Norden Farm Centre for the Arts is a charitable organisation bringing the people of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and beyond, the best in entertainment and the performing arts. Up to 2,500 people a week visit the Centre for a variety of live shows, films, classes and workshops, or to eat in the Cafe Bar or Norden’s restaurant.
After joining Norden Farm as Director, it became clear on the back of the audit of the accounts that we needed urgent help in a number of areas, so we turned to Eacotts for assistance. At this time we were without an in-house finance manager and were finding it difficult to recruit the right calibre of person.
Eacotts immediately identified the scope for improvements and designed, documented and implemented sound accounting procedures and controls that helped address a number of issues we were struggling to understand and manage as ‘non-accountants’.
A key decision made on Eacotts’ recommendation was to not recruit a replacement finance manager at the outset, but to develop systems that allowed our existing team to work efficiently and empowered me to take direct responsibility for the Centre’s finances and the production of the management accounts for the board of trustees.
The IT solution provided by Eacotts highly automated the production of our monthly accounts in the required form, directly from our source Sage data. This included a consolidation of our 3 separate business entities and comparisons to the annual budget. I am now able to review the results in detail and promptly produce the pack for the board, without spending unnecessary time collating, re-keying and reformatting data, as was done in the past.
Eacotts were also able to help us through a very protracted negotiation with HM Revenue and Customs with regard to VAT; and with their expertise were able to negotiate a special exemption method and obtain a significant refund of VAT as a result. Eacotts also recommended that we adopt a business structure that minimised our ongoing VAT liabilities as an arts centre.
I can say confidently that the control, accuracy and visibility I was able to achieve with Eacotts’ help was critical in reducing errors and managing the Centre’s finances through the inevitable peaks and troughs in funding that we encounter from time to time.
The range and depth of skills that Eacotts have been able to provide over their period of appointment has been a valuable and cost effective resource to the Centre. Even the annual audit is a pleasant experience; their audit team are always helpful and courteous and their efficiency, as well as our robust systems, minimises the impact on the organisation in terms of time and workload. Even better, the board of trustees do not get any ‘horrible surprises’, as was sometimes the case before our accounts were in such good order!
Most of all, I feel that Eacotts have been interested in us as people, and in our business in terms of what we do, rather than just seeing the accounts as a set of figures. This has been of huge benefit in terms of arriving at practical and appropriate accounting practices for Norden Farm, and I am happy to be able to recommend their services to other commercial and charitable organisations whenever the opportunity arises.
Norden Farm Centre for the Arts
Altwood Road, Maidenhead, SL6 4PF
Tel: 01628 682560
Fax: 01628 682525