A Look Back at 30 Years at Gascoynes

Wow, Thursday 11 November 2021, Remembrance Day, marked a milestone for me bringing up 30 years of service for Gascoynes!!

I thought it would be an opportune time to look back at my time in the accountancy profession and the massive changes that have occurred during this time. These changes have arisen due to advances in technology and IT, changes in tax legislation and the decisions taken by Chris and his team in driving Gascoynes forward.

Accountancy is certainly a different animal to when I commenced my career and my younger work colleagues would be astounded by how different things were if we could travel back in time.

It is certainly exciting times at Gascoynes at present as we go from strength to strength. I would like to think that I’ve played a small part in the development of Gascoynes and I’m proud that I’m continuing to deal with the new challenges faced by our development and am still continuing to learn.

Although Gascoynes are continuing to grow as a business we are still staying true to our core values which is to provide a high-quality service for our clients in a friendly and approachable manner tailored to our clients’ individual particular requirements. I am proud of the long-term relationships that I have built up with my clients over the years and it is especially pleasing to see their businesses flourish.

The working environment when I commenced my career in accountancy was certainly different to how we work now: –

 

A Look Back at 30 Years at Gascoynes

PAPER

All of our accountancy work was handwritten on paper. There was no use of computers back then. We had 8 column analysis pads and A3 analysis pads which we worked on and notes and queries pads to write up accounting queries requiring clarification from clients. The accounts would then be typed up by a secretary and then come back for the figures to be checked and cast.

These days we have sophisticated accounting software which produces the accounts, and all staff has their own desk-top computer with double-screens and their own printer.

This gives us more time to look more deeply into a client’s accounts and tax affairs and to advise on any tax savings applicable.

I have always felt that Gascoynes is at the head of the game with regard to the use of IT and accounting technology.

The new processes that we bring in are always with the aim of providing a more efficient service for our clients.

DRESS CODE

Back in 1985 the office dress code was the stereotypical image of an accountant, suits, ties, skirts blouses, brief cases etc. Nowadays it is a very much more relaxed dress code, chinos, smart jeans, polo shirts, smart trainers etc.

I feel that this assists in making us more approachable to most clients and makes it more comfortable to work especially in the summer.  At the end of the day, we have the same knowledge whether we are dressed in a suit or shorts and t-shirt.

Also, the wearing of ties has caused many a problem for me; I have stapled my tie to clients’ records, I have nearly strangled myself by shutting my tie in a desk drawer and then going to stand up and the first tea tray run that I did I can it was only when I got to the last cup that I realised that my tie was dangling in a cup of coffee and the coffee had soaked all the way up to the top of my tie.

TECHNOLOGY

When I first started working all of the clients’ accounting records that I worked on were manual records. For many clients it was the old shoe box of client bank statements, and loose invoices and we had to write up all of the accounting records in order to prepare the accounts.

Now a great deal of our clients uses accounting software such as Quick Books Online/Xero/SAGE etc. which facilitates the production of the accounts.

Furthermore, Gascoynes have a paperless office which means all documents are scanned in and saved to the cloud. We now have access to clients’ documents wherever we are. This means that we can provide a more efficient service to our clients There is no more saving documents in files and having to lug around.

Long gone are the days of filing cabinets crammed with clients’ correspondence and working papers files and when you could spend an afternoon searching through old files in the cellar for the one piece of information which you needed. With our document database you can locate the document you are looking for in an instant.

SELF ASSESSMENT AND MTD

We have been faced with new challenges arising out of changes in the manner of filing of documents with HM Revenue & Customs.

In the old days there was no filing deadline for Tax Returns and handwritten paper Returns used to be completed with the boxes for self-employment completed with the words ‘’figures to follow’’.  The tax on the self-employment profits was then paid in arrears after all Tax returns and accounts were posted to HMRC or hand-delivered to the old Revenue offices. Arising out of Self-Assessment all figures have to be filed by the 31 January deadline.

VAT Returns now have to be filed using HMRC recognised software.

We have always been one step ahead of the game and our software enabled us  to deal with the new filing requirements.

COMMUNICATION

Communication with clients is very important and key to me.  With email and zoom we are able to achieve this more effectively and provide a quicker service. When I started working, we used to dictate letters which would then go to the typing pool and then come back to us to check and adjust.

Dependent upon the volume of letters dictated it could be a week or more before your letter went out the door   by which time some of the advice may be out of date.  Nowadays we can reply instantaneously to clients.

Telephone calls to clients used to be via a receptionist who had all of the client phone numbers on a rolodex which obviously took a while for the number to be found. We now have an app on our PC from which we ring clients direct from which saves so much time.

THE ROLE OF TRAINEES

When I commenced as a bright-eyed trainee the first 3 to 6 months involved filing, tagging of documents before they were filed (this involved putting various coloured stickers on the filing to indicate where copy letters were sent; yellow for post to HMRC, green for clients, blue for banks and other authorities), the famous tea tray runs etc

There was no real accountancy work carried out to begin with other than ticking banks which involved matching payments/banking in the client’s handwritten cashbook to the amounts on the bank statements and listing any differences. This involved drawing red circles on the figures in the cash book and on the bank statements to prove that the figures had been checked.

I am amazed at the progress and the work that our 2 most recent trainees Jack and Miesha are carrying out. They are already preparing tax computations and Tax Returns which is something I wasn’t doing for maybe a year and a half.

This assists with both their progression as accountants and with their college work and passing of exams as they have a foundation to which they can relate what they are being taught in college.

30 years ago, there was hardly any staff training for exams and exams were not being passed. Exams are now always being passed with flying colours.

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Over recent years, Gascoynes have been looking to ensure that staff have a good work life balance.

We now have quarterly well-being meetings with the emphasis being on personal development and our personal needs in addition to our work progress and requirements.

Flexi-hours have been brought in so we can start work later or leave earlier as long as we work the core hours of 10 to 4.

Arising out of having to working from home due to the Covid-19 lockdowns I now work Mondays to Wednesdays in the office and Thursdays and Fridays at home. This is possible due to advanced technology and the new outlook from senior management. I believe this works very well.

Gascoynes also provide me with free gym membership which is very much appreciated.

STAFF DAYS & CHARITY

Over the past few years, we have held staff training days with guest speakers which I find very interesting. We are updated on the latest IT developments and work goals that our directors are trying to achieve and are taught the new software implemented. The training days also involve an element of team building exercises.  This is all new and keeps all staff feeling included in decisions that are being made.

4 days a year are now set aside for staff days; this year we have been to the races at Newmarket and in September arising out of our partnership with The Green Light Trust Charity we spent a day in the woods in Lawshall making fires and spatulas from wood which was an enlightening experience.

Over the past few years, we have adopted a different charity each year to raise funds for. We have participated in The Suffolk Whole Hog five-mile course filled with obstacles, lots of mud (look at the photos of me on the website as proof) and water and held quiz nights for our chosen charities.

We have now also partnered with The Green Light Trust and look forward to supporting them in the future.

NEW OFFICE

As referenced earlier Gascoynes has grown over the recent years, and we have taken on more staff to service our clients. This led to us outgrowing our old offices at the town centre and our move to our new offices at Gascoyne House!

Chris and our directors were and are quite rightly proud of our new office which has been bespoke to our needs and enables us to develop as a firm and offers so much more.  Clients have booked our boardroom to hold their annual general meetings, and it has enabled us to hold staff training days on our own premises rather than having to book an external room There’s free spacious parking which means clients can pull up right outside the offices and drop off books and there’s no longer the worry of getting a parking fine or getting wet.

 

Other than the IT advances this represented one of my biggest challenges. I must admit that I was a little hesitant over the move because I like my own space and company and I feel that I work better on my own. I was now moving from working in a very small office to working in an open plan office with around 20 other staff and music playing.

Once I settled in, I realised that my fears were wrong because you can feel the positive energy in the room. It also means that I can utilise the skill sets, and knowledge of my fellow work colleagues and it greatly assists with the training of our trainees. There is also a really good atmosphere, and all staff are working together to do their best for Gascoynes and our clients.

I am nearly always the first one into work and I must admit I love the new office smell when I walk in through the door.

Despite all the advances with technology and the processes that we have brought in, one of my favourite parts of the job remains meeting with clients face to face.

I hope that I have given you a sense of the changes that have taken place and the development of Gascoynes as a firm during the past 30 years. The future is very encouraging for Gascoynes and now is a good time to be working for them.