Starting your own business is no easy feat.
For Ong Shee Laine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, her journey as an entrepreneur began when she decided to leave the corporate world where she was an Assistant Vice President to the Group CFO for a large conglomerate.
With humble beginnings as a freelancer, Shee Laine kept her business and clients together using traditional solutions, which were inflexible and unscalable. She soon realised that this traditional way of working was inhibiting her from achieving greater efficiency, effectiveness and growth. “Often, a lot of time was spent just searching, sorting, and even gluing paper documents before we can even start work. There was also a lot of manual data entry, which was prone to error and duplication. We were copying and pasting numbers into reports and formatting them. It was a painful and unscalable way of doing things, which really weighed down on our workflows.”
Shee Laine discovered Xero in 2019. It was at this moment that she knew her dream of offering a digital client experience could turn into reality. With this vision in mind, Shee Laine launched Claye Ventures into a full scale accounting practice. Being the newer and smaller player in the market never fazed Shee Laine. She was able to differentiate Claye Ventures by offering convenience in the cloud and scalability and flexibility via Xero’s network of connected apps. This meant Claye Ventures was able to compete head-to-head with larger, more established competitors in the market, while growing her team in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Servicing 4 times the clients with 70% less time
In a small team, agility is key. By embracing digital tools, Claye Ventures has discovered innovative ways to automate repetitive processes, streamline workflows and improve the quality of client services. Servicing clients via Xero means having a singular platform that is accessible by Claye Ventures’ staff and clients, anytime and anywhere. There’s no need to worry about incompatible operating systems or devices, and it has been a game-changer for collaborative client relationships.
Ultimately, these time savings are translated into offering value-added services for clients.
“By using Xero and connected apps, we were able to eliminate the whole process of dealing with paper documents and manual data entry altogether. This translated to 50-70% time saved. This means we can serve 2-4 times more clients. Not only that, our overall margins have also improved by at least 30% because we shaved off unproductive manpower involved manual processes,” says Ong Shee Laine.
Cloud as a differentiator
In a recent poll of professional accounting firms in Malaysia, close to 90% still use desktop accounting software to service their clients. More than 83% of the same respondents described the COVID-19 pandemic as having impacted their firm, with the top three areas of impact being  collecting paper documents (e.g. receipts, bank statements) from clients (54.1%),  collaborating with staff and monitoring activity (25.5%) and  continuity of client services (12.2%).
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for businesses, it has also accelerated the pace and urgency at which organisations must embrace technology.
Today, Claye Ventures has been able to differentiate themselves against competitors as cloud-based accountants who are always online and reachable via the smartphone anytime, anywhere. “With cloud accounting services as a starting point, we were able to offer up new lines of advisory services to clients. This includes recommending and implementing business apps that help them automate and streamline business operations.”
Being an early adopter of the cloud in Malaysia has helped Claye Ventures reap other benefits, especially in today’s environment. When the Malaysia government imposed a Movement Control Order (MCO) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Claye Ventures was able to continue operating as usual and service clients while in complete lockdown.
It’s no longer the big eat the small; the fast will eat the slow
To this end, Claye Ventures’ agility in the cloud has allowed them to emerge against competition. Shee Laine recounts a story from an ecommerce client who, prior to discovering Claye Ventures, had been dissatisfied with the way traditional accountants worked.
“They (the client) engaged numerous accounting firms before coming to us. The previous traditional accountants could not keep up with their pace and were at least 10 months behind the expected reporting cycle. This meant that the business owners were left flying blind with no idea how their business was doing. Once Claye Ventures came on board, we were able to help resolve all the backlogs within two months,” shares Ong Shee Laine.
According to a recent Xero research in the UK, the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the accounting and bookkeeping industry in the UK is -3.0. This means the majority of small businesses do not recommend their accountant to others.
The more old-fashioned the accounting method, the less happy the clients. Those stuck using the old accounting software and spreadsheets rate their accountants very low, with a -11.9 and -11.8 NPS. Written journals, and boxes of receipts fare a bit better, with 2 and 6.1 NPS respectively.
Small businesses using online accounting software are by far the most satisfied with their accountant or bookkeeper, with a +20.2 NPS overall. The same research shows that close to 30% of small businesses are actively shopping around for a new accountant – and likely one that is online.
Planning for the future, not fixing the past
Leveraging Xero’s capability to provide real-time data, Claye Ventures is able to accelerate the client’s reporting process by tenfold. The means clients can plan and strategise for the future rather than get bogged down by outdated accounting data. Claye Ventures is also able to offer valuable advice in the areas of product pricing, business modelling and recommendations on incentive structures, helping their clients achieve greater profitability and growth.
“Xero has transformed the way we can work with our clients. By being on a cloud accounting platform that has an intuitive UI, they are able to pass us data, get their accounting done, communicate with us, and receive timely reports without leaving their seats,” explains Ong Shee Laine.
Future-proofing your accounting practice
By digitising the client accounting process, Claye Ventures was able to expand their scope of services beyond accounting and bookkeeping, to include strategic and high-value services such as advisory and business planning. They’ve also expanded into Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), leveraging Xero’s ecosystem of integrated apps to help clients streamline business operations and processes.
With this increased level of service and the ability to grow and scale with the business, clients stay with Claye Ventures for longer.
Being a modern accounting firm has opened up many new opportunities for Claye Ventures, including in attracting new talent.
“By anchoring our operations on the cloud, we are able to offer flexible-work arrangements such as enabling our staff to work from home. We’re also making it more exciting for the millennials who are excited about integrating technology into their everyday work. Our reputation for being digitally-ready helps us to attract younger talent and an exciting clientele, which in turn motivates our staff,” Ong Shee Laine tells us.
As a young firm, Claye Ventures is continuously adapting themselves for the future. Today, they are among the very few early accounting firms to bring the concept of ‘Virtual CFO’ to the local Malaysian market. By powering accounting services with insightful data and helping businesses transform digitally, Claye Ventures is determined on their mission to propel Malaysian SMEs to the next level.