Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
In praise of business hubs
Tourists and casual observers of West Country life might form the impression that the business community is dominated by farmers, seasonal businesses and old fashioned family-owned shops. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.
We may be a bit remote from the rest of the UK, but modern electronic communications mean businesses in the South West can compete with others anywhere in the world - and generally with much lower overheads than their competitors in the South East, and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life too.
As a result we seem to have a burgeoning business hub sector springing up all over our area. It may be a bit like a commercial version of the buy-to-let market I supose, investors buying up and converting commercial properties and opening them up as shared work space, but we seem to be surrounded by an increasing number of new and converted buildings offering hot desking, flexible serviced offices, starter workshops and similar. And they all seem to be buzzing with activity.
From our point of view they represent a wonderful opportunity to place one of our team in the middle of these hubs on a regular basis to offer advice, give accountancy a friendly face and, we hope, acquire some good clients in the long term as we build relationships. I see it as networking turned upside down - I have been to countless business networking events where I have met very few people who could either be clients or who could introduce me to potential clients. Far better then to go out to where businesses are and let them come to us.
So we currently have a couple of our team who regularly rent a desk at some of these business hubs in order to raise our visibility in these communities. So far we have generated a small amount of new work, had many conversations and drunk lots of coffee! On a busy day you have to be prepared to wander round and talk to people for most of the day, but at other times you can end up largely all alone - an ideal time to fire up the laptop, log in to the office network and get on with some client work.
If you currently run a small practice from home or from your own office, I would encourage you to look for a local business hub or serviced office complex and see if you couldn't base yourself there on, say, one day a week. The costs are usually minimal, with no long-term commitment, so why not give it a go?