Change is scary pt 2: Changing accounting software and seeing your numbers for the first time

We recently wrote about a blog all about how scary change can be, especially when you’re thinking of switching accountants. Today we want to talk about another big change you might be putting off - switching to a better accounting software.

Your choice of accounting software is about more than just the bells and whistles of its features. It can be the difference between being fully in control of your business, or flying by the seat of your pants. 

When you don’t have access to your key numbers, you’re not able to see how much money you’re making, or losing. And this can be both damaging to your business, and anxiety-inducing as a business owner.

In 10 years of business, Tom had never seen a Profit & Loss report - and his company was losing money

When our client Tom first approached us, he’d been using the same accountant for years. Tom owns and manages several property development businesses, and his accountant looked after several of them. He's a very clever man and is sensible with his spending, but he's also really busy. He doesn't want stress and he certainly doesn't want to upset anyone.

As we find in many cases, Tom’s accountant hadn’t particularly done anything wrong to cause him to look elsewhere. Tom just felt somehow that he wasn’t really being looked after. After our initial conversations, it took him over a year to decide to make the switch for many of the reasons we mention in our blog about the pain of change.

  • He was hesitant because he was so busy
  • He didn’t want the change to cause awkwardness with his accountant
  • He was worried the switch would take too much time 
  • He was afraid the interim period would mean he couldn’t do business, run payroll, make payments
  • He felt his business was too complicated for new software
  • He didn’t know what would be needed of him, in both time and finances. 

But all the while he was waiting, he was continuing to do business without access to his key numbers. His accountant was using Sage to run his accounts, and Tom didn’t have access to it personally. 

We kept in touch regularly to check in with how he was getting on, and in the end it was Covid 19 that was the final catalyst for change. Lockdown had given Tom time to think, and as less transactions came in - he decided it was time to get better support. He contacted us right around the time of his year end - perfect timing. 

We moved Tom from Sage to Xero and gave him access to his numbers for the first time

It shocked us that Tom had only ever seen a profit and loss when his year end was produced, rendering it too late to make proactive decisions about his business. 

As the country was in lockdown, we used Zoom to train him in Xero - starting with the basics until he was ready and comfortable enough to move onto the more advanced stuff. 

In the process of his data clean up and catch up, we identified one of his companies was losing money, and together we looked at the numbers to work out what Tom could change in his business to turn it around.

We’re so pleased for our clients when they get to see their numbers for the first time, and Tom was like a kid with a new toy. 

"Ann this is amazing! I can see the numbers! I can see where we're spending money!!! I'd been asking the old accountant for a P&L report for years, but he never sent one. This is the first time I've seen this!"

Though there were areas of the business that needed attention, he was happy. Once you know your numbers you can identify the issues, and make a plan to resolve them. You can put proactive measures in place to make sure you don’t encounter the same problems in the future. 

I recently went visit Tom, and had a meeting with him to check in on how he was getting on. Now that he's getting used to Xero we had a look at some of the other areas where things aren't running like clockwork. We’ve now introduced him to an app called ApprovalMax, making his supplier approvals process even easier than before, not to mention saving us both lots of valuable time. That just wouldn't have been possible on Sage.

Having access to meaningful, live data really is crucial in today's businesses, and thanks to Xero we aim to reconcile your bank accounts daily - so you know exactly where you are. No more waiting until after the year end!

So why did it take so long to switch? Because we are creatures of habit and change is hard

Like Tom, you may already be feeling a strain on your business, and be at a loss for how to resolve it. 

But as we already know, change is scary. As human beings, we are hardwired to resist it, because we’re creatures of habit. We like to feel well protected inside our comfort zone. Like Tom, if your accountant isn’t doing anything wrong as such, you may feel like there’s no need to uproot yourself. 

Charles Duhigg explains this really well in the introduction of his book ‘The power of habit: Why we do what we do and how to change'.

“When you woke up this morning, what did you do first? Did you hop in the shower, check your email, or grab a donut from the kitchen counter? Did you brush your teeth before or after you towelled off? Tie the left or right shoe first? What did you say to your kids on the way out the door? Which route did you drive to work? Most of the choices we make each day feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits”

We tend to continue to do the things we’re most comfortable with because we believe change will be painful and cause us undue stress. 

The problem is, you could already be causing yourself undue stress by staying with your existing accounting software (or not using software at all). We encourage you not to wait for a pandemic to pull your business out of the dark. There are plenty of business crises that could be lurking round the corner when you don’t know how your finances are working.

We ask the right questions, and move at a speed you’re comfortable with

In order to support Tom, we did what we do best at Total. 

We asked the questions, learned about how Tom worked, how the business worked, and then moved at a speed Tom was comfortable with. Tom needed a lot of hand holding and training - and we’ll continue to be by his side through the pandemic and beyond. 

You don’t need to fear switching your software over. We make the switch methodically at a pace we feel you’re most comfortable with. No time or data is lost in the process. Instead you’ll gain the excitement of taking back your business. 

So, what was the first thing you did when you woke up this morning? If you found yourself worrying about your business, let’s make a change


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