When: October 8, 2018
Who: Sutherland Black
Miles travelled: 1,440
Track of the Day: Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine
A Taste of Home
When on the road, the feeling of change is best captured by the people you meet most often — cashiers at the petrol stations. Some will politely acknowledge your existence. Others will give you a warm smile. And some will greet you like an old friend, who stopped by for a couple of stories and a good laugh. Scottish folk belong to the last category.
I’ve discovered that they possess a very important quality — an ability to laugh at themselves. In their self-deprecating ways, Scotts are very similar to Irish. I think that, together with a good bit of banter over the counter, made me feel a bit closer to home.
My next visit was to Sutherland Black, a firm of Scottish Accountants operating in Livingston and Edinburgh. Unlike many other accounting firms, Sutherland Black didn’t start with a partner leaving a bigger company with a couple of good clients in their pocket. John Mclaughlin and Rob Meredith built their firm from scratch.
John and Rob told me that they started Sutherland Black to provide a ‘different kind of accountancy service.’ They are straight-forward in their approach, offer a fixed price, and guarantee to waive their annual fee if a client is charged for a service that they haven’t agreed on beforehand.
Digitise or Die
The most interesting thing I learned, however, was that accounting is dead.
In its traditional form that is. Today’s accounting is not about bean-counting or keeping records in a shoebox. It’s about embracing technology and developing the needs of your customers. Instead of lengthy quarterly reports, clients want access to real-time information at their fingertips. In order for modern accountants to provide this they need to understand and embrace concepts like AI, machine learning, the cloud, and integrated systems.
Today, most of the accounting day-to-day work can be automated. The bookkeeping tasks are taken care of by cloud solutions like Xero, and computers are evolving to process even more data.
The good news is it gives accountants more time to focus on high-level tasks, like supporting business development decisions, tax impact consultations, partnership agreements, or financial strategies. Plus, businesses still need to be trained in new ways and solutions.
Digital doesn’t render the accountancy firm obsolete — it pushes them to embrace the change and step up.
Thank you, Rob and John, for a productive and educative meeting! It’s great to see your SME leading change in the sometimes more traditioanal world of accounting.