Dave Forrester joined TaxAssist Accountants in 2009 and operates from three shops in Keighley, Ilkley and Bingley in one franchise territory. He has a team of 8 staff and looks after over 650 clients.
Dave is a Chartered Management Accountant and was working for a large American bank in controllership roles and financial systems roles before joining TaxAssist. “I was at the stage of my career where I was looking after a large team of people, I was a bit fed up of the job and wanted a change in direction” Comments Dave.
“I came to TaxAssist through a franchise resale. I’d seen an office in a neighbouring village, and I looked at it as an opportunity to buy an existing accountancy practice that was trading under the franchise model.”
Dave initially operated from a shop in Keighley and at the time wasn’t planning to open further shops. “The decision to open the original shop in Keighley was flawed really as it only had room for three people” says Dave. “When we got to the stage where we needed to have space for four, it was the logical next step to open a second shop. We did that in Ilkley, which is arguably the prime location in our territory.
“The third shop was different and was part of a plan to grow we shared with our team in 2014. The timing of the opening coincided with our plans to develop our staff into client managers and the right location becoming available.”
TaxAssist Accountants recognises that there is a running theme among the top quartile performing franchisees in the network – that of recruitment, development and retention of staff. “We could not have reached this level without staff taking responsibility for their roles within the business states Dave. “We are a small team of eight people so have a very flat structure with lots of cross over between administrators, technicians and client managers. Staff are exposed to clients from day one and encouraged to take responsibility for answering questions and provide information to clients wherever possible. The way we structure our jobs helps this process and I think we have a good picture of the work requirements and status of each job in progress.
“We support this with structured training such as AAT and ACCA, as well as taking the opportunity to give people skills training and personal development through a local training organisation. One of our staff members has participated in the TaxAssist LEAD programme, (LEAD is a management and leadership course specifically designed for TaxAssist Accountants franchisees and senior practice staff) which has been hugely beneficial for our team and for our staff member as well.”
For Dave, a typical day is very varied, seeing clients for part of the day, meeting with new business contacts, or attending regular networking events. In addition, his team engage locally by helping with the organisation of business conferences and a local awards ceremony.
Dave was one of the early adopters of cloud bookkeeping products working with Xero and more lately with QuickBooks Online. “I'd always been very interested in the newer technologies in the market place and in my first couple of years in practice had developed a frustration for the desktop versions of Sage and Quickbooks, mainly because clients seemed to struggle to cope with them without significant amounts of time in support” comments Dave.
“I was particularly impressed by the cloud based products that introduced bank statement data into the applications as I thought this was a genuine game changer for clients and our own practice productivity. It simplifies the bank reconciliation process considerably and gives real time and meaningful insights into our client’s businesses that are difficult to replicate in excel or poorly maintained desktop systems.
“In 2012 we moved all our internal client bookkeeping to the cloud from excel, and had over 100 clients using Xero. At last count, we had over 250 clients on Quickbooks and Xero, which is over 90% of clients we produce accounts for.
“Clients are enjoying the up to date and relevant financial information that cloud based accounting is giving them, and as we have access to their QuickBooks account, queries can be dealt with simply and quickly. Some clients take time to adjust to the change from manual record keeping but with support and training they soon see the benefits.
“We’re in a digital age and the natural progression is for everything to be online. It’s quicker and so much easier to access than working on desktop. It allows us to connect to clients remotely so we can both be sharing the same screen and have an input without location being an issue.
“Like most TaxAssist franchisees we rely on a mix of referral and walk ins for new business. Clients benefit from and are aware of our commitment to the cloud and refer to us for this reason regularly. We do still have clients that don’t personally want to use cloud products because they’re so used to their own spreadsheets or way of doing things-you’re always going to have that, but at least we can manipulate the data for our internal processes so we’re more efficient.
“I think for a client, if they went to a practice that wasn’t using the current leading software on the market, both the practice and client could be losing out, whether it be on the functionality or time saving aspect.”
For Dave, the main highlight of being a TaxAssist franchisee has been “building my own business at the same time that I’ve had quite a young family. I’ve been able to balance up those two aspects of my life in terms of my work and my home life.
“Being your own boss is a massive benefit of being a franchisee. Ultimately, you’re responsible for staff and for growing your business, but the rewards of course are yours if you are successful.”
Dave has grown his business very consistently over the years with year on year growth for 10 years. Asked whether he would do anything differently he comments, “If I look at the way my business growth has gone, I could have invested more money in marketing, more money earlier on in staff, and perhaps invested that money in shop fronts earlier as well, but whether I’d do anything differently is another matter as I’m very happy with the way things have gone with good, steady growth year on year.”
In the short term, Dave is ambitious for further growth, and is planning to work hard on building up his client base from his recently opened third shop over the next three years. Looking further forward, Dave acknowledges that staff development is key to enable him to take more of a back seat and let the business run itself. “We are very much looking to develop our staff, so that myself and other key members of the team can be replaced with people coming through the organisation. Ultimately, we will look to sell the practice, and hopefully make a reasonable sum from the sale.”
What advice would Dave give to anyone considering becoming a TaxAssist franchisee? “If you’re thinking of buying a franchise, it’s a big commitment, but the reward are there if you do make a success of it. The way our model works, it will take time for your business to develop and build, but if you follow the roadmap that TaxAssist lays out for you, you’ve got a very very good chance of being very successful.”