How Emma Fox Went From Traditional Bookkeeper To Xero Bookkeeper Of The Year

Fresh-Financials logo

Founded by Emma Fox in 2013, Fresh Financials is an award-winning Bookkeeping practice, located at the foot of the South Downs National Park in Sussex.

THE STORY BEHIND FRESH FINANCIALS

Emma fell into bookkeeping, although she does admit she has always loved numbers. Her first role, working in a legal firm involved some bookkeeping and this was the start of her interest in finance and her bookkeeping journey.

In 1999 Emma started working for herself as a “traditional bookkeeper”. Sensing the upcoming impact of cloud technology, Emma went to her first Xerocon in London in 2013. Inspired, Emma went on to rebrand her business as Fresh Financials; bookkeeping reinvented for the cloud.

Since then, Fresh Financials has grown from strength to strength winning the Xero Bookkeeping Partner of the year in 2016. This award was very unexpected. It was just Emma and Lucy Butters in the business at the time; they thought they would be too small to be noticed!

However, this award gave them confidence and validated their business model. The award significantly raised their profile enabling Emma to recruit an extra member of staff each year for the last 4 years.

The team at Fresh Financials are all working mums. And the cloud has enabled Emma to run a business and create roles that encourage talented mums back to the workforce. The cloud offers flexibility to work anywhere and anytime; this is really important to Emma and the team.

After winning the Xero Bookkeeper of the Year award Emma is now an active member of the Xero Partner Advisory Council (XPAC). This enables Emma to promote the needs of small business to Xero whilst keeping her at the forefront of what is going on. How did this all happen?

Fresh Financials thumb nail

CLIENTS – STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS

The Fresh Financials clients tend to be from the professional services industry; however, it’s more about the way the client wants to work, than it is about the industry they are in.

Using apps such as Receipt Bank, Tripcatcher and Xero allows Fresh Financials to work closely with their clients and helps them build very strong relationships. They are working in their clients accounts daily and speak to them regularly. The team are very much part of their clients business. And because they know their clients businesses inside out, they are in a great position to advise their clients especially with regard to credit control and forecasting.

INVESTMENT IN APPS

The investment in cloud technology and apps enables the bookkeeping to happen behind the scenes, so that Emma and the team can do the rest of the job.

So, what apps does Fresh Financials use?

For their clients they use:

  • Receipt Bank to capture receipts;
  • Tripcatcher for mileage expenses;
  • Xero to provide up-to-date financials and direct access to bank feeds;
  • Chaser to automate the process of chasing overdue sales invoices;
  • Float to keep an eye on current and future bank balance;
  • WorkFlowMax for project management.

In the business they use apps such as:

  • GoCardless for collecting recurring and ad-hoc payments;
  • Practice Ignition for client proposals;
  • Stripe for online payments;
  • Minute Doc for time tracking;
  • Deputy for staff scheduling;
  • And Slack for internal communications.

TRIPCATCHER

Tripcatcher Vehicles

Emma first heard about Tripcatcher at Xerocon 2016, she visited our stand there and starting using Tripcatcher in the April of 2016. Emma was at Xerocon with one of her clients; she was the first person Emma signed up to use Tripcatcher. This client is Emma’s guinea pig for trying out and using new apps. Obviously her client approved ☺ .

I then asked Emma what benefits Tripcatcher gives Fresh Financials:

“Tripcatcher, is a time saver, it enables the Fresh Financials team to manage expense reports really easily”

Other benefits include:

  • It removes an extra bookkeeping step.  The team is not reliant on the client providing information that is then entered into the accounts; the clients enter their mileage themselves;
  • The team know their clients are claiming the VAT correctly as Tripcatcher is kept up to date with all the latest HMRC rates; 
  • And if the client drives over the 10,000 miles HMRC threshold the mileage rate will be changed correctly by Tripcatcher;
  • Tripcatcher also enables the client to claim the full benefits; a lot of clients were not aware they could claim 5 pence per mile for passengers;  
  • On occasions clients would guess their mileage; this mileage is now calculated by Tripcatcher, ensuring better accuracy.

OTHER SERVICES

The bookkeeping service is one aspect of the business; Emma and the team also provides other services:

  • They offer support for larger businesses.  These are businesses that have their own bookkeeper/finance team, do not want to outsource, but know they need to change their systems. However, they are not trained to do this. Fresh Financials will set this this up for them, provide training and support them along the journey.
  • Fresh financials also offers training as a stand-alone service; despite lots of online training resources there is still a large demand for one-on-one training.
  • Emma also offers mentoring for other bookkeepers who want to change their bookkeeping business. They see Fresh Financials as a blueprint of where they want to be.

APP ADVISORY

In 2013 it was enough to be simply doing Cloud Accounting, now the emphasis is on Advisory. And Emma sees this now being a very important part of her role.

When they have been working with a client for a time, the process works so smoothly and easily. They then have more time to look at their internal processes to see if there is anything else e.g. other apps they can offer to help them.

One example is an electrician client of Emma’s who was slow at invoicing hence negatively impacting his cashflow. Emma was able to recommend and implement Tradify, (job management software) for him to use. Emma told me it’s about having the product knowledge and confidence to recommend this.

THE FUTURE

Emma is also involved in the new App Advisory Plus venture. This is a service to assist accountants and bookkeepers in delivering effective app selection and implementation for their clients.

And over the next few year years, Emma wants to keep balance in the practice, a balance between the bookkeeping and the project work.

She and the team will also be looking for more apps to make their and their client lives easier.

Suzanne Fordham

About the Author

Suzanne Fordham is a co-founder of Tripcatcher (easy to use mileage expense software) who loves helping and talking to clients.