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“I saw doing a good job as trying to do myself out of a job”


2 Nov 2020 | Industry News, Local News

Meet Jon Jenkins, another of the great additions to this years Open Accelerator programme – an initiative supported by the European Regional Development Fund, aimed at growing new business within the Digital, Creative and Tech sectors in Dorset.

After many years in and around the accountancy industry, Jon learned first hand the challenges accountants are faced with every day, with the repetitive and mundane tasks.

His new tool, Hindsight, is set to alleviate some of these tasks to ensure accountants can spend more time offering a high quality service to their clients.

Read the full story of Hindsight here, as we sat down with Jon to find out how about his past experiences, the concept of Hindsight, and hopes for the future.

 

Silicon South:

It’s great to welcome and introduce Jon Jenkins, another participant of the Open Accelerator programme. Thank you for joining us today Jon, it would be great if you could tell us abit about yourself, your experiences and what you enjoy doing?

Jon:

Hi, I am Jon Jenkins, CEO & Founder of a company called Hindsight. My experience is predominately working in Accountancy, mainly working with systems, process and procedures. If you were to look at my CV, I spent a maximum of 2 ½ – 3 years in one job. I saw doing a good job as trying to do myself out of a job, as I focused on automating and simplifying processes as much as possible while improving the quality of information.

Most recently, I’ve spent 9 years running an accountancy practice, I started looking at cloud accountancy software and we were one of the first accountancy companies in the UK to offer a cloud accounting monthly fixed fee service. I sold that business back in December 2019, so I could concentrate fully on Hindsight and help other accountants achieve the bliss of automation in their business freeing up valuable time to become the advisor their clients need.

 

Silicon South:

Great. So Hindsight is the business you’re trying to develop, and the main reason you joined the Open Accelerator, so can you give us an insight into the app and what you’re setting out to achieve?

Jon:

Hindsight integrates with Xero, the accounting software now with others to follow. and the idea is that. Unfortunately, the stereotypes of accounting are all true…I have to admit. You can’t say that when you’re an accountant, but now I’m not I can admit that. So Hindsight is trying to remove all of the repetitive, mundane tasks and checking, reconciliation work that we have to carry out which at the moment has to all be done manually. With that in mind, we’ve built a product that’ll integrate with Xero and overnight will run a bunch of checks that will alert the accountants of any potential issues with a client. For example, if you have 200 clients, as much as everyone thinks you log in to each of those, to check where all 200 need help, you simply can’t. There are never enough hours in the day.

Our system will flag up where there are issues, where a business has issues, so you can help them in an efficient manner. We are trying to remove that stereotype around accounting.

Silicon South:

So you should have thousands of accountants worshiping you, as you are saving them a heap load of time?

Jon:

Yes that would be nice! We’ll be saving a stack load of time, but the biggest pitch for an accountant at the moment is becoming a trusted advisor and we’re ultimately trying to give them the time so they can spend better quality time advising clients and looking at what the data is actually telling them, rather than just ticking boxes and meeting deadlines.

 

Silicon South:

How did this idea come about then? Was it down to your experience within the industry or something else?

Jon:

It is actually something we started toying with back in 2014. We built a first iteration of this product back then and exhibited it at XeroCon in 2015. I think we were just miles ahead of the current marketplace at that point, so it’s something that’s been in my brain a long time and I guess it’s down to the fact that I’m inherently lazy. If there are things that you can automate, you should do. You should do something once to learn how to do it, doing something twice to learn how to do it efficiently, and third time you should be thinking about how can I automate this process. We’re told to believe that technology should make our lives quicker, easier, better, provide us with more quality time and in 2020 I still don’t see that being the case in pretty much every business that I see. Particularly with accountants, as their whole lives are run by deadlines, tasks and list checking. It is constant, every single day. So the idea was basically to try and alleviate that pain that I was going through on a daily basis, particularly months like January where you don’t see your family for the whole month. With Hindsight, it’s all about, can we remove those pain points, give the people the life they want to live. I always just think accountants sell a dream to clients about how they should run their businesses, and I think accountants should be seen to run their business in the same way before advising others.

Silicon South:

It’s the philosophy of do as I do, rather than do as I say?

Jon:

Absolutely. I even know some accountants who now take the whole of January off just to prove a point to the rest of the industry that it is doable. Why should we leave people’s tax returns until January? There are 12 months of the year after all.

 

Silicon South:

Exactly. Another question then, why did you join the Open Accelerator?

Jon:

A couple of reasons, but fundamentally, I’ve probably worked with 400-500 businesses throughout my career so far and you learn something from all of those. I never feel like we should assume that we have learnt everything. Whilst I’ve run businesses in the past, and I’ve set them up from scratch, what I’m doing now is completely different to what I undertook before. I was running an accountancy practice and was a qualified accountant, it’s a logical business for someone to be involved in. The bar was very low. To win new business all you had to do was return phone calls and emails that was it.

What I’m doing now is developing and selling a software product on a monthly subscription basis, it’s not something I’ve been involved with before or experienced and I’m big enough and ugly enough to admit that I need help, support, guidance and a structure, which was one of the key things, a structure about how to plan and implement things. Yes, I could probably go online and find a lot of that stuff, but for me, being an accountant, I like working in a certain way. So having a structure is fantastic, secondly you’re not doing it alone, you’re doing it alongside other people, getting feedback and also helping other people along the way. That’s the best thing about being involved with the Open Accelerator.

 

Silicon South:

As well as a structured way to learning and setting up a business. What else do you hope to get out of the programme, both personally and professionally?

Jon:

Personally, probably just to ensure that I’m sticking to things that need to be done. I lose focus sometimes so knowing that I’ve got this kind of “homework” of things that I need to achieve each week I just feel like I will be able to do that working in the Accelerator. I know I won’t get if I’m left to my own devices. So I guess from a personal point of view, it gives me free time to think, whereas otherwise it’s a bit of a scatter gun approach to life. Ultimately, I see that enhancing the product because I’m more focused on it so by proxy, I would expect the business to be in a better position and flourish by time I finish the Open Accelerator, as I would have done things in a methodical way. Whilst filling in those gaps that I have in my own knowledge and skillset.

 

Silicon South:

Finally then, before we started recording, we mentioned many other things going on when running a business, time management proving to be one of the challenging things, especially with a family to consider. For someone who is looking to start their own business, and has these other commitments, what advice would you give them?

Jon:

My advice to anybody looking to start a company, regardless of who they are or what industry it is in, is make sure you have a really good support network around you. Friends and family are fantastic, you don’t necessarily have to listen to their advice in terms of what you should do with the business, as they’ll always tell you everything you’re thinking is wonderful. But, you cannot underestimate how important it is for people to know the stress, anxiety, commitment that you’re going through. That’s quite a powerful thing.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The problem is, there is so much help and guidance out there now people tend to start looking online, and then you get overwhelmed as there is so much of it. That’s why the Open Accelerator works really well, you’re getting information that you need in bite sized chunks, rather than absorbing and consuming everything that is going on in the world. It’s probably, more often than not, one of the biggest mistakes we make, always turning to Google because there is just too much. As you can end up procrastinating, as there is so many opinions and options, you just don’t know which is the right solution.

A prime example would be, if you take a site like AccountingWeb. AccountingWeb is a great tool for accountants, however, a lot of the forum answers to questions end up being arguments about how to do something. In accountancy, everything is structured and rules based, so theoretically there should be one answer on how to achieve a certain outcome, but there just isn’t which leads to arguments. That is kind of how I would summarise the information that you can find on Google. It’s everyone’s different opinions. They are not you, they are not in your situation. Yes it’s good to get guidance, but it’s not good to be consumed by it and believe everything that you read. Which is why I revert to having that support network. They know you best, and know what you want, what you’re going through and how to get the best out of yourself.