Learning new tricks: Alan and Amanda’s Story


Turning something you love into a successful business is something most people dream of. Amanda and Alan Hartley took the first step to doing just that eight years ago when they decided to become a host family for Barking Mad, who provide an alternative to kennels for dogs when their owners go away on holiday. Amanda and Alan run the Leeds branch while Nikki Brown, the National Operations Manager, works in the head office. Whilst Alan and Amanda love dogs, and despite pleas from their children, they couldn’t commit to owning a dog of their own. Becoming a host family for Barking Mad and looking after other people’s dogs was the perfect solution. When the opportunity came up to become a Barking Mad franchisee, the Hartleys were thrilled at the chance to take the next step.

Barking Mad’s Challenge

Before QuickBooks Online, Barking Mad Leeds was using paperwork and Microsoft Excel to manage their finances; a time consuming, manual and error prone process. Alan and Amanda found that the move to online was a learning curve “It was a bit difficult to move from paper, and not duplicating everything we used to do on paper was one of the hardest things".


"Customers are impressed – they think it’s very up to date. And we like it because you don’t need a lot of extra equipment – you can just hop on the Wi-Fi."

Discovering QuickBooks:

Barking Mad gives its franchisees a package of support, from training and uniforms through to help with setting up cloud-based accounting with QuickBooks, which Nikki in the head office uses for the whole of the business. Alan and Amanda found getting set up relatively straight forward, “we were actually pretty quick at picking it up. We were up and running in just a couple of weeks.”

Now, with an online solution, Alan and Amanda’s franchise can work in an integrated way with the Barking Mad business as a whole. Information and data is always up-to-date and is accessible from anywhere. Moving to a less manual process allowed them to work more efficiently and accurately,



Alan believes the reporting functionality within QuickBooks is one of its key benefits.

“You can see in an instant who are your best customers and suppliers. The graphs are really helpful, especially for the month-end report. It’s great not having to wade through the paperwork.” 

QuickBooks offers a range of reports including a real-time dashboard, to allow customers to see how their business and cash flow stands at a glance, in an informative and visual way.

Nikki agrees “It used to be a very manual system, using a simple bookkeeping Excel timesheet. Now it’s a small amount of work every day, which encourages the franchisees to have a really good and regular routine.”


Speed of Payments

When deciding to move to financial management software, Nikki started looking for a solution that would help the franchisees evolve and grow. “We went with QuickBooks because of my experience with it – I used to be an accountant and I had always liked how easy it is to use.”

For Nikki, QuickBooks proved to be even more valuable than she had initially thought. “The original plan was just to help franchisees register for VAT, but it very quickly became apparent that we could use it for much more than that.”

"One of the biggest benefits we’ve seen is speed of payments, which is much better than it was under our old paper-based system."



The online platform also means that the tasks can be done anywhere and on any device. This allows Alan and Amanda the freedom to work when and where suits them best.

Alan is a fan of the flexibility the mobile apps give him and Amanda, “We use the apps when we’re visiting customers. We can send them a quote or an invoice on the spot."

The future for Alan and Amanda

The main benefit for Alan and Amanda is that using QuickBooks Online means they can focus on doing what they love – talking to customers and looking after dogs. “QuickBooks gives us more time for customer service,” says Alan.

And, most of all “We get more time to spend with the dogs. That’s what we’ve always wanted.”

Learn more about Barking Mad: www.barkingmad.uk.com/

Try QuickBooks Online FREE for 30 days


No credit card required. Cancel any time.