Practice and People
'Our aim is be the prominent name in the region for business advice' - Haines Watts reveals merger
National accountancy firm, Haines Watts has merged with Chester firm, Pursglove & Brown, as part of the two firms’ ongoing expansion plans in the North West.
Cheshire accountancy practice taken over as Thompson Wright continues expansion
A rapidly growing accountancy practice in the north west of England has acquired a local Chartered firm.
New merger creates one of the biggest accountancy firms in South Wales
Two Cardiff-based chartered accountancy firms recently merged to form one of the largest independent accountancy practices in South Wales.
90 years at the top for rapidly growing Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire practice
Staff and directors at accountancy firm Whitley Stimpson are celebrating 90 years in business this year.
Mercer & Hole give staff 4 day weekend as thank you for dedication and hard work
Mercer & Hole is giving all 233 employees an additional days’ holiday on Friday 27 August, in “recognition for their hard work and commitment to the firm and its clients”.
Karen Kennedy’s story: launching her own accountancy firm in mid-lockdown – and thriving
Karen Kennedy, who started her own accountancy practice during the pandemic
Fledgling Scottish-based practice is flourishing
With so many businesses across the UK and the world struggling to survive the onslaught of problems caused by COVID and left unable to trade during lockdown, you wouldn’t automatically think it was the ideal time to start a new business.
Yet, that’s what Karen Kennedy did – and her fledgling accountancy practice, based in her home town, Ardelve, in the Scottish Highlands, is thriving.
Already, she has over 60 clients. About 80% are within 50 miles, with many coming through referrals. She has attracted clients through advertising in the local newspaper, Instagram, and word of mouth. The power of community is real to see in Karen’s business and community is one of her key business values.
Demonstrating the possibilities that remote working technology provides, Karen has established her business from home.
She launched her business in October, in the middle of lockdown. Karen had previously trained in practice and was working before as a Financial Director in college locally.
She told Your Accountancy Life that, as a mum-of-two, she wanted greater flexibility and work-life balance. And that’s what it’s given her. She wants to be able to go to sports day and do the nursery run.
She says: “I can go and pick up the children from nursery, play until dinner and then if I need to do more, I can, from home. It’s amazing what you can do with technology now.”
Beautiful surroundings: Loch Duich in Scotland is near where Karen lives and works
How does Karen feel about the achievement of launching her business and already doing so well?
“I’m proud of being able to start it myself. It’s been a bit of a dream come true to be able to have done this. It is very hard work, but so worth it!”
She says: “Setting up a business has been a very steep learning curve but very enjoyable. Even getting into practice again after three years out of it was a challenge.
"It’s been more successful than I thought it would be after such a short time. Now it's about managing that growth in a sustainable way. The next step is to offer a young person a career opportunity through a modern apprenticeship in accountancy which is really exciting."
Karen explains that her business is not simply about accounts and tax returns. Rather, she focuses on client relationships and becoming part of her clients’ businesses, providing key business advice and tracking how clients are getting on in achieving their goals.
She says it’s also about education, especially in things like technology - if there’s a problem that can be solved or made easier with technology then it makes sense to use it.
Who and what have been the key people to make a difference?
Karen says a number of people and bodies have helped her reach this stage. And she explained she has immersed herself in as many groups and training as possible. ICAS, the global professional body for Chartered Accountants, has been very helpful, she said, particularly Jeremy Clarke, the Assistant Director of Practice.
She also named: - Award winning accountant and coach Will Farnell - Jo Wood and Zoe Whitman from the 6Figure Bookkeepers Club – who ran a course on setting up a successful practice; - Karen Reyburn and her firm WearePF, a marketing agency for accountants who have been "beyond amazing" in helping Karen with her branding and are currently working on creating her new website.
Plans for the next stage
Karen hopes to bring in staff towards the end of 2021 and she’s planning to build an office garden. And what is her goal?
“I want to be the ultimate go-to-person in the community for local business’ accounts and tax needs, and to be known for providing the best customer service.”
You can find out more about Karen’s business by visiting her:
Words of wisdom...
Your Accountancy Life asked Karen what her advice would be for any accountants out there thinking of following a similar path.
“If you’re thinking about it, you’re halfway there; and if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it. You’re going to have to take a risk, leaving a well-paid job in COVID times to start a business, but if you don’t make yourself uncomfortable you won’t progress in anything.”
Any further advice?
“Speak to as many people as you can who have done the same thing. I read Will Farnell’s book, The Digital Firm, right before I made the decision to hand in my notice to my employed role. He’s made the mistakes, which he’s open about. People like Will are really open to sharing their experiences which is amazingly helpful. Immerse yourself in the software and all the products out there, but in the same breath don’t get overwhelmed and then never make a decision. Just do it.”
What is her key tip?
“Build it the way you want it.”
Does your firm have a story like you want to share? Send us your news for publication.
Talented trainee trio thrive as they achieve stunning success in exams
Trainee exam succes: Ellie Burrows, Josh Silcock, Sarah Tranter of NR Barton
Three young trainees from North West practice – NR Barton Chartered Accountants – have excelled at their latest Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) exams, shining despite learning in challenging conditions.
Part of a thriving training programme at the practice, the trio have impressed with outstanding results in their recent Level 3 exams.
Josh Silcock, Sarah Tranter and Ellie Burrows began their AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting in September are now three exams into the course, with two more to follow. Success seems likely for this dedicated and close-knit group, especially given Josh scored top marks in his most recent assessments.
New to accountancy
All three are relative newcomers to accountancy and are in the beginning stages of their careers. Ellie joined NR Barton in May 2020, with Josh and Sarah becoming new starters in August. Training quickly followed, with the AAT studies beginning in September. The talented three are set to progress to Level 4 early next year.
The group have overcome unenviable challenges to get to this point, learning remotely during the pandemic until recently being able to study at Runshaw College in Chorley. They have juggled their studies with client work, while also getting to grips with their new jobs and learning the ropes in a busy practice.
Sarah explains what this experience is like, “We’re learning on the job and that’s challenging, but really exciting. The team plans work for a couple of months in advance, pulling us in on accounts jobs so we’re getting to experience a range of different clients and activities.”
Ellie adds, “I started in my role during lockdown, so I received training, got to know my colleagues, and started my studies all at home! I’ve been exposed to all sorts of jobs including VAT returns, audits, and year end, so I’m constantly learning and improving.”
Sense of camaraderie
The trio are in the same class, which instantly gives them a source of immediate support and camaraderie. Sarah says, “We’re a similar age and development level, to it’s nice to have others to be on the same journey with. We study and revise together, and it’s helpful to see how everyone handles it.”
NR Barton has been serving the Wigan and Lancashire communities for over 70 years, providing trusted accountancy, tax and business advisory advice. With a rich and successful history under its belt, this is a practice with over 40 staff, with one eye firmly on the future and developing the skills of those who will help lead the way.
Josh says of the recognition they received on achieving their exam success, “We were over the moon to have passed! It was also nice to be recognised – our work hadn’t gone unnoticed. The day after the exam, everyone came up and congratulated us. We’re working in a really supportive environment and it’s a nice feeling that our success matters to the whole company.”
High hopes for future
This is just the beginning. The group were drawn to accountancy for a variety of reasons and have high hopes for the future; moving to AAT Level 4, through junior, senior and professional exams to work their way up within the business. For Ellie, it’s the variety of the job that appeals, digital solutions particularly appeals to Josh, and Sarah has a unique motivation that’s closer to home.
She says, “My Mum’s an accountant and my sister a tax advisor, so I’ve always been interested in this world and I’ve had great role models. I also have to thank my Line Manager, Paul Murphy, who has helped me and explained everything.” Josh agrees that Client Manager Paul’s supportive approach has made a world of difference.
Pride and cheer
Ellie gives a shout out to Director, Jonathan Mackie, whose help has been invaluable to her, “I’ve been at home for much of this experience and Jonathan has taught and checked in on me. He became a Partner in his 30s, so for me he’s someone to look up to.”
The gratitude is reciprocated, with Director Neil Whittingham adding, “We are all extremely proud of their success. It has been a challenging 16 months, so knuckling down with their studies and gaining work experience is all credit to their skill set and determination.”
With such positive outlooks, determination to succeed, and support from the whole business right behind them, a bright future academically and professionally looks certain for this talented trio of trainees. Still at the fledgling stage of their careers, this is the future of the accountancy sector – and it seems to be in safe hands.
NR Barton's academy flourishes as it ‘grows new accountants’
Neil Whittingham, Director of NR Barton
This established Chartered Accountants business, which operates from offices in Wigan, services clients across the North West and has successfully done so for seven decades. NR Barton sees that fostering new talent and enabling team members to grow through the ranks with training, can only help grown the business and futureproof it for decades more.
The NRB Academy is a trainee programme, set up to better the business and safeguard its prospects by training and upskilling the internal team. Currently, 11 learners are part of the academy while also working at NR Barton. They span entry level roles right through to professional qualifications. As members of the academy pass through the ranks, new starters join to feed into the academy each year.
Director Neil Whittingham says, “The world of accountancy is changing and evolving all the time, so the academy is essential to the future of the firm. We had realised this some time ago, but the pandemic certainly prompted us to accelerate our plans and bring trainees in over the summer to build the academy.
“We spotted certain skills gaps within the team. Our training programme supports personal development, and strengthens the whole team. We knew that bringing trainees through was vital, and the programme is proving so successful. We are growing our own accountants here!”
Training is a focal part of life at NR Barton and built into its culture. This also manifests itself in the supportive ethos of the large team.
Trainee, Sarah Tranter, says, “There are lots of juniors and it creates an empathetic environment where we all help each other. The rest of the team encourage and assist us – and all share in our success and celebrate it.”
Are staff at your firm celebrating success? Send us your story for publication.
Celebration time! Dunkley’s reflects on incredible journey as it marks 30th birthday
Thirty years ago, Mike Dunkley set out to start an accountancy business.
From his back-bedroom, with only a cat for company and no staff, he began his journey.
Now, thirty years later Dunkley’s is an award-winning firm and recognised as one of the leading independent practices in the South West.
Dunkley’s has grown from a single employee in 1991 to 46, with three Directors, and a management team of seven.
Time to celebrate
Based in Bradley Stoke, Bristol, the business has been celebrating its 30th birthday.
Mike, pictured top left, says: “2021 is a very special year for us as we acknowledge how far Dunkley’s has come and recognise everyone who has supported the business along the way. Dunkley’s would not be where it is today without its wonderful clients, hardworking staff, and supportive community.”
He adds: “30 years in business is a significant milestone and an achievement that is worth celebrating.”
Taking a hands-on approach
Mike attributes the firm’s success to its forward-thinking, hands-on approach to accountancy, and a constant desire to put clients first that makes sure the service they receive is second to none. Dunkley’s clients include individuals and businesses across the UK.
While the business has changed and grown enormously, the attitude and ethos at the core remains the same - being an approachable, affordable, and personable practice which looks after every client, ensuring they receive a bespoke service suited to their individual needs.
Investing in people
Dunkley’s ethos is to invest in its workforce to develop future leaders of the business and to provide opportunities for all involved to share in its success, as reflected in a recent restructure. Now all three Directors are equally invested in the business.
Director Lisa White says: “Matthew and I have been Directors of Dunkley’s for over five years and are delighted to have been given the opportunity to invest further into the business working alongside Mike. Dunkley’s has continued to show significant growth over the last few years, and we are looking forward to building further on this success.”