Since joining TaxAssist Accountants in 2009, Ali Redwood has successfully grown her practice from an office in Portishead and, in summer 2016, a shop in Clifton in Bristol, where she and her team of five staff look after 300 clients. Here, she shares her experiences of running her business.
“Having started my working career in a bank, I then progressed into various managerial roles culminating in running my family business alongside my husband," explained Ali. "We had a construction firm which, over a period of 12 years, we developed from a small business turning over £80,000 to a medium-sized company with annual sales over £5million and employing 80 people. This experience equipped me with sound knowledge of accounting and finance skills required for small businesses, especially those that wanted to grow. It also gave me real passion and joy in running my own business and this stayed with me when I moved on to my next position as a Finance Manager covering internal investment.
"As I grew tired of corporate life, I started looking at options to start my own business again. Owning a TaxAssist Accountants franchise appealed to me, as I valued the on-going support and readymade systems which would fast track my business.
"I didn’t want to be 'just an accountant'. After attending a TaxAssist Discovery Day, it was great to realise that I was actually expected to run the business, employing accountants to do the operational side. This was exactly what I wanted and what I was looking for.
"For my research, I did a lot of reading up on the franchise and spoke to many franchisees to hear how their businesses were going. I also completed marketing and financial business plans.
"I was lucky in that I had a decent personal pension and was able to utilise some of this for start-up finance. I also found my bank, who understood the benefits of franchising, were very supportive and able to offer me a competitive loan for the balance of the funding I needed.
"A typical day for me is a mix of meeting with new and existing clients, managing my staff, supervising work and networking. I joined several networking groups, some mixed and some women only. Having moved to Bristol to start my business, I knew no-one and the support offered by networking was invaluable. I no longer network as much, but maintain regular contact with female friends I met via networking.
"The support from the franchisor and fellow franchisees has been amazing and helped me set up the business. We are not in competition with each other, due to our exclusive territories and it gives us a real opportunity to work together and support each other. You tend to find that you have your own business but you are not on your own. My staff get great training from the courses provided and I get the benefit of on-going great marketing and operational support.
"TaxAssist provides a comprehensive initial six-week training course, followed up by further training days at months 2, 3 and 6. This is complemented by onsite visits and of course the Support Team are available to chat to on the technical and marketing helplines.
"If you are thinking of buying a TaxAssist franchise, I would advise you to remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time and hard work to grow, but I now have a solid business. Listen to the advice and training given to you by your franchisor. I feel it is vital to use the tools, systems and support available to you to ensure you achieve your goals.
"The main advice I would give to anyone looking to invest in a franchise more generally, is to make sure you have a great franchise. They need to have a solid track record and allow you to contact as many of their franchisees as you can when researching your chosen area. If you are looking to build a franchise business around your family, it’s vital that the franchise you are looking at works for you in this way. By speaking to other female franchisees, you can understand if this will work for you.
"The business is doing well and growing at a good pace. The main areas where I invest most of my time are business and team development and improving the customer experience. It took some time to establish, but I now have an exceptionally good team in place, who are now taking on responsibilities with managing clients. This frees up my time to develop the business. I hope to open a third premises within the next three years.
"I feel that I am now building an asset for a comfortable retirement, which I would not be in a position to do, had I remained in employment. If you asked me if I would do it all again – the answer is definitely yes!