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Practice Talk: Mike Lea from PKF Francis Clark Bristol

12th Aug 2019
Mike Lea
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Joining Practice Talk this week is Mike Lea (pictured above left), the new Bristol managing partner at PKF Francis Clark.

Fresh from the grand opening of  PKF Francis Clark’s new office in Bristol, it’s hardly surprising that Lea hasn’t got a typical working day at the minute. 

Aside from the certainty of navigating Bristol’s Mad Max-like traffic, Lea’s routine is varied from day-to-day. One day he could be getting quotes for an office fit-out to the next, managing client and staff expectations as the Extinction Rebellion protest shuts down the city’s roads. 

But the new central-based office is well placed to serve clients across the region including the Eden Project, Bristol Sport and Brittany Ferries. 

It’s this South West focus that interested Lea. In his previous role at Smith and Williamson he was spending three to four nights a week in London. He even started to get recognised by train staff on the Bristol Temple Meads' platform. It's at that point he realised that he had to return to his South West roots.  

Now Lea brings his expertise in corporate tax and international tax as well as experience in the region, which dates back to joining the Clifton-based offices of Solomon Hare in 1997, to help deliver the office’s ambitious growth plans. 

“Having worked in Bristol for many years, I have witnessed first-hand its changing marketplace and truly believe that there is a real opportunity for a firm such as ours,” he said. “I am thrilled to lead PKF Francis Clark as we expand further in this vibrant region.”

Lea talks AccountingWEB through his typical working day. 

What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?

It starts before I leave the house, I am ashamed to say. The first quick thing I do in the morning is to check my emails, which -- I know -- is a terrible thing to say. I live a long way out so I have to get up early and get in early before the traffic. I aim to get in 7.30am or thereabouts. Any later than that I will hit the school traffic. More or less the first thing I'd do is to check my emails and then it’s coffee.  

How do you plan out your day?

My diary is pretty much full. Days are usually planned out for me and booked into advanced. For the next six weeks, I know exactly what I am doing every day. I'm getting inundated from lawyers and banks I've known. And there is also internal stuff as well. My day is planned out for me at the moment. That will change, but not at the moment. 

How much of your day is spent meeting clients compared with managing the office?

I'd say about 50-50. The role of managing partner involves being the face of the firm out there in the city. There is a lot of referral/referrers type work such as lawyers, bankers and so on who you need to meet. It's about being seen out there and getting the name out there. Certainly, I found the more you do, the more well known you are. 

Come lunchtime do you have a chance to escape the office or are you eating your sandwich over the computer keyboard?

Luckily, it's more of an occupational hazard that people do want to do lunch. It's a good break. You're talking about work but you do get out of the office. 

What time does a typical day finish for you?

If I have nothing on, I finish at 6.30pm. Inevitably, what happens is the charity work will have meetings after hours rather than break into someone's working day and that will sometimes go on until 8pm. And if there is a football or rugby match at Ashton Gate I'll simply head over to that. 

Does your work-life merge into your personal time in the evenings?

I try not to unless there is some client-related issue like a deal going through. Otherwise, it's checking my emails first thing in the morning to see what I missed the previous evening. I think driving home cuts me off from work. I live down in Glastonbury (commuting to Bristol). As soon as I am over the other side of the Mendips it just feels as if Bristol is a different world. 

How do you escape the world of tax and accounts?

I am a trustee of a number of charities in Bristol and that ranges from theatre, schools, young people and drug addiction. It does give you a completely different perspective of Bristol and life. In terms of a complete release, I follow Bristol Sport's rugby, football and cricket. I'm into all of that: Bristol Rugby and Bristol City at Ashton Gate and Somerset cricket in Taunton.  

Can you remember your first calculator?

My first calculator was a Texas instrument TI-30. It's sad that I can remember this. It had a red LED display. I got that when it was the first year where you could use it in exams. Prior to that you were using log tables on A5 yellow books. I graduated from that calculator to a Ti-56 which is what we call a scientific calculator. I'm using nothing now. It's either onscreen or part of the programmes we're using.

Lea joined the AccountingWEB editorial team on the No Accounting for Taste podcast last week to discuss the last seven days in accountancy, including Making Tax Digital and penalties, SportsDirect and the quality of audits. Click play above to listen.