Providing Whitelaw Weber with a system like second nature

4 min read
25/05/2023 7:28:09 PM

Whitelaw Weber is a New Zealand Chartered Accounting firm specialised in working with local and agri businesses since 1953.

Today the team of 23 at Whitelaw Weber has offices right across the top of the North Island, from Kerkeri to Kaitaia and Kaikohe. 

With more than 20 years under her belt at Whitelaw Weber, Cradle spoke with Operations Manager, Kerrin Paget. 


A juggling act

The team at Whitelaw Weber has a particular interest in farming, horticulture, tourism & construction industries. We’re a pretty typical rural accounting firm - around 20 - 25% of clients are farming clients. The rest are a broad spectrum of tourism, construction, small business and investments. 

As Operations Manager, I’m responsible for the day-to-day management of the practice. I drive the implementation of new processes, procedures, software & IT technology. 

Whether I’m working in one of our offices or from home, I’m often found juggling three things at once. Our time with clients is always jam-packed; from day-to-day accounting work, special work or business advisory to take our clients to the next level. 

But juggling three things at once soon became six, and after a lot of our team taking up remote work across the Far North, I realised our systems weren’t streamlined to optimise our time with clients. 

Growing business, lagging systems 

When it comes to using a system that suits our type of work, one thing is crucial; the accuracy of data being reliable

We look after around 1300 family groups, and that group might have a company, a trust, and a partnership together. By now you might get the picture that although the Whitelaw Weber may be a small team, it is a pretty sizeable practice.

On top of that, our team has to be incredibly meticulous with the information and data we’re working with. Our clients expect us to know about their businesses and identify income and expenditure correctly regardless of their individual business type. 

That’s why I think the customer service we provide at Whitelaw Weber sets us apart from other accounting firms; we know our clients. Sometimes we’re only dealing with clients once or twice a year when we do annual accounts, or sometimes it’s on a daily basis. Regardless of that, they expect us to know what we’re talking about and asking the same question twice is something we try very hard to avoid.

To do this and be efficient we needed a communication system that worked with us. And up until a few months ago, things weren’t working quite to the pace we needed. The more places we had to update data, the higher the chance of errors and discrepancies between our various software systems

We had an old PBX system. It served as the backbone of our business.. And for a long time was pretty reliable. But last year it became a bit of a roadblock to our efficiency and productivity. The call quality was diminishing, there was limited scalability and the desk phones were nearing their end of life. And coupled with that our team was starting to move around offices and work from home.

Those weekly frustrations were creeping into daily frustrations and we needed something that gave us better service. 

Looking for: an all encompassing solution

With pretty much all our software now in the cloud, we were looking for a cloud phone system that could integrate with our practice software. 

While most of the team were already able to divert their desk phones to their mobiles, it wasn’t seamless. Our old system also meant that if we needed to add a user, it required expensive hardware and a physical site visit. With so many of our team now working anywhere, anytime, on any given day, these limitations couldn’t continue. 

We looked at the Vodafone One Office (briefly) and at Spark as they’re currently our fibre network provider but they didn't provide the flexibility we were looking for.

We knew exactly what we wanted - software that integrated with Xero, was fully mobile and that we could have full control of adding users, setting up voicemail & out of office rules as well as useful reporting of usage and call logs. We needed a system that was going to work as second nature for our team. And that’s when we heard about Cradle. 

Systems like second nature

As head of Operations & IT, making the call to change providers is a pretty heavy responsibility due to not only the impact on the whole team - but how much value is in a call. A poor decision is costly. But you know it’s worked well when the system feels like second nature. 

Cradle has helped transform the way Whitelaw Weber operates thanks to its seamless integration with Xero. The integration has brought a shift in the firm's work processes, streamlining and enhancing efficiency across all fronts. Cradle’s Xero integration means we have real-time access to vital client information whilst on a call, enabling us to make informed decisions and provide proactive advice to our clients. 

The risk of human error has been more or less eliminated with the automation of tasks such as data entry; call history, invoice generation and financial reporting.  And what’s even better is the efficiency of our processes means our team has more energy to really focus on what Whitelaw Weber does best; serving our clients to the best of their ability and empowering them to deliver exceptional services.

Software aside, a big motivation for joining Cradle was because of the team. Joseph and Joel’s responsiveness to our questions & requests has been top quality. Cradle was also incredibly supportive of the old ‘try before you buy!’ approach, arranging the loan of Jabra headsets until we were totally sold in our decision to join. 

We love to work alongside companies who listen to our needs and are continually improving their product for us rather than big corporations where you usually have to take the product as developed.

The best is yet to come is a pretty cheesy term. But in this instance it’s quite fitting; there’s so many features within Cradle we’re going to start using. And that personal touch of knowing who has called us and being easily able to call them back from wherever we are working. I know this is going to take the team at Whitelaw Weber to a whole new level. 

What’s next for Whitelaw Weber 

Things are really humming along for Whitelaw Weber. We recently took on another small practice which has added quite a bit to our workload, so we’re looking at some consolidation within the business for the next 12 months. 

Our team loves and embraces technology & we are always looking for efficiency gains within our practice and for our clients.  We are also focusing on providing exceptional service after a few years of Covid disruptions.   I believe Cradle, and their focus on enhancing operations within accounting firms, will help us get there.  

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