Do start-up practitioners want to work alone?

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Mark Lee shares the story of ‘Leonard’ who has realised his start-up practice needs a partner. What about you?

When you started up in practice what options did you consider? And have you reconsidered the choice you made since starting up by yourself?

I was talking to an old friend recently and he was telling me about the accountancy practice he had started a few years back. Leonard (not his real name) is a sole practitioner and is supported by a couple of contractors. One is largely bookkeeping and accounts-focused.  The other looks after clients’ tax affairs.

Leonard had called me because he is trying to decide how to move the practice forward. In fact his choices now are the same as when he started. And like most new practices he didn’t really think through his options at the outset...

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About Mark Lee

Mark Lee works almost exclusively with savvy sole practitioners who want more out of their practice.  More clients, more money, more time, more satisfaction - or everything!

An accountant by profession, Mark moved away from the provision of professional advice in 2006.   He is now a professional speaker, mentor, facilitator, author and debunker.

Mark Lee is a realist and regularly debunks myths and hype related to his areas of interest and expertise.  His keynote talk for audiences of accountants is How to STAND OUT and be more than 'just another accountant'.

Mark is passionate about helping accountants generally so is a keen blogger and commentator in the accounting and tax press. He is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and has written hudnreds of articles here that have been viewed over a million times.

Check out how he could help you here:

Mark stopped giving tax advice himself despite being a past Chairman of the Chartered Accountants’ Tax Faculty. He is however Chairman of the Tax Advice Network - the UK's highest ranked lead generation website for tax advisers and accountants. The network also publishes a weekly practical tax update for accountants in general practice and full tax support, on demand too.  You can also use it as a lead generation resource for local people seeking tax advice from an accountant.

Mark has extensive network reach through his blogs, talks, social media activity, articles and his regular newsletters that go to thousands of accountants every week.


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20th Oct 2013 11:14

By the way

If anyone would like an introduction to 'Leonard' by all means send me a message I can pass on to him. His office is based in Lambeth, SE London.


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22nd Oct 2013 16:46

Surprised not more comments on this!

I 'did a Lenoard' in 2006, starting on my own, working from home, starting from absolute scratch. Unlike Leonard my focus was a basic compliance service, coming from an industry background not practice that was enough of a challenge!

I didn't want to work alone, and still don't, but have found it impossible to find someone prepared to join on the same basis as me (if you earn the fee you can keep it, less costs). I even advertised for a partner on Linked-In, just one contact that came to nothing. It would be different if I was offering a salary of course, but I just can't do that.

With hindsight I probably should have swallowed my pride, given up a fair part of my independence (and fees), and gone the franchise route. At least that avoids isolation, and reduces the number of wheels you have to re-invent as you at least get a template business to operate and have a workable pricing model.

For me, the worst part has been the lack of support, or even interest, from the Association. There is no mentoring scheme, no training for those making the switch from industry to practice, no member's group for those who have done it to support those thinking of it, Nothing. You just pay hundreds of pounds a year for a certificate and a magazine, 95% of which is irrelevant to the work I do. The technical helpline doesn't even ask who you are when you call, makes no record of the conversation, and there is no written confirmation of the advice given. That doesn't give any encouragement to rely on it.

Getting back to your question Mark, no, start-up practitioners really don't want to work on their own, but there seldom seems to be an alternative unless you are lucky enough to break away from an established practice and take someone with you.

Thanks (1)
22nd Oct 2013 19:59

Do start-up practitioners want to work alone?

I started on my own 13 years ago after being made redundant as accountant with a large retail firm. Shortly after joining it I saw the writing on the wall, but neither the FD or MD would listen to my advice. As I was nearing 50, I knew no other firm would employ me despite my experience due to ageism, but I still tried for positions, and stuck where I was,

When the inevitable day came, I knew that at my age I would be considered too old for employment, so started self employment

The beginning was very hard but the rapid increase in clients by word of mouth was almost overwhelming. I was forced to use the services of a self employed book keeper, but I soon discovered it was taking longer to correct her mistakes than do the work myself.

Working alone has suited me, but if I had started S/E long before I did, I would probably have sought a sub contractor to take some of the strain off me. The recession, and number of those employed but working for the black economy, has lost me several clients, but I have other sources of income now; the state pension.

Thanks (2)
By Ranilp
15th Nov 2013 14:36

Introduction to Leonard


I would be pleased if you could give me an introduction to Leonard.

I have just set up a practice and am going through the pains of trying to find clients. Would certainly like to have a chat with him and see where it leads.



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25th May 2014 15:24

The Inner Circle for Accountants

This article led to a number of people asking to be put in touch with 'Leonard'.

The other outcome was that I have now established a group (currently only in London I'm afraid) for established sole practitioners to meet together and benefit from sharing ideas and solutions. I facilitate the group to keep discussions focused and share related insights picked up from my travels and conversations with a wider groups of accountants.

Further details here: The Inner Circle for Accountants


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