Olly Evans trained as an accountant 25 years ago. At the time he found the profession slow and frustrating… he wanted to see more, do more. In the end he made the simple, but meaningful, decision to leave the profession and move into Management Consultancy. He loved fixing problems.
Fourteen years later, a more worldly Olly gave up the constant travelling to take over the family business in Bristol. He became a 3rd generation partner at Evans & Partners – a Xero platinum partner – an accountancy firm his father ran for 40 years. The scene was familiar, Olly recalls. “I instantly felt like nothing had changed in the industry.”
There was still lots of paper and dark rooms. I wanted this to change and felt as if this was my opportunity to do so.
“Our practice was very traditional before… we were predominantly doing accounts and tax returns. We needed to move on and develop as a business with new, younger clients, building a team around that new culture. I wanted the best people working with me.”
The environment was ruthless. “Bristol has a lot of firms – and big firms at that – which suck up the talent pool. There’s lots of competition for people and clients.”
But there was an opportunity for differentiation and a competitive advantage. Olly saw the opportunity and leapt. “Everything was about Sage. It was backwards-looking, taking care of compliance-based work. Small businesses were looking for better value for money and value-added services.”
When you can’t change the players, change the game
Xero changed everything. Watching a demo of Xero back in 2009, Olly realised it was a game-changer. “It was what I’d spent the last 12 years waiting for. What I was seeing time and time again, was that small business owners find themselves managing everything. From marketing, to customer experience, to finances. However, they soon realise they have to prioritise. Commonly the priority is placed on sales and marketing. Subsequently company finances get pushed to the bottom of the pile and outsourced. Originally, this was a bad thing, business owners had no control. Xero changed the game.”
“With our new business model in place, I had the opportunity to meet all sorts of different people, who ran all sorts of businesses. I was able to help them, to build relationships. I could provide more answers to problems. Small businesses often don’t have the time to take a breath.”
It was really exciting to help them discover how technology and a different way of working could benefit them.
The momentum seemed to build by itself. “A lot of it is word of mouth – people started coming to us asking to use Xero. We were finding, in no time at all, we were building much better relationships with our clients. So many people commented on how financial stuff just made them nervous, it was always a burden and worry. This was suddenly changing with the fact they could log on daily with their advisor.”
Bristol: the perfect backdrop for innovation
Olly thinks he owes some of his success story to it’s setting. “Bristol has the advantages and opportunities of any big city. It also has an intimate, friendly vibe which is perfect for any business owner. There is a flourishing community of advisors and mentors. It’s resulting in substantial growth in the tech and creative industries”
As a gateway to the South West, Olly finds that connectivity contributes to the opportunity. “I regularly meet up with other Xero advisors and discuss what’s working and what isn’t. I meet countless business owners who have set up in London initially, but have decided to improve their lifestyle and reduce costs by relocating to Bristol.”
The benefits are numerous. Bristol is cheaper than London. And the cost of living, demand for people and salaries are all good. There’s also a shorter commute for most, and lots of ways to spend the time saved. The city is a culture capital and recently added European Green City of the Year to a list of accolades. It couldn’t have happened for Olly the same way anywhere else.
Are you a Bristol-based business? Want to know more about Xero? Drop into the Apple Store, SouthGate SU39, Southgate Place, Bath, BA1 1AP at 8am on Tuesday 16 February to meet Olly and see how Xero works. Find out more