“When people say ‘Actually you’ve made an impact, you’ve made a difference to my life’…that’s fulfilling. That encourages you to go back the next day and do more, push yourself… I’m extremely proud of my network, I’m proud of who we are…a network that genuinely cares for its clients.” – Bukky Shonola, TaxAssist Hitchin & Letchworth

Mark Gibbs

"I could not have made a go of this without receiving the wide-ranging training that TaxAssist provided at inception, as well as the support training in the formative months."

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

I had spent +20 years working as an accountant for an investment bank in London. After that length of time in a corporate environment, I needed a change, boy did I need a change! Working for myself was an appealing proposition, but I knew that I couldn’t try something with which I had no previous experience. So, I wanted to find something that would draw on my existing skills but also push me in a slightly different direction.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at various opportunities, from starting an e-commerce clothing business to buying a McDonalds franchise. In the end I decided that these were too far removed from where my core skills lied, and so I decided to look in more depth at the accountancy profession.

Whilst I am a qualified accountant, I have never worked in a practice, so I knew that I had a steep hill to climb in terms of technical knowledge, practice organisation, IT systems and software. So, whilst there were a couple of other accounting franchisors with an offering, I decided that TaxAssist would be better at providing the support I was going to need. This opinion was confirmed once I had attended the Discovery Day and met the support team in Norwich, as well as talking with existing franchisees who had gone on the same journey.

What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?

There is no typical day - particularly so given the pandemic we have just been through!

I am in my second year, so I am still in the building phase, taking on new clients and putting in place the foundations that will enable the practice to grow.

As I said, there is no typical day, so I will give you an insight to what I have been doing today. I am looking to recruit a new staff member, so I have been looking at a couple of CV’s I received overnight. I have also been finalising someone’s personal tax return and someone else’s capital gains submission on a residential property. In addition to that, I spoke with a few clients on the phone, one had received an email from HM Revenue & Customs but when I looked at it was clearly a scam. Another client had received some penalties from Companies House and I agreed to make an appeal on their behalf. And the last call was from a perspective new client who agreed to come into the office later in the week for a face-to-face consultation.

What challenges have you faced?

I was initially based in a serviced office and it was good to have a base to work from, but I lacked visibility. I found a shop in a great location, but it took a long while before I could move in which was a frustration, as I was champing at the bit to get the shop open. Once I managed to open to the public, we had to close the doors as part of the nationwide lockdown, more frustration. But we adapted, and we managed to grow the client base. The new shop signage acted as physical advertising, and internet news content helped drive up our online activity. Both factors helped to bring in more clients.

What have been the highlights of being a TaxAssist franchisee?

Being analytical, I thought that the technical aspects of the role would be the most interesting, however I've enjoyed the client interactions the most, which is surprising considering previous jobs where I did not enjoy this at all. I think the main difference is that when you believe in what you are selling it comes to you so much easier.

What has the training and support from TaxAssist Accountants been like?

Well, I could not have made a go of this without receiving the wide-ranging training that TaxAssist provided at inception, as well as the support training in the formative months. I have also found the regional meetings with other franchisees and the Support Centre invaluable discussion forums. Finally, I would not want to forget the regular updates provided by the technical team in response to the government Covid measures, they have done an amazing amount of work to break down and understand all these changes.

In your opinion, what differentiates TaxAssist from the competition?

I would sum it up in two key aspects the first is the initial training and secondly it is the ongoing support. I started this journey with no experience of working in a practice, but I knew that the Support Centre had hundreds (if not thousands) of years of experience between them covering various areas of knowledge that would be needed.

How has being a part of the franchise helped you to grow your practice?

Business growth comes from finding new clients and maximising revenue opportunities from existing clients. The TaxAssist Support Centre has expert technical, commercial and marketing staff, and as a result we have a very strong Internet presence, which drives a large percentage of our new business.

What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to buy a TaxAssist Accountants franchise?

Being accountants, we are naturally conservative in our approach and risk adverse, so doing something new is a challenge and buying a franchise is a big step. But, once you have made the decision, then go for it! Take on-board all the advice you can, use the Support Centre to help you through your circumstances (I am sure they have heard them all before), then let your desire and hard work make you successful.

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