Sign that changes at accountancy firm are adding up

Garbutt + Elliott was established in York more than 150 years ago, but the urge to remain relevant and up-to-date is as important as ever.

Plans to revamp its website resulted in changing the accountancy firm’s branding, which included ditching the old-fashioned ampersand for the plus sign.

“We asked ourselves ‘do we need to look at our branding and make it fresh and modern?’,” said managing partner Russell Turner. “We have put the plus sign in to start connecting us together.”

“It’s difficult in the written word to get the personality of the firm across.

“One of the things that we have been working on really hard is talking about the ethos of Garbutt + Elliott and what we stand for as people and how we deliver excellent client service.

“We thought this is a great opportunity to get across that we are a group of really good people who want to help their clients, that’s where it comes from.”

The changes to the branding reflect a two-year programme internally to shift the culture of the firm and respond better to client expectations post-recession.

“The recession has been difficult for most businesses and coming out of it most people are asking for a service and wanting to do more for less,” he said. “They want support, sometimes in matters they don’t even know they need help with.

“We have always traditionally had lots of technical training but I also introduced personal development. We have put 25 people through management development programmes and everyone has gone through a soft skills programme, a bespoke programme by York University – 11 days over 12 months about how they can communicate better and actively listen. That’s really ingrained in our culture now.

“We employ intelligent people, let’s bring the best out of them.”

The focus on those soft skills are designed to deepen relationships with clients, and ultimately increase revenues for the firm.

“We highlight when we pitch for work we want a long-term relationship that’s the only way I will make money from the relationship because it is the more I know you, the more I can help you,” he said.

The recession was not just a difficult time for Garbutt + Elliott’s clients, but also for the firm itself. Mr Turner, who became managing partner in July 2008, was launched straight in to the challenges it created, requiring the firm to realign its services to what was required.

He said: “For most accounting professionals, the recession was a tough period. It hit our corporate finance and our specialists, and we have a large number of specialist providers, particularly in tax. When business slows down they don’t use those services as much.

“Over the last year, our corporate finance has been the busiest it’s ever been and our specialist services are in demand again. This year has grown 6% on the previous year and we are going to push hard next to try and get double-digit growth.

“Confidence in the marketplace is higher than it has been since 2007. Companies are looking to do things and deal values are rising.”

The recession has changed the way clients behave, he says, and what they expect from their advisors. But that shift creates opportunities for a firm that is seeking “one or two acquisitions” to add to its organic growth.

“Those businesses that have survived the recession are much more focused on value for money and it’s still a challenge to provide that. We are up for that challenge,” he added.

“Accountants tend to focus on the features not the benefits. At Garbutt + Elliott we are working hard to portray the benefits.

“I strongly believe that the business model I am trying to promote is the right way. We spend a lot of time focusing on the culture and wanting to do the best for the client.

“My vision is to create a culture where our clients do our marketing for us because they tell everyone Garbutt + Elliott is great.

“The reality is it is ultimately about the bottom line and growing the business, but for me it’s fundamental that we deliver the service that people value. The bottom line follows on from that.”