Martin Wigley, one of the Directors here at Jones Harris, is celebrating a personal milestone as May 2017 marks 20 years since he joined the business.
You’ll know yourself how quickly time flies and how these anniversaries creep up on us all, and they’re usually a time when we also look back on the past and how much things have changed. Couple of bits of historical trivia to start off with – you might remember that May 1997 was the year that Tony Blair was elected with a landslide majority as the British Prime Minister and Katrina and the Waves actually managed to win Eurovision. Perhaps the biggest local change is how far Fleetwood Town FC have travelled up the football league!
You could be forgiven for thinking that the age old profession of accountancy has changed little in the 20 years that Martin has been working from our Fleetwood based offices overlooking St Peter’s Church – but that’s far from being the case.
While the world has been turned upside down by the internet, technology and computers have certainly been embraced here at Jones Harris. Martin remembers that when he joined the business the whole building was awash in client folders – orange ones for working papers and blue ones for correspondence and records – as all the accounts were prepared manually with a paper based system (and 16 column analysis pads) until 2007.
It was the issue of storage and the impending need for significant building work and more staff which eventually spelled the end for the old ways. Remember that even 10 years ago technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now by a long way – and 2007 was also the year that Apple first introduced the iPhone.
The catalyst for the transition to the current, bespoke IT system which allows us to expertly manage the accounts of over 1000 clients a year was a member of staff circulating a document about the concept of the ‘Paperless Office’ – and as a progressive firm we decided that was the way we should go rather than building a big extension – a perfect choice as it turns out.
Now it’s not just our office which has eliminated paper, as all tax and VAT returns to HMRC, and documents for Companies House are filed electronically – whereas in the past they were all sent through the post – so any client who left things until the last minute could also face the chance of a fine for late submission.
Another quite significant change 20 years ago in the accountancy world was the introduction of Self Assessment way back in the 1996/97 tax year. Not only did it change the way that everyone paid tax, it also changed the way that HMRC operated as prior to that every return went over the desk of a Tax Inspector and was reviewed to determine whether it needed any further investigation. Now, HMRC work on a risk based review system and typically concentrate their efforts in particular areas. Regular readers of our news pages will know that campaigns are now regularly targeted at specific industry areas which are known for being, shall we say, economical with the truth when calculating their tax liability!
Although computer technology and the internet is a wonderful thing, it also comes with its own challenges. The cost of implementation can be quite significant and certainly, here at Jones Harris we have invested significantly in the hardware, software, networking, training and continuing professional development that we need to be able to deliver our work so efficiently.
Looming on the horizon for all of us is the next challenge of GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulations – which will tighten up all of the procedures which all of us use in handling and storing data for our staff and clients. (We’ll certainly be telling you more about that over time.)
So what about the general business landscape of the Fylde Coast in the 20 years while Martin has been beavering away in our Fleetwood office?
Sticking with the technology theme, Martin is now seeing business types which 20 years ago were unheard of – take for example the many, many eBay traders – not just here on the Fylde but all over the world. That job just didn’t exist 20 years ago.
More and more technology businesses have appeared, and that’s also enabled people to operate in niches that wouldn’t be sustainable in a traditional high street setting. But we’ve still got shops and office based businesses, manufacturers and professional services – and we’re all still facing the same kinds of problems and challenges.
For example, following the banking crisis of 2007, business owners have to be much more creative about the ways in which they source finance, but, with thanks to the internet making all kinds of things possible, they can even use Crowdfunding today. 20 years ago that was unheard of too.
The Fylde Coast doesn’t really get the boom that some areas of the country get, and while that might be irritating at the time for entrepreneurs, the positive side is that it doesn’t get the bust either, which makes it a nice place to do business and a nice place to be.
Wonder what changes the next 20 years will bring?
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