Disruptive influence: how James Poyser of inniAccounts proved establishment wrong

11 June 2015 -


The co-founder of the new-style accountancy firm tells us about his management style, his business hero and how he faced down doubters – and won

Colin Marrs

As one of the UK’s fastest-growing fintech firms, inniAccounts has revolutionised the laborious business of corporate accounting by making it intuitive and user friendly. Tasked with spreading the word about the firm is sales and marketing director – and co-founder – James Poyser.

Here, James tells us about how the company faced down the doubters, and how his life experience has informed his management style.

1. What was your favourite subject at school?

Design – I loved it. Indulging in creativity to solve problems within given constraints is a path my career has followed to this day.

2. What was your first job?

Selling incense to fellow primary school classmates. It was trendy in the early 1990s, and I managed to buy some wholesale from one of my dad’s suppliers.

3. Which mobile device(s) do you use?

A OnePlus One Android mobile. An iPad when I want to catch up with the world while avoiding the temptation to work. A portable digital radio for music and news on the go.

4. What is your biggest achievement in business?

Making a success of inniAccounts and proving the establishment wrong. We were disappointed in the service we’d received from accountants, so we set about challenging the market by building a real-time, efficient accountancy service that we, as business owners, would like to use. We got a lot of push back from the industry, saying it wasn’t possible but we brought together a talented team and leveraged skills in accountancy, technology, management and marketing to build an incredible service model.

5. What is your biggest regret in business?

I don’t have any! You have to pick yourself up and learn from the knocks – look at how we proved people wrong.

6. How has your business sector changed since you began your career?

My background is managing technology products, which I count as my “sector”. The rate of innovation, the speed of execution, and the ability to succeed or fail quickly has only ever increased since I started my career. The only thing that’s constant in tech is that the rate of change is always increasing. Working in technology takes courage to call the right shots, in particular choosing not to innovate for innovation’s sake.

7. Who is your business hero?

Jason Fried – he co-founded 37 Signals, who created Basecamp – the online project management software. He did an incredible job working across technology and marketing and launched the much-loved project management app. He’s resisted the temptation to implement unsustainable, yet fashionable, business models and has contributed greatly to the tech and business community. A lasting legacy of 37 Signals is a free and open source technology framework that has allowed millions of entrepreneurs and hobbyists to quickly bring new products to market.

8. What is the trait you most admire in other businesspeople?

Understated excellence and a commitment to building sustainable ventures. (Which, due to the business models driving much of the tech industry, is often the antithesis of many personalities you find here).

9. What keeps you awake at night?

I worry that the UK isn’t fulfilling its potential as a nation of innovators. We need to create a UK-wide environment for innovation, which transcends one-off showcase tech cities. We must better celebrate our successes, create more opportunities for young people and provide them with role models to inspire them to fulfil their potential, and to drive the UK forward.

10. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“But what about the customer experience?” I can be like a thorn in my fellow directors’ sides. It worries me greatly for us to be anything but the best. Right down to the copy that appears in error messages in our software, and making sure our experience is friction-free.

11. What is the one thing about your job you could do without?

Dealing with organisations who don’t have the right support model for us. We’re too big and busy to rely on community/call centre support, but too small to be account managed. It’s amazing how many companies get this wrong but it’s something we experience all the time.

12. How would you describe your management philosophy in one sentence?

Constantly incrementing – I’m always pushing forward, one small change at a time.

13. What was your best holiday?

My time in Asia. I quit a good corporate career for a six-month trip, which lasted three years, two of which spent living and working in China, and learning about that incredible country.

14. What is your favourite day of the week and why?

Monday. By the time Monday arrives it’s usually been four days since I’ve been in the office. I have a long commute, which gives me time to catch up on the news and solidify thoughts I’ve had over the weekend. Once in the office I enjoy chatting with everyone in the company, hearing about what’s been happening inside and outside of the office.

15. How do you unwind away from work?

Tracking down and cooking with unusual ingredients. I’d like my next venture to be food related, but given my strength is managing technology products I’m not sure how to make a success of it.

16. What is your favourite film?

Lost in Translation. It’s captivating in its simplicity, the soundtrack is divine.

17. What music do you like?

World music, modern African and South American – anything with an infectious rhythm.

18. What’s your favourite smell?

Morning dew after an evening under canvas.

19. Which four guests would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

David Mitchell, Scarlett Johansson, Alex Polizzi and Ian McKellen

20. If you could, what advice would you give to yourself aged 20?

I wanted to study in the US and work in the tech industry there, but I didn’t know how – and nobody around me did either. I’d help a younger me to achieve that goal.

For further thoughts on developing management styles, find out about CMI short courses and qualifications.

Powered by Professional Manager