Date posted: 04/09/2019 5 min read

How Richard Francis FCA gave paper the flick and built a business

Richard Francis FCA led the charge for accountants to go paperless, and education and thought leadership still propel Spotlight Reporting’s success.

In Brief

  • Spotlight Reporting, set up by Richard Francis FCA, has built its credibility not only through its product, but by educating and assisting clients to build advisory practices.
  • As Francis Consulting, Richard and his wife, Julie, pioneered paperless business practices in the early 2000s.
  • Developing content and clear communication are key to Spotlight Reporting’s success.

By Jessica Sier

Content and thought leadership have long been the growth engines for Spotlight Reporting’s success. The software company, established in 2010, offers advanced reporting, cash-flow forecasting, dashboard and multi-entity analysis to accountants all over the world, aims to educate beyond just its products.

Richard Francis CARichard Francis FCA.

“We figured we were selling to an industry that used to be quite traditional,” says Spotlight Reporting founder and CEO Richard Francis FCA. “And everyone knows accountants are incredibly time-poor, so it took a pretty big education piece to get them in the right mindset about what we could do for them.”

As well as creating content around Spotlight’s capabilities, Francis’s team took a hands-on approach to helping accountants build their own advisory practices. Using webinars, podcasts and articles, Spotlight Reporting was able to position itself as an authoritative voice in the progressive, technically advanced accountant market.

“It has allowed us to acquire a credibility that’s missing in the software world,” Francis says. “We’re talking the same language as our readers and subscribers and that has resonated.”

“We’re talking the same language as our readers and subscribers and that has resonated.”
Richard Francis CA

Spotlight Reporting has a long history of communicating well with customers. In its first iteration as Francis Consulting in the early 2000s, the company built itself as an entirely paperless operation. Using the tools beginning to emerge in the market, Francis and his wife, Julie, could position their paperless business as a real value-add for advisers and, thanks to the small world of Wellington in New Zealand, it was the first-ever Xero accounting partner.

“It was quite strange to be paperless at the time,” says Francis of the consulting business, which offered them a chance to explore online accounting. In 2009, they developed their own software business called Workpapers.

“In order to explain to people how we were paperless, we’d have to explain how our software works and that was a great way to gather customers and educate the market.”

In 2012, the pair sold Workpapers to Xero. Francis attributes the pick-up in demand to the savvy evolution of accounting clients themselves.

“We found demand was coming from the clients of accountants, not really the accountants themselves,” he says. “Other clients were using cloud tools in their own businesses and accountants saw they could hardly send out papers and be that old school.”

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