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I'm at a crossroads

I have a business dilemma.

I’ve been busy working on building my own business both through compliance based accountancy and taxation work and business consultancy for the past 18 months.

I’m currently earning more money than I ever have but it’s not sustainable and I’m now in a position where I have to take a step back to take three steps forward.

One of the longer term consultancy roles I have had will be coming to an end soon. This has kept me busy for 4-8 days a month and has been great financially to allow me to spend time on growing ’my’ business.

I now have around 50 other clients of various sizes and I am continuing to pick up 2-3 new clients each month without doing any active marketing.

At the same time I have been doing some subcontract work with a local firm of accountants. This firm is growing very quickly, gaining around 15-20 new clients every month.

The local firm of accountants have made me an offer to become a director in charge of the accountancy side of the business (the two other directors primarily deal with tax planning and business consultancy). Their ‘approach’ is different to mine and if I’m honest I’m only working there at the moment for the money. However there’s a good chance that I could persuade them to change their approach – new branding, better website, slicker marketing so that the business is something I would be happy promoting.

My 50+ clients would just about provide me with enough for me to be comfortable for a few months but would also give me the time I need to focus on growing my own business in the way that I want to. Plus, I would find this more enjoyable and would have a bit more time to spend with my young family.

Should I stick to my guns and grow my own business or am looking a gift horse in the mouth with the other firm and should I grasp their offer which financially could be better in the long term?

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A good chance?

You say there is a good chance of persuading them to change their approach? Why would they want to when they are are more successful at doing what they do than you (sorry to be blunt!)?

Unless you have serious and pressing financial commitments it seems to me that you might want to think about why you set up your practice in the first place. I would imagine one of the reasons was a strong desire to be your own boss. Is that something you are prepared to sacrifice and for a more narrow job specification?

When your consultancy contract ends you will have more time to make your practice what you want it to be. You are already half way to fulfilling your dream, why stop now?

 

 

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Fair point Andy, I suppose my thinking behind that is as they are both more interested in developing the business in other areas then the accountancy practice side could be developed differently. Worth saying that this practice is fairly young but both directors had worked in practices previously.

Bluntness is what I need and reassurance of what I'm doing.

Yes working for myself is what I want to do and I suppose that having brought is this far - why stop.

The one appealing side of joining a bigger practice is the comfort zone of having others to help out.

Then again the main reason I left a corporate position was all of the back stabbing and brown nosing that used to go on and not being able to do what I wanted to (board approval required etc, etc).

 

 

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24th Mar 2012 22:24

Blunt

 

If you want blunt, I could be wrong but it sounds to me that they want you in the back office looking after the work they don’t want to manage.

That would be a comfort zone and make you more money, is that what you want?

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

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25th Mar 2012 18:58

It's the Money

Every now and then I acquire a client who needs me to spend a lot of time onsite in their business and they are willing to pay me a lot more than I charge other businesses.

I then have the dilemma of thinking that if I take on the extra work it won't be long before they will want me to be FD or something of that ilk, and I'll feel obliged to treat them as my most important client etc. Nowadays it takes me an evening of wrestling with myself to see that I would actually hate becoming an employee again - and even if I went for this option I would be out on my ear shortly afterwards as a result of saying what I thought rather too often. So in my particular case the extra income wouldn't last for long and wouldn't in any case compensate for the lack of independence.

Assuming that independence is your first motivator and that this is slightly more important than the financial motivator, at the stage you are now at, you have a really good opportunity to gradually ease off the subcontract stuff and build up that fantastic client base of yours. You can keep in touch with all the people you consult with or contract to and it could lead to them recommending clients to you in the future anyway.

This way you will still become a millionnaire - it will just take a little longer!

 

 

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Blunt is good

Bob - you're right, they don't want to do the compliance work. Long term I probably would earn more money here but if I'm honest I really would feel like I'd sold my soul.

Moonbeam - its the independence I really want and I'm at a stage where I have enough money to get by on from my own clients its just that the extra from the consultancy/subcontract work is great for saving for the house extension, big holiday etc.

But you're right I have the contacts I just need to make the most use of them, but being so busy at the moment I don't have the time too.

Right now I'm getting ready for a week where I have 2 days committed to the local accountancy firm, 2 to the company where I'm doing consultancy, I then have 2/3 days of work for my 'real' clients which I will have to fit in the evenings, lunch breaks and the weekends. As I started of saying, this isn't sustainable.

 

 

 

 

 

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26th Mar 2012 08:19

Easing off commitments to quasi employee roles

You've been keeping yourself afloat by not being entirely in business on your own account, but by this consultancy/subcontract work. The extra work means you can afford to eat, but at some stage you will have to accept that your income will go down if you don't replace it with similar work. We have all found it scary - but you have the ability to put some savings aside now to allow for it. You will never be free if you don't concentrate on the core practice side.u

As one who still hasn't got the hang of how much to charge, I am vaguely wondering whether your own charges are high enough to cover the things you do for your current clients. Perhaps they need more services from you that you are too busy to notice and if you examined your files you could do more for them and charge more.

Look up AVN on Google. They are running a one day session somewhere unspecified in Central London on 3rd May. I shall be there. They specialise in advising accountants how to get their charges right. If you go through Steve Pipe's website you can enrol on this course for free. Of course it won't be free as you'll have to not work for that day, but you will bump into some fairly proactive other accountants that you can learn from. Steve Pipe - who usually runs these seminars - is also a good speaker. AVN make money from persuading you to pay them a monthly fee for their advice, but you don't have to do this if you don't want to. I'm booked and I don't have the budget to pay for their fees. They know many participants won't book but presumably have worked out that a percentage will and that makes it worthwhile for them. Another accountant I know and trust has been reading Steve's books for years and has advised me to go.

Start some really heavy marketing to boost your business side so that the local community gets to know you are there. If you are really clear what this will be and how many new clients you can expect it is possible for you to subcontract out some of this work. However unless you project manage it, you won't get anywhere and that is why you need some extra time to work on your business. This time won't be paid, but it is an investment that you must make if your practice work is to take off.

With 50 clients already - a planned effort that you budget for both in time and money should pay off in the next 6 months. If you continue to cave in to these subcontract type big money deals your 50 clients will begin to melt away as they discover you just aren't as available to them as the competition.

Think of yourself as a client needing this type of advice. It would be a piece of cake for you to design a marketing plan for them.

You have all the tools you need now. You should back yourself as someone who is already halfway there to running a practice.

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Truth hurts

@Moonbeam, very close to the mark there. It's good to hear a lot of what I have been thinking from someone else.

Marketing - yes I know I need to and I have to allocate a sum of money to a campaign. I know who can do it for me and they are very good (but quite pricey). I also have a couple of excellent referral opportunities which I need to spend more time on.

Pricing - on the whole I get it about right (I think). Yes I certainly priced too low initially but I did learn from that

Services - I do pick up extra work from clients (business plans, cash flow forecast, additional bookkeeping resources - subcontracted out), but do know I could get more if I spent the time on it.

I appreciate the time you've spent replying to me its given another perspective on what I need to do.

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26th Mar 2012 10:35

Stick to your guns

If the approach of the other firm is very different its just not going to be somewhere that you will be happy working. I have just left a firm to start on my own for this very reason and am so much happier now, and you just can't put a price on this!

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26th Mar 2012 11:25

Not constructive or helpful but.....

 

I am so very envious of your position as I am starting my own practice and would love to have your dilemna.

I can't wait to have 50+ clients and be comfortable :-)

I say do whichever makes you happy on a beauttiful day like today.  There's more to life than money ............

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26th Mar 2012 11:42

Envious

@Fidget5400 - what's stopping you?

Crunchers Accountants

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26th Mar 2012 11:58

er......myself I guess

 

I'm currently sub contracting pretty much full time and building up a client base (supposedly) in my spare time.

My trouble is I am too comfortable doing this and so the 'building up my client base' is coming a very poor second on my 'things to do' list.  This is not what I want to do long term.

Basically I have no excuse - coming on this forum has given me the kick up the backside I need and Kent Accountant (amongst others) inspires me to get my act together. 

 

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26th Mar 2012 12:08

Contracting

@Fidget - not sure if you spotted it but "contracting" is the opposite to growing, literally.

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

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Difficult step to take

@Fidget5400 I think its often a difficult step to take going from employment straight to self employment especially when you may have a young family and considerable financial commitments.

This is what makes contracting attractive as in theory it allows you to make the transition on a gradual basis.However this comes with its own problems as it sounds like you are facing and what I have touched on above. 

This discussion is definitely helping me to decide on exactly what I do next and when and how. 

Working for yourself/running your own business is great but it is proving to be a tricky step to take. 

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Thanks Bob, many people including myself did not plan ahead for self employment it was something that happened, Initially I went from full employment in a large business to being an associate in a small consultancy, I then went it alone and provided consultancy services to a small number of businesses. This developed over a period of time to include providing accountancy and tax compliance work to a number of other smaller clients.

The stage I am now at is moving away from the contracting side of work altogether to what you could call proper self employment, ie not being wholly dependent on 2/3 clients.

So yes there was a plan of sorts. This has been slightly complicated by the new offer I have received from a local firm.

A franchise wouldn't work for me, something I have covered elsewhere.

I'm 75% of the way there, I just need to take the final step.

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26th Mar 2012 13:13

No franchise

@Kent Accountant - the resource is a tool we use with businesses owners and I am happy to send it to you. You will find it valuable although you will need to invest a few hours.

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

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26th Mar 2012 13:13

Who did you use and how did you do it?

So who are these people you mentioned that can do your direct marketing campaign for you? What do they provide?

You say you were picking up 2-3 clients a month without doing any active marketing, how were you achieving that? 

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Like this

@luke.hector - I would use a local marketing company to do my marketing for me, they are very good at what they do.

Currently new clients come from client and friend referrals, linkedin, twitter, website and internet forums. 

 

 

 

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27th Mar 2012 11:03

Dont join them

Set up a website ~ copy mine  ;o) www.ttca.co.uk~  pay Google £500 a month and get 5 new clients a week. In 10 years time you will have 20 staff and be turning over £1m and it will be the best thing you ever did. You wont get anywhere being someone elses partner ( well unless its your Mrs) all you will do is argue over the profit share and why yours is less. Do it yourself and keep all the money....well thats what I did

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27th Mar 2012 11:24

As another thought why not just treat them as another long-term sub-contract and work on their stuff through your own firm. After all, you have been reliant on a large sub-contract so far, and this might be the next step enabling you to finance an increase in your own clients slowly and surely as you have done so far?

It also means you don't have to worry about sharing anything with the other partners and you can decide when you want to pull out and go it alone entirely. You won't have that option in a partnership!

 

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By janmc71
27th Mar 2012 11:33

Setting up my own business - I have never looked back!

I set up on my own nearly seven years ago.  Fuelled by the desire to only work with clients (and staff!) I liked and respected, and of course who liked and respected me, my business has grown in every way and we now have a team of six.

It hasn't been easy - if it was then everyone would be doing it.  It hasn't always been as financially secure as  "a proper job" but I can honestly say I have enjoyed every single day - even the bad ones!

I love the freedom I have and the sense of achievement I get from helping people and building something for my future.  I do now have a business partner who was promoted from within and we are going from strength to strength.

We went on the AVN Proactivity day that moonbeam mentions about I year ago and our business changed from that day forward.

The Procativity day is fantastic - you have to go along.  We relaised the value of it there and then and so we did actually subscribe on the day. I wish I had been introduced to them many years earlier.

Don't give up on your business - you have done the hard part by setting up you just have to work at it.

 

Best of luck with whatever you decide.

 

 

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27th Mar 2012 11:39

AVN

I like Janmcs comments - I went to AVN too, saw what they had to offer, realised I was doing it anyway and saved their fees...

To be honest you have to be a salesman not an accountant...As I cant usually shut up it hasnt been too bad for me ;o)

 

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27th Mar 2012 12:01

Maybe you need to get back to a basic view

There are many ups and downs with going into partnership/directorship with others - been there and done that.

 

You might want to think about reading the E-myth before you decide. It is probably a reasonable book to read to help you see what points to think about if you are going to move forward on your own.

 

It should also give you a basic framework of what life will look like in the new "joint" business entity.

 

Oh and you have worked out that it isnt directorship that matters, its shareholding, havent you.

 

No use building a business you havent a share in.

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Fantastic comments

@Tom 7000 - I know you're right, I do want to keep everything I earn and not share it. I suppose deep down its the small (financial) gap I need to bridge at the moment. I think I've decided that its time to fast forward on the marketing to get everything in place to take that step.

@Bob Long - I think the subcontracting route is the short term answer, I've been doing it for them for the past six months.

@janmc71 - thanks for your support and great comments. I feel like the hard part has been done, so why give up eh? I just need to accept that cash flow will be a little tighter for a few months.

@David Melia - yes, I know directorship on its own is worthless. I've read the E-myth and yes I do know what 'my' business will look like and how it would grow (if I have the balls to do it).

I'll keep you all posted.

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27th Mar 2012 14:18

As for me I'm only after say 10-20 clients on the side to "top up" my income that I already get from my main client/job which pays me a decent enough amount for my liking. £500 a month (being for a start not spare cash that I have right now) is probably overkill for what I need. Saying that even a typical direct mailing firm charges £250+ for 500 letters.

I use LinkedIn and Twitter, but certainly no client ever arises from them.

 

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27th Mar 2012 15:01

sorry,but it jusr invited the comment............STOP if there stop signs and unbroken white lines.look both ways and proceed if yOur path is clear!

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27th Mar 2012 17:22

I was at a similar crossroad...

I was at a similar crossroad when I first set up and took the road less travelled! http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/anyanswers/question/starting-out-one-those-startup-traps

I had an offer of substantial work at an ok fee but which would pay the bills comfortably. I faced the fear and turned it down. The fear was that I wouldn't have enough money to pay the bills, that  I wasn't good enough to run my own practice and lots of other negative self-talk. While I still have those panicky moments when I wonder where the next client will come from, I am glad I turned it down. If I hadn't turned it down, I know I would have spent little or no time on marketing and meeting people and my practice wouldn't have grown at all. The money would have been nice but the client was also a difficult character (which doesn't seem to be the case with you.)

As someone who has just set up, 50 clients with an additional 2-3 each month doesn't seem bad at all (although this would depend on the type of client and the fee level.) There is a market out there for the type of work you do if this current practice is getting 15-20 new clients a month, clients which they don't seem to be able to deal with, without someone like you. Can you tap into this market yourself? Where are they getting the clients from?

I also wonder what you mean about their approach. (You even put it in quotation marks!) It gave me the impression that you have a fundamental difference in approach with the directors of this firm. Are they getting the new clients with false promises or something underhand? I would stay miles away from someone that I had such differences with. They will never change and you will only end up frustrated. If you are going to be a director of the firm, you will end up being tarred with the same brush. (Been there, done that and don't even have a t-shirt to show for it.)

The very best of luck whichever path you choose.

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"..."

@Cardigan - well spotted, I don't want to go into too much detail here but you are along the right lines.

If I continue picking up say 3 clients a month for the rest of this calendar year I would be over the moon. Yes, I believe I can do it, its just (having made the wrong decisions in the past) I keep thinking that this is too good an offer to turn down. Then when I think about it I realise the real reason I'm considering it is for the short term financial security.

I really do appreciate all the comments on here and the repeating theme is 'stick at it, you will get there'. So many examples of people having set up on their own and made a success of it - well done.

I have taken all this on board and changed my week to reflect it, a full day of business development on Friday.

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Update

Interesting to look back at this thread.

Three months on and I've stopped all contract work. Clients now number 70 and I continue to get a steady flow of leads.

Have to say the positive comments I received here helped give me the kick up the backside to JFDI.

Now looking forward to growing MY business.

Thanks to all who contributed.

 

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By janmc71
15th Jun 2012 08:40

Brilliant news. Well done and all the best for your business

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15th Jun 2012 09:13

Great news

That's great news. Well done on making the tough decision. Looks like it has worked out perfectly for you.

I am seriously impressed with the number of clients you have in less than 2 years in business. It's motivated me to increase my own targets!

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Thanks Guys

Appreciate the comments.

@Cardigan its all down to how I've networked. PM me if you would like me to explain further.

 

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