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Meet the client: McArthur Davies Marketing

14th Sep 2016
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As part of a collaborative project with Receipt Bank and its customers, AccountingWEB is delving into the activities and issues faced by a trio of small UK businesses over the summer. This second report presents the business aspirations and challenges of McArthur Davies Marketing in Bristol.

This ‘Meet the client’ series is designed to help practitioners broaden their understanding of different sectors by hearing from someone operating on the front line and learning what motivates and frustrates them.

As with the previous edition on Deluxe Hospitality Group, each introductory article will be accompanied by a short video profile, and a companion article setting out the compliance and tax issues in more detail. A further case study is in the pipeline with a construction business.

McArthur Davies Marketing

McArthur Davies Marketing is a full-service marketing company that is now in its sixth year. The Bristol-based agency helps smaller and medium sized businesses grow through creative, targeted marketing.

The business specialises in working with fast-growth ambitious business, from start ups up to an audit threshold of around £10m.

In the last couple of years the biggest challenge has been moving from being a contractor-based business to being an employer.

Business characteristics and challenges

According to director and co-owner Alexandra McArthur, most of the business has been built on using suppliers, freelancers and contractors.

Becoming an employer has brought a whole range of new challenges to the business including PAYE, HR, consultancy, legislation and employee benefits.

McArthur Davies Marketing engaged the services of Bristol-based chartered accountants Dunkley’s.

According to McArthur, Dunkley’s does far more than just the accounts and their relationship with the accounting firm has made running the business easier.

“On becoming an employer all their advice has been there on tap and there’s more support there if needed,” she said.

McArthur added that they sell time and knowledge, and that the biggest challenge has been valuing that time.

Another challenge has been understanding all the different software out there. She explained: “We’re at the start of our technology journey but wish we had got on the bandwagon earlier on.”

Accountant’s diagnosis: Mike Dunkley, Dunkley’s

Bristol-based firm Dunkley’s acts as accountant for McArthur Davies Marketing. Partner Mike Dunkley explained that his client shares many other characteristics with other businesses in the sector, but does throw up some interesting administrative challenges thanks to its innovative approach.

McArthur Davies is typical of the sector in lots of ways, but they perhaps put more effort into pleasing clients than you sometimes see. They are very innovative with the solutions they develop for their clients.

Their work involves a lot of hospitality and unusual creativity. One does sometimes have to look at the expense side of things in more detail. For example we have a client in the industry who bought five parka coats in the middle of summer to do with a particular event. The coats were virtually thrown away straight afterward. You will often have to do a more thorough review whether the items are to do with business and make sure you’ve got the evidence to support what you’re doing.

In some cases expenses will be “back-to-backed” and charged on to clients to confirm they’re bona fide. Some larger events will involve payments on account up front, or certain elements of expense will be invoiced directly. These are considered as we go along.

There might be things about rewarding staff for good ideas, which McArthur Davies tend to do with bonuses and gifts. But that is more than is recouped from the prices they’re able to obtain and the increased business they do.

As a whole, we don’t experience many extra niggles in this sector from the tax perspective. You can get more creative types of people who aren’t as interested in mundane tax points, but that can be true in any sector. We tend to sit down with client to get a feel for what they want and then tailor a service for what they need. So the things that crop up aren’t problems, because it’s what we’re expecting.

The model of service and delivery is very much something that can be replicated across all service businesses and beyond. With many of our clients we use QuickBooks Online or Xero with Receipt Bank and CrunchBoards at either end of the process. It’s a good formula that enables us to deal with things effectively and at a distance.


Sponsors note: Receipt Bank extracts the key information from your client receipts and invoices, removing the need for time consuming manual data entry.