Recruiting the best

I like to recruit people who are better than me. But there is a shortage of accountants (and other STEM careers) at the moment.

Fortunately I also like to recruit non-accountants and to train them up. I particularly look for people with customer service experience who can look after our lovely clients while we use software to run things as efficiently as possible behind the scenes. This suits our tech savvy clients.

The downside of running a modern business is that we do things very differently to most traditional accountants so it is often easier to train somebody from scratch than to persuade them to unlearn bad habits acquired elsewhere.

I like to do careers talks or interview practice in local schools so that I get an early glimpse of the new talent about to hit the workplace. One of my trainees came to me for work experience as a 17 year old and is now a manager in another local accountancy firm. And I expect they’ll go further.

If you are looking for a general manager to free you up to develop your business you could try looking at retail managers. They have a broad range of skills and could soon learn about your particular business and sector.

When it comes to recruitment try thinking outside the box.

Xero and the environment

At Accountex earlier this month I was reminded of some software called Ecologi which links to Xero and can analyse your spend to identify your environmental impact and potential savings.

If you’re aiming to be a net zero business then it’s a useful tool in helping to focus on the high usage areas. You can also use the website to plant trees to offset the carbon that you do use.

So far it only links to Xero but I would expect to see them expanding to QBO then perhaps other bookkeeping software.

We don’t take just anyone

It’s not that we don’t like you. Far from it. We like to serve people where we can provide the most value.

At Hudson Business Advice we only choose clients in certain industries and who have the time, resources, and motivation to implement any agreed actions. We don’t like people to waste their money if they’re not going to do anything. But we also want you to succeed in having the business you first dreamt about as I get my real reward seeing happy business owners with time freedom and financial freedom. (Yes, I do cry real tears of joy when that happens)

At Minerva Accountants we use a lot of automation to operate as efficiently as possible so that clients have up to date management information to make informed business decisions. We can’t provide the sort of service I’d like for people who aren’t tech savvy. We can help them a little bit but will often refer them elsewhere.

Similarly we encourage you to be picky about your own clients so that you can run your business more efficiently without trying to be all things to all men.

Work out who your ideal client is (have a look at your current best clients) and focus on finding more of these by creating valuable content and resources for them.

An unlimited market?

In accountancy there seem to be far more businesses than good accountants and it is possible to take on unlimited clients (assuming you had the resources). So why wouldn’t you?

Because you want clients suited to YOUR business.

You want clients from the industries you know well and that will fit well into your processes. This will enable you to provide a better service with your enhanced knowledge.

You want the clients who fit you personally so that you enjoy working together. This will enable you to provide a better service that you enjoy.

You want the clients who can afford your fees. This will enable you to provide a better service as you won’t have to take on too many clients all vying for your time.

Keep an eye on your client list and your fees to ensure that you can provide high quality work.

The ‘Icarus’ budget 

I set up my first business with the intention of doing a few sets of accounts from the kitchen table to fit around my kids. But my background BC (before children) was running larger businesses and, if you do the right things, you get the right results. I needed to decide whether to limit my activities or to deliberately grow the business which would entail taking on staff and premises.

In the meantime somebody talked me into running the Bristol and afterwards, high on endorphins, I wrote my ‘Icarus’ budget. Yes, I really did name it that as I didn’t know if what I was planning would be achievable on just 25 hours per week (because I still wanted to fit it around my kids)

The rest is history*. Stay off the endorphins kids, you never know what might happen 😉

What would you do if you were feeling brave?

*If you haven’t heard the story then ‘The Numbers Business: how to grow a successful cloud accountancy practice’ is available on Amazon and Audible

Collaboration for the win

A while ago our local post master observed my kids spending their pocket money and reported back to me. Apparently they figured out that if they pooled their money they could get a big packet of sweets between them which was even better value. Collaboration for the win!

Years later, when they were old enough, he gave each of them a job as soon as he had a vacancy. Watching their behaviour over the years had given him some idea of how they would get on with customers.

In our business we rely on each member of the team using our different skills collaboratively to provide the best service to our clients.

But it’s not just internally that we work together. We extend our support to clients’ bookkeepers. They can contact us through the year with coding or other queries. In return we benefit by getting neater records coded as we like them so the year end is faster. Sometimes we get early warning of areas we can advise our mutual client. We’re always happy to explain any year end adjustment journals so that Xero (or other software) records are better each year.

We also work with software providers to ensure that any new software is properly set up to give both year end and management information. Or with IFAs and mortgage advisers to provide the best information to help our mutual clients with nonbusiness finances.

How could you collaborate with others to increase the size of the pie?

Tax tip

Business entertaining is not allowed for VAT or Corporation/Income tax purposes.

The only exception is staff entertaining. I’ve written on this separately if you want the detail but it must be below £150 per person per year.

Customer and supplier entertaining are never allowable and this is one of the many adjustments that we make when we prepare your accounts and tax returns.

Is it your husband’s business?

When I set up my first business in 2009, I lost track of the number of times that I was asked whether it was my husband’s business or mine!

Initially I ran the business from home in order to be available for my small children. But it didn’t look like a typical house because it was a former Post Office where we had two rooms set aside for me and my staff.

When we reached a team of 5, we had to move out to commercial offices in the next town in order to grow further. This had the benefit of a large meeting room where we could host our Money Matters events and Xero training courses. (It was also above a Domino’s which was great when the whole team got together for our monthly lunch and learn sessions) With larger premises and running events I was clearly the public face of the business, and nobody asked about my husband anymore.

Since I sold that business in 2017, I have started 3 more businesses, all of which operate remotely with no permanent office space. The Money Matters events are now a series of monthly webinars to help business owners and the Xero training is also online.

Once again people are unable to judge the size of my business from any physical premises. Now I get all sorts of subtle questions probing for how big the team is. (In case you’re curious Minerva Accountants currently has a permanent team of three people plus regular and occasional sub-contractors but watch this space)

How do you think your business is perceived and what can you do to change that?

Should I be a limited company?

There are all sorts of reasons for incorporating and most of these are unchanged but two things have changed or are about to change.

1.Corporation tax increases combined with National Insurance reductions mean that the level and which it is tax efficient to incorporate have increased to around £100k* profits

2.At the moment small companies do not have to publish full accounts at Companies House. In future they will need to show their profit and loss account. This means that sensitive commercial and personal information will be in the public domain. For sole directors their salary will be available for anybody to see.

There may still be reasons, tax and otherwise, why business may choose to trade through a limited company so personal advice is more important than ever.

*This is a guide and the actual level still depends on individual circumstances.

Tax Tip – Tax efficient salary 2024/25

A tax efficient salary for director/shareholders has always depended on your personal circumstances but, for most people, it mainly depended on whether our clients had spare Employment Allowance or not. Now that corporation tax rates have increased and national insurance rates have fallen there are far more things to consider and we will no longer publish a generic rate.

The good news is that we will soon be releasing an app so that you can work out the best rate for yourself. Please let us know if you would like to be informed when this is available.