How Ipsum Advisors gained the equivalent of an extra staff member
Ipsum Advisors is a full-service accountancy and wealth advisory firm based in Bendigo, Victoria. Previously known as Stewarts Accountants, Ipsum has existed for more than 40 years, working to improve the financial health of clients across the state of Victoria with smart tax strategy, business and compliance advice.
Having operated as a traditional practice with desktop software for many years, they moved to the cloud in 2011 with the proliferation of Xero. Director Billy Lacey says they haven’t looked back since, making the most of the opportunities that the cloud provides them, and moving from strength to strength.
Like many growing accounting firms, Ipsum became a victim of their own success.
“You have so many jobs going on at once, it gets crazy trying to manage them all,” says Lacey. “Not only that, but the amount of communication that you deal with in an accounting firm is ridiculous. You have all the interaction and communication sitting in everyone’s own inbox, and it became really hard to know exactly what was going on.”
They began to experiment with various tools to help them better manage their jobs and workflow, and improve their collaboration. But none of the solutions that they tried were suited to their exact needs or flexible enough to adapt to how they worked.
Taking advantage of change
Ipsum’s leadership team all attended the Change GPS Conference in 2017. It was here that they first came across Karbon.
“As soon as we saw it, we knew Karbon was the solution we needed,” says Lacey. “We could clearly see that it would help us with capacity planning, managing workflow, and task management, and it looked extremely easy to use.”
Being a business that has never been afraid to take risks—particularly when the potential reward is so great—they made the decision on the spot to implement Karbon. They have not looked back.
“Things happen pretty quick in our industry, so you may as well have a punt and get on board if you see an opportunity. That innovative mindset has served us very well.”
Ipsum’s Practice Manager, Leila Pilcher took on the role of change champion and worked with Karbon’s onboarding and customer success team to migrate data and learn the basics and best practices.
A big effort was made to demonstrate to staff the benefits that could be gained from using Karbon, and ensuring that the way they think about work was in-sync. “As much as you try to have systemization in your business, everyone still has their own unique way of doing things. But it is so critical to all be on the same train together,” says Lacey.
It didn’t take long for the team to be up and running. Within two months, a renewed focus on output gave them the courage to stop using timesheets completely. Something that Lacey says would never have happened if they weren’t using Karbon.
A year after the initial implementation, Pilcher says that they are still benefiting from Karbon’s extensive resources. “There are a huge number of fantastic webinars and materials that Karbon makes available. These help keep best practices at the front of our mind, and mean that we'll never be left to stagnate in our work processes.”
A solution from the top to the bottom
Today, Karbon is ingrained across the entire Ipsum business.
Lacey and other Partners use Karbon’s Kanban board for a birds-eye view across everything, often looking at deliverables, rather than simply team productivity. “At a glance, we can see the dollar value that is tied to Karbon work items and how that looks throughout the year,” Lacey says.
Customized views have been created for each team for use in their workflow meetings. Together, they can check the status of jobs and make dynamic changes by moving items around.
“We can quickly see where each entity is at, who is responsible, and if we have gone past the due date. We can drill down into that job and see specifically where the tasks are at.”
The Client Tasks feature has introduced a new level of automation to their workflow. Rather than spending time chasing clients, they schedule Karbon to automatically request any information that they need.
“It’s made our clients more prompt, and changed our relationship with them—we don’t need to be the annoying person who is chasing them anymore. This has saved us hours and hours of time.”
And from an individual perspective, each team member uses their own to-do list to keep track of every individual task that they are responsible for.
“The To-do list gives us such an easy scratch pad. It’s the best way for me to stay on top of what I need to do each day,” says Lacey.
Better long-term business value
Karbon has had a big impact on Ipsum—on specific processes, on each team member, and on the overall performance of the business.
Lacey uses the example of their client onboarding process, which they have put a lot of effort into improving. They used a best practice template for client onboarding that Karbon provided, tweaked that to suit their existing process, and then work to continuously tighten up that workflow.
Karbon has also had an impact on the types of clients that they are willing to take on. They can now see the communication and activity history of similar clients, which helps them decide if a new client will be worth their time.
Using Karbon as their source of knowledge and to improve sharing amongst the team has given them a strong foundation to grow further from in the future.
“It doesn’t matter how good one individual staff member is in your business, you will never get the scale that you need, or get everyone heading in the same direction, without leveraging technology like Karbon,” Lacey says. “Even if one person is outstanding, it’s still a lot of information in their head that no one else sees.”
“We’ve never had so much collaboration in our business than we do now. With all the team collaborating together and using Karbon, they can quickly pick up others’ work and deal with it, even if someone isn’t there.”
The efficiency gains have also been significant. Lacey predicts that Karbon has given them back 1,600 hours a year—the equivalent of one additional staff member. This time is now being redeployed into more meaningful areas of the business, such as spending time with clients, testing out new technology and developing new service lines.
Pilcher says that this improved efficiency has lead to an increase in output. “The time we spend now is more effective and productive, which continually improves capacity to take on more work,” she says. “Karbon has reduced our stress, created confidence and made it so easy for us to keep the ball rolling on different projects.”
Lacey agrees. “Karbon has been great for our team—it just makes our work more enjoyable. They're no longer getting bogged down with tedious or annoying work. I couldn’t even imagine life without it—it would be a nightmare,” he says.
“I’m 100% confident we are going to continue to reap rewards in terms of greater profitability, better clients, being able to provide a better client experience, and better long-term business value.”
More team collaboration than ever
Maximized throughput of work
1,600 hours saved across the business annually—the equivalent of one additional staff member
About Ipsum Advisors
Services: Accounting, Wealth Advice
Location: Bendigo, Australia
Firm Size: 21-50 Employees
- More team collaboration than ever
- Maximized throughput of work
- 1,600 hours saved across the business annually—the equivalent of one additional staff member