The Neill Family Group were recently interviewed by one of the world's largest cloud-based accounting software providers, FYI, on our recent demerger and subsequent changes in technology and systems.
This was such a great feature we wanted to share it with you but also highlight a few things.
Firstly, unlike other accounting practices, at The Neill Family Group we don't just talk the talk when it comes to improving your business, we walk the walk by also improving our own - even if that means half the team pulling their hair out for a few weeks while learning new systems.
Secondly, we don't just do tax - our Managed Services team help improve our client's businesses and the tech stacks that sits within it.
And remember, we get how scary change can be but The Neill Family are here for you all the way.
So if you're looking to push your business to the next level reach out and read on!
Long before they established their current practice, Stuart Neill and his father Graeme Neill were co-directors in a Melbourne-based accounting firm.
With a growing client base in Gisborne, they soon opened a branch there to better serve their Macedon Ranges clients. And after 20 years of working between the big smoke and regional town, they made a permanent tree change.
Keeping it in the family, Joanne Poyser (nee Neill) joined forces with her brother and father to launch The Neill Family Group. It’s maintaining close relationships like this – and investing in services that add value – that’s key to their client’s success.
As a practice driven to simplify the complexities of accounting for their clients, they recognised how the cloud could enable them to do that better. And so, in December 2022, they changed their software while they changed their business.
“We saw this as an opportunity to reboot and do things better”
But not all change is good
All advice pointed to adopting the server-based software their previous practice was using, then moving across to Xero “in a timely manner”. It should have been simple.
But it soon became clear the team behind the platform wasn’t up to the task.
“We’d had the meetings, locked it in… then towards the end, we worked out they weren’t going to be able to make it happen for three months. They just didn’t have the resources to support us because of the Christmas period,” says Stuart. “That came as a shock.”
It’s time they didn’t have. “That’s not going to work for us,” says Stuart. “We’ve got deadlines, we’ve got clients to look after.”
With no time to waste, they fast-forwarded the plan. “We went back to Xero, and they just made it happen. It happened over a weekend,” says Stuart.
“We were getting a lot of 'can't-do' from the other software. With Xero, it was ‘We can do it – we'll make it happen”
Add an easy integration with FYI to the mix, and the Neill team were quickly back in business.
FYI’s deep integration with Xero has made document management simple, and efficient.
“Our previous system was very clunky in the way it worked,” says the firm’s Client Relationship Manager, Erica Buckley. “You don’t realise that when you’re working in it every day, but when you’ve got something new, you do.”
Now, their app stack works effortlessly together.
“It’s so much more efficient,” she says. “Everything talks to one another, everything integrates, everything feeds back. So whether it’s SF 360, a corporate secretarial, a super fund, SF360, XPM or FuseSign, everything integrates back to FYI. The whole thing is just seamless.”
It’s not at all what she thought a document manager would be. It’s more.
“FYI isn’t a document manager – it's almost a practice management solution with document management included”
The total solution
The move has been an easy transition for the entire Neill team, too.
It’s all very user-friendly, explains Joanne. “Given that so much of it was historical data that’s been migrated across, it’s been pretty seamless in that you can duck straight in and access whatever you want. Anything I need to look back on, I know exactly where to find it.”
In fact, the search function has been a revolution. Erica loves that FYI “searches throughout the document, as opposed to searching the document title. Being able to have that, if you’re not sure what it’s saved as, is a game changer.”
“The search functionality – that's a game changer”
Automating time-consuming tasks is another function that’s boosting efficiency.
“With FYI, you can put automations at the back end of anything,” Erica says, “so making any slight change is going to save time and ensure accuracy.”
The team are also saving time managing their digitally signed documents.
“Admin are loving the integration with FuseSign,” she continues. “Just knowing that if it’s back, it’s filed – that is amazing. We’re sending things out and getting it back within a matter of minutes, not days. And it’s all filed correctly so we can lodge it the same day that we do the work.”
When it comes to updates, FYI is helping to keep the entire team stay productive.
“You don’t have to do a product update – it does it for you,” says Erica.
“It's a product that's continually improving, so it doesn't stay stagnant”
And with an entirely new system, training was key. “There’s hardly a piece of software that we use on a day-to-day basis that we’ve kept; that we were used to,” says Stuart. But the Learn platform was there to support their transition.
FYI’s onboarding crew told the Neill team that there are “five ways of doing one thing”. It means everyone can choose their preferred approach – once they know how.
“They said we’re not going to have a team training session until everyone in your team does one to three Learn courses, and has a basic understanding. And that was actually really good,” says Erica. “The training itself – half of it’s video – so it’s very easy.”
“With FYI, you can do things so many different ways – we’ve all got our own way of doing it, but we all know how to do it”
Looking to the future with FYI
Now with FYI and Xero, Stuart is impressed with how far the firm has come. And excited to start the new financial year off fresh.
“If we’d gone with the old system, that would’ve just kept things status quo. We’d only be a quarter of the way through,” he says.
As for the bigger picture, Stuart is keen to grow the family business, and his clients’ businesses.
“I’m really looking forward to getting more vested with our clients outside of tax returns and financials. Getting out, seeing our clients and looking at ways to improve them, which improves us. Growth comes as a result of providing better services to our clients.”
No looking back
While the practice is firmly focused on the future, Erica reflects on the industry’s natural resistance to change.
“Accountants are happy to keep doing things the way they always did, because no one has the time to learn new things.” Having now made the change – and fast – the Neill team recommends just going for it, and learning along the way.
Commenting on the quick pivot the team had to make during the busy Christmas period, Stuart says “It made us get things done rather than knowing we’ve got time. In the past, where we’ve transitioned, you’re so busy doing work, the transition just peters out. This way, we’re forced to just do it, and we did. We learned a lot on the go, and we had a lot of assistance from FYI. We can’t speak highly enough of the program”.
“I wouldn't change anything”