Why did you want to start your own accounting firm?
We had always toyed with the idea of running a business together.
In practice, we also saw a lot of things that could be better. We wanted to come up with a different concept. We believe that the new generation of accountants should get rid of the image of the 'boring bookkeeper. So a modern and efficient approach to digitisation, automation and real-time accounting is a must.
Many accounting firms still operate classically, driven by filing deadlines. So what do you see in practice? In the month of the VAT return, a catch-up has to be done, all documents are brought in and processed at once. If something is still missing, it has to be requested and processed within that very short period.
In this digital age, surely all this should be much easier and more transparent?
We use cloud software and tools to work transparently with the customer. We also train our customers in this so that they deliver their documents directly instead of bundling them and forwarding them in larger batches. This way, we reduce our workload and the customer is sure that everything was delivered on time. So fewer headaches. They can also create their sales invoices in the portal, eliminating some of the input work for us. Thanks to this real-time concept, we can easily monitor everything and assist the customer where necessary.
When did you guys start the accounting firm?
The company was incorporated in April 2022. We already had our recognition as tax accountants, but the company had yet to be recognised. We applied for that from the ITAA and our accreditation was officially published in early June. From then on, we were officially launched.
What was your career before you started as an independent accountant?
We both followed roughly the same path: Commerce in high school, then Bachelor Accountancy-Taxation. After the bachelor, we started working in an accounting firm and meanwhile also started studying Tax Science in Brussels to further specialise in national and international tax law.
So during these studies, we spent two years working during the day and attending classes in Brussels in the evenings. Finally, we completed our internship and the necessary exams at the ITAA to get our accreditation as Tax Accountants.
Currently, in addition to our continuing education, we are taking a course in Business Intelligence & Data Analytics.
I worked at the accounting firm where I started for almost 7 years
- and I almost 4 years.
After that, we decided to start our own.
What were the biggest obstacles in the start-up?
Start-up costs and preparation work. Of course, that depends on how you start up. It may be that you can take over a few files, or you can go somewhere to settle in with someone who is ready to be taken over. Then you encounter other obstacles.
We decided to start from scratch and pre-finance everything ourselves. The equipment, the offices, the software and hardware, all the things you need. That came out of our own pocket and then you have to see that you can recoup that.
From April to June, we were actually completely occupied with the preparation work: making the necessary analyses, working out the internal procedures and workflows, looking at what we needed, etc.
We talked to almost all software suppliers in Belgium. We went to the Forum for the Future, we went everywhere! We studied which cloud software and tools we needed to optimise both our internal operations and customer collaboration.
Buying the necessary hardware was also very difficult because, due to the crisis in the chip industry, there were supply problems with the computers that met our requirements. We had to be really quick to get our computers fixed.
Of course, we also made a financial plan to check what our fixed and variable costs are, how long it will take to recover the investments, how long we can continue with our own money, etc. There are indeed risks attached to such a start-up, but being selfemployed, you have to take some risks.
Have you come across things you did not expect?
We had expected the influx of new customers to be slower. It was a surprise that it got around so quickly and that we already had quite a few customers before we could really start. That was positive, of course, but it also meant that all procedures had to run efficiently right away. Then it is important to provide the right working processes and software, because otherwise you lose time again.
How do you make sure everything runs smoothly?
We tell new customers about our concept and that we work completely digitally. We make it clear to them that we do not accept paper invoices or documents.
Once they decide to become a client, we put all the formalities in place such as the drafting of the assignment letter and mandates. These documents are forwarded together with a clear manual for the allocation of digital tax mandates. Our documents are preferably signed electronically with the identity card. We provide a zone on our documents for such electronic signing, that way we get everything validly signed. The customer file in AdminPulse is then also completed automatically and the necessary tasks are created.
We do not enter into a collaboration until everything is at 100% and in green in AdminPulse. For example, if anti-money laundering documents still need to be signed or if something is still in the red, we go after it first. A big advantage of AdminPulse is that you can track all the steps and see the progression.
This also makes work easier for us and we are reassured that the file is complete. Communication with external parties is also hassle-free as we hold the necessary powers of attorney and documents from the start.
After the complete start-up in AdminPulse is over, we move on to setting up the customer portal. After our online demo, the collaboration can then start for good.
For our day-to-day operation, we have worked out an internal workflow and made clear agreements about it, also towards the future.
So for everything to run smoothly, internal procedures and having a view on the progress and state of affairs are very important. If you give clear answers to the questions: who, what, when, why and how, little can go wrong.
We are all human and everyone can obviously make a mistake, but we should still do our best to avoid those human errors as much as possible. This way, you also avoid stress and chaos in a profession where certain regulations already lead to Kafkaesque bureaucracy. With clear agreements and automating certain steps, we believe you can avoid quite a few problems and everything can run more efficiently.
What is your goal?
For us, offering good service and customer satisfaction is paramount. Offering real-time accounting to all clients, regardless of size or shape of business, is, in our view, 'the next step' towards modernising our profession.
The customer should also not feel that we are busy. For example, I should not say on the phone 'Sorry, that mail has been delayed for a week because I am busy'. If a client has a question or needs help, that takes priority.
How do you get new clients?
Word of mouth is super important. Young people talk among themselves about how they work. Our online presence is also very important. On our website, we present ourselves as a modern accounting firm, and through blogs and articles, we also expand our presence on the web.
The client portal also attracts young people. Customers can easily scan and upload documents with their smartphones. They immediately see that it has arrived at our office and don't have to worry about it any further. This makes it easier for the customer, as they no longer have to file everything or keep it physically somewhere. The entire administration is centralised and always available. This way, we get everything in on time so that processing can be done quickly and on time, so it's a win-win situation!
Read the next parts in this series:
- This young accounting firm works 100% digitally
- This accountancy firm's fees are openly displayed on their website