Practice Talk: John Froggett from the Accountancy Practice
John Froggett discusses starting his firm with just £250 from his garage, bringing his children into the business, and moonlighting as a singer.
Just over 20 years ago, The Accountancy Practice founder Froggett was let go by his former employer and ended up with a cheque for just £250 and the drive to do something different. “I dragged my telephone into the garage and started phoning clients: that's how it started,” said Froggett. “It’s why I’m never frightened of going out and looking for business because I've done it”.
His firm now has more than 700 clients, thanks in part to a high-growth strategy driven by its new direct sales department: a stark contrast to the firm’s humble beginnings.
When Froggett was making those initial phone calls he had five young children. Today, two of his sons are working in the firm, with the older of the two David actually running the show. In fact, the Royston-based practice resembles accountancy’s Brady Bunch with seven of the 10 employees family members. Both sons have taken to the profession like ducks to water, although after his daughter decided the profession wasn’t for her, Froggett had both boys psychometrically profiled to make sure they were a right fit.
“My profile is not as an accountant, so I had to suffer for 20 years," explained Froggett, "but they've got perfect profiles for an accountant."
With his son in charge, Froggett admits that these days his main day-to-day duty is to “generally create chaos” and help the team out on things they may not have the experience to do.
With the extra time, Froggett is able to pursue his passion for wellbeing in business, which he often discusses via a regular slot on local radio station Cambridge 105.
Using his background in meditation, Froggett runs a mentoring service within the firm. “We have a mentoring service we use within the firm. As a client, we're not just interested in your numbers; we're also interested in how that affects you as an individual,” he said.
“We have a client at the moment who said if it wasn't for what we are doing, his business would have gone down six months ago. He's been able to renew himself and realise that sometimes things aren't as bad as they seem.”
The alarm goes off at 6.30am. We belong to a number of networking groups: some are weekly, some are monthly. So at least one morning a week you'll find me at a networking group. Maybe twice a week. Sometimes even three times a week. That's the start of my day.
I normally hit the office by about 9.30am. I walk in and see everybody, annoy the bookkeeping department and gee everybody up for the rest of the week.
My day is normally made up of new sales meetings and seeing new clients. There are some existing clients that have been with me for a long time that I have tried passing them on to David but they still want to see me. I will invariably have a meeting with them.
I'm heavily involved in singing. I'm like Batman: I take this accounting cloak off and I become Joe Rose the singer. Two or three times a month about 11am I go to residential homes and sing for people there. They enjoy it, and it's good for me too because it uses the other side of the brain.
We've just released a charity single, Blue Christmas, with the author Ken Follett. We did a few radio appearances on BBC Three Counties. Through all the publicity we get through the singing we actually get clients.
At midday, we will have a fortnightly team meeting. It tends to be quite lively, with our dedicated sales and marketing department and a separate bookkeeping team. We all like to see what everybody is doing.
If someone thinks of a great new service we can provide, we'd have a chat about it because compliance is becoming is easier which frees up a lot of time. These meetings usually take from an hour to hour and a half.
I don't really have lunch. I tend to work through. That's only because I do 24-hour fasting diets. I only eat once a day in the evening. That means I just work unless the clients want to drag me out to lunch which is rare but it sometimes happens.
I am semi-retired, in that I only work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. This is because I can rely on my son David to run the business. So in the afternoon, I make some phone calls to some existing clients to see how things are.
It never occurred to me to sell the practice, but the fact that I have some continuity is excellent because clients like to know that I am still around. Making the calls and having a chat is what I enjoy. I don't get on with the number-crunching as much as I did when I was younger.
I'm useless at emails. Always have been. I'm now in the exalted position where my son David checks my emails. If there is something I need to deal with he tells me. Other than that he'll deal with it.
We also shut the office at 2.30pm on a Friday. We've done this for the last 20 years. Clients don't often bother us about this: those that get a little nervous about things have my mobile number, but it never rings.