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Case Study:

Streamlining your business doesn't have to involve complex technology. As one managing director explains, with basic software and a bit of know-how you can build systems that will take your business into the future.

You don't need complex and costly-software to make a success of your business. Steven Allcock, managing director of Blue 10, a five-person new media headhunter and management consultancy, has used Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office to build his own systems, which he reckons are better than more glamorous packages with fancy price tags.

Allcock believes in simplicity. "I've tried to make all our procedures as simple and easy to use as possible." he says. I must have been approached by a dozen companies selling specialist recruitment software, but every time, the Excel and Word setup we've already got has been better and cheaper. There's been no business case for purpose-built software." Allcock also rejected accounting software packages, preferring to build Blue 10s financial ledgers himself using Excel. He has a ledger for expenses, assets and overheads, one for cash and sales, plus ledgers for VAT and PAYE. "From these I can pull off everything a limited company needs to report on." he says. “I’ve made it so simple that it takes away all the labour-intensive work. The spreadsheet prompts me for information and this pops up wherever it's needed. Everything is in full view and I can see everything move."

This enables Allcock to fulfill his twin roles as managing director: keeping the company stable and profitable, and identifying opportunities for growth. The linchpin is a simple spreadsheet report highlighting four figures: inputs and outputs for the last 30 days, and liabilities and expected credits for the next 30. "These are the key numbers my sales director and I need,'' says Allcock. "They make our real financial position tangible." With plenty of experience in both running a business and using Excel, Allcock was able to set up his financial systems in a week. He took advice from business contacts, and from his accountant and tax advisor who were both impressed with the results. He also built in some double-checks to ensure figures are entered accurately, and if he does make a mistake this can be found and corrected in a few minutes.

Using the system takes just half an hour a day, so Allcock docs not need a separate accounts person (which he would if the accounts were on paper). He takes daily back-up copies of all data on a CD, and once a week takes this home in case of catastrophe. "If our office burned down, I could walk into a shop, buy a new PC, and have the company fully operational within hours." he says.


1. Why does Steven Allcock use Excel and Word for his financial systems?


a) He doesn't know how to use purpose-built financial programmes.

b) He thinks they are more glamorous than other accounting programmes.

c) They are more cost-effective than specially-designed programmes.


2. Who designed the accounting systems at Blue 10?


a) The company's accountant.

b) Steven Allcock.

c) Steven's tax advisor.


3. How many major roles does Steven play as Managing Director?


a) Two b) Four c) Three


4. What is the most important financial information Steven needs to have?


a) The level of stability and profitability in the company.

b) Money coming in and out for the last and next month.

c) The amount of credit the company expects in the next 30 days.


5. Why doesn't Steven need an accounts person?


a) It takes very little time to use the Excel system.

b) He dislikes putting everything on paper.

c) The company cannot afford an accounts person.


6. Steven Allcock takes his back-up CD home each week:


a) because he wants to double-check the figures.

b) to show the figures to his accountant and tax advisor.

c) because he might lose the information from the office.




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