How Tennick Accountants change their clients' lives with powerful results
Tennick Accountants look beyond a conventional accountant’s duties to improve their clients’ lives.
Graeme Tennick, Founder and Chief Legacy Maker, states their mission as aiming to “erode entrepreneurial poverty, with respect to money and time, in small and medium-sized businesses, while improving the mental health of business owners.”
They pursue that mission while operating by a set of values that reflect who they are and what they’re working toward.
Tennick Accountants’ interpretation of the modern accountant’s role can be understood as a three-pronged, 360° focus:
Looking back for generational influences
“The generation who came before us didn’t have the same technology as we do today, but they did have some brilliant traits,” explains Graeme.
Looking at clients’ business data for insight and forecasting
Graeme acknowledges that with modern data analytics, accountants can be looking both backward and forward to help them strategize. “You need to be influencing the budgets rather than just reporting them,” he says.
Acknowledging a wider context, including environmental and social impacts
Seeing the bigger picture is part of the reason Graeme and his team have been so successful, and it doesn’t stop at accounting: “We should be looking outside the business and making a better world around us. That is the whole carbon footprint, charitable-giving side of things.”
A reason to go to work every day
Based in Newcastle in the UK, Tennick Accountants serves a range of clients from three main industries: service-based, technology, and trade. While they keep their clients tax-compliant and informed about their business’ day-to-day, their passion lies in helping clients grow and evolve for the future.
Tennick Accountants team members at the Tennick Accountants Company Awards
Graeme’s doesn’t just want to help business owners succeed, he wants them to create stable legacies for themselves. To do that, he and his team work to understand exactly what their clients want in life, so they can figure out how they can help get them there.
“We try to understand the mechanics of the business and what they want to achieve out of life, personally and business-wise,” says Graeme, “and we try to frame our support around that so what we do and what we share has meaning and context.”
“Ultimately, we don’t want to be a gatekeeper just for the 'taxman', we want to be the gatekeeper for a better life for the business owner.”
Graeme Tennick, Founder and Chief Legacy Maker at Tennick Accountants, talks to Stuart McLeod on the Accounting Leaders Podcast about the responsibilities of accountants
Choosing technology that’s fit for purpose
Graeme and his team started off using Excel spreadsheets and checklists that needed to be manually updated. But those manual processes were costing them a lot of time. It reached a point where they needed a workflow solution to automate and streamline those processes. But Tennick Accountants are thoughtful, thorough tech-adopters, and are determined not to be swayed by every new piece of software they encounter.
Graeme outlines how he ensures the team is happy with what tech they’re using: “We have a three step process that has got to go through the team; it doesn't just come via me. So I’m not allowed to just come in and introduce things.”
That process is as follows:
Research. Look at the industry, go to tradeshows, look at what other firms are using, and try to find the software that will bring genuine value.
Prototype. Build and use a pilot for the software they choose.
Implementation. If it works, helps, and the team enjoys using it, then bring it in.
They tried a few different practice management options that weren’t quite right, but when Tennick got started with Karbon in 2019, they knew they’d found the right tool for them. According to Graeme, “Karbon blew my mind.” He remembers thinking, “this is where we need to be.”
Functionality to make life easier
Time and Budgets
It was initially the time and budgets that piqued Greame’s interest. “At the time of transition, time and fees were a big challenge for us, in terms of recording time, assessing our fees, understanding our true profitability, efficiencies and inefficiencies on a job. That was the main driving force behind us moving [to Karbon].”
Data and Insights
Once they moved, the data insights, collaboration and communication afforded through Karbon were clear.
“Now, the main thing we take from Karbon is the data insight and planning across everything,” says Graeme. “We now have the understanding to see what’s happening and why, without having to go trolling through emails.”
Graeme places the interpretation and understanding of data right at the top of his list insofar as what an accountant’s role is. “Data intensive firms look at the data in and around them and make better decisions to help clients avoid issues, predict issues, and make a better life for themselves. We’re in that category.”
One of the first things Graeme noticed when migrating to Karbon was that a lot of the data they had was low quality. He recalls, “there was a lot of legacy data. If that legacy data is rubbish and you put it in, don’t expect it all of a sudden to be perfect—it doesn’t work that way.”
While it was a daunting realization that they needed to audit and overhaul a lot of their data, Graeme knew to treat it as a target exercise, and he and his team worked steadily to bring everything up to scratch.
Now that they have gone through that, and have even employed a person to take responsibility for maintaining the quality of the data, Graeme is able to reach further ahead to plan and forecast more accurately.
Collaboration and communication
Having everything in one place for individual jobs and clients was especially useful for Tennick when they were thrust into remote work.
“Knowing who said what, when, and where it is, is just brilliant,” says Graeme, “particularly when it came to COVID times and we were working remotely, we worked as though we were sitting next to each other in the office because of Karbon—it enabled us to do that.”
Implementing slowly and with due consideration
Rather than trying to force total adoption of Karbon’s features in one go, Graeme acknowledges that with complex software it’s a good approach to focus on a few things at a time, so that they are adopted meaningfully and actually get used.
“For good reason, we’ve done it in a staggered sort of way,” says Graeme, “we’ve got to find what feels most comfortable with certain clients and with certain members of the team, and embed that in a way that we’re committed to, rather than just force it.”
Part of the firm’s identity
Now Graeme says, “we have never been more streamlined and aligned with regards to communication, workflows, clients, and internally as a team.”
Karbon is involved in all aspects of the Tennick Accountants work-day:
“Karbon is a part of our family. It’s a part of our firm’s DNA. It’s so embedded in everything we do.”
Values to inform how they work
At Tennick Accountants, five umbrella values inform the way they work, and interact with clients and each other: honesty, accountability, quality, teamwork, and happiness.
Graeme shares that an external party (actually one of their clients) came in and “sat down with the team—excluding me—and the team picked words that would then form the values of the business.”
Having the values laid out and known throughout the firm keeps the team aligned and aids them in producing the high-quality work that furthers the firm’s mission.
Helping people succeed and changing livelihoods
Tennick, by helping business owners set goals and achieve them, is changing the lives of their clients. Graeme recalls one client who came to him needing help to get organized and formulate a plan:
“A client came to us with carrier bags, 3 years of stuff all in one go. We embedded Karbon for communication, planning their work, and sharing insights into how we change their business. Since pre-COVID, we’ve doubled their turnover and profitability—and then doubled it again. They’ve got a multi-million pound business now. From where they came from to where they are, with the support that Karbon has enabled us to give? Wow.”
Given the nature of their firm and the way they look to the future, Tennick Accountants are poised to make positive impacts in their clients’ lives for a long time to come. Graeme and his team have built their firm on a foundation of understanding, data-driven insight, and strong company values.
Aligned and streamlined communications both internally and externally
Visibility across time, budgets, profitability and efficiencies
Overhauled low quality data and implemented data heath systems and processes to forecast more accurately
Embedded social and environmental awareness into their work for a better future
About Tennick Accountants
Services: Financial Management, Compliance, Payroll
Location: Newcastle, UK
Firm Size: 4-10 Employees
Years of Operation: 11 Years
Karbon User For: 4 Years, 2 Months
- Aligned and streamlined communications both internally and externally
- Gained visibility across time, budgets, profitability and efficiencies
- Overhauled low quality data and implemented data heath systems and processes to forecast more accurately
- Embedded social and environmental awareness into their work for a better future