Sam Thomas, the Director of UK-based Purple Lime Accountancy, talks to The Industry Leaders about the new wave of accountancy firms and their non-traditional methods of handling data and informing clients, to provide personalised financial services to business leaders.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I cannot claim that finance and accountancy was my childhood dream, but having graduated from university with a degree in chemistry and a complete lack of ability to produce anything in the laboratory, I soon refocused those skills towards accountancy, and I haven’t looked back since.
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for numbers, technology and business, and now find myself helping to run and grow an accountancy practice that supports business owners with a similar mindset in achieving their ambitions.
What kind of work does your role involve?
We are a relatively small practice, but we have a broad range of skills and experience. Our proposition is based on utilising the cloud technology available within the accounting sector to efficiently capture and report the financial data and performance of our clients. We put high quality, accurate financial information at the fingertips of business owners, in real-time, to support effective decision making.
For my part, I am jointly responsible for business strategy and supporting clients across a range of activities, from monthly management accounting to tax planning and corporate finance activity.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The ability to help shape and support the ambitions of business owners, from the inception of an idea through to a successful business and potential subsequent exit, is where the real excitement comes from.
To be able to deliver those outcomes in a more efficient and successful way through the use of technology also gives us a degree of satisfaction.
We are also fortunate that our work frequently allows us to meet and develop long term relationships with a range of entrepreneurs and visionary business leaders, which we find incredibly exciting.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Never use VLOOKUPS!
Joking aside, it was early in my career that my then mentor explained that for any business to succeed it is essential that everyone in the organisation is “on the bus” for the journey and equally motivated to achieve success. That will mean different things for different people within the organisation and may sound obvious, but I try to have that in the front of my mind when making any business decision or giving advice to a client.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
In terms of supporting business leaders as clients, we seek to provide assurance and confidence that they will always have accurate financial information at their fingertips in real-time, allowing them to make the best decisions efficiently. We are also careful to always have the long-term objectives of the business in mind to focus energy on achieving those ambitions.
Internally, we are very proud to have a fantastic group of young professionals who we support and mentor, and who I am sure will continue to support the business leaders of the future.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
We are fortunate to operate in a sector that is continually innovating and moving forwards – gone are the days of the stereotypical accountant!
We obviously need to remain up to date with rules, regulations and accounting standards through the usual channels and subscriptions, but events such as XeroCon are great for allowing firms such as ours to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology – although, Day Two is always interesting when watching various exhibitors struggle to keep their eyes open following the “networking” of the night before.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
Travelling to Singapore for a six-month research project whilst at university, and finding myself placed in a shared room with no air conditioning or bathroom was a significant challenge.
Running a small business regularly presents challenging situations, also, but the combination of having a great team and staying true to the organisation’s values, culture and strategy usually means they are easier to overcome. Striking the balance between investment, recruitment and growth in our client base is the main challenge, but it is one that I am happy to say we have so far successfully navigated.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Well, after trying my hardest to find the original owner of the ticket, I would probably count it as extremely fortunate, and split the money between local charities and investments in organisations seeking to address the many challenges we are facing as a population. I’m sure there may be a little left over for an all-expenses paid holiday for friends and family.
Had I purchased the ticket there would have been a slightly different answer!
How do you define failure?
Failure is an interesting word that can be interpreted in two ways: firstly, as the neglect or omission of expected or required action; or secondly, as the lack of success.
I am mindful to avoid the former, and would always embrace the latter as an opportunity to learn from mistakes and achieve a better outcome in the future.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I feel that my original wish when entering the accountancy and finance industry is already on its way to becoming fulfilled, particularly in the SME space. We are seeing a continued move away from accountancy and finance being an exercise simply of compliance and towards one of management information and value addition.
Never before have business leaders and the accountancy function been more closely aligned in achieving outcomes and efficiencies.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I am a big fan of podcasts and audiobooks, and for me they are my chance to switch off and relax, so nothing related to business or accountancy here, I’m afraid!
Personal favourites include anything from That Peter Crouch Podcast, Ian Wright’s Everyday People and of course my weekly dose of 606.
How should people connect with you?
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