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Sidekick’s Ric Thorpe catches up with business partner and Sidekick Rangiora director Jason Stapley at a Rangiora café.

Digital connectivity drives business expansion

The power of digital connectivity has allowed Canterbury business Sidekick Chartered Accountants to expand across the Canterbury region and into Marlborough and Otago.

After establishing its first office in Christchurch eleven years ago, Sidekick has set up locally owned branches in Blenheim, Rangiora, Timaru, Ashburton, Wanaka and Queenstown.  It has further extended its reach by operating a licensee model in Auckland and London.

Advances in technology allow Sidekick’s advisors to operate wherever they can connect to the internet and this provides immense benefits for both the team and clients, says Sidekick’s Ric Thorpe.

“Connectivity allows us to do so much more as advisors and to provide real time advice. For example, just a simple change of doing a budget for a client using Google Sheets versus Excel is much more efficient because we can both work on the same spreadsheet in real time, instead of looking at two files.

“It’s like being in the room together with the client, even if we’re not physically in the same place. This provides flexibility for clients as they can schedule meetings whenever it suits them, and can connect with us from any location with an internet connection.”

Working with Xero, a cloud-based accounting platform, gives Sidekick’s advisors the ability to help clients from their laptops or mobile phones, no matter where they are. Sidekick’s business tools are all accessible online, which means advisors can take their office with them whenever they visit clients.

People say their truck is their office, and there’s no reason why that can’t be the case for the accounting world, according to Ric.

“Our rural advisor’s office, that’s literally his truck, which means we can take work that used to be done in an office out to where the client is. This provides our rural clients with a professional service which comes to them, rather than the client having to visit one of our offices.”

Advisors can share files and ideas, view computer screens remotely, and draft-in other advisors from other sites when more expertise is needed.

“Although we pride ourselves on our local owner operators, we’re not simply a series of smaller, regional offices. Technology means we all have access to a hive of expertise, so there are no geographic limits which translates into top-class advice and cheaper accountancy bills.”

Ric says the accounting landscape is changing rapidly and people expect a more personal level of service with increased contact and communication. He believes relationships are the key for a successful business and that these can be enhanced via technology.

“We’re a bit different to the traditional image of an accountant because we’re proactive and like to offer much more than just the standard offering to our clients. Unlimited phone support is provided as a free service and we’re really focused on helping clients grow their businesses.

“The days of just seeing your accountant once a year to do your returns should be gone. Modern businesses expect much more than that and it’s up to us to cater to this growing demand with a personalised service that’s driven by clients’ needs.”

Sidekick uses web-based add-ons, including WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Slack and Hubspot to provide real-time and inobtrusive contact between its advisors and offices. Ric says this helps with business efficiency and gives staff more time to grow their local business.

“Meeting with clients is a key part of our business, and so is working quickly and efficiently for them. If we do this well, we can be really proactive.”

The expansion and upgrade of Canterbury’s broadband network has opened many new avenues for businesses looking to improve and expand. Ric says Sidekick will continue to leverage advances in technology, while striving for lower costs and improve efficiency for clients in order to grow its business throughout regional areas of the South Island.

“Technology is enabling our growth and we want to keep diving into it. We’re focused on helping our clients succeed and will continue to provide new services which help their businesses grow.”

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