As part of our series of interviews with Practice Excellence Award-winning firms AccountingWEB caught up with Darren Fell, chief executive of Crunch.
After nine years focussed on business growth, Brighton-based practice Crunch decided to enter the awards arena, and its entry to the scene could not have gone much better. The firm won a slew of awards in 2016, including AccountingWEB’s own Practice Growth Firm of the Year, and its chief executive Darren Fell also won Sussex Business Person of the Year.
Crunch was praised by the Practice Excellence judges for having "a clear vision and a clarity of purpose", and Fell puts the firm’s awards success down to a laser-like focus on its target market. Pitched as a ‘one stop shop’ for micro businesses Crunch supports businesses with up to 10 employees.
“If we covered SMEs, high nets and other things most firms include we would completely lose this focus”, said Fell.
“We try to make a difference. Our clients generally don’t want to create mega start-ups needing capital or VCs which are potentially precarious. These people are good at providing a particular service or have a skill, and we want to see them work on exciting projects and still have time for their families”.
The firm is also launching Crunch Chorus, a new micro-business membership organisation that aims to unite the country’s smallest businesses and provide them with a strong voice.
“We’re regularly meeting with MPs to show them how important the micro sector is”, said Fell. “We actually featured in the dividend tax debate in Parliament having put a case together: we knew we couldn’t get it kicked out but, but at least we could affect the poor algorithm they had.”
Growth and innovation
In the last few years the firm has left few stones unturned in its drive for rapid, sustainable growth, creating tailored products to support the needs of this highly competitive SME segment.
Alongside its practice Crunch also has its own in-house fintech team of 50 developers tasked with updating its own software as a service accounting software.
The firm now offers Crunch Mortgages through a white-label provider with the aim of helping micro business owners whose applications have been turned down by banks or brokers, and has recently launched Crunch insurance, an offering underwritten by syndicates in Lloyds of London.
“These new products have massive capability to grow the business”, said Fell, “and in February we’ll but launching a financial services section so you can do all of your company’s tax planning, pensions, everything, within the heart of Crunch. It’s a complete ecosystem, and that ecosystem has massive growth capabilities.”
In spite of the current political and economic uncertainty swirling around the wider business environment, Fell remains optimistic that the micro market can weather the storm.
“I think the economy is strong, and as we carry on growing, especially with our new ecosystem, we’ll be able to prove how strong it is”, said Fell.
The firm remains concerned about the government’s stance on micro businesses, in particular individual contractors.
“I can understand where they [the government] are coming from with new legislation, but we will keep communicating with them and showing them how strong the micro sector is.”
In uncertain times there is a lot of talk around revenue stream diversification as a way of future proofing. With its wide-ranging expansion into different areas Crunch offers ambitious practices a blueprint of how to do this, and regardless of the economic conditions it seems unlikely they will reach a capacity crunch any time soon.