Despite the political and economic uncertainty which has marked much of 2019, I am very pleased to report continued strong growth across all KPIs. We now have over 226 franchise areas in the UK, looking after more than 76,000 clients with a collective fee bank of £50 million, as well as a growing network in the Republic of Ireland and Australia.
We are also happy to report network client growth of 7%, fee bank growth of 8% and sales growth of 9%, a higher rate than one of the Big 4 accountancy practices.
In 2019, we recruited 22 new franchisees, including 14 new franchisees, six successful resales (with good multiples due to practice efficiency) and two new partners. This is a growth rate of 13% on 2018, which is very much bucking current franchise industry trends.
I put this down to a number of factors: our well-established brand including a network of 226 highly visible high street shops and 136 offices, our support teams and systems, the banks’ willingness to lend to new franchisees because of network successes and our increasing dominance in the small business accountancy arena. I strongly feel that the benefits and additional security that franchising provides will gain in popularity as a business model for future investors.
Over the last few years we have seen increased pressure to keep pace with the biggest technological revolution the profession has ever seen.
Principals of accounting practices have a huge amount of challenges to manage, including regulatory, technological and cultural shifts. As a leading and dedicated franchisor, we see our role as taking as much of this burden away from our network as possible.
We have invested a huge amount of time and resource to research, evaluate and train the network on our market-leading software estate, which includes Quickbooks, TaxCalc, Practice Ignition and Receipt Bank and the level of support and guidance will increase throughout 2020. It is always uppermost in our minds to help each TaxAssist Accountant run an efficient, profitable practice and to ensure our software estate attracts and retains every kind of small business client.
Earlier in the year, following an independent survey carried out by research company WorkBuzz, it was a great pleasure for me to read franchisees’ feedback on levels of training and support, our franchise system, culture and relationships, leadership and general satisfaction. The feedback provided led to us receiving ‘5-star franchisee satisfaction’ for the 7th year running, one of only four franchisors to have received the accolade.
Recognising just how important it is to have happy, engaged and experienced staff to support the network, we also asked WorkBuzz to carry out an independent survey for the staff at our Norwich-based Support Centre.
We received above average benchmark results in a number of key areas which saw us also receiving ‘5-star staff satisfaction’. It is my hope that recognition such as this will reassure both existing and potential franchisees that they are being well looked after by a stable support team.
Our network performance remains strong and we rose one place to 21st in the highly regarded Accountancy Age Top 50+50 industry league table.
In 2019 we congratulated our Business Development Director James Mattam on his 20 years with the franchise, an anniversary which is fast approaching for myself! I am also looking forward to celebrating 25 years of TaxAssist Accountants in 2020. How time flies!
David Ingram, our franchisee in Newcastle, and Keith and Katherine Loader, a brother and sister partnership in Northampton, also celebrated 20 years as TaxAssist Accountants. Six franchisees celebrated 15 years and 12 celebrated 10 years with us. Many congratulations to everyone and long may your success continue.
National TV Advertising on the Sky AdSmart platform
We launched our TV advertising campaign last year as part of our national marketing package and we have maintained a structured marketing campaign throughout 2019, showcasing our brand and the locations available to small business across the entire UK.
We are very pleased with the increased level of brand awareness, enquiries and walk-ins to our shops as a result.
This level of coverage for our brand has meant client lead generation for our franchisees remains strong, with us due to hit more than 9,000 qualified leads in December.
Our franchisee recruitment team were very busy throughout the year organising the filming of a new tv commercial which was broadcast in September through to November across targeted advertising in Leeds, Coventry and Ipswich, where there are currently vacant territories. We believe we may be the first franchise to use this medium to reach out to potential new franchisees both in the UK or elsewhere.
We actually filmed seven separate campaigns to assist with franchisee recruitment and these can be viewed on our website. These include five case study videos, in which franchisees were interviewed and filmed about what led them to consider franchising and the benefits of being a part of the TaxAssist network.
An ‘Introduction to a Discovery Day’ video was also produced following feedback from franchisees on their initial training course regarding any concerns they may have had about attending a Discovery Day. We decided to produce an educational video highlighting the informative, non-sales nature of the day and we are very pleased with the final results which reflect the friendly, family feel of the Norwich Support Centre.
We continued to roll out more technical, business development and software training courses through the year, both at our Support Centre and regionally. We held forums, masterclasses and regional meetings and produced a series of webinars, all of which were well received.
It was a pleasure to congratulate 13 franchisees and senior practice staff who graduated from our second two-year LEAD course. The course develops the skills required to be a leader and to help build and manage an effective team, all part of our support package we offer to help with sustainable growth within TaxAssist practices.
Terry Murphy and Celeste Godwin continued their success in Australia, as did Alison McGinley in The Republic of Ireland, with both countries seeing double digit growth for sales, client and fee bank growth in the last 12 months.
This year, we met with parties interested in developing TaxAssist in Canada and the USA. Both of these countries offer massive opportunities for the TaxAssist brand and we are at a very exciting stage in our negotiations for both countries. Watch this space.
So, in conclusion, 2019 has been a solid year in which TaxAssist has continued to perform well despite the disruption in the profession, but I strongly believe that being part of TaxAssist gives franchisees a massive head start offering an indispensable service to the future of the small businesses around the UK. Our brand, our scale, our breadth of services, our local relationships and our expertise mean that we are truly unique in the market.
I’d like to thank all our franchisees and their staff for their fantastic efforts in 2019 – it’s been a pleasure to work together to make TaxAssist Accountants the success story it is, and as we head towards our 25th anniversary year there is much to celebrate.