Shaan Stander possesses a rare combination of skills: a sharp entrepreneurial skill set, matched with a background in corporate auditing. He founded Accountrepreneur in 2018 after five years at Deloitte.
Over the last two years, he’s migrated a complex financial system from spreadsheets and word documents into Xero and Receipt Bank – saving clients thousands of rands in monthly tax payments in the process.
What’s more, his use of technology meant that even during lockdown, he could grow his client-base by 30% through word-of-mouth marketing.
Here’s Shaan’s story.
Founding the Accountrepreneur
I was raised in an entrepreneurial household. My parents were business-owners, so we’d spend our school holidays meeting the managers of wholesale car dealerships – sitting in the same room as deals were put on the table.
I’d look for anything I could buy and sell. I’d go to auctions early and buy the first three rows of chickens, then sell them later in the day when they went for a premium.
Years later at university, I made some cash on the side by buying and selling bicycle parts. When I needed a new gas heater, I bought forty from the auction house and made more than double the money.
It paid for holidays and hobbies here and there, but it wasn’t enough to sustain a household.
Working hard isn’t the same as working smart
When I started to think about my career, I wanted to become a chartered accountant for stability. In South Africa, you know that you have a job for life and a skillset that’s sought after.
It took me several years to qualify. When I started as a trainee at one of the Big Four, I was always looking for the most efficient way to do things. It was called laziness until I gained more seniority. Then after three years in management, my ability to think on my feet and improvise became more valued.
I knew that the accounting industry was moving rapidly. And while I didn’t see myself as an accountant – I saw myself as an entrepreneur with a CA background – I wanted to combine the two.
We were expecting our first child when I saw a sign by the roadside: Wastepreneurs. My wife and I looked at each other and immediately knew what the business would be called.
And so The Accountrepreneur was born.
Burning the midnight oil
I started building my business alongside full-time work. Every month, I pushed back leaving one of the Big Four a little more. The reality is always scarier than the idea. Then I realised that if I kept doing this, I’d be working for the rest of my life. The longer you stay, the more comfortable you are.
At the start of The Accountreprenuer, it was exceptionally hard work. I now wear every single hat – from being an owner to selling and serving clients.
In the first few months, I focused on sales but had to put plasters over my structures and processes. I spent nights with my wife reviewing and publishing receipts through Receipt Bank until 2am.
Pre-investing in people and technology
I then realised that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I first employed one person but when I had to employ another, I took a chance and employed two. Recruitment was a pre-investment to scale the business and make sure we could grow our client-base without stretching resources.
A good friend (Adriaan Basson, Wingman Accounting) introduced me to Receipt Bank. Coming from a corporate environment where everything is a secret, Adriaan showed me exactly what processes and technology he used to run his practice.
Receipt Bank is a hit to your cash flow at the beginning, but the amount of time and effort you save is incredible. My firm is now four to five times bigger than other firms because of the efficiency and time saved.
Using Receipt Bank to sell
Now, Receipt Bank is the way I sell my business. Everyone wants to save time and money, so I focus on that.
It’s about telling clients that they no longer need to worry about shoeboxes of slips; they can forward invoices over email addresses. If you’re loading 200-300 slips a week, you can set rules for suppliers. And instead of going to individual bank accounts and copying line items manually, we can download reports from Receipt Bank automatically. It takes two seconds.
If you’re an entrepreneurial business, you never have enough time to do everything. I like to ask people, ‘What do you charge your clients per hour?’
If you spend two hours every day on admin, reconciliation and chasing paperwork, multiply that by your hourly fee then by the days of the week, month and year. How much revenue are you losing? And how many clients are you potentially losing? You could save this time with Receipt Bank and technology at your fingertips.
For me, Receipt Bank has also helped me spend more time with my family and seven-month-old daughter. I can spend five more minutes with her before I go back to work, and work on my business rather than in it.
Increasing tax savings by 15%
One of my clients owns a nutritional cafe with several suppliers and hundreds of invoices to keep track of each month. At the end of the second round of VAT submissions, I couldn’t claim for her VAT simply because I didn’t have the documents. My client agreed to take photos of all of her slips in the next couple of days.
We were then able to reduce her VAT liability from 80K to 18K in that period. She now captures invoices and slips on a daily basis! For another of our clients in the food sector, Receipt Bank means we can save 15% on their VAT bill, accounting for around 40,000 rand per month.
The transition to remote working
Lockdown forced us into a 2050 environment in 2020. It pushed us out of our comfort zone, and we are probably two years ahead of where we would have been.
We’ve been blessed as a virtual-first business. We can work with our clients as usual – the only thing that’s changed is no more chats about business over coffee.
Many of our clients’ friends and family members are struggling to get paperwork to their accountant and complete their taxes on time. People are now really seeing the real-life value of cloud technology. In fact, we actually signed up nine new clients through lockdown.
We took on a company with two owners that annually turned over a multi-million rand revenue. Their processes were in complete shambles. After a three-day handover with their financial manager, we realised that they were tracking invoices across tabs in spreadsheets and word documents, manually copying and pasting information.
They were hesitant to change, having said that their financial manager had tried for years with no success. In the space of a year, we migrated their entire business into Xero and Receipt Bank. There’s now no spreadsheet in sight, and they’re one of the most efficient businesses we look after. Over the last year, their revenue has also increased by a few million.
Likewise, one of my first clients was a plumbing company who submitted between 100-200 slips a week. Using Receipt Bank to process these automatically saved an astronomical amount of time. We knew that they were great at making money, yet they didn’t know where it was going. Once we kept track of their outgoings, we realised they were spending 6,000 rand every month in drinks and snacks. They just never knew. Receipt Bank provided that visibility.
Uplift the businesses around you, and the whole community stands taller
That’s the biggest role of an accountant: uplift the businesses around you, and the whole community stands taller. I don’t think we can be normal accountants anymore with the amount of automation out there. There are so many people with exceptional ideas and business skills. They often just don’t know how to package it effectively or take it to market while staying on top of their taxes. Ultimately, we’re advisors to their growth and survival.
Find out about how Receipt Bank can help you grow your business and make life easier for your clients today.