Established in the horse and cart days of 1891, J W Barrow is a fourth generation family business based in Northwich, Cheshire, which specialises in all forms of short and long-term road tanker rental and contract hire. The business, which employs nine people, also owns its three-and-a-half acre base, some of which is occupied by tenants, and has turnover of £500,000. It is a business with a rich history and has employees in the older age brackets, a factor that led to it seeking help to overhaul and ultimately modernise its accounting system.
A client of Jack Ross Chartered Accountants for more than 60 years, J W Barrow approached the firm in March 2015 to find a better solution to its accounting methods, with the hope that it could start the next financial year on a new system. The business had worked with Sage for a number of years but, according to managing director Rob Barrow, found it increasingly expensive to run when taking into account the added costs for maintenance and regular updates. This was coupled with the fact that Barrow’s accounts employee had reached the age of 68 and was keen to semi-retire and, says Rob Barrow, they wanted to avoid the costs of employing someone else to fill in the remaining hours and the training costs that would inevitably involve.
A conversation with Jack Ross Chartered Accountants about these issues led to the suggestion of JacRox, the firm’s innovative arm specialising in Xero cloud accounting. This part of the business is built on the understanding that clients need an accountancy offering that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and combines years of experience with cutting edge technology. It allows the client to access their accounts information anytime and from anywhere in the world and all information is saved in the cloud, meaning there is no software to install and no updates to run. The JacRox Xero accountants can also access and review that information remotely and thus is able to work with clients to help them improve their business. Xero software has never been breached, meaning clients can rest assured that their data is in safe hands. Customers are also offered a wide range of free JacRox and Xero training to ensure their employees are able to navigate their new system.
In Rob Barrow’s words, the Xero solution “sounded absolutely ideal”.
What JacRox did to help:
With the Xero system, J W Barrow outsourced all of their internal bookkeeping and accounting to JacRox and, in turn, they have received a reliable, trusted and consistent service where previously they had been reliant on one person. Setting up the system had to be done quickly for business continuity reasons. With a very tight timescale to work to our JacRox accounting team had to back up and update an accounting system, which dated back more than 20 years.
This phase also afforded the opportunity of a “tidy-up” of records. Naturally it was important to ensure the ‘new’ system contained only relevant information, so this transfer meant updating customers’ contact details and entering email addresses, which were then uploaded onto the new system.
Now it is live, the Xero system involves the client scanning across their purchase invoices, which get uploaded onto the accounting system. From there, JacRox Xero accountants can carry out their month-end accounts, their VAT and payroll.
How JacRox helped improved things:
‘Streamlined and secure’ are the words Rob Barrow uses to describe the Xero system. Documentation is sent to Jack Ross in “one hit” and this is processed directly and accounts are then managed on a monthly basis instantaneously, having a huge impact on the business’s audit.
As Rob Barrow says: “Year-end used to be horrific with someone having to spend two to three days trawling through 100s of invoices, but when we get to year-end now it will all be done in minutes and it will be accurate.”
Being cloud-based is also an important factor, he says, as the system safeguards against the worst case scenario. For example, in the event of a fire there would be no business interruption as all the data is stored off premises.
“Previously if we’d had a fire it could have been catastrophic to the business. All the paperwork would have gone and the computer system too; we wouldn’t have known what people owed us so how would we ever get the money in,” Rob Barrow says. “Now we could pick the phone up to Jack Ross and they could immediately tell us what we were owed to the penny.”
As a knock-on effect to this, he says business interruption insurance that the company pays to safeguard against such a scenario could now be reduced as the risk is lower thanks to Xero.
Another major benefit for the business has been the clarity of financial management information it has offered. For the first time in years the directors receive regular and up to date information about how the business is performing, enabling them to plan ahead. Jack Ross has taken a long-established family business and truly modernised it with Xero software in the space of six weeks.
The difference JacRox made:
The introduction of Xero solved the problem identified by the client at the outset. The company’s 68-year-old accounts employee was able to reduce her hours with no major impact on the business and the ease of use meant she was soon very familiar with the software.
This also made life easier for others in the business, particularly the managing director’s 78-year-old mother, who is also a director and regularly works on the accounts. Under the old regime, temporary workers would have to be brought into the business and given training to provide holiday cover for the accounts employee, who may often have to make corrections on her return. Under the Xero system this is unnecessary, another consideration that has been lifted from the managing director’s shoulders.
Barrow estimates his business will save around £2,000-£3,000 a year, but adds that the cost was never his main concern. As he says: “It means we can relax now because it’s all taken care of, it’s about having peace of mind and, of course, year-end will come and we’ll hardly notice.”
How J W Barrow felt at the start:
Barrow decided to make the change in March 2015 in time for the new financial year, and describes himself as feeling quite apprehensive leading up to the system going live. He admits the potential for issues with the old system did leave the business in a vulnerable position, but it still signalled a huge change for the 124-year-old organisation. Having worked with Jack Ross Chartered Accountants for some years, however, Rob Barrow was confident in the approach and the ability to come up with the best solution for his problem. He also recognised the pressure Jack Ross Chartered Accountants/JacRox was under in the tight time frame but has hailed the project as revolutionising his business.
How JW Barrow felt when the Xero accounting software was implemented:
Making the investment left the client feeling relieved that, whatever the future may hold with regards his employees, there will be continuity in his accounting system. Training any new addition to the company in Xero would be far simpler than training them in Sage, meaning they would make a smooth transition into the working environment. He comments: “If you started somebody in Sage there’s a chance they could go wrong for at least a month without anybody noticing. If they were to process an invoice using Xero and it’s wrong we would get a call from JacRox team immediately to inform us and it’s that immediacy for spotting problems that is second to none. Nothing can go through without it being noticed.”
Peace of mind has been a key theme running through the project and our agility in being able to offer that peace of mind has resulted in a successful outcome for all concerned.
The benefits others have seen since implementing Xero:
Pressure on other members of the business has been alleviated thanks to the introduction of Xero. As mentioned previously, an older member of staff has been able to reduce her hours to one day per week without any impact on the accounting function and the simplified process makes it easier for other employees to have an input into the system.