Defining Times

Louise Hollands who heads up our Wymondham office writes a bit about her life as an accountant in the time of Coronavirus (and beyond...) – what it means to her and how she fits it all in with children, running the office and supporting all of our Wymondham clients, and how COVID-19 has affected it all.

When I tell people what I do, they usually respond with “you must be really good with numbers” and in all honestly, my mental arithmetic could be better! What the business world requires of an accountant is far removed from the ‘bean counter’ stereotype that people have in mind when they think of an accountant! Yes, I am good with numbers – but so is a calculator! Delivering a top notch service to small and medium businesses requires accountants to have a whole range of skills, beyond just the ability to do maths. This has never been more evident than it is now.

As I am writing this, the UK is well into the coronavirus lockdown.  The economic landscape changed overnight, businesses are in survival mode and quite rightly, business owners are anxious about the future.

During this time, like so many others, I am working from home, juggling home-schooling children and concerns over finances, it has been and still is tough! But what this crisis has enabled me to do, is to reflect on what service our clients need from us, what our role is and the skills we must have to be able to support our clients during this crisis, and beyond. Furthermore, how these factors are important to acknowledge as part of our plans to grow our Norfolk presence.

Defining Times

The first key factor, that has been imperative over the last two months, is knowing your client. Having a good understand of a client’s business model, business financial position and commitments has been key in identifying who needs our help most urgently. Every business has different concerns during this crisis, some businesses have been able to continue working with a minimum amount of fuss, whilst there are  businesses’ in the hospitality industry who have seen their income stream disappeared overnight.

As the UK entered ‘lockdown’ the daily briefings announced the support measures that we are now very familiar with– furloughed workers, government back loans etc. This leads to the next key factor, up to date technical knowledge. As accountants we had to ensure that with each government announcement that we fully understood the financial benefit, the system for applying or claiming and were able to deliver this confidently to our clients, to provide them with assurances and information.

Another skill we had to lean on was being proactive, this was in suggesting support measures that were available to businesses. One example of this – lots of small business owners initially thought that, as they did not pay business rates,  the small business rate relief grant was not applicable to them. We had to proactively review client’s rateable valuables and find links on councils’ websites to make sure that they did not miss the grants available.

So, are we bean counters? Well over the last two months I have spent more time on the telephone than using the calculator! Obviously, part of our role is ‘balancing the books’ and being responsible for fulfilling our clients filing requirements, but our role is more business advisory than the stereotypical image people have of an accountant. This is the role as a firm we need to continue to develop and will become the foundation of our Norfolk business.


  • Client knowledge – we need to continually invest time in understanding what our existing and future clients do, how they do it and why – what are their goals?


  • Technical ability – as a Chartered Accountant I must maintain an up to date understanding of changes to regulations to maintain my qualification. Also, as a firm we acknowledge the benefits of using technology to improve the efficiency of our service. As an example, our recommended bookkeeping software Quickbooks allows us to review clients’ up to date financial position and provide commentary as needed. So, we must continue to learn and develop.


  • Being proactive – we need to continually evaluate every client’s profit extraction method, provide guidance on any tax planning opportunities, make recommendations of software that may aid their business – always ask “can we do it better?”

The coronavirus pandemic has been miserable and devastating, but this extreme situation has defined my role and created our future goals that will enable us to deliver the high level of service I am striving to meet at our Wymondham office – currently from my spare bedroom but hopefully soon back at the office!