I Always Wanted to Be A Policeman: An Interview with Matthew Portess (FCCA)creative77
To give you a bit more insight into Appleleaf Accountancy, every now and then we thought it would be useful to bring you an interview with a member of the team.
To kick the series off, we sat down to talk with our founder and one of our directors, Matthew Portess.
As we’re speaking in the middle of coronavirus pandemic, it’s a strange time. So, I began by asking Matthew how he’s found working with clients under lockdown?
MATTHEW: It’s been a challenge, of course. It’s not something anyone anticipated. But thankfully, it’s not been a difficult as it could have been.
We already embraced technology a lot here at Appleleaf Accountancy, so – despite the challenge – we were able to adapt pretty quickly.
We’ve been setting up conference calls and using various online tools for sharing documents as we need to. It’s working OK.
I’ll be pleased when we can get back to seeing our clients face to face, but I think it’s been a chance to make the most of technology too.
Back to the beginning
APPLELEAF: I’d like to rewind a little. Well, a lot actually, and go back to how you first got into accountancy. Was it something you always wanted to do?
MATTHEW: Originally, I wanted to be a police officer. That was the plan and I applied for work experience there. But someone else got the place.
My next thought was to try accountancy, so spent a week with a firm seeing how it all worked. It turned out I really enjoyed it.
In fact, I made the decision then to start focusing my education on accountancy and went straight into it from college. I didn’t really fancy University. For some people it’s great, but I preferred to get some experience, which I certainly did.
I was a trainee accountant for about three years before I decided to do my ACCA, which took another six or seven years to become fully qualified.
It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it and my brother-in-law was in the same field, so it was always good to have someone to talk to about it.
APPLELEAF: And you worked at various firms before setting up Appleleaf, right?
MATTHEW: Yes. I’ve worked for a lot of the accountants in the Grimsby area and have enjoyed all the different experiences.
But after a while, I decided to take my own destiny into my own hands, so to speak.
I started working a few days for one firm, while on the other days focusing on my own stuff. This worked well for a while and, slowly but surely, I got more clients and things started happening.
At the same time, I’d known Rob (Rob Smith, fellow director at Appleleaf Accountancy) for a while and we’d spoken about sharing office space.
It seemed to make sense to join forces. Not only from an overheads point of view, but I’m more of an accounts guy, while Rob is a good tax and payroll man, so we complement each other well.
And here we are now with Appleleaf Accountancy.
We’re two years in and it’s going really well, which is a relief.
Balancing the books
APPLELEAF: What do you find are the biggest challenges for businesses when it comes to getting their accounts in order?
MATTHEW: Ha. Getting stuff in on time. It’s got to be that, I guess.
APPLELEAF: It’s a universal problem?
MATTHEW: Yes, very much so.
From small businesses to big, it always seems tough for people to meet the deadlines when it comes to anything to do with accountancy.
It’s that and submitting accounts in an orderly format. That’s a big challenge for people.
We all know the bag of receipts kind of set up and that’s still very much the way a lot of people operate.
APPLELEAF: What do you find are the biggest mistakes businesses make when it comes to managing their accounts?
MATTHEW: It’s an extension from the paper bag of receipts thing.
I don’t think people or businesses embrace technology enough when it comes to accounting.
I understand the reluctance. People don’t like change. But it can help make things a lot easier.
Obviously, HMRC is pushing things to be more digital too so eventually more people will have to adjust. But I don’t think you need to worry about doing so – it’s actually really helpful.
I enjoy sharing the various tools available with clients and seeing how they suddenly realise they can save a lot of time.
APPLELEAF: What’s your biggest tip when it comes to doing your accounts?
MATTHEW: Get a good accountant. Ha. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
People tend to avoid spending money on it because it seems like something you can potentially do yourself.
But it’s like anything when you it’s not your core skill: it ends up taking much longer to sort than you thought.
I would encourage anyone who hasn’t got an accountant to invest in one. It doesn’t have to be us, of course. But do get someone who can take all the stress and strain off you.
It’s worth it.
Life after lockdown
APPLELEAF: When you’re not balancing the books for people, what do you like to get up to in your spare time?
MATTHEW: I love playing cricket, though obviously I’m not doing much of that at the moment.
But I am getting to spend a lot of time with our new son, Toby.
The one silver lining of all this is working from home means I get to spend much more time with him than I would have done in normal times. It’s lovely.
APPLELEAF: What are you most looking forward to doing when lockdown is over?
MATTHEW: Taking a holiday. Ha. We’re holding up well here but I could still do with a break. We absolutely love walking in the lakes, so as soon as we’re able, we’d love to do that. We’ve got a trip planned for September, but not sure if it’ll be on or off yet. Fingers crossed.
APPLELEAF: I hope it works out. Finally, then, what’s your advice to businesses looking to life after lockdown and adjusting to what might be a very different world?
I think that’s going to be the most important thing for businesses going forward into the unknown. You need to forecast at least six months, but more likely a year or more into the future.
You need to think about cash flow too.
Cash is king, especially at times like this and without it, your business could face much greater challenges than it needs to.
So, I would advise people to keep an eye on the cash flow and then plan as much as possible.
It’s something we’re working on with a lot of our clients and would tell people to do the same.
APPLELEAF: That’s great, Matthew. Thanks for your time.
MATTHEW: It’s a pleasure. I hope people find it useful.
As Matthew says, I hope you found our chat useful and interesting. We’ll be back again before too long with another member of the team.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for support with you accounts, we’re still working as usual and are more than happy to talk about your specific needs.
Though our main office is closed right now due to government lockdown advice, we are working from home and keeping things running as close to normal as possible.
To contact us please email either Matthew or Rob with your name, contact number and a brief description of your query and we will give you a call back you as soon as we can. This will just help us to manage the high volume of calls we are receiving at the moment, so please be assured we will get back to you.