In the concluding part of this series we spoke to Jeremiah Jordan, founder of RHJ Accountants and Associates.
Jordan wanted to build a tech-led business from the start. Using FreeAgent has helped him to offer clients the level of service they expect. Perhaps his laid-back approach and willingness to learn from his mistakes has led to RHJ’s growth.
What happened when you set up and then grew, in terms of the hidden practicalities?
I had to get insurance straight away. I knew I would have to have that. I also needed a practicing license. It was all fairly straightforward.
When I really started to grow I had this big volume of clients so I knew I needed staff in place with the right expertise to answer their questions. I couldn’t do it all on my own.
Any lessons learned going through this process?
I learnt that when you’re a practice owner there are hidden costs you might not have budgeted for. Things you don’t even think about when you’re an employee.
If someone said they wanted to start their own business I’d say: “It can be lonely at first, but if you have that dream then think positive and you can do it.”
What is the basic toolkit you need to run a firm?
For me it’s about having the right knowledge, being approachable, having good communication skills, oh, and good staff to help.
Tell us about the first time you hired a team member.
It got to a point where the workload was really unbearable. I was working day and night so I knew I had to hire someone. The first person I hired I found out about from my uncle. He had someone who was just finishing a bookkeeping course. I interviewed her and hired her.
What was the role?
I hired her to do my bookkeeping. It meant I was free to do client work and to grow my business.
The second person I hired approached me about a job. After that I began to use recruiters. We also get a lot of CVs sent into us, so that’s another way we find staff.
Any lessons learned in the hiring process?
Sometimes you need to make mistakes to realise what the bad staff decisions are. Otherwise, you might just keep doing the same thing and never realise.
What was the balance between skillset and mindset?
My priorities have always been ‘can we get along?’ Then I need to know if they have the knowledge and skills to be able to liaise with clients, and that they’re going to do a good job.
Did you follow a vetting process?
Now, yes. My PA is very stringent. We do a thorough check on social media and think ‘do they seem like the person we would want to represent RHJ? Will they fit in?’
How have you found the shift to people management?
I’ve found it ok to be honest. I’m very, very laid back, so usually as long as people do their work then I’m ok. You just have to be there for them. If something is happening in their personal life, it will impact them at work. You need to let them know you’re there for them. I do still have to make sure they realise I’m the boss though. It’s my business and I can’t have people take advantage.
What are the basics needed to start up?
Accounts have to be in the right format so I think you really need to have some tax accounting software. I knew I was going to have to buy this but I hadn’t realised the cost. Again, as an employee you don’t think about it. I had FreeAgent. I’m definitely a technology-led business, 100%.
Was there a point when you needed to make changes to grow? How did you know you needed to make changes?
Once you start hiring people you realise that you have all the files and everything on your laptop. That wasn’t going to work, so I hired an IT company to come in and set us up. Then every employee had access to all the docs they needed and they could save docs in a shared area.
What technology do you use now (including mobile, computer hardware and software)?
Personally, I don’t think you can ignore technology so we have everything. Laptops, PCs, iPads, mobile phones, you name it we’ve got it. Everything is going digital now. Gone are the days when you can work solely with paperwork.
Have your priorities for technology changed? If so how?
Technology and its possibilities are changing all the time, so yes, my priorities change too. I’ve always been tech focused, but things have really changed. I mean FreeAgent allows you to almost complete all your accounts and send to HMRC online.
Do you have a CRM?
We do but I don’t really deal with it. My PA looks after that.
Do clients have the opportunity to pay via your website?
Not yet but it’s one of my goals for 2018.
Do you know what discounts are available to you as your client numbers grow?
I do know that as I get more clients, FreeAgent will provide discounts.
Do you think you’ve had the necessary advice to be tax efficient with hardware purchases?
Yes, I’ve taken advice. If there’s something that I don’t know then I’ll speak to one of my partners and get their thoughts.
How did you approach marketing when you first started out?
To start with it was a lot of networking. Just me and my Vistaprint business card. I also joined online business forums and answered questions posted. As I began to answer more questions, I was approached independently to do work for people.
How has this approach changed over time?
Now, the vast majority is done through social media and mailshots. And word of mouth is still the best thing for me.
When did you know that you needed to invest time into strategic marketing?
I would say after the first two years I knew I needed to invest in marketing. I knew I needed to find someone and then six months after that I hired someone to help. They help particularly with social media.
What marketing strategies have you found most successful? Has this changed with the growth of your practice?
I now work with a media agency to help with our social media. I don’t think you can afford to not have a presence on social media.
How have you marketed to new clients in the last six months? What channels have you used; e.g. email, calls, print, social media etc?
We post videos on social media, I’ve done some interviews on local radio and I’ve also advertised on some music videos as I know someone who’s a producer.
Do you have a blog?
How have you told existing clients about changes to services and how have they responded?
I’ve also got an estate agency and my existing clients have responded well to that additional service as a number of them have property portfolios. I’ve called them and told them about it and it’s gone down well. I can provide another service they need and there is already a level of trust there.
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