Support, Sales, Consultancy, Marketing and Development. These are more than just departments at PKF Smith Cooper Systems – they are teams of people that have brought the company to where it is today.
Many of you may not have interacted with any of these departments or you may have interacted with them all! Either way, this series is intended to introduce you to the people behind the titles and give you insight into the people who make up Team PKF SCS.
Today, we’re hearing from Richard Brewster, our Technical Director.
Keep reading to find out more about Richard and how his PKF SCS journey began.
We have also featured a range of other team members, so to catch up on our past articles click here.
How did your journey with PKF SCS start?
I left school in 1990 as a 16 year old and was due to go to college to study graphic design. Realising I had no money to spend going out in Sheffield at the weekends, I decided to get a job instead. As I was good at maths, the careers office suggested accountancy. I went from working on a paper round one week, to a junior accountant the following week.
I’ve always had computers, so I found myself in the computer department learning Supercalc and Wordstar. At that time, Sage Sterling was the up and coming bookkeeping system, so I cut my teeth on this system while studying for my AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualification.
As the years progressed, I got involved with audit and accounts preparation, but also helped run the Sage Processing Bureau for the practice. Over the first 8 years, Sage progressed to Sage for Windows (SFW) as PCs moved from 286 to Pentiums!
When I left the practice, I had my AAT qualification, the experience in Audit and Accounts as a semi senior, and was on the green ladder of Sage.
For my next role of three years, I left Sage and worked for an Access Accounts dealer as a support manager for their team. Access was up and coming in this period, so it was definitely a baptism of fire as frequent releases meant we were busy. I missed Sage though, and when an opportunity came up to go back into practice I took it. The two take away points from this role are that I learnt a lot regarding sales from two of the best salespeople I’ve known – and I also met my wife!
By 2001, I was now working for a proper Sage Business Partner rather than a reseller. I was now introduced to Sage Line 100, as this was the focus of the business. This opened the door to much bigger businesses with more complexity and the prospect of development. Anyone who dealt with Line 100, updates and data updates (FDFDATAF anyone?) knows this is a massive leap from Sage Line 50. I wanted to progress and lead a team but there wasn’t an opportunity, so when a role came up at Smith Cooper in 2004 I took it.
When I joined Smith Cooper there was a team of 3 as they were in a transition mode, and were looking to ensure a continued level of service to their clients. We first worked on stabilising the client base, and then started to look to grow. I became Head of IT Business Solutions, and we steadily grew both the team and client base.
In 2014 I was looking to advance in Smith Cooper and at the same time, Chris Smith contacted me regarding a role at the Business Partner he was working for, to see if I wanted to join his company. In a role reversal, he liked my story and after a meeting Chris and I invested – Smith Cooper System Partners Limited was born.
While starting off as MD during the transition to Smith Cooper System Partners, my heart is in the technical side of Sage and finance – running a ship is great, but I really want to be working on the engine. At this point, I switched to a Technical Director role and Chris took the MD position.
With a fantastic team around me, it’s given me the freedom to focus on the technical aspects of the role. I now have a great mix of demos, consultancy, training, support and report writing.
I’m now specialising in Sage 200 with a focus on Manufacturing (Sicon), however, I do have a passion for report writing and PowerBI/SQL. Helping clients get access to data they couldn’t get to without convoluted data dumps or rekeying gives me a real sense of achievement.
With web-enabled Sage 200 around the corner and Sage Intacct gaining traction, there is plenty to keep me busy.
What are the biggest obstacles PKF Smith Cooper Systems has faced over the past few years and how did you direct the team to overcome them?
From a business perspective, there have definitely been challenges and growing pains. The success of the business coupled with the acquisitions we have made has significantly changed the way we work. We have tried to keep the business structure as flat as possible; by doing this and recruiting the right type of people, we’ve managed to remain the good Sage guys to deal with.
Covid has clearly been a challenge for everyone, but this has been good in one respect as it’s given us time to review our systems (like our phone system) and make sure that they are robust enough for our continued growth.
Where do you think accounting systems will be headed over the new few years? Are there any upcoming developments you’re personally excited about?
The introduction of a web enabled version of Sage 200 (which is my core product) is the change that I’m looking forward to. We are also seeing a lot of automation in businesses, from integrated banking to the automated posting of documents (purchase invoices, etc). While we have that technology now, it’s only going to get better in the Sage world.
What are the biggest successes that the company has achieved over the past few years?
If we are measuring success by reviewing the Sage UK leaderboard, then we have become a top 3 company and held that position for the last few years. With a number of good Sage Partners out there, this is quite an achievement!
In terms of client retention and building on the relationships we have with our base, we have increased it year on year and still have one of the highest retention rates in the channel.
We also have a great team; holding onto good people can be hard in these times so I’d count this as one of our biggest successes!
What do you enjoy most about working for PKF SCS?
Variety. As I’ve been in every division over my 32 years working with Sage, I can sit in most roles of the business. This means one day I may be doing a Manufacturing demo, the next a business intelligence report, the next Sicon training. No two days or clients are the same, so I can genuinely say I enjoy my job.
That is all for this time around, thank you very much for reading and a huge thank you to Richard for sparing the time to answer our questions!
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