Vanisha Benjamin

Vanisha's LinkedIn profile

We are a small firm that's growing incredibly quickly, and our niche is startup tech companies. We work with them on all aspects of accounting including their R&D claims and various tax related matters. The benefit of Onside Accounting is that our staff are fully remote, which allows us to recruit high calibre staff and apprentices. Our ethos is very much to develop, nurture and work with staff who are young professionals early on in their career - that's what we thrive on and what we do with our clients as well. Our clients are at the startup phase of their company life, so we really have that flowing through the practice.

We choose clients based on how we believe they will fit our business model and whether we’re the right fit for them. We tend not to work with clients where we're only providing them with year-end accounts because it’s difficult to have insight into the whole picture. By completing a whole range of services for clients, including their R&D claim, it gives them that holistic approach and provides our clients with the best service.

We monitor our pricing structure every month. We’re very upfront and open with clients whereby if transaction levels exceed what we have previously quoted, then we'll have the discussion with them about this.

When I was 18, I knew I didn't want to go to university – I knew that it wasn’t for me. I wanted to earn money but learn at the same time, and I did not want to be in debt especially at that age. For me, the accountancy apprenticeship route was the best route which meant completing my AAT and then seeing where this would take me. I became accustomed to studying and working at the same time that once I’d completed the AAT, I decided to just go for it and do my ACCA. Finding that balance between working and studying is so important to nailing a work life balance whilst taking professional exams, and that's what I tell our apprentices. Remembering and utilising everything that they’re studying can be implemented within their day to day.

"There is a lot of scepticism about having apprentices and young staff working fully remotely and how that can be managed."

I've never been a fan of micromanaging staff. I like trusting members of staff and I think if staff know that you trust them to get tasks completed, it empowers them. We've introduced a number of things within the firm – such as daily team catch-ups where everyone is on Teams with their cameras on and each member of staff can run through what they're working on that day. It’s a general overview on anything they might need help with and also how they’re feeling on a day-to-day basis, almost like an open forum. When staff are remote, it's so important to understand how they're actually feeling - it’s important to get to know them on a somewhat personal level to get that connection with their manager and build the sort of trusting relationship that they probably had in school or college. If you get that right, then they’ll trust in you to train them and progress in their career. 

We also have a learning and development forum every week, which is something that I run. It's a forum that I run primarily with the AAT apprentices. Our financial administrators (our AAT apprentices) have a notion page – which is similar to a Word document - where they note down different topics that they've struggled with throughout the week. Every Friday we all come together on a Teams call, and I will pick a couple of topics to run through, but I'll also ask for any case studies that they want to discuss, any areas where they've had a big win, or any areas that they think the wider team will find useful. I find it one of the most engaging calls of my week as it literally wraps up the week and everything that they've learned.

We do have a collaboration space in a co-working office in London that team members can use. We use it for one-to-ones, training sessions, or for when team members want a break from their homeworking space or want to work together collaboratively.

What I enjoy most about my job is seeing young professionals develop because I’ve been on that journey. We’ve just had one of our apprentices smash his AAT exam with a 92% score – the fact that they’re getting results like that shows that we’re doing our job training and supporting them, but they’re also enjoying what they’re doing. Seeing them engaged in KPIs and meeting them, asking for 121s and feedback - that is the side of my job that I really enjoy.