Starting a new practice after maternity leave

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Ellacott Morris was founded in 2011 when Michelle Morris and her business partner Anjuli Symonds, were inspired to start their own accounting practice after Michelle returned to work from maternity leave.

The two first met when they worked together at another practice, during which Morris provided Symonds with study support while she was a trainee accountant.

Starting her own firm was the logical next step for Morris to take off the back of taking on a few of her own private clients on the side, which built on top of her prior varied practice experience working for several different firms.

Ellacott Morris’s client base is heavily geared towards the construction sector, consisting of both large construction clients and subcontractors.

Empowering home working with Xero Tax

The firm was an early adopter of cloud technology, and is an exclusively Xero based practice for bookkeeping.

However, before joining Xero Tax in late 2019, Ellacott Morris used desktop-based software for accounts production and tax filings.

This restricted the ability of team members, and particularly the two founders, who have seven children between them, to be able to work from home. To file accounts, staff had to physically go into the office to access desktop software stored on a server.

Moving to Xero Tax has allowed the firm to complete all of their processes in the cloud remotely.

“Between us we have seven children. I have three and she has four. There were so many occasions where we had to work from home as the kids were so poorly and things came up like the school holidays. Xero Tax has really helped solve this problem,” says Morris.

Eliminating duplication of data and unnecessary manual entry

One of the main benefits the firm has found from moving to Xero Tax is removing the need to re-enter data from Xero into separate accounts production and tax software.

She points out that every time data is entered into another system, this creates the risk of human error. It can then be incredibly time-consuming to rectify these errors, such as working out why a balance sheet does not balance.

Initially upon adopting Xero Tax the firm still manually entered the fixed asset register when completing corporation tax returns due to this being such an ingrained process within the firm’s workflows. However, when Morris tried pulling in the register directly into the corporation tax return, she was able to see how effective it was first hand.

She says, “Within the last six months we have started using the fixed asset register in Xero. I don’t know why we did not do this earlier? It pulls the assets into Xero Tax, and you can just click to convert them, which is a massive time saver.”

She lists a particular time-saving element as being Xero pulling in the date of when assets were first purchased, making it easy to identify whether they will qualify for annual investment allowance.

Skilling up junior team members

Xero Tax’s ease of use has allowed junior team members at Ellacott Morris to become involved in accounts and tax assignments.

These staff members can take these workflows to review level, with Morriss and Symonds utilising their accounts and tax knowledge to review assignments.

“In most instances, it is the same process for every client. Throughout the practice, we have step by step procedures for everything, so if staff follow this, it only has to be reviewed by somebody at a more senior level. Before we switched to Xero Tax this wasn’t possible, says Morris.

She also highlights Xero’s ease of use and strong design features, making it relatively simple for less experienced colleagues to administer accounts production and tax.

Productivity has been so effective that the firm increased their turnover in 2020 by 29% with three fewer staff members than they had two years ago.

It is now the ambition of Ellacott Morris to use this saved time to provide a fully outsourced finance function to the majority of their clients, whereby they are involved in all processes, such as bookkeeping, personal budgeting and monthly management accounts.

Morris believes that this is a more value-adding service than completing one-off statutory assignments, and has seen first hand how this has enabled clients to prosper and grow.

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