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How marginal gains can have a major impact: Interview with Shaye Thyer, AccountKit’s Head of Accounting

September 8, 2023

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A self-described ‘impact champion’, Shaye Thyer FCA has built a successful career using technology to optimise efficiencies, empower teams and drive growth. Today, she’s Head of Accounting at AccountKit, a suite of workflow and compliance automation tools designed to help accountants and bookkeepers get more done faster, easier and more collaboratively.

We sat down with Shaye to chat about the current challenges impacting the accounting industry, and how technology-led efficiency gains, no matter how small, can have big benefits over time.

Many accounting firms today are struggling with capacity issues. Tell us about the concept of marginal gains and how it can help with these sorts of challenges.

ST: Marginal gains is about the aggregate impact of small, incremental improvements – 1% or even 0.5% – over time. Every one, two or three minutes we save on every client job adds up over the course of a week, and that can translate to significant benefits for the business. 

This is especially important at the moment, where we have kind of a hangover from COVID, and also a steady exodus of professionals from the industry into commercial roles, or just out of the industry altogether. We know that there are more clients than there are accountants to support them. 

So almost every firm is dealing with either stifled growth because they can’t get the work out fast enough, or even if they’re not looking to grow, they’re having some pretty significant well-being challenges amongst their team. There's two sides to it: one is the barriers to growth and scale, and the other is quality of life.

To that end, I don't think any firm with limited capacity has the luxury of doing things the wrong way or the hard way. That’s why the one percenters and the 0.5 percenters are mission-critical.

What are some of the outcomes of incremental gains for accounting firms?

ST: If we think about one side of the coin, if it's a firm looking to grow, those marginal gains are going straight to the bottom line. The more work each of our team members can handle, the more profitable the business is going to be. So what we're really talking about is, for the fee that we're charging our client, what is the fastest way we can get that work out? 

On the flip side, we can look at it in terms of ‘What do I like doing with my time and where can I make the most impact?’ Is it spending more time with clients? Having more space to listen? Over time, small gains give us the opportunity to prioritise those kinds of things beyond just the commercial outcomes.

How can accounting firms or sole practitioners identify those opportunities for improvement?

ST: Firstly, establish what your goals are, and always have a really low tolerance for manual entries. That's a great starting point. Anything we're doing manually or even in Excel, we should look to improve. As much as I love Excel, it is not always the most efficient way of going about things. 

I think the other thing that's important is for partners or leaders in those firms to work with those people who are actually on the tools. They are in the trenches, they are on the frontline with clients and they are pushing the most buttons. So it’s about understanding what their day-to-day looks like. If I’m the firm’s leader and I wouldn’t tolerate a certain process myself, or a process has a lot of friction within my team, then I know we need to find ways to improve it.

We know tech is a huge enabler for accountants. How does it help achieve those marginal efficiency gains?

ST: Technology is every accountant’s best friend every day of the week. I think we should be interrogating everything we do with the view that if it's a thing we can eliminate and it doesn't add value, get rid of it. The next consideration is automation. If a task is important and we need to keep it, how can we automate it or do it better and faster using technology?

One of the biggest impacts technology can have is allowing parts of the job that we do as accountants to move down to more junior levels. This is particularly relevant at the moment where there is a lack of senior accountants: we have grads, we have partners and we have this gaping hole in the middle. Tech is the best way to systematise what we're doing and empower our more junior teammates to do more with ease. That frees up significant capacity where we need it.

What about AccountKit? What sorts of gains does it bring to firms and practitioners?

ST: To my last point, one of the things I love about AccountKit is the ability to push the work out to team members. It creates controls around a particular part of each task, which makes it very straightforward for a more junior accountant to deliver that part of the task. Previously, you wouldn't be able to do that if you were using Excel, for example. You wouldn't expect a junior team member to create a particular workflow with a particular work paper with the right calculations in it. AccountKit does that for you so you’re able to delegate it.

Another way it helps is by reducing clicks. One of the best examples of this is the Inter-entity Loan Tool. To reconcile an inter-entity loan, an accountant would normally need to open one Xero file in Chrome, then open another Xero file in Firefox on another screen. And then between the screens, write down the notes they need and then produce the journal entries they need. It’s the most convoluted process ever. AccountKit will bring the two entities up on one screen, reconcile it for you and post the journals, all in one breath. 

That’s just one of many examples of efficiencies in AccountKit that really do move the needle. Over the course of a week, a season or for each client, those incremental improvements can add up to huge profitability gains.

AccountKit’s cloud-based accounting tools leave no area that you can't automate, standardise or streamline. Pick and choose the tools that work with the rest of your app stack. Try it free at

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