Adapting to the new normal
Written by
Chris Wright
April 18, 2020

These are the tools we are using to work, not only from home which we do anyway, but without meeting anyone. We do normally attend a few meetings each week, at coffee shops and sometimes in other cities (mainly London). We have replaced these face to face meetings with Zoom. Yes, I know there are all sorts of security issues and generally bad press over the last 12 months with Zoom, but they have addressed most of these recently, our meetings do not require mission critical kind of security, after all coffee shops are not wholly secure against eavesdroppers, and the platform just works so much better than the alternatives.
Xero, the core of our service as accountants and book-keepers, has always been online and is holding up pretty well, I have noticed it being a bit slower than usual recently, but in general it is responsive and effective. We have recently added payroll for some clients and that is going well.
Asana, our task manager, is much the same, it is designed for remote workers to collaborate and co-operate and is ideal for the current situation where physical meetings are not on the cards.
Our weekly staff meetings have been scaled back and replaced with Skype calls where needed, to supplement the comment system in Asana. If anything we are more efficient as a result.
Files storage continues to be iCloud, backed up to Google Drive and supplemented with Dropbox for those clients that prefer to use this. I have ceased using One Drive, except for one client who uses it and has added me to their subscription.
InformDirect is our Company Secretarial software, along with Company Wizard for forming new companies.
GBooks continues to be our stat accounts and corporation tax filing software, I was hoping to drop this and use Xero directly but that feature isn't yet rolled out so we will continue with GBooks for the time being.
On behalf of clients we manage multiple Stripe and PayPal accounts and other than the seemingly continuous need to re authorise and validate the accounts these payment processors work well.
We have recently added the expense control platform Soldo to the mix for a number of clients and we have virtual cards ourselves so that we can bill things like filing fees direct to clients instead of paying for them ourselves and recharging them. This is pretty good, it links directly to Xero and I can code the entries in Soldo before exporting them to Xero. We encourage client staff to upload photos of the receipts and they travel through the system to Xero as well.
We have a fairly catholic mix of hardware, I now use a MacBook Pro 16", iPad Pro 12.9" and an iPhone 11 Pro Max, Matt uses a Windows Desktop and dual monitor setup. I'm looking at adding a monitor as I'm working exclusively at home now instead of mixing and matching various locations. I have ordered a desk and chair to improve my working posture and environment as well. Hui uses a fairly old MacBook 12".
I had taken some care to setup a system which would allow me to continue working seamlessly from China, we were planning on being there for most of April but obviously that didn't happen. Looking at the diminishing likelihood of us travelling there in the near future I'm less bothered about this angle now. I had duplicated our Gmail hosted mail accounts onto Office365 and similarly mirrored the Google Drive folders onto One Drive as well as iCloud. I've now dropped the Microsoft elements from our systems. I think Google will be just fine for the foreseeable future.
We are fortunate so far in that our clients have not suffered from the lockdown and associated restrictions on activity therefore our fee income has held up. Of course this is an area we have to keep under review but so far so good. It is hard to see how we can market our services in the current climate so we are pretty well in a holding pattern, although some of our existing clients are consuming more services and time than usual due to increased levels of business monitoring, which is useful.

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