2017 - Got to be a good year for me.

Glenn Martin
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March 2017 sees the end of 3rd full year of trading. So far I basically survived and kept a roof over my head in year 1. Year 2 made some progress on earnings but made a lot of mistakes and took on too much of the wrong type of work. Year 3 got into position similar to my employed days where I was doing to much work for too little gain. Fixed most of that then spent a lot of time looking at what I was doing and deciding on what I actually want to do, what type of clients I want to support and what sort of services I will offer and at what level.

I am not a tax heavy practice and keen to keep it that way. I dont have many sole traders and not really looking to serve that market. After the mess I got into in Jan 2016 I have no interest in this "Tax Season" so changed how I do things and hit all my Directors early for their info and pretty much had them complete by mid November. Next year I will aim for October cut off, what happens after that will remain to be seen when the effects are known. To able to plan your year ahead in January is a much better palce to be in, than nut deep in tax returns.

I have also spent the last few months of 2016 guinea pigging systems with some cleints. I have focussed on a few sectors I have an interest in and started from the nuts and bolts of the business and what are the common issues that sector faces. Then matching the problem to a solution or an add on that can fix it. I have a few industry specific packages now which I will be running with in 2017. So far they have been well received. I am not sure this will be a niche as such but I am confident I will sign up some good work from it. Testimonials and case studies will be key to this success.

I am currently 45 so if I want to earn a living in this game for the next 20 years after a lot of dallying around it is clear my firm needs to be tech and systems driven, with cloud accounting the core of that. Although others maybe have a few years head start on their cloud journey I still feel that there is good opportuntiy to win work from those still working on the once a year accounting model, and I am looking to push this as a better alternative.

One of the things that has held me back in the first few years is lack of working capital. Much is said about how easy it is to set up as an accountant where £500 VT, Taxfiler and a laptop is all you need to build a business, this is not really true if you are looking to grow  quickly and have your earnings match your employed income within 18 months or so. I am finally in a position where I have funds to spend on marketing, branding and websites etc. My website is starting to produce and although I am happy with this I think there is huge potential to unlock with further investment and professional help. I also have a marketing company putting some professional looking literature again things I have not had.

Since starting I have never been in a position to chase work and have simply waited for work to come to me. I am now confident In what I have to offer and I want to take that to market and cherry pick some cleints I want to act for and start knocking on some doors.

I am working on a new business plan for next 2 years which shows strong growth to build a decent business which will both give me a decent living and create something of value to cover my lack of pension provision, I have the mojo and drive to deliver on this.

So 2017 is not quite make or break but I feel it has to happen for me and intend to give it my best shot.

I just hope Brexit and Trump dont mess it up for me.

 

Replies

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12th Jan 2017 21:10

Sounds like you've got focus and determination, so I'm sure this year is going to be a great one for you.

Maybe this year is the time to look for an apprentice, or an experienced assistant, to take some pressure off you so you can focus on prospect meetings etc? If you're still based from home then this might not be ideal - so possibly getting some reasonably priced office space shortly before getting the assistant in would be the way forward.

There's a limit to what can be done on your own, so this would really put in place the foundations for serious growth over the next 2 years and gives cover for you to take holidays etc.

I think it's possible for a small practice to bring in £60k of new work each year quite comfortably with the right marketing and sales approach to the right type of clients and it looks like you've already nailed that!

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By Glennzy
to dbowleracca
12th Jan 2017 22:39

I moved into a town centre office after about a year as struggled working from home and felt I needed to get up and go to work. That's been a big difference it also a few good meeting rooms there I can use. And the google map position helps on the website.

I do have some help now I have a virtual PA on retainer who does a lot of admin for me, I also have 2 girls who do work for me around there child care. So are flexible as I don't have enough hours every week just now, they do a lot of the checking on receipt bank and bank feed work and are very good.

They will get me through this year. I do like the idea of an apprentice and I have been thinking about that for a while and will maybe look at that in the summer. In 2016 I signed up maybe almost 1 new client per week pretty much which I have been happy with. This year I am looking to sign up bigger fees so maybe less in number with better fees.

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By tom123
12th Jan 2017 21:37

Sounds good - can it really be three years, eh..

Good to see, also, you are recalling your previous industry experience and not just doing tax.

I always feel in the minority on here sometimes, doing all the 'other' accounts stuff that is not tax and stats.

Mind you, I have a handful of clients as well - but wouldn't really fancy trying to do that sort of thing full time.

Good luck with the developments this year.

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By Glennzy
to tom123
12th Jan 2017 22:49

This year I want to establish myself and make something "my thing" sell my service that focus and fix problems within in a business moving away from compliance needs.

I am very much into the 3 levels of service and would like say a nice pool of 15/20 gold level clients who want monthly accounts plus enhanced reporting VCFO type service as I think would be great fit for me sitting alongside my general practice clients. I think I would enjoy a sort of 50/50 mix would be ideal.

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13th Jan 2017 19:09

Sounds good Glennzy.

What about processes and systems - have you set out how you plan to run your practice - 'on boarding'* clients, plan the work, delegate, review, finalise etc. Assuming you don't intend to do it all yourself.

If you get near the £60k mentioned by dbowleracca that's going to take some managing.

* hate that term but as everyone's using it these days I better get up to speed

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By tom123
to Kent accountant
15th Jan 2017 20:13

ref the 'onboarding' - a few years working for a Canadian firm got me through all these hideous phrases.

I can even say them without flinching, now.

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By Glennzy
to tom123
16th Jan 2017 15:15

I must say I don't mind "onboarding" as much as some new terms that get on my nerves.

Hard or Soft Brexit when mentioned makes me want to put my shoe through the TV.

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13th Jan 2017 21:39

Apprentices are such a great way to grow your team, we have been really fortunate to have taken on some exceptional individuals over the past few years, who have picked things up easily and are a credit to the firm.

We always target those who have a strong academic background, with good enough GCSEs and A Levels to get into a top 20 university. Then they go through AAT (all funded by the government and on day release) and then onto ICAEW (or ACCA if they wished).

Your aim to have a portfolio of "gold" clients is a great target, and based on what I have read on your blogs you seem perfectly positioned to do this. The challenge with this sort of work is that, as you'll know, the work isn't easily delegated to more junior team members and it can put a bit strain on your time once you get 20 or so clients of this type.

Systems and processes, and training of junior team members to deliver a scaled down version of what you do with the bigger clients, would be a great way to balance this.

Really excited to see how this year goes for you and I wish you all the success! Please keep us posted with how it's going, I love reading about what other firms are doing and seeing success stories like yours!

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