Interview with Gary Bell
How Karbon has transformed our business
1. What size is your practice?
FLB is a three-partner firm with over 75 employees. FLB’s head office is in Wokingham, just outside Reading, with offices coming soon in central London.
2. What is your core technology stack at FLB (in-practice and client-facing)?
The practice uses Karbon at the core of the business for CRM and Workflow management. Having worked with a number of other solutions in the past from IRIS to Senta we’re extremely confident that Karbon meets our needs now and the future development roadmap is very exciting.
In terms of client-facing applications, we are going through a period of change. There are a number of our legacy solutions that, whilst fit for purpose short term, are not developing in the way we would like to see. We’re currently exploring our options. Unfortunately whilst some of the providers are moving towards the cloud, the main accounting and tax software solutions our business requires are not fully cloud-based.
3. How long have you been using Karbon?
Nearly 2 years
4. What research did you do before moving to Karbon?
We initially built our own workflow trackers through Smartsheet after deciding the IRIS solution was not the right fit for us. We then spent time trying Senta but, unfortunately, this solution was too customisable and didn’t have the same dedicated team to walk us through the best ways to use the solution.
We investigated a number of the other solutions on the market including Accountancy Manager and Practice Ignition but we felt Karbon was the best fit. The hands-on support they offered were sensational.
5. How are you using Karbon in the practice?
We use Karbon across the business to assist with pretty much everything! We have all “recurring work” set up as recurring work templates.
The most significant change has been in respect of email. The ability for anyone in the business to be able to tag an email they have received against a specific job provides a level of transparency in the business that was lost when paperless practices evolved.
We also use Karbon for client on-boarding, ad hoc projects, internal projects and we are just configuring new templates for new joiners.
6. What were the challenges in moving to Karbon?
We have a very tech-focused team, everyone is excited to utilise technology to make their job quicker / easier so that they can move onto the next exciting challenge. That breeds a culture of embracing change. We’d also been through the pain of moving from Smartsheet to Senta which to many was a step backwards. Karbon was seen as a breath of fresh air and the whole team were excited by it.
7. What would be your advice to anyone considering Karbon for their accountancy firm?
If we were implementing Karbon again I would definitely have included a wider group of people to be product champions. In fact, I would have ensured there was a product champion in each team. That way the rollout would have happened at a much faster pace.
I’d also suggest not trying to build too much detail early on. Start with the major sections / tasks e,g, Records Received > Preparation > Review > Partner Review > Send to client etc. Once you have the building blocks let the team suggest and develop it out. After all, they are the ones using it day in day out to manage the workflow.
8. What are your favorite features in Karbon?
I love the fact we now have one source of truth for client contact information, it’s very simple to see all the services you are providing to a client at the click of a button and then see who is responsible for delivering those services.
I also find the Kanban view a superb way to visualise what stage work is at and, significantly, what is the value of work that is sat at any given stage. This allows us to have a good forward-looking view of billing for any given month.
Finally, I’d have to say the support really. They have been incredible. No question is too small. My biggest criticism of some of Karbon’s competitors is their support team pointing you to a video.
9. What commercial impacts has Karbon had on your business?
Karbon has allowed us to continue to grow the business by giving the managers and partners wider visibility. We don’t have to have meetings to talk through a workflow in the way that we did previously, the status of any piece of work is on screen, with correspondence between the team and the client all tagged to the job. That saves a huge amount of time for us.
Visibility of work and fees is has provided a massive commercial shift for us. We can allocate resources in the business to where there are bottlenecks in client delivery. This allows us to ensure we are hitting our targets and, as importantly, it allows us to ensure client deadlines are being met.
It's been cash positive for us too. When we added up the cost of different platforms we were using - workflow, CRM, and email management Karbon provided all of these for less cost.
10. What are your growth plans for 2021?
2020 was an extremely strong year for FLB despite the Covid-19 headwinds.
2021 is on track to be an extremely exciting year for FLB. We are on the verge of signing an acquisition that will provide us with a third regional office and some hugely talented additional team members.
Our Specialist Renewable Energy Team is providing a unique solution for large-scale investors in these long-term investments. We are working with some hugely successful market leaders providing a solution that can scale with their investment portfolio.
In addition, we have one of the UK’s strongest Media and Entertainment teams. We are providing a suite of services that are unrivaled in the UK Accountancy Sector with a number of new disruptive services being launched in this space over the coming weeks.
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