How Cloud 360 Accounting won Xero's Small Firm of the Year award 2021

Awards are a great way to recognise the hard work you and your team put in. Discover how Kieran Phelan from Cloud 360 Accounting won Xero's Small Firm of the Year award.

Entering (and winning) awards is a great strategy for all accounting and bookkeeping firms.

Not only does it help instil trust in your prospective clients, it also rewards and recognises the hard work that you and your team have put in throughout the year.

As part of our #learnfromyourpeers campaign, we recently caught up with Kieran Phelan from Cloud 360 Accounting after recently winning Xero's Small Firm of the Year award in 2021.

You can watch or read the interview below.

Tell us about yourself...

My name's Kieren Phelan. I am the CEO and founder of Cloud 360 Accounting. We are based in Derry in Northern Ireland, and we were Northern Ireland's first ever Xero advisors, way back in 2010. Currently we are a team of six in total. We work with around about 120 clients at the moment, and we provide them with the general range of compliance services, in terms of their year-end accounts, their tax returns or VAT, the payroll.

Tell us about winning Xero's Small Firm of the Year award?

We won the UK Small Firm of the Year 2021 at the Xero Awards in March this year. And we were finalists in March 2020 in the 100% Xero category. And we actually thought that was like the icing on the cake. I was also a finalist at the Accounting Excellence Awards in 2019 for Practice Pioneer of the Year. But then of course March '20 came along. Myself and my wife went to the awards and the world was starting to change. Three weeks later, the world had changed completely. As a firm, the first thing I got the team to do and for myself to do when the pandemic hit was actually lift the phone and ring every single client and just say, "How are you?"

At that stage, clients were ringing me in the middle of the Chancellor's sessions to talk about the furlough scheme and all the grant initiatives and everything that was going to happen. Phone calls just asking, "Does that apply to me? What am I going to do?" So I said, "Look, I'll answer all your questions when I get a chance to understand what's going on." But we lifted the phones, spoke to the clients, "How are you actually doing?" Some of them thought we were ringing to see, can we help you get grants? I said, "No, we're just asking how you are you? Are you worried? Are you concerned? Please just be aware that with the financial side of your business, we're here to support you as best we can."

The other thing that I did was for us as a business at that point in time, was do a bit of scenario modelling. So, we've got 100 direct debits coming through. What happens to us if 50 of those people cancel for three months or four months? Where does that leave us? What changes do we have to make? Do I have to furlough staff or what are we going to have to do? So I did all of that at the outset. And I did that first before I actually spoke to some of my clients because I thought if I don't get peace of mind quickly as to how we're going to be situated, even though it's a complete unknown, I'm not going to be able to talk to people and pacify them because I'm sounding like I'm panicking.

So having done that, we were then speaking to all the clients and for the next three or four months, we basically did anything that we could to help people. And for a lot of that time, like many firms, we weren't charging for the stuff. I was doing Facebook Live sessions at least weekly. And I also set up a LinkedIn group because I could see all accountants were going onto social media and firing all this information at the one time. And it was repetitive. And some of it was conflicting. I just felt like accountants are probably panicking now as well. So I set up a group and there was 94 accountants across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK joined. We had three or four maybe sessions where we all just got together, and 10 to 20 of us had a chat around how we were doing, and any other ideas we could come up with that could help clients.

So based on all that, we came into this year and the Xero Award was out for nomination again. And in all honesty, we haven't entered awards for a period of 10 years and then decided, why don't we try it because we've been doing some good work. So the entry for the awards came off the back of, I think we've done really good work actually in the last year, but I'm sure we're not unique in that. But that was how we actually were nominated and then given the award. Xero were very impressed with our onboarding processes and how we deal with clients and bring them onboard and getting them up to speed quickly in relation to Xero, getting their accounts set up, get the bookkeeping going pretty quickly. But they were also impressed with the whole sort of, they called it the virtual arm around the shoulder for clients, which was, let's just go and help as many people as we could.

I was literally sending out even very basic spreadsheets to micro businesses who weren't even clients of ours with a supplementary video. "Here's how you can do your own cashflow for the next three months. Get your bank statements out and start plugging them figures and stuff."

So I think Xero were pretty impressed that we were just doing so much of that, at the volume and pace we were doing that. So that really was the icing on the cake at that stage, to win that award, especially for us as a Northern Ireland firm and a fairly small firm. We've a team of six here. It really was a massive achievement. We didn't expect to win it but we're absolutely delighted that we have.

Do you want to learn how Pixie helped Kieran at Cloud 360 Accounting to standardise their workflows to help them scale-up?

"Its definitely improved our efficiency and reduced the time spent delegating processes. Growing and expanding the team is easier now that we have processes in place for people to follow."

Learn how Pixie helped them to increase their efficiency here.

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