Every year the Parliamentary Review publishes its annual editions covering the key sectors of business, commerce and politics. These editions bring keen insight into the success of key members within each sector, with the knowledge of these people who are setting the standards of today’s business world, it highlights best practice for us all.

Neil Ballard is honoured to be one of these people. Sharing the secrets of staff development and keeping customers at the heart of our service, Neil’s article can be read below.

 

Lewis Ballard Limited was formed in October 2009. With over 30 years of experience in accountancy, the directors have adopted a democratic approach to the internal workings
of their organisation, encouraging their team to participate in decision making at all levels, and have systematised to give more autonomy and accountability. With emphasis on extensive training and in-house development, Neil Ballard discusses developing the skills of their employees through a combination of training and regular meetings, while placing the needs of the customer at the heart of their services.

 

My wife and I have taken the firm forwards since 2009, and we continue to lay down a set vision in the way we manage our company. We don’t just calculate figures, we have a deep understanding of what they mean and are proud to be an ACCA Chartered Practice. This is owing to the quality of our services and our trusted reputation as a reliable and stalwart accountancy firm.

Development of Skills

Skill development is one of our key focuses. Improvements are made at every opportunity and we are keen to punctuate the day with seminars and meetings, so as to best inform and motivate our team. “Lunch and learn” and further monthly technical meetings help our team constantly increase their knowledge for the benefit of their own effectiveness within the company, thereby assisting them in nurturing their professional curiosity.

Pooling knowledge between team members is important in developing a company and affecting positive change throughout the workplace. We aim to provide an inclusive space for new team members to share openly. We ensure interdepartmental meetings, held on a weekly basis, are impartial and relevant, and our employees are kept abreast of the most recent developments within the company and industry. Annual team days are one of the most integral opportunities to re-focus the business. We find out strengths, route out weaknesses and set goals for the business over the
next year. We reassess our vision, the overall mission of our company, and ensure that our clients are at the forefront of our minds.

Organising round-table discussions helps us to avoid fragmented information. They allow every member of staff to take part in the exchange of ideas at a grassroots level. Our recruiting process is extensive, helping us better understand the personality, ambitions and skill sets of those applying for a position with our company. We don’t just want to train accountants, we want to train business advisors who are capable in dealing with a wide-range of tasks. We like to give graduate opportunities because we want to give them a chance to develop in an industry that often overlooks the promising talent of new graduates and instead focuses on the safety of experienced accountants, and it gives us an opportunity to strengthen the local community.

Quality control

Our tailored packages let clients choose which service matters most. Whether it’s starting up a business, maintaining tax efficiency or focusing on growing their business to sell or building retirement funds, our services consistently deliver on all fronts.

Although business owners require accountancy firms to oversee the financial minutiae of their business, we regard ourselves predominantly as business advisors. We look at the customer’s business at all stages, drawing up credible and sustainable plans for the future, which ensure they reap the rewards their hard work deserves. Our business structure is tailored around the needs and requirements of the customer, so as to best fulfil their individual needs. Many small to medium sized enterprise (SME) owners work over 70 hours weekly, take no holidays and have minimal savings for their retirement. We make sure that doesn’t happen. People are the key to our business. Whether it is getting to the bottom of what’s best for our customers or understanding what is best for our team members, looking after our people is our business.

Our business structure is tailored around the needs and requirements of the customer, so as to best fulfil their individual needs

 

Balanced life

We help our clients attain equilibrium by showing them how to achieve the work-life balance that they desire. Helping them structure, systematise and build effective teams are elements conducive to running a successful business. For example, we helped a local dentist, referred by their bank manager, whose practice was failing financially and causing great stress to him and his practice manager. By reviewing their tax affairs and business structure, we saved them large amounts of money in tax: £55,000 in the first year. This diagnosis drastically improved their future profits. In turn, we were also able to help forge a work-life balance that worked for them.

Digitisation

We have undergone a re-vamp of our systems. Our mantra is “out with the old, in with the new.” We aim towards much more streamlined and effective service through Xero, Tax Calc and
4sight. The team has worked tirelessly to ensure that the systems that have remained have been updated in order to keep up with our new standards and that the transfer of new systems doesn’t
have any knock-on disruptions for our clients. The new systems that we have in place unilaterally benefit our business. Not only does it give us a streamlined service and a head-start over the digital changes that have revolutionised the business and traditional methods of accountancy, but it also helps our clients to understand digitisation and the changes brought about by it, giving them sector specific expertise and a cutting-edge advantage over their competitors.

Key issues

The biggest external challenge we face in common with all accountancy practices is the range and constancy of changes to legislation. Over the last few years, we’ve implemented real time information and auto-enrolment pensions for payroll. We’re currently preparing for making tax digital for all tax payers by 2020 and also the general data protection regulations coming into force in May 2018. These changes require further investment in training our team, including time spent educating clients, new systems and software to manage processes both for our own business and for our clients. It’s difficult to show the value and pass on the extra cost of administration to clients as people are struggling to cope with rising costs in general. Tax simplification has, conversely, made tax more complex. With the length of tax guides reaching 21,602 pages, interpretation can be challenging. Every month there are various deadlines to be hit. When these deadlines are  missed, extra-fees are incurred: it’s a minefield.

 

The full edition of the Parliamentary Review can be found here.

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