Case Study: Nadeem Iqbal

"I have scaled up my business from scratch to a seven-digit turnover"

Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose TaxAssist Accountants?

It had always been my dream to start my own business. I had tried many things to start a business and very soon realised that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed a team to help me along, with a well-proven and successful idea, a marketing plan and so on - the list was exhaustive and time was short. Then I came across TaxAssist Accountants – a solution for all my concerns.

The reason I chose TaxAssist Accountants was their transparency and ongoing support. The main thing I liked was the freedom of choice given to me on the discovery day. I was presented with all the facts and figures, pros and cons and was left to make my own decision – no hard sell. I was given a list of existing franchisees to contact to find out more about their experience and received 100% satisfactory feedback. This was the level of support and the network I was looking for, and I made my mind up five days after the first click on the TaxAssist Accountants website.

What did you do before taking up the franchise?

I had no experience of running my own business as I had always worked as an employee. I worked for a bank in Pakistan for four years before moving to the UK. I worked for Dixons Retail Group for six years as a sales advisor before joining the TaxAssist Network. I got my first Degree in English Literature from Pakistan and my second Degree in Accounting & Finance from Kingston University in 2008. After my degree in Accounting, I worked for a couple of other companies as an Accounts Assistant.

How did you raise the finance?

After looking at my business plan, I realised I required nearly £51,000 to start the franchise. I managed to raise £30,000 from family and friends, and £25,000 from HSBC as a business loan. I personally believe, if you are determined and have a commitment to achieve your goals with a burning desire, then the resources will come to you.

What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?

I had some knowledge of accounting and taxation and had worked in a bank, but I had no experience of running a business.  I received six weeks’ extensive training from TaxAssist Accountants, which equipped me with all the necessary tools and my sales background helped me to sign up clients.

"Now my team and I keep ourselves up-to-date with the bi-annual technical updates, TaxTV and regular webinars and training sessions from the TaxAssist Training Academy. My main focus is to develop my team so that they can provide quality services to all of our clients. Having an ‘A plus team’ also means that I get more time to concentrate on my business and personal development.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?

Working on my business makes every day different and super exciting. My typical day starts at 6:30am when I cycle to the gym for 20 minutes to have a session with my personal trainer. I have a managers’ meeting at 9:30 am where we discuss our business KPIs, challenges and opportunities and I make notes for any required actions. I check my emails around 11.00am and take the necessary actions. 11 to 1 pm is my Business Development focus time. I will speak to my Marketing Team and the TaxAssist Support Centre to get updates on Marketing KPIs and current marketing plans. If I need to meet any of my strategic partners, I also schedule such meetings during this time.

After lunch, if required, I may drive to one of my offices for a one to one with one of my managers. I book my coaching and mentoring sessions mostly between 3 to 5 pm. If I am in any of the offices, then we have close of the day team meeting to discuss any challenges and events in the day.

We have some regular events booked for the team. I attend a Monday managers’ meeting, monthly senior team brainstorming meetings and quarterly all team mastermind meetings. We close all of our offices for the day on every ‘week 13th’ to meet outside the office. We go through the previous 12 weeks’ performance and brainstorm any upcoming challenges. This helps me to plan the smooth execution of my business strategy.

Weekend is purely free time for my family and other causes I support.

It took a while, but I now have a self-managing business. My team focus on their personal and professional development as well as looking after clients, while I focus mainly on refining the business systems for sustainable growth.

What challenges have you faced?

Entrepreneurship is full of challenges and excitement. The main challenge I faced initially was managing my business and my staff.  I received full support from TaxAssist Accountants not only on the technical side but also for business development.

Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?

Becoming a TaxAssist Franchisee has changed my life in many ways. I am not only financially well off, with a better lifestyle, but also now have a purpose in my life. I am having a more active life and have a real sense of achievement.

What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?  

The main marketing tools include the brand itself, my shopfront, online presence, daily website blogs and monthly newsletters. All of them are built into the TaxAssist model which leaves me very little to do. I simply follow the TaxAssist Marketing toolkit, along with some regular posts to social media. I am planning to run a local blogging website soon.

What differentiates your franchise from the competition?  

Personalised and tailored services for clients differentiates my practice from competitors and the key factor is listening to clients. 

My practice is different from many typical accounting firms in many ways:

Firstly, my team love talking to our clients. Client communication is at our core, you will find the difference as soon you enter our premises. We operate an open-door policy with no buzzer, no blinds or curtains on our windows and we have a glass frontage. This encourages our clients to pop in for any urgent matters they wish to discuss.

Secondly, pricing. We have made pricing very transparent, smooth and simple for our clients. From day 1, our clients know the exact amount fee they are going to pay. The pre agreed fee stays fixed for the whole year, and it does not matter how long it takes us to complete our clients' assignments. To ease our clients’ cash flow, we also offer a monthly payment plan – 85% of our clients pay us through DD.

Last but not least, we are different because, we are not just number crunchers. Yes, we do assist our clients with tax returns, year end accounts, CIS, VAT returns, company secretarial services, payroll, and workplace pensions. Yes, we do support our clients with regular business review meetings, management accounts, bookkeeping, software training, team remuneration planning, mortgage certificates, IR35 reviews and company formations. But, through our strategic partners and our in-house tax consultancy services, we also have a range of services that fit the needs of our clients and make us different, such as assistance with company valuations, capital allowances planning, research and development claims, VAT planning, keyman cover, fee protection and business insurance amongst others.

We are a true one-stop-shop for our clients’ accountancy, tax and financial needs.

I have scaled up my business from scratch to a seven-digit turnover in about four years and now my team and I teach the same to our clients.

In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?  

In order to become a successful franchisee, first you need to trust the TaxAssist Accountants' business model. The beauty of this model is that you do not have to do anything but follow the step by step guidance and the model itself. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, just follow tried and tested methods and you will succeed.

Secondly, you need to develop yourself by investing time and money on your personal growth. Learning self-management is more important than learning business management because as a small firm you are the business. If you are not growing personally, your business cannot grow.

Last but not least is having and developing an A+ Team. All successful people have not achieved success alone. If you build your team with motivated, self-disciplined and passionate staff then you are well on your way to success. Do not hesitate to invest in staff welfare and training.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?

We are all great dreamers but great assassins at the same time.  We kill our dreams and we do it more regularly than we're willing to admit. The house we were going to build or buy but never did. The dream trip we were going to take but never did.  

The business we were going to start but never started. The entrepreneurial life is meant to be an enabler of dreams. So, if you have dreamt of being an entrepreneur, do not think too much, just act now.

Nadeem, you purchased a neighbouring franchisee’s practice in February 2018. Tell us how this went and how things are going now?

I was lucky that the opportunity arose to buy the Palmers Green practice. It helped me to triple the size of my practice at that time. It was a big decision for me, but it has helped me to learn many new skills.

Having a larger team and more clientele has meant I needed to really focus on strategy and execution. It has demanded central and well-matched systems for scaling up. My professional association also moved to the next level and I needed larger suppliers. It also meant that I could enjoy the economies of scale and increase my profitability. Thankfully, from funding to managing the practices, everything well went. 

What are your plans for the future?

After the successful establishment of my practices in Walthamstow, Walthamstow North, Enfield North and Palmers Green, I plan to keep expanding by acquiring fee banks. I am passionate about buying fee banks from retiring local accountants so I can bring their accountancy practices up to modern standards so business owners can benefit from modern accountancy practices.

Making tax digital and digital technology have opened many doors for accountants to help their clients. We use technology to increase our clients’ efficiency and productivity by helping, training and educating them on how to set up a fully automated accounting system, with our focus moving from compliance to that of trusted advisor.

Would you do it again?

Starting my own business venture is the most exciting thing in my life and I would do it again if I needed to.

I joined the TaxAssist Network eight years ago. Since then my business has grown substantially. I am also a published author of “Understanding Your Tax Matters”. This book is written for business owners not only to help them understand their accounting systems but also how to leverage their expertise.

I started my business from a little office and soon after moved to a shop front and currently I operate from 4 locations in Walthamstow Central, Walthamstow North, Palmers Green and Enfield North. I started as a technician, then became a manager and business owner and currently I am at the investor level. I am obliged for the tremendous help and assistance provided by the TaxAssist Support Centre in developing my self-managing business.

Running your own business is an exciting journey but it comes with its own challenges as well. You need to have the right team of people around to help and support you in understanding the ins and outs of the business. For me, when I started my business, I got all the necessary support and help from the TaxAssist Team at Norwich, not only to understand the accounting side of the business but also the operational side in the day to day running of a profitable business. The Support Centre team is not something I could have accessed or afforded had I started up under my own name.

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