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Class of 2021: Why startup in the Covid era?

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Three new practice owners explain what drove them to take the plunge and start their own practices in the midst of the pandemic.

22nd Nov 2021
Community Assistant AccountingWEB
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Launching your own practice can be a daunting prospect in any given year, but 2021 gave its own unique set of challenges. Entering the new year in the midst of the third national lockdown might not have seemed like the ideal conditions for tackling a new start-up, but these accountants were up to the task.

Autonomy in action

The pandemic served to show many just how fragile the working world can be and the prospect of working for yourself had never been more alluring.

Gaining autonomy over her work was the main driver for Lydia Read-Potter, who launched her practice this January: “I wanted to be able to control the decision-making,” she said in a recent AccountingWEB Live webinar. “I wanted to work in a way that suited me.”

With four children, the appeal of flexibility was a main motivator in the creation of her new firm BookSmart Accounting.

The same was true for accountant Natalie Binstead, who launched BW Business Accountants & Advisers this April: “I wanted to be able to have that flexibility around everything I do.”

On the cusp of a senior management role in her previous firm, and with the pandemic acting as a catalyst, Binstead started imagining what her life could be like if she pursued her desire to work for herself.

“It was just the right time for me personally, so I decided to give it a go,” she told AccountingWEB.

For owner of Boddice Accounting Vicki Boddice, a period of ill health forced her into a situation where she couldn’t continue working at a place she had adored being a part of.

“It made me stop and think actually, I want to do this for myself,” she said. “I want to choose who I can help, be about, have that autonomy. I knew I had things to offer people, and just decided now’s the time.”

Digital developments

The shift to a remote and digital corporate climate also opened several doors for the profession that had previously been closed; without the restrictions of geographical location, fresh startups had the chance to flourish in any area they fancied.

“I wasn’t just restricted to potential clients who were near me,” Binstead told AccountingWEB. “Actually being able to have those initial discussions with potential clients just over Zoom saved so much time.”

Virtual networking events and digital platforms allowed a multitude of opportunities to market and promote her practice, in a speedier and more succinct fashion than in person would have allowed for.

“People are more open to cloud-based businesses now,” added Boddice. “That’s been huge.”

The challenges of starting a new firm will be covered by our Class of 2021 panellists at the AccountingWEB Live Expo this 1-2 December in Coventry. Read-Potter, Boddice and Binstead will be joined by the biggest faces in the profession to share their knowledge and advice with you across two days of free conventions and talks. Registration is now open - click here to secure your spot.

Client demand in the Covid era

Boddice attributed the events of the pandemic to serving as a propeller for her start-up career: “If the pandemic hadn’t happened I’m not sure I’d be where I am. I found people realising during lockdown just how important good accounting records are.”

Many businesses had been scraping by doing their own version of their accounts, when suddenly they were having to apply for government grants and seek out assistance and found they didn’t have that backup of proper records to support what they were needing.

People have now begun to see the value of what an accountant or bookkeeper can provide, Boddice continued.

Although many businesses were struggling to stay afloat, Read-Potter found that the accounting profession was thriving in the midst of the mania: “The pandemic wasn’t affecting the workload. If anything, it was making accountants busier.”

With so much fallout from the devastation of coronavirus, people were in desperate need for accountants to swoop in and offer their expertise and support. New firms were able to submerge themselves in the midst of mass client demand.

The emergence of so many new businesses over the course of the past 18 months was also a factor in many successful firm’s developments. “[People] had never run their own business, they didn’t know what they were doing, and they just needed somebody to hold their hand and take away the stress of the financial side,” said Boddice.

You can catch Boddice, Read-Potter and Binstead at our free AccountingWEB Live Expo this 1-2 December in Coventry. Register now!

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