Youtopia Solutions is a forward thinking accountancy practice in Milton Keynes founded by Katherine Robertson and David Adderson in July 2017. The firm is an all Xero practice and operates on a fixed fee basis. Katherine is a member of the Digital Accountancy Show Advisory Board and we caught up with Katherine to find out more about the story behind their firm and what their goals are for the future.
It is great to see that Youtopia Solutions is going from strength to strength and you and David must be very proud. What did you do before you started the business and where did you get your experience to allow you to run your own accountancy firm?
“I started my career in Santander as an IT graduate trainee in project management then, after a few years, I took a career break to have my children. During this time I retrained as an accountant primarily to help in my husband’s business then, when the children started school, I became Head of Accounts in a local marketing company.
When the business relocated to Kent, I took a 2 week temporary role in an accountancy practice. Fast forward 5 years and I was the Practice Manager trying to evolve the practice and looking to transition onto cloud technology. Whilst in this role, I learnt about the industry, the emerging technology and implemented changes to make the practice more efficient and profitable.”
You and David Adderson are the partners behind Youtopia Solutions so how did you get to know each other and decide that you want to set up a firm together?
“David was the cloud specialist at the accountancy practice where I worked. We both were interested in new technologies and more streamlined ways of working, so we started the idea of creating our own practice.
As we were starting the business from scratch, we didn’t have to transition the current clients from their systems onto cloud solutions which made things a lot less complicated.
We both work well together and both have a clear defined approach where we use our core technologies efficiently to enable us to offer the best level of support to our clients. At the moment, there is just David and myself working in the business but we are planning to recruit a team member early in 2020.
Ultimately we decided to set up our own practice to be able to deliver a better level of service. Our fee structure means that we could spend more time with each client, truly deliver real time information and be responsive to their queries. This gives us the most job satisfaction and also benefits the clients. Our focus is helping clients to achieve their personal goals by setting targets and regularly reviewing them.”
Can you explain why you chose Youtopia Solutions as the name for your business.
“The name comes from Utopia (a place/state where everything is perfect) and is also about You, the business owner, and the personal goals that you want to achieve.
Solutions comes from our service where we aim to provide a solution for businesses enabling them to feel in control over their business finances.”
As well as implementing the apps, we also provide training and support for the employees. It is important that they are fully trained to avoid problems later and to stop them from reverting back to old processes.”
Do you have an ideal client?
“We have found that we are most effective with clients with whom we share a similar mindset irrespective of their size or industry. These clients typically are open to change, keen to adopt new technology and will push the roll out of new processes in their business.
They also have an interest in their numbers and want to understand where they are, how they are performing and what do they need to change to achieve their growth objectives.
The most valued aspect of our service is the close relationship that we have with our clients. We are always able to talk or meet with our clients at short notice when required. We specifically want to maintain a smaller client base in order to ensure that we are available for our clients and responsive to their needs so that we develop strong relationships with them and viewed as part of their business.”
It is a bit of a roller coaster running your own business and there are lots of highs and lows. How do you manage this and keep going? Have there ever been times where you considered giving up your dream and going back to work for someone else?
“We have definitely experienced a roller coaster ride so far, but we have found for every low there is a high just around the corner! I can honestly say that I have never considered giving up on the dream. We have a 5 year plan and are determined to achieve it, focussing on the long term goals helps us get over the occasional dips. It also helps having a business partner, we act as a see saw supporting the other when we have lows.
We also have a mentor through the Natwest Entrepreneur Accelerator programme which we are undertaking. Through this, we have monthly sessions to check our progress and help us overcome any roadblocks. Our mentor’s belief in us has given us a huge boost and she has challenged us to keep progressing and take the next step rather than procrastinate.”
I remember the Sunday night feeling – dreading work the next day. Do you ever get this now you run your own business?
“I have definitely had a few sleepless nights but I don’t ever dread work. The best aspect of running my own business is the variety that it brings. I definitely wouldn’t have thought that I could make sales, post on social media or enjoy networking, but I really do now.
For me, I have found my own version of these activities. My sales technique is more about building relationships and connections that lead to conversations about work. I try to do social media, but there is definitely a lot to improve on. I also tried multiple networking groups before I found one that I truly looked forward to. This is the biggest bonus for me, no one is forcing me to do anything, but there are roles that need to be completed so I find my own way of fulfilling them.”
Being a mum has lots of challenges in itself – do you ensure you have time away from work and you devote this to your family?
“I feel that I am around more for my family and I don’t worry about having to ask for time off, come in late to see a special assembly or leave early for sports day. But I definitely don’t work less!
I just work around my family and try to get the best of both worlds.
Some days I manage it better than others and it is difficult to leave work when it is in your home. But with time I hope to get more disciplined. It’s not a chore though as I really love what I do! I also feel that part of my role as a working mum is demonstrating to my children that it is possible to run a company and be a mum. My daughter is already doing my husband’s bookkeeping!”
Do you have any tips or advice as to how do you organise your diary?
“I have tried various ways of organising myself but my current plan is working well.
I have all of my tasks for the month in a spreadsheet with a colour coded system for checking progress. I work through the list daily depending on what information has come in. But I always start my day with emails and client bookkeeping. I like having a constant visual reminder of the things that I need to do, just in case I get side tracked…”
What are the 3 biggest challenges that you face in your work?
“I would have to say the 3 main challenges we face are –
1) Remember to enjoy the moment every time you achieve a milestone – then think about the next one you want to achieve!
2) The apps are constantly developing so we must keep up to date with app developments and new apps to the market. It is necessary to review these apps and work out if they are better than the existing ones we use and worth the time investment in training and rolling out to clients
3) The third challenge is to find the right employees who can join us on our journey and who would like to work with us!”
What would be your 3 top tips to an accountant thinking about or who has just set up their own cloud based accountancy firm?
“My top three tips are –
1) Formulate a 5 year plan of what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. Then make sure that all your decisions align with achieving your 5 year plan.
2) Know your strengths and point of difference, this will help you to attract your kind of clients
3) Make sure you know your pricing and be confident in it when speaking to potential clients.”
What are your ambitions and what does success look like for you? What are your 5 year and 10 year goals?
“Success for me is easing the financial pressure on my family and enjoying regular holidays together.
I would like to have multiple regional offices that are part of business hubs. This will mean building alliances with other professions such as HR, IT, Marketing and Admin. I know that we will achieve it, so I am enjoying the journey. This is all part of a 5 year plan.”
Finally, what is your one killer piece of advice to firms looking to automate and improve the efficiency of compliance work?
“My advice would be to start by sketching out your workflow, then question every step and ask yourself is it necessary and can it be automated? Also consider how to ensure every employee and client follows the same process.
It is very easy to over complicate things so try to strip everything back as much as possible.”