Case Study

Cypher Helps Wallers Estate Agents Get the Keys to Business Growth

Cypher Helps Wallers Estate Agents Get the Keys to Business Growth 150 150 Cypher

Cypher Helps Wallers Estate Agents Get the Keys to Business Growth

Set up by owner Rowan Waller in 2014 as the antidote to a ‘typical’ Estate Agent, Wallers is an award winning, independent, Estate Agency based in Oxford and Swindon.

Whether buying or selling, letting or renting a house, flat, house-boat or commercial property, Wallers treat customers as individuals and offer a unique, tailored service that has built them a strong regional reputation.

“When people ask me how we are different, I have to wonder how to answer that! We have access to the same tech as everyone else, we have a high street shop, but then so do the majority of our competitors… however what sets us apart, I think, is the way that we choose to use those tools, the level of service we offer, the people we employ and the attitude we bring to our work”, explains Founder and Director, Rowan Waller.

With a passion for customer service, a commitment to being a force for good in the local community and an early adopter of PropTech, it was no surprise that Rowan chose Cypher to be the accountancy firm for his business.

“I met Matt at a networking group a week after I opened and he has since been a godsend to me. Yes he does my accounts, but he is more than just my accountant. He is a friend, an adviser, a professional who clearly knows his business and has been generous with his time to go out of his way to learn mine. The way he bills me monthly and is available at all times has been a massive help over the years”, says Rowan.

What started as a one-man-in-his-bedroom operation has grown to a multi-office business, with plans for further expansion. This is in stark contrast to the real prospect of closure that Wallers faced just 12 months ago. After a turbulent 2019, caused by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, cashflow had reached a critical point just as the Covid pandemic hit.

“In 2019 we barely held on by the skin of our teeth, but always felt that there was light at the end of the tunnel if we could just get over the Brexit hump – and this is coming from a blue-hat-with-gold-stars-wearing, trumpet-blowing European”, Rowan admits. “Sure enough, enter January 2020 and after that last general election result, the property market exploded into life for us.

“In the first two months of trading in 2020 we agreed half the number of deals we had during the whole of 2019 and had built an extremely strong pipeline, but then the first lockdown hit. In-person viewings and valuations were prohibited and transactions were stopped before any of that income had come through. We were in limbo”.

It was during this time that Cypher’s proactive approach was most valuable. Regular briefings, self-made videos and frequent client ‘lifeboat calls’ designed to ensure that each business owner knew their options, understood the support that was on offer and that made the Cypher team available played a massive role in helping businesses to consolidate, access funding and re-open as soon as possible, many with a slightly different proposition to reflect their version of the new normal.

“In the early stages of lockdown, Matt was proactive, he was available and worked with a WhatsApp group of more than 100 business owners to show that if we all rowed the same way, we could all come out of lockdown with stronger businesses.”

With in-person viewings still a barrier, Wallers strengthened their position using video technology. An early adopter of virtual tour technology Wallers extended this to offering video viewings on empty properties. While nobody buys a house they haven’t seen in person Wallers found that this wasn’t the case for the rental market.

“We agreed 10 lets during lockdown without conducting a single in person viewing, which along with a local authority grant, allowed us to tick over until we re-opened in May”, says Rowan.

“When we came out of lockdown I still didn’t know which way the wind would blow, but we agreed a sale on the first day, and then a second on day two and things began to snowball from there. We still had our paused pipeline of deals, which started to move at last. In fact, 2020 saw us grow by 33%, compared to 2019 in terms of revenue, despite not earning any sales fees for the two months of the first lockdown. Not just that, but our profits grew by over 300%!”.

“For me to become the business person I am today I needed three people in my life. Matt was one of them, my wife is another. That is how important Matt is to me. He was one of the people who helped remind me that the possibility to open 10 or 11 offices, which started when I was just one man in my bedroom in 2014, was still there for me.

“When I started out this wasn’t on my agenda, I was looking to be agile, deliver good customer service and make some money for myself, but Matt has shown me possibilities I had never imagined.

One year on, Rowan is considering expanding and with Cypher’s support getting the keys to some new office locations soon. House prices are expected to rise during 2021 and with the Chancellor announcing an extension on the stamp duty holiday on the first £500,000 of all house purchases until the end of June, Wallers is hoping its early year success will continue.

If you would like us to help your business as we did Wallers, get in touch.

Cypher Helps Rowood Open Doors to a Fireproof Plan!

Cypher Helps Rowood Open Doors to a Fireproof Plan! 150 150 Cypher

Cypher Helps Rowood Open Doors to a Fireproof Plan!

With more than twenty-five years’ experience, Rowood Handmade Kitchens and Joinery Ltd has become one of Oxfordshire’s premier specialist carpentry and joinery companies, delivering handmade, quality joinery that is guaranteed for life for both residential and commercial properties.

From their purpose built HQ in Brize Norton, MD Nick Rowland, and his team design, create, deliver and install anything from individually designed doors and windows to kitchens, bathrooms, dining rooms or bedroom furniture to drive gates from scratch, all from sustainable timber.

With such an eye for style, precision and reassurance, it was no surprise that Nick chose Cypher to be the accountancy firm for his business.

“It was all about Matt Williams”, Nick explains. “It didn’t matter about the name above the door, I wanted to work with Matt. He is a problem solver, he has a can do attitude. He has earned the respect of a lot of people for the way he approaches things and so it was an easy choice.”

Rowood, has built a solid reputation for delivering on time and to a quality few can match and boasts an impressive client list that includes Blenheim Palace.

Business was good, but Nick had spotted a gap in the market and wanted to fill it – literally, with bespoke, handmade fire doors.

He explains, “You can buy commercial fire doors anywhere, but for many of the businesses and period properties we work with there is no uniform size, no straight lines, so getting a door off the shelf to fit is impossible. We take that pain away by offering a bespoke service, and make the doors to fit.”

At the start of 2020, Nick had plans in place, test products made, testing complete. He was ready to open the Oxford Fire Door Company. Then lockdown hit and the doors were well and truly slammed shut. But with the support of Cypher Nick was able to open the new company and create another chapter for his quality handcrafted furniture.

Says Nick, “We had everything ready, but we had sat on the idea. We spoke to Matt and he helped convince us that we could go to market. We spent the first part of lockdown getting ready, testing more products, getting some photography done, so when the world was ready, so were we.

“Despite having 25 years in business, a year ago we panicked; we didn’t know what was going to happen a lot of us didn’t. It was Matt that guided us through, he opened the doors, helped us create this new start up. He helped us consolidate with the other businesses and helped protect our existing assets and it is already doing really well.”

One year on, Nick is considering expanding and utilising more space in the Rowood’s HQ building with the support from Cypher as solid and tailored as one of Nick’s own designs.

If you would like us to help your business as we did Rowood’s HQ, get in touch.

Clarity and Little Cunning Makes Cypher Right for AJ Fox

Clarity and Little Cunning Makes Cypher Right for AJ Fox 150 150 Cypher

Case Study: Clarity and Little Cunning Makes Cypher Right for AJ Fox

From its London base, AJ Fox Compliance is a unique recruitment firm in that its specific focus is on law firm risk and compliance recruitment.

Unlike other recruitment agencies that include this niche function as part of a wider portfolio, this is a specialism for AJ Fox, led by owner-director Adam Spencer, who provide this service to law firms building teams across the UK, APAC and the US.

Compared to more traditional legal functions, law firm risk and compliance is a relatively new but dynamic role with law firms building this support function in many different ways. It is one that qualified lawyer Adam understands very well.

Now in its second year of trading, Adam created the business with a vision to offer exceptional client support, often being prepared to offer service over and above what was contracted in order to provide a positive experience and a greater impact for clients.

As a start up in a competitive industry, Adam needed an accountant that would not only support his new venture, but also guide him and importantly be available when he needed them. Cypher was the obvious choice.

“Matt impressed me”, says Adam, “I liked his down to earth approach, the way he was embracing technology and the fixed cost monthly fee suited me, but overall it was his approach to client engagement. I didn’t understand how more traditional accountants created a mystical number for fees and you didn’t really know what you were going to get.”

Later, during the first lockdown, when the fledgling recruitment business could have suffered severely, Cypher created a ‘lifeboat service’ to engage with all clients to ensure they were ok, knew what support was on offer and that ultimately the team at Cypher were available.

Says Adam, “I have friends that are accountants, and those that use accountants to support their business, all of them were saying the same thing; their more traditional firms all felt that the videos, the WhatsApp groups and the continued support was too informal. For me it was just what was needed. I shared a lot of the content that Matt put out to help other businesses.”

This month is the deadline for self-assessed personal tax payments, just one area that Cypher helped Adam with.

“My partner and I wanted to buy a house, so Matt helped with our self-assessment, but his approach to offering other services was also refreshing. As a start-up, to preserve my cash flow he encouraged me to file my first VAT returns. It was a really beneficial and actually taught me a lot! I did a couple and now Cypher does them.”

“When I started I was a little green to business. But even now, Cypher is more than an accountant. If I have a business question, generally I go to Matt first. They are more of a business adviser. When we wanted to grow, he talked me through my risk appetite and introduced me to various funding sources.”

Since opening his doors in 2019, Adam has added two more specialist recruiters to the business and with the continued support of Cypher is looking forward to further growth, despite challenging business conditions.

“It’s the clarity of message, the transparency. You know what you are getting each month, and if you need something, you book a slot and you get the support you need”

If you would like us to help your business as we did AJ Fox, get in touch.

On-line Chat Function Melu Wanted an Account that Offered a Human Touch

On-line Chat Function Melu Wanted an Account that Offered a Human Touch 150 150 Cypher

Case Study: On-line Chat Function Melu Wanted an Account that Offered a Human Touch

Web developer-turned-entrepreneur Lee Rennie created Melu (pronounced Mee-Loo), in 2018 when he saw a gap in the market for human-led web chat.

Background

Melu provides a managed on-line chat function that combines the latest AI tools and machine-based learning with human operators. This provides clients this cutting edge tech and a real human interface. This interaction with humans, through which Melu clients offer higher levels of customer service, is what sets Melu apart in this sector.

To support his venture, Lee needed an accountant that would understand his tech-based business, offer support to a start-up and have the ability to scale in order to match his ambitious international growth plans. By combining Xero technology with years of accounting experience, Cypher fit the bill.

Lee explains “Having a chat function on your web site is proven to generate more leads. In a world of tech, AI and machine learning, we use a real person, which helps a client’s prospects to understand what they offer and provides them with a better customer experience.”

Adding, “As a start-up business, this was essentially the sort of support we needed from our accountant.”

The Problem

“Our original accountant wasn’t that progressive,” explains Lee. “As a start up, we needed a plan and regular access to our numbers. Matt understands our business, he gets it and that is really important to us.”

“We want to be market disrupters but have found that in the UK at least the market hasn’t actually caught up with us yet. So as well as growth here, we are looking at some quite ambitious investment and growth plans in the US through contacts we already have. We see this as a viable route but will need the scalable support and specific knowledge to get there.”

The Solution

As Melu’s accountants, Cypher took time to understand the business and has been able to offer this tech company access to and advice on financial support like R&D tax credits.

As well as regular updates on business performance and cash flow Cypher has even provided Melu with a personalised Slack channel to provide them with instant access to the team and enable them to receive immediate answers to their financial questions.

As a Xero-based accountancy, Cypher also has the ability to scale in direct synergy with Melu’s growth plans.

The Results

Melu’s current offer of a human-led chat function is available Monday to Friday 8.00am – 10.00pm and has recently expanded to include weekends. In addition they are in the process of recruiting a sales force to boost business growth and have big plans for expansion overseas.

“We had a previous relationship with Matt, he understands our business and that is important. Our aspiration is to go global and in terms of scalability, with the tech and business model Cypher has, I see no reason why they would ever be a barrier to this growth. We are confident that Cypher can handle big business growth and the tax implications this brings”, says Lee.

“There are two directors at this firm, me and my wife. During lockdown she has had to provide a lot more childcare so couldn’t work as much. Cypher suggested we look at furloughing her, which we hadn’t even thought of. It has meant she has saved the business money and been able to parent more.”

Our original accountant wasn’t that progressive,” explains Lee. “As a start up, we needed a plan and regular access to our numbers. Matt understands our business, he gets it and that is really important to us.”

If you would like us to help your business as we did Melu, get in touch.

The Chequers Pub Chooses Cypher for its Great Customer Service

The Chequers Pub Chooses Cypher for its Great Customer Service 150 150 Cypher

Case Study: The Chequers Pub Chooses Cypher for its Great Customer Service

Patron Chef, Steve Sanderson has been running the Chequers at Burcott (thechequers-burcot.co.uk/) for more than 14 years. As a classically trained chef-cum-pub landlord, he is acutely aware of the need for high quality products, supported by exceptional customer service.

So, when seeking an accountant, he settled on a business that mirrored his own values and that measured itself on high levels of customer service.

“If you have a bad meal, but get good service, the customer is much more likely to come back than if they had a decent meal but received poor service”, explains Steve.

The Chequers at Burcot has nine rooms and on a busy Sunday can easily serve more than 150 covers. Despite this and a popular food offering based on good quality sharing plates, the business comes with a level of complexity and perceived risk that would put off many accountants.

Problem

There are perhaps fewer businesses that come with the same complexity, receive the levels of scrutiny or carry the same risk as restaurants, pubs, hotels and bars. The volumes of transactions and cash nature can mean record keeping is very hard work. The complex nature of fluctuating demand, new trends, supply chains and varying costs, generally mean that tight budgeting and accurate income and expenditure forecasting is essential. Added to this cash flow problems can arise very quickly and if unchecked, do escalate and can destroy restaurants and pub businesses quickly.

In addition, prior to the Coronavirus epidemic, the Chequers at Burcot was enjoying record profits, but with the imposed lockdown faced a very uncertain future.

Solution

Steve wanted to work with an accountant he trusted, someone he got on with, but also someone that understood the hospitality sector and the unique pressures of running a Gastropub.

Prior to lockdown, Cypher offered Steve weekly meetings that included budget reviews and quarterly cash flow forecasts and models for the period ahead to provide Steve with the information, guidance and peace of mind he needed to ensure The Chequers paid suppliers, while remaining profitable and on track.

During lockdown and the enforced temporary closure of the pub, Cypher has also been instrumental in securing separate business loans to provide Steve with the necessary funds to meet his rent commitments and keep the business going. With rents owed quarterly in advance, this was a position that put many other tenants at high risk.

“Having access to that level of funds just gives us the confidence that we can re-open and be in a good shape”, explains Steve, adding “Having something to fall back on has really helped.”

Result

As lockdown eased, The Chequers made plans to reopen in July 2020. With the UK economic climate remaining far from certain Steve takes confidence at least in his support structure.

“We almost have a blank canvas going forward. We are in a position of strength; we can follow trends, anticipate customer’s requirements and continue with our ethos of serving really good food and offering really good customer service”.

“Having access to that level of funds just gives us the confidence that we can re-open and be in a good shape”, explains Steve, adding “Having something to fall back on has really helped.”

There are few sectors that come with the same complexity, receive the levels of scrutiny or carry the same risk as restaurants, pubs, hotels and bars. The volumes of transactions and cash nature can mean record keeping is very hard work. The complex nature of fluctuating demand, new trends, supply chains and varying costs, generally mean that tight budgeting and accurate income and expenditure forecasting is essential.

If you would like us to help your business as we did The Chequers, get in touch.