Tax & Accounting Blog

Starting an Accountancy Practice from Scratch: 5 Top Tips

Accountancy Practices, Accounting, Business Strategy & Development January 9, 2018

So you’ve decided to take the leap and start your own accountancy practice – maybe you’ve spotted a niche or would simply like to be your own boss. You’re probably researching some best practices to help you on your way, so we’ve collated some top tips with the help of award-winning accountants who have been in your shoes and thrived since starting their own firms.

Tip #1 Plan, plan, and plan some more
It seems obvious, we know, but committing enough time to planning early on could save you a huge amount of time and stress later down the line. Even at this early stage, it’s important to consider your end goal – ask yourself: what kind of practice do I want, what sort of clients do I want to attract, and what are my services worth? Making choices with your long-term view in mind will pave the way for your future success.

A word of wisdom from leading accountant Sharon Pocock, who started up her own practice to get a better work-life balance:

Tip #2 Choose the right software
Selecting the best tech for your firm can seem daunting and confusing at first. Again, planning is key – before you look into the market, take a minute to consider where you want to be a few years from now and create a ‘must-have’ list and a ‘would-love-to-have’ list of software and features. Note your budget limits, top and bottom.

Obviously budget can be a big factor for comparison, but it’s not always best to go for the cheapest tools or the least functionality at the start. Look at the next level solution with capacity for scalability, so your practice can easily grow without wasting time and money retraining on new systems later on, should you need to switch. Calculate costs on a ‘cost-per-client’ basis and you may see your quotes in a different light.

We asked highly respected firm Jacobs Allen Chartered Accountants what their main considerations were when deciding which software should power their practice:

Tip #3 Commit time to social media
There’s no doubt that a website is a vital part of your set-up, yet even successful firms wait some time before they invest heavily in a website with all of the bells and whistles. It also takes time to gather enough content to really make it worthwhile.

Start-ups are often social media savvy, so setting up social media pages instead of a full-blown website could be a few minutes well spent. Social media pages are a less expensive form of exposure in the early stages which could help you to attract new clients and gain reviews from existing clients. There’s plenty of inspiration out there, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Tip #4 Create a waterfall effect
At first, it might seem like you have a never ending mountain of work to get through and decisions to be made. So, perhaps the most valued lesson to be learned is to delegate. Outsource all of the tasks which don’t directly meet your skill-set. If someone else’s expertise is better suited to a job, they should do it! Stick to your strengths and don’t try to be the master of everything, just the things you’re good at.

Soaring Falcon and Mazuma are both fast-growing, successful practices who fully recommend playing to your strengths from the start:

Tip #5 Build a strong team
If building a small to medium sized practice is what you’re aiming for, then why not take a leaf out of The Peloton’s book and make your staff feel truly valued. Having an ethos of inclusion and shared responsibility is important in the workplace and helps to retain high value staff. After all, happy workers are more productive and less likely to leave.

You can also win people over by crowd-sourcing office perks with your staff. No matter how left-field the responses might be, as long as it’s within budget, put it to a vote! Recent suggestions in one of the practices we spoke to included installing a Prosecco machine in the office and opening a designated yoga room…

Conclusion
All of the practitioners we asked were unanimous in their opinion that learning to delegate was something quickly learned when starting their businesses. Take time and do in-depth research and planning, don’t be afraid to ask questions to those who hold the knowledge (people can be very forthcoming on social media), and remember that the cheapest options aren’t always the best.

And finally – a quick shout-out to Sharon Pocock, Alex Falcon, Lucy Cohen and Jacobs Allen Chartered Accountants who provided their fantastic tips. We couldn’t have put this piece together without you!