Joining Practice Talk this week is Carl Whitehead, who this month opened his third TaxAssist Accountants shop in Leicestershire.
Whitehead started his accountancy career at a chartered accountancy firm but while the training helped him master the basics, he still felt held back by the firm’s resistance to change.
So when an opportunity came up at a TaxAssist Accountants in his hometown it wasn’t just the more convenient commute that convinced him to make the jump. “I started to get a more broad experience of accountancy and tax, which allowed me to see clients and that's where you get senior positions, seeing clients, signing them off and giving them advice,” he said.
Fortuitously, his rapid career ascension came as his former boss was looking to ideally sell the franchise to a member of staff, rather than externally. With the two shaking hands on the deal, Whitehead and his former business partner decided to weather the recession through buying a second location.
His former business partner would have quite happily carried on for the last five years and taken the money that the one office was making, but with Whitehead wanting to grow the business he was persuaded to come on the ride with him.
He took over as the sole director of two TaxAssist shops in 2017 having worked his way up from accounts manager to training manager to practice manager.
It was always Whitehead’s intention to open a third shop. So when a shop outlet became available in Loughborough, he jumped at the chance.
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After a demanding few years, Whitehead plans on taking things a little easier for now. As you’ll read in this week’s Practice Talk, having three shops is as busy as it sounds.
What time does a typical working day start for you?
I am not very good at getting up in the morning. I am more a 9am person but I do tend to work until 6.30pm and often weekends, as well. A lot of my day revolves around my emails so it’s the first thing I turn on in the morning. I probably spend half the morning clearing emails.
How much of your day is dedicated to speaking with clients?
I've tried over the last couple of years to see fewer and fewer clients because not being in the same office for the whole week doesn't make it easy if a client wants to see you on a certain day. I've tried gradually to allow my other staff members to have those relationships with the clients. I've tried to take a step back but opening this third office has meant that I'm getting a bit more back to the coalface and seeing new clients.
How do you plan out your day? Do you use practice management software or a simple to-do list?
I find it very difficult to stick to a set plan of action because so many things get thrown at me during the day. I have gone back to an old fashioned to-do list and tick them off as I go through. But the problem I've found is that most tasks are carried forward each day so the list is not getting any shorter. We also use TaxCalc as our practice software which has job tracking abilities so we can see what jobs there are and who they're assigned to and what stage they're at.
Is lunch a time where you'd take a break away from work or do you use that time to keep working and letting your keyboard gather with sandwich crumbs?
Usually, I'll sit at my desk and have my lunch whilst probably working. I do occasionally look at the BBC News website for something non-work related and turn off for 10-15 minutes checking up on the latest sports news.
Have you got set days that you spend in each office or do you pinball between the three?
Before I took on the third office I would do three days in one office and two days in the other and those days would always be the same. But having a new office and school holidays with a lot of staff members off, I am the person that plugs the gap. If someone is on holiday somewhere I will go work at that office. I'd rather have set days at set offices because we have appointment slots for clients and everyone needs to know where I am to book those appointments.
Does your work-life blend into your personal life or do you keep a boundary between the two?
If I know I have things to do, I'd rather stay in the office during the week rather than go home with it. I am not really as productive at home. There are always other distractions. I do work some weekends if I feel like I am falling behind. I'll spend a few hours working Saturday or Sunday afternoon so at least it gives me the morning to lie in and recharge the batteries before I start to do work again.
Can you remember your first calculator?
I still have my first work calculator. It's a grey Casio calculator and it's in one of my offices. I have three desks at three different offices so I seem to have three of everything everywhere. I probably prefer my original one, the other ones I've just acquired and didn't particularly choose.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.