Alex Falcon follows her own flight path

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AccountingWEB spoke to Alex Falcon of Soaring Falcon Accountancy about her journey into practice and her desire to forge her own unique space within accountancy.

Alex Falcon Huerta answers her phone cheerfully. On first impression, she doesn’t strike you as being particularly militant. But behind her affable demeanour, she is one of the cloud’s most ardent disciples. Her practice is 100% cloud based and as a young woman she’s a unique entrant into practice ownership.

Falcon’s practice opened its doors in April this year. “I started setting up my practice in September/October time and put the plans in place and tested products and systems,” she says. “I could have done it in a quicker time – but I wanted to make sure that I was using the right products.”

It’s a journey she’s glad that she undertook. In fact, she says, it was something she needed to do. “Working for another firm not really interested in moving with the times wasn’t a possibility for me. I wanted to do it three years ago. I found that old school accountants just weren’t interested in fully embracing new technology, or making life easier.”

Since breaking ground, her practice has grown steadily. She recently added her first employee, a trainee. “I’ve already doubled in size,” she notes wryly. Falcon decided on a trainee because she “didn’t want to hire someone who had experience in another practice”. “I wanted someone who was keen and wanted to learn my way of doing things.”

She hasn’t abandoned the traditional tenets of accountancy, though. When it comes to training, Falcon is an arch-traditionalist. She is ACCA qualified and she wouldn’t trade her qualification for anything. “I value my experience and my qualification equally. You get a lot more insight by being qualified than just having the experience,” she says. “There are things I’ve come across where if I hadn’t done my exams, I probably wouldn’t have known how to deal with it. But because I was prepared, it made the challenges I faced significantly less scary.”

Technological innovation has not eroded the need for solid accounting fundamentals, says Falcon. But it has given her a chance mould a practice as unique as her name. “It’s given young accountants a really good opportunity to offer something really different. Whereas before, you were offering the same sort of services and you weren’t really a niche or something different. It was very hard stand out among the other bigger sized practices.”

Blazing your own trail also meant deeper job satisfaction for Falcon, a chance “to be based anywhere… to work from home” or “on the train”. “I enjoy what I do,” she says, stopping briefly to consider her own statement before continuing. “So many people are in jobs that they hate. I can’t imagine going to work and not enjoying my job and being miserable. I’d just much rather do what I do and enjoy it.”

It’s clear she has absolutely no regrets. And even if she did, things have gone too far now. “I think once you’ve made your mind about how a practice should run, and then you actually set up your own practice, it would be really hard to go to another firm and mould into something that doesn’t feel quite right.”

She laughs, “I wish I had done it earlier”.

About Francois Badenhorst

Francois

Francois is a writer, editor and broadcaster specialising in business.

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22nd Jun 2015 15:15

100% cloud based?

What does she use for accounts prep?

As far as I was aware there was no cloud based solution or is a hosted desktop solution considered cloud based as well?

My practice is '100%' cloud based as well with the exception of accounts preparation which still requires a desktop solution. Would like to find and fit the final piece of the puzzle.

 

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22nd Jun 2015 15:39

I'm using Digita DVO for accounts prep. So yes everything is cloud.

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23rd Jun 2015 11:09

@exceljockey

It's early days for cloud accounts prep but there are some out there. There was an aweb article recently saying Capium had cloud accounts prep, Xero are supposed to be working on something, and Taxfiler also has accounts. Early days but I suspect these products will mature over time.

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23rd Jun 2015 11:42

Bad joke

One could say there are...clouds on the horizon.

<leaves quietly>

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23rd Jun 2015 16:41

What is remarkable about this person?

Hundreds of the rest of us have set up accountancy practices on our own and have made use of the best technology available at the time. We really don't need this rubbish.

Could it be that Alex is young, female and good-looking? It's a bit of an advertorial. Aweb has done this sort of thing before and it's depressing. We don't get the same boring stuff written about men, however sexy or wrinkled.

We have plenty of colleagues on here who have had to bust a gut juggling childcare/illhealth/something else but have grown their practice to a decent size. I've had none of these problems myself but find it inspiring to read about their tribulations and how they overcame them.

Sorry but this is just boring stuff. Perhaps it's paid for.

As someone else suggested today - why not write about the impossibility of filing online for the last 5 days? That's what most of us on Aweb desperately need hard news on. A tougher assignment than the silly nonsense you've written, but much more worthwhile.

She laughs.

 

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23rd Jun 2015 16:47

In AccountingWEB's defence, I found it quite interesting to read about an accountant at the coal face - whatever their story or situation. Whether she's young or what she looks like doesn't matter (as is demonstrated by lack of reference or picture). 

It's definitely not paid for as it would be signposted if it were. Quite an eloquent piece in all I thought. 

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23rd Jun 2015 18:06

@Moonbeam - Sorry if this piece upset you

Alex is just one of many firms that we'll cover over the course of the year, so please don't target your animosity at her. As the editor of the site, I made the decision to talk to her for this article. She may be just another story of a start-up - but traffic and feedback from other members suggest that we can never get enough of those.

We have an entire zone within the site dedicated to Starting up in practice, where we've covered lots of firms, started by people of varying ages, genders and personal appearance.

One of the reasons that we thought it was worth talking to Alex was because she represented several firms started by younger accountants than we've run across before. From previous comments on the site, the rise of the under-30 sole practitioner upsets many older accountants who paid their dues under more tradition-bound regimes. It appears that you may share some of these sentiments.

But the trend is happening all around you, so you might as well look and see what you can learn from cloud enthusiasts such as Alex. Before long she and her like may be competing with you. Since she has been happy to share her thoughts with us so openly, it can't hurt you to know where she's coming from.

We have covered older accountants and those who have juggled families and other commitments. Our class of 2009 was a very instructive exercise that alerted us to the large numbers of generation X accountants - many of them women - who were setting up in practice to achieve the kind of work-life balance not available to them in their old firms. That shift may have upset older male practitioners, but it seems the wheel has turned again and there's a new wave to frighten established practitioners.

Be assured that whenever and wherever we can identify important things happening within the profession, we try to reflect that reality. Now, we'll see if we can get some answers from HMRC on the Government gateway situation.

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By drx109
23rd Jun 2015 20:14

Pause for thought [moderated heading]

I wish Alex much success but when her work history is so easily available on linked in I question the wisdom of stating on a public website:

“Working for another firm not really interested in moving with the times wasn’t a possibility for me. I wanted to do it three years ago. I found that old school accountants just weren’t interested in fully embracing new technology, or making life easier."

I expect too it was these old school accountants who took the time to train you?

Food for thought perhaps.

 

 

 

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24th Jun 2015 07:34

Security issues

In many ways I wish I'd set up myself in my twenties or thirties.  One key issue with the cloud for me is data security.  In the scandals which have become public knowledge, it is clear that fellow directors of senior people who have left businesss and then fraudulently used client data they had sucked before they left were completely unaware that the leaver:

1.  Was disgruntled to the point of wanting to leave.

2.  Had poor business ethics.

3.  Was saving this data to personal data sticks / hard drives / whatever they used.

It seems to me that if people working closely with senior IT guys cannot see this is about to happen, then how can I possibly judge?  And if I cannot judge, what gives me the right to expose my clients to this sort of risk?

Unless, of course, I point this out in advance.  And I mean spell it out, not bury it in page 3, paragraph 20 of Appendix 2 of the letter of engagement.

Of the accountants on this site who use the cloud as the default mode of client data capture, what percentage of you do this?

My ball park estimate is 5%.

 

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24th Jun 2015 08:39

Congratulations to Alex and I wish her well, it's no doubt an exciting time.

I do like to hear stories like this, I like to know what other people are doing, how they are doing it, what's working, what's not. I always feel slightly disappointed by the end of the article though, I want facts and figures, how many clients, GRF, how many hours are they working, marketing spend, growth ambitions, lifestyle choice, software etc etc,
I guess that's me being a little nosey (in a professional way mainly) and the thought that there's perhaps always a slightly better way of doing things. There rarely is, just a few tweaks usually.
To be honest, only 2 months in to a new practice and without giving away sensitive data, there's not really much to be learnt from such a firm, at the moment. I look forward to hearing more in the future as things progress. And hopefully with some more detail, facts and figures to satisfy my thirst for such things !

Oh, and being young, female and a practice owner I don't think makes someone unique does it? In the minority most likely, but not actually unique.

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24th Jun 2015 09:51

Thanks for the comments, Sheepy

Yeah, I debated the use of unique in my head while writing this. But I felt she merited it. I'll perhaps be a little more sparing in the words I use in future. 

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24th Jun 2015 14:35

After the first month of trade, I converted 10 new clients. At the end of the first quarter, this is now 20. I have attracted technology based firms.  Majority of which I can carry our research and development claims. Im based outside of London so the fees are generally a little lower. The average fee per client - £2.5k.

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26th Jun 2015 00:02

Mr Nosey

Sheepy306 wrote:

I do like to hear stories like this, I like to know what other people are doing.,,I want facts and figures, how many clients, GRF, how many hours are they working, marketing spend, growth ambitions, lifestyle choice, software etc etc,
I guess that's me being a little nosey.


I'm sure if you start a thread off on these lines others will show you theirs
:o)
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24th Jun 2015 14:48

That's really interesting, Alex.

Thanks for posting some of the nuts and bolts of your business! 

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25th Jun 2015 13:04

Agree with Sheepy

I'm always interested in these articles and feel that Moonbeam has been unnecessarily harsh.  Making a comment which makes reference to Alex's looks when there is no picture or other reference point on Accounting Web strikes me as a petty dig.

However, that said, I do agree with her and Sheepy and feel that these articles always lack substance as there is no way of benchmarking how what is being done by the individual mentioned in the articles actually equates to success or otherwise.  When you boil the article down all that is left is a young, female, start-up accountant that has adopted cloud accounting fully and she has no regrets!

More reference to software utilised, marketing strategies and spends, fixed fees or time billing and then how these things actually equate to GRF, customer acquisition and retention etc is what is of true value to the Accounting Web user (Professional Accountant). 

These articles, as Moonbeam mentioned, do tend to end up reading more like an advertising blurb than an article reviewing a new up and coming accountants business.  What for example has Alex found hasn't worked as well as she had hoped, what would she do differently with hindsight and what are any of the shortcomings in the software and strategies she has adopted?  How many hours is she working and how does this compare with what she was doing at her former 'old school' accountant?

Add some meat to the bones in the future please.

Best of luck to Alex with her company though, sounds as though she has made a positive start.

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25th Jun 2015 13:56

Keeping up with the Joneses

Echo Sheepy's comments.

I find it interesting to see what others are doing and occasionally I will sit at my desk thinking well done/that's clever/that's rubbish/why have they done that!?! to this type of article.

I found the articles John mentions above interesting - those where practices are revisited to see how they are doing after 1/3/5 years etc.

I think that would be an interesting topic - how a practice started, what they are doing now and with some detail - turnover/client number/staff after 1/3/5 years etc.

I know there are 100's if not 1,000's of practitioners similar to myself and I would be interested to see where and how I compare to others.

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25th Jun 2015 17:45

See also Practice Excellence Programme...

Hi Kent and thanks for your comments.

It's a bit informal and catch as catch can, but we do occasionally bump into old friends and find out how they are doing.

On a more structured level, many of the practices we have featured in profile articles often show up as entrants to our Practice Excellence Awards. We don't know who they are during the judging process, but you should be familiar with some of the names now from all the articles we publish around the programme.

What I can tell you is that the cloud-driven advisory practice has gone mainstream in the space of a year. We had nearly 50 entrants to the small firm category and more than three-quarters of them have gone down this route.

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25th Jun 2015 23:55

What exactly...
...is a cloud driven advisory practice?
Finding Xero and becoming a certified advisor in 2010 was one of the factors that led to/helped me start my practice in 2011.
I don't think that pigeon holes me as cloud driven though.
I try to focus on what is best/suitable for the client. The 'cloud' just isn't for some of them.
If a practice is starting out and their stance is its the cloud or nothing, then they will turn away/off a lot of very good prospects/potential clients and drive them back to more traditional practices.

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26th Jun 2015 09:18

Ive invested time in getting to know different cloud products such as Xero and the Add-ons. Receipt Bank, Spotlight, eWay, Stripe, GoCardless, Vend, Unleashed, Chaser, Tripcatcher etc. All these assist hugely is automating systems for my clients. I integrate the products also, based on their needs and requirements. There are so many products available for all the different industries, its pretty hard not to have at least one available for them. So far, not one of my clients have asked to go back to their former systems. I clearly don't want to drive away clients, but this is the path that I have chosen for my business. I have attracted technology based firms and start- ups. 

I would equally like to know how I compare to other practices, startups etc. Perhaps a follow up will be a good idea in say 6 months /1 year. If people don't mind sharing their facts and figures then thats great.

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