Accounting agency Beany merges traditional finance with technology revolution
A Kiwi-owned business is shaking up the world of accounting by ditching paper and brick-and-mortar offices in favour of the cloud.
Sue de Bievre is the mastermind behind Beany, an accounting agency set up three years ago that is completely online.
"It was a risky decision at the time, it seems now life has moved on but back then it was a big move," she said.
The business has grown fast with Beany tripling its client numbers in 2016 and 2017.
"This is the way of the future. There's thousands of traditional firms, but we're a new breed being completely online," she said.
De Bievre was sitting in an office, surrounded by people in cubicles when she started thinking there had to be a better way to do her job.
"I was hearing from small business owners that they were sick of these huge bills, which were coming from big bound copies of financial statements and glossy folders.
"They don't care about that, they just want to know if they're safe from the IRD.
"So I thought, what would happen if you stripped everything right back and gave them what they wanted quickly and inexpensively.
"And I wanted to do it in a way that was human, which sounds counter-intuitive with being online, but we wanted a friendly, easy approach for our clients.
"We don't have to pay rent, or prepare bound copies of reports, there are no storage costs or shredders, no infrastructure we have to invest in."
She realised the easiest way to drive down costs was to get rid of office expenses, but had to overcome a backlash from clients who wanted face-to-face meetings.
"We did loads of research on whether owners wanted face-to-face time, because that's what we can't do online," de Bievre said.
"But we persevered and once people got over that initial shock of just being online they realised it wasn't a big deal and that they could contact us at any time."
Beany employees are free to work from anywhere - even overseas, and clients can contact the agency whenever they like at no extra cost.
"They can work absolutely anywhere, we don't have an office. My sales manger is based in Taupo and is visiting friends in Papamoa, so will work from there.
"I'm hiring someone today who works in Whakatane but will be working with Queenstown clients.
"It's all about offering the working environment people want, instead of pegging people into a square hole."
There are no set hours or timesheets, workers just have to make sure they reach their targets.
"I just check once a month the overall amount of time we're spending on clients and if it's fitting our budget then I tick and move on.
"It's really heartening - we always come in on budget."
Beany is the only accounting firm de Bievre knows of that has flipped the traditional model of doing accounting on its head.
"Some practices go online but they are still in an office environment.
"Technology is what's driving this whole change," she said.
"We can socially and financially transact online, you don't need to sit in a room anymore with people."