Count your beanies: A clever, tech-based solution for small business accounting
Beany sets out to disrupt the tried and true accountancy model by taking insights and adding a layer of very human interpretation, all at a low cost to clients.
“A powerful accounting machine that connects the brain of our clients to the brains of our support team,” is how CEO Sue de Bievre describes her company Beany. It’s a fair summary – Beany, which de Bievre co-founded in 2014, aims to make accountancy accessible and well-priced for small businesses, finding ways to lessen their tax burden.
This, it achieves through a ‘baked in’ service mindset, integrating into other systems like Xero and the IRD for simplicity and accuracy, and – crucially – eschewing bricks and mortar offices in favour of a dedicated remote workforce, to maintain low overheads.
De Bievre has experience on both sides of the business fence. As both a chartered accountant and a small business owner, she identified a gap in the market for an accountancy firm that could make tax and accounting as honest, useful and affordable as possible. She knew tech would enable her to get there – but she had no tech knowledge. “None whatsoever, but I had a clear understanding of the problem and could imagine the tech solution. So, I partnered with software genius John Curtis, and he helped create the platform.”
Now, Beany manages over 2000 clients that collectively turn over half a billion dollars annually, with a team of 29 spread across 10 locations. How does it work?
“Service is our number one value and my motivation. Every client is assigned a chartered accountant who is passionate about their business, and we keep our fees super reasonable so that even the smallest client can access top accounting information. All our clients can, and do, ask us every business and tax question under the sun. Meanwhile, John’s software collects financial data from multiple sources and creates a place for our accountants to use their skills, training and creativity to reduce tax for small business owners,” explains de Bievre.
“I am constantly surprised by the level of innovation and imagination that is taking place – we change the software every week to improve it and have a pipeline of change built around demand from clients and team members.”
This interplay between information and human knowledge is what gets de Bievre really fired up. A proponent of non-binary thinking, she believes that for each decision point, “there is not a yes or a no, but a yes AND a no.” This viewpoint, she says, allows for creative thinking. And she says it is what got her started on her path to launching Beany. “Traditionally accountants work from offices, but what if they don’t? What if you decide at the beginning of the process that a key outcome is to charge less because you believe that business owners have been over charged?”
Managing a team spread around the country and working out of their own homes might sound like a zoo to some, but to de Bievre, it’s ideal. “Beany was set up from the very beginning to run a remote workforce, so our system is built around this,” says de Bievre, who is herself Hawke’s Bay based. “It’s proprietary software which maps out our workflow requirements and also our team capacity, and has a built-in matching system to ensure that each accountant gets the right volume, and type, of work. We can monitor the work as it moves through a 19-step system. At any point in the process we know where each job is at – a bit like Domino’s DOM Pizza Checker. We track our turn time so we can ensure that everyone gets served on time and a report which shows each team member how many jobs at what stage in the system.”
Different pods of workers (usually between three and five to a pod) use varying systems to stay connected to each other, some preferring an open Google hangout to chat on throughout the day. Others like to catch up by phone. “But each pod has a pod lead who reports back for conversations about workflow, issues, and how people are doing. We also hold weekly meetings for discussions on new developments, learnings from the week and technical changes,” says de Bievre.
So far, clients are enjoying the Beany system and some of the insights the platform offers that might have been missed in a traditional accountancy model. “We can benchmark SMEs against similar businesses, prior periods and forecasts to help the clients understand how they are doing,” says de Bievre. “We use human brains after the data collection and collation to add the creativity and interpretation to the data.”
And de Bievre wants to take the formula to a much wider network. It might not be long before Beany services clients around the globe – all from cosy home offices in Havelock North, Tasman and Taupo.
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