Olivia Palios became the youngest female TaxAssist Accountants franchisee to join the network when she joined in 2016 at the age of 22. She now has a team of 10 staff and operates from three shops in Burslem, Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent looking after over 1000 clients.
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose TaxAssist?
I began working for another franchisee back in October 2014 and immediately saw the effectiveness of the TaxAssist model whilst I was working with the practice. The leads came in thick and fast, we had clients walk in requesting assistance, a steady stream of inbound leads and referrals from existing clients. To me it seemed like a no brainer. I believed the franchise would make up for the areas on which I was lacking knowledge with their years of experience and proven business model.
How did you raise the finance?
To raise the finance I used a bank loan where I needed a deposit of 30% of the total set up costs. I raised my 30% with my savings from my previous employment and bonuses plus an investment from a family member (my mother), the remaining 70% of funding was then provided by HSBC on a repayment bank loan over 10 years.
How have you found the training and support?
I found the initial 6 weeks training very helpful and useful. It gives you an insight into how the support centre works, a week of pure tax knowledge and shows you around the accounts production and client database software. Since the 6-week training course I have attended further training days held by TaxAssist such as payroll training and the technical update days. TaxAssist do provide a lot of training days across the board and are happy to cater for training for staff members. We have also had staff from the Support Centre visit our office to host a 2 day bookkeeping course for the team, which they found very beneficial.
In a fast-changing marketplace, how does being part of TaxAssist help?
As the market is forever changing with IR35, auto-enrolment and many other factors, it is really important that we have support to look into the changes and inform us of the best way to act on these. Being part of TaxAssist means that you have a network of support and advice on the changes that both ourselves as accountants and our clients need to make to keep up to date. I have found TaxAssist exceptionally helpful assisting with our auto-enrolment set up process, action points to take and also information on the fees to charge and how to make money from this additional service!
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
My typical day as a franchisee involves meeting with new and existing clients to discuss their businesses and our services that we can offer. I spend a lot of my time at present in client meetings and liaising with clients over email. My future plans are to spend less time meeting with clients and dealing with queries and more time running the business and dealing with management reports to make ourselves as profitable as possible, once we have recruited some further experienced accountants.
What challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge within the business is recruitment and being faced with the recruitment agency commissions. So far, we have managed to overcome this and haven't yet paid out any recruitment fees. We have used websites such as Reed and Indeed to keep our recruitment costs low. Additionally, we are shortly going to begin using outsourcers to make our business even more profitable and free up the time of our current accountants to sign up more clients.
What have been the highlights of being a TaxAssist franchisee?
My highlights of being a TaxAssist franchisee are being able to build your own asset and knowing that all the hard work you are putting into the business is increasing the value of your business. When I think back to when I was employed I was always looking for ways to make more money or get promotion, but being your own boss means this is in your hands and you do have the possibility to earn more money, increase profits and build a great asset. I also enjoy being able to take time off when I need it, if I need the odd day off here and there, I can, I don't have to worry about how many holiday days I have etc which feels great.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
I would say becoming a TaxAssist franchisee has changed my life as I am a very ambitious person and becoming a franchisee has given me the opportunity to build a well-run and profitable business. Since opening my first shop back in March 2015, I have changed my car from a Fiat 500 to a Range Rover Evoque and am currently in the process of purchasing my own home which I wouldn't have been able to do at this stage in my life without the franchise.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
To grow the franchise, we have used a number of marketing tools, but our best local marketing campaign (aside of my shops) was our direct mail campaign to new businesses in the local area. We started this campaign a few months into the business and sent out 1,000 letters to new limited companies in our post code sector, within 3 days of sending out the letters we have signed 4/5 clients and received one 50% payment of the client's fees which paid for our campaign in full! We also have used Yell.com, advertising in local A5 magazines and referral incentives to clients such as gift vouchers for referrals.
What differentiates TaxAssist from the competition?
In our local area, we have been contacted by many clients whose accountants in the past have just disappeared over night! TaxAssist being a shopfront based business shows our stability to clients, which brings comfort to our clients. Clients are also comforted by our pricing model of quoting a fixed fee for our services rather than quoting on an ad hoc basis and being greeted with a large bill at the end of their accounting period.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
In my opinion, a successful franchisee will be a franchisee who is running the business and not working on the physical accounts work. It is key when you start the business to recruit an administrator/bookkeeper so you can start to roll out your processes and procedures within the practice and begin how you mean to go on, growing and managing the business.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying a franchise with TaxAssist?
I would recommend speaking to franchisees with a similar background as yourself, so you can discuss how their experience has been and their recommendations to yourself.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the business are to now consolidate and grow the 3 shops we have in Stoke-on-Trent and Crewe. We are looking at recruiting a larger team so we can create more levels to our management structure and to increase our fee bank.
Would you do it again?