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New year, new me?

6th Jan 2017
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Well here we are another new year kicking off with the annual excitement of tax return deadline.

This year also marks a change in the focus of my practice. Up until the middle of last year I’d been very happy as a sole practitioner with very occasional bookkeeping support but in reality just me. This was great for the first few years, stressful at times when there was too much work needing to be done at the same time.

I was also starting to lose my mojo.

As time went on I did start to question this approach. Should I look to grow, take on staff, etc? Last year I asked the question, what had others done in a similar position.

Reading back through that thread it does strike me that as some of the posters commented I was trying to think of all the reasons why I shouldn’t change.

Between October and December I had a sudden surge of new clients all referrals. This increased fee income by around £17k and it immediately dawned on me that I needed more help and if this type of growth occurred again I’d be swamped – completely.

So I decided to plan for growth, not the lumpy type of growth which usually comes with referrals but something more structured.

So I’m using two part time bookkeepers/accounts assistants for 1-2 days a week – consistently. I’m standardising systems and processes within the business. I’ve also engaged a local marketing firm to assist with social media, website optimisation and design of some marketing materials.

The idea is to continue with this model and develop it so that bookkeepers/assistants to do the lower level work – all bookkeeping, vat return prep, some (most hopefully) accounts to TB, admin work, request and chase information from clients. I then prepare, review final accounts and CT returns and SATRs.

On top of this, I’ve decided Xero is the accounting software of choice; all new clients will use it or they won’t be clients. Existing clients will be moved over to Xero gradually over the next 12 -18 months.

18 months from now I’m aiming to be a 90% Xero practice.

Early days at the moment but I’m excited and daunted by the prospect and my mojo is well and truly back.

Here’s to an eventful new year!

Replies (8)

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By tom123
07th Jan 2017 08:52

Sounds good - like you have really thrown your hat in one direction.

We find (when helping my wife planning development of her design company) that it is important to rule some things out early on - otherwise you end up with too many choices and options - which then lead to crippling indecision.

They do say that what you write down is what happens - so keep us updated!

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
07th Jan 2017 20:38

Hi Tom - yes I'd been thinking about it for a while and decided to do something about it!

I met with a friend a couple of months ago (he's a Partner in a 5 office regional practice) and I was discussing growth and specifically recruitment. His view was that its far better initially to use bookkeepers/assistants who can take work to say TB level, rather than recruit say a newly qualified/QBE with whom I could share the workload

The point being that a qualified would be likely to become bored dealing with basic bookkeeping, accounts prep and tax returns and look to move on after a period of time.

I know others will disagree with this but I could see his point and it fits well with what I want to do at the moment - controlled, systemised growth.

I anticipate that with this approach I could get turnover to £240-£250k at which point I may need to reconsider.

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By Glenn Martin
09th Jan 2017 10:04

You pipped me to it as I was going to post a similar blog.

Its good to hear that your mojo is back and you are moving on with the growth of your firm.

I must say I was suprised when early last year you were putting the brakes on your growth after you had done so well since you started.

I too am now looking forward to 2017, as I feel I am now finally making the progress I want.

I am also a lot clearer on what type of clients I want to look after and the business sectors i want to work with as oppose to the early years when I would do anything that paid.

I look forward to hearer the ups and downs of your plans over the coming year.

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By Sheepy306
09th Jan 2017 23:22

I also look forward to hearing how things progress. I've made the decision to date to avoid employees and just max out my returns on good quality clients, so I'm always interested to hear how that transition phase goes. I assume that you enjoy 'managing' the business?
What staffing do you think you'd need then at a GRF £250k?

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
10th Jan 2017 09:46

@Glennzy - lets hear your news then. Always good to compare notes.

@Sheepy306 - good to hear from you. I decided that there were so many opportunities to grow and that with people I know and trust looking for (more)work that it was the right time to change tack.

I'm going to be quite rigid with my model, so if new prospects aren't the right fit they won't become clients.

I do enjoy most aspects of working on the business - planning, systemising, training, delegation, meeting prospects.

The key for me now is to look at all tasks and ask whether I can delegate them. If yes - do it, if its a maybe then look to make it a yes.

I'd like to get to the position where all bookkeeping, vat return prep, payroll, accounts to TB/draft stage is done by staff. There will always be a few exceptions but thats the plan.

I've got an outline plan for the next 12 months, not giving it all away here just yet. It will keep me busy, 'good' busy though rather than 'bad' busy (bogged down with too much admin and too many menial tasks).

Staffing for £250k GRF?. With the right type of clients, systems and staff I think I can get there with the equivalent of 1.5-2 bookkeepers/accounts assistants. Again keeping it this lean is dependent on having the right structure in place.

Annualised fees were at £160k and that was mostly just me. Working at full capacity and not particularly efficiently.

Fees for the next 12 months will be quite a bit higher.

If I stick with it I expect to be at the target in 24 months. This is structured rather than flat out/anything will do growth.

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Replying to Kent accountant:
By Glenn Martin
10th Jan 2017 16:45

Hi Kent

My plans sort of mirror yours just about 18 months behind, anyone would think we compare notes.

I will do my own blog this week so as not disrupt your thread.

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By chatman
10th Jan 2017 11:05

Hi Kent - How did you find your bookkeepers and where do they work from?

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
10th Jan 2017 11:30

@Chatman - I'm lucky at the moment - people I know personally. if I need to find others its going to be through recommendation.

I'd also consider taking on an apprentice when I have the right structure in place.

Work location - initial training/set up done at my office. Most of the work is done remotely working on a hosted desktop and using cloud software. Once a week catch up in person - takes about an hour.

I want to be in a position where all work can be completed remotely.

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