Arden Bookkeeping Focused on Relationships During the Pandemic… and it Paid Off!

Arden bookkeeping attributes their lockdown successes to building and maintaining their small business relationships in a small business interview for YBKBS Small Business News for Smart Business Owners
Arden attributes their lockdown successes to building and maintaining relationships

Last week, the government announced its plans for easing lockdown and bringing the UK back to some semblance of normal life over the next few months. This was undoubtedly tremendously welcome news to many. While there are flaws in the plans and many issues still to be ironed out, we’re a bit fed up with the mainstream media’s constant doom and gloom.

Small businesses make up around 40% of the UK’s economy, and many of us have received no financial support whatsoever over the last year.

But small business owners are an innovative, creative, and tenacious bunch. We’ve heard from numerous businesses about the ways they’re rising to the challenge and adapting to survive and thrive. For that reason, we wanted to bring you some positive and uplifting small business stories to inspire you as we start to consider life beyond COVID-19.

It was originally supposed to just be a couple of days a week from home, to bring some money in. But it spiralled!

This week, I chatted with Claire Bartlett. Claire is the Director of Arden Bookkeeping, a small accountancy and bookkeeping firm based in Solihull in the West Midlands. Claire has over 15 years of experience in the accounting industry, and founded Arden in 2015 after her daughter was born. 

“It was originally supposed to just be a couple of days a week from home, to bring some money in. But it spiralled!” she says. Arden now consists of a team of four, with recruitment planned for a fifth role. The company’s niche is cloud-based accounting, focusing on software and automation solutions to improve and streamline bookkeeping systems. 

Like thousands of companies across the UK and the world, the Arden team were thrust into home-based working in March 2020. Fortunately, Claire explains, their office space was leased on a month-to-month rolling contract, so they were able to avoid ongoing overheads for an office they couldn’t use. 

Despite the disruption, Arden has continued to thrive over the last year. 

“A lot of business owners have had much more time on their hands, which has led them to review their processes,” says Claire. She also said that more and more companies are realising that outsourcing their accounting is much more cost-effective than bringing in a full-time employee. These process changes and cost-saving measures have had a direct impact on Arden’s uptick in business since the start of the pandemic.

Putting the Heart Back into Business

But much more importantly, Arden focused on providing support and stellar customer service to their clients. “We’ve had clients crying on the phone to us,” she says, “so we’ve tried to be a shoulder to cry on and a support system. Someone to vent to, who can reassure them that they’re going to be okay, has been so important this year.” Amazingly, not a single one of Arden’s clients have gone out of business as a result of the pandemic. 

The Arden team proactively reached out to their clients at the beginning of the pandemic to offer support. They made it their mission to stay on top of the rapidly-changing COVID rules and their implications for business, and to act as a one-stop shop for their clients to get current and relevant information. 

Not a single one of Arden’s clients have gone out of business as a result of the pandemic

Claire Bartlett, Director of Arden Bookkeeping

Until December 2020, Arden did not charge their clients any extra fees for assisting with issues related to the furlough scheme. “In my opinion, we were all going to be hit by the pandemic,” Claire says. “So if we all just shouldered a bit of that hit, then we’d all survive. Many of our clients, such as hairdressers, haven’t been able to trade all year. I didn’t feel right about cashing in at a time when they were at their worst.”

Arden believes in caring about clients’ businesses as much as they care about their own. And this decision to help out and focus on adding value has paid off. 

“I was terrified when the pandemic started last March,” Claire admits. “People think of us as a luxury for their business, so I was nervous that clients would cut us as a cost-saving measure. But because we went out of our way to show our value to them, that didn’t happen.” 

It was not all plain sailing, of course. Claire says that there were many late nights at work and weeks where she barely slept. “But burying my head in the sand wouldn’t help anyone else!” she adds.

Future Plans

The Arden team plans to continue the growth and progression they’ve seen as we come out of lockdown. Claire believes that word-of-mouth referrals from happy clients will help them continue to grow and to retain loyal customers. 

Arden Bookkeeping logo

Eventually, they plan to go back to a physical office. However, everyone in the team has young children and has been juggling homeschooling alongside work, so going back to the office will wait until schools are back open. “I think having an office space is so important for morale and team-building. Even just being able to chat over a brew on a Monday morning makes a big difference!” says Claire. 

She also says that transitioning to remote work has emphasised the tremendous value of cloud accounting. As an entirely online system, it meant that the Arden team were able to continue supporting clients almost seamlessly from home. 

Claire believes that the pandemic will permanently change the way we work in some ways. In particular, she thinks that Arden will do fewer face-to-face client meetings going forward, now that video conferencing has become so ubiquitous.

Advice

I asked Claire what advice she’d give to small business owners, either those who are new to the business world or simply just trying to rebuild post-lockdown. 

“Understand your cash flow!” she said. “Make sure you understand it and you’re on top of it. Many smaller businesses and sole traders, in particular, neglect to do so. But cash flow can be the difference between surviving and not in times like this.”

Her second piece of advice is to check your processes and make sure they are working for you, if you haven’t already done so. 

Amen to that! 

Do you have a small business success story from the COVID-19 era? Drop us a line if so – we’d love to talk to you.

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