Q&A: Brendan Lucas Director of Hopscotch Accounting shares harnessing the power of technology to reduce the cost accounting functions
Brendan Lucas is an experienced Chartered Accountant who works with a wide range of clients across the business and not-for-profit sectors. His approach to servicing clients is backed by nine years at one of the Big 4 Accounting Firms providing advice to private high net wealth and business owners about complete tax and business matters, and 15+ years working with business owners.
For the past five years Brendan has been a Director of Hopscotch Accounting. The company provides outsourced Australian-based cloud accounting services and advice to NFPs. Under Brendan’s co-leadership, the company continues to grow and expand. It now provides services across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
Join him as he walks you through the step-by-step process you should follow to prepare, present and monitor your budget for FY21 in this virtual seminar.
Third Sector news caught up with Brendan to talk about being a tech-savvy accountant, his role in harnessing the power of technology to simplify and reduce the cost of an organisations’ accounting function, and how innovation is important to ensure timeliness of the information delivered to business owners and decision makers.
As someone who has worked for the private business sector, how did you come to be involved in the NFP sector?
About four years ago we received a referral from a business group as we had our business listed in the business directory. That was Activus Transport. Their long-time internal accountant had resigned, and they needed to find someone promptly.
Within a few days we were appointed as their virtual accounts department. We started by helping them move their accounts from Reckon across to Xero and it has grown from there – they are still our client today and we have been engaged by many other NFPs since then.
You volunteer in several nonprofit organisations, can you tell us how your experience there impacts your work in Hopscotch Accounting?
I’ve always thought it was important to see the world from the other side. It’s a bit of a cliché but as an advisor you do need to put yourself in your client’s shoes.
That’s where my volunteer roles for Wheelchair Rugby League Australia and the Sutherland Shire Business Chamber have allowed me to do this.
I’ve been able to see first-hand the positive experience of members who are able to be part of a footy team for the first time or a brand new business owner who has been able to get in there and chat to other business owners about the same concerns that they have.
So, to be part of making those things happen has been great. But on the other side – often the scarier side for management or boards – is to be part of that end decision-making process.
Often as an advisor I throw out alternatives and the end decision is left with the organisation but when you’re on the board and you are directly involved in the NFP that is your decision to make. I then get to see how that can sometimes be a bit more difficult than simply saying less ‘Yes, let’s do it’.
Do you think that not-for-profit organisations should adapt to technological innovation?
Absolutely. Look, it is 2020. Whether it is in your personal or business life the technology is here – and if you don’t use it, you will be left behind.
If you just look at the current COVID-19 environment: if you didn’t have technology, you could miss out participating in your nephew’s birthday celebrations from your home because you can’t go there in person.
The same goes for business and NFP life. An organisation might have just two members of their team or regular volunteers who cannot physically attend the premises.
Do you think NFPs will to survive and thrive now without adapting to technology?
Technology should be used to improve what we do and how we do it. The benefits can include improved accuracy, less time required to complete a task or a cheaper way of doing something.
So, I look at it this way: if you are an NFP and you don’t use any technology, it is likely that your competitors are. So they are going to have an advantage over you. Does it mean that you need to go from zero to a hundred? If you are not taking baby steps to utilise some forms of technology in your organisation you will be left behind.
How do you initiate an innovation strategy in your organisation especially in improving financial clarity and resilience?
For Hopscotch Accounting – for me – it is about sharing our vision with our talented team about what we are aiming for and how we are going to get there, about how we see the world. By letting people know more information about what we are doing and how we plan on doing it and what we are looking at changing. We give our team a chance to provide feedback and give ideas because they have enough information to contribute and they are the people at the coalface.
A lot of the decisions will impact them more than they impact me as a business owner. This is important as I believe if we get them involved, we will get a better solution in the end. Our team members are curious. They are interested in new software. They will go and explore and check things out because they know that we are looking for solutions and say ‘ Hang on, have you tried this? This might be a better idea. Maybe our clients would like to see this?’ By just getting everyone involved it does get you a better result at the end. I must be getting older because I’ve worked out that I don’t have all the answers myself, like I thought I did when I was 20!
What are your future plans in Hopscotch Accounting?
At the end of the day we are focused on delivering high quality information and analysis to our clients so that they can succeed. We want to continue to do that.
But we need to keep innovating and improving the way we do things.
A big part of what we do is to seek out new software to see what it can do, and if it is better than what we already use. Are we using it right? Are we using it to its full potential? What do our clients need? What are we not providing them?
We really challenge ourselves to ask ‘What is it that a Hopscotch Accounting client get? Is it what they need? Is it what they want?’
Sometimes it’s a process of facilitating insight and helping clients understand what they do need, so that way they understand how we can help them.
We plan to continue to take the organisation forward so we can help more and more NFPs contribute to society because of the positive difference they make to the place