and Sage singularly into Xero, Sharon presented to Ross her tried-and-tested app stack of Chaser, Receipt Bank, and GoCardless.
Having already seen the positive effects of using Chaser for her own firm, Sharon was well-positioned to recommend Chaser to Ross and Laura. “It’s like these emails from Chaser go out with magic fairy dust,” she describes, attesting to the product’s response rate, “And the recipients really think it’s hand-typed by a person.”
But Ross and Laura weren’t without their reservations. Their major concerns were Chaser’s weekly frequency of chasing, and sending email chasers before the invoice due date. Although the latter is optional within Chaser, Ross elected to try it on recommendation.
“Initially, we thought people might take it the wrong way. For our business, our reputation and word of mouth referrals are key. We didn’t want to upset that.”
When we spoke on the phone, I asked Ross how he felt after Chaser sent its first chasers out. “Like a weight lifted off our shoulders,” he described, after the impact of his credit control overhaul dawned on him. The reservations he had coming in had been quickly abated. Increasing the frequency of chasing payment to weekly did not upset any of his customers. Nor did sending before-due chasers.
“It’s perfect now. It actually works so well. People are fine with being politely chased.”
Ross added that some customers are now even paying their invoices before the due date. A feat unheard of in Signs & Labels’ pre-Chaser days.
Chaser’s automation has helped Ross completely streamline his credit control process, saving over 4 hours a week. Signs & Labels has also seen their overdue debt reduced by more than 80% - from £27,000 to £5,000 in just six weeks.
But more than pulling the business’ finance function out of limbo, Chaser has been a key catalyst in Signs & Labels’ bold growth strategy. With the cash Chaser has brought in for Signs & Labels, Ross and the team are able to acquire a flatbed CNC router.
“This machine will take us to the next level. But it’s expensive. If we didn’t get Chaser on board when we did, we wouldn’t have had enough cash in the bank to make the deposit.”
I asked Ross what it meant for the CNC router taking Signs & Labels to the next level.
“Every other signage company in the county needs this, but no one owns one. We all have to outsource and get the pre-cut stuff. With this, the opportunities are big. We can become a supplier to the whole county with this.”
Sharon now touches base with Ross every Tuesday morning with a quick email. Both of them receive an automated reminder email from Chaser the day before, summarising the week’s upcoming email chasers. Together they agree any ad hoc, strategic adjustments they might need to make before the week’s chase, ensuring Signs & Labels’ credit control function remains in top shape. This weekly touch point has done wonders for the relationship between Kinder Pocock and Signs & Labels.
“The accountants of the future, Laura calls us,” Sharon chuckles warmly, as we chat on the phone. And it’s an apt description. With Chaser in her app stack, Sharon offers her clients fully-formed solutions on a plate. She gets them more automated, freeing up their time, bringing in the cash they’re owed, and helping them grow as a business.
Before Ross and I finished chatting, I asked him how he’d describe the lasting effect Chaser will have on his business. His response was simple: “Freedom.”
Are you an accountant or bookkeeper who wants to increase value to clients, gain revenue, and solidify client relationships? Click here to learn more about why Chaser will benefit your firm and clients today.
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