Simon Hunt joined TaxAssist Accountants in November 2016 and operates his practice from King's Lynn in Norfolk and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. Here he discusses his background, why he joined TaxAssist Accountants and his experience so far.
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose TaxAssist?
I already had a business (I was a financial contractor). I realised that I didn't really own a business, I just owned a job. There were no assets in the business, I'd never be able to sell it, and when I didn't work, my business was effectively closed.
I wanted a business that would build an asset for me and for my family's future. I wanted the business to ultimately run whether I'm working in it or not. For this to happen I needed a business system. So, my choice was to either create my own business system or buy into an existing one.
I chose TaxAssist as I had always worked in accounts and finance and I still enjoyed it. I was impressed at how welcoming, upfront and transparent the Support Centre was. Once I'd completed my due diligence I decided that TaxAssist was the franchise for me.
What did you do before taking up the franchise?
I've worked in accounts and finance my whole career, always within industry and mostly large corporations. I left the corporate world around 4 years ago to set up as a financial contractor.
How did you raise the finance?
Begging and borrowing!
My total cost to finance the business was £130k, which meant I had to find £43k as my investment. I did this through a combination of savings and releasing some of the equity in our home. The balance of the funding came from a business loan.
How have you found the training and support?
The training has been very good and I have built some great relationships not only with the other franchisees on my course but with the staff at the support centre.
Regarding the support throughout the first 12 months of the business, in all honesty, I couldn't have asked for more. Literally anything you need help with, or that you may be concerned about, there is someone available to help.
In a fast-changing marketplace, how does being part of TaxAssist help?
I feel TaxAssist keeps my business up to date with legislation, technology, systems and marketing. If I wasn't part of the network, I would have to do all of this by myself. Being part of TaxAssist means that all of this is done for you. You still have to use the resources, but you don't have to spend time producing it, rather, you can spend the time focusing on building your business.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I like to be in the office an hour before my team arrive. Generally, I use the time to process my emails and get my 'To Do' list up to date.
When the team arrive, we have a 15 minute informal meeting to talk about what needs to be done for the day / week etc.
My day after that can be quite varied and hectic. I meet with prospects, go to networking meetings and carry out some technical work.
What challenges have you faced?
Finding a shop in my area was surprisingly challenging. I actually lost out on two locations before I found my shop. I have to say, I think the location I finally ended up with is far better than the others were.
What have been the highlights of being a TaxAssist franchisee?
There really are so many highlights in my first year of trading.
Signing my first client was special - my look of surprise when they said they were happy to sign up.
We held a seminar about Making Tax Digital. There were 50 people in attendance and my presentation was an hour long. It was both exciting and nerve racking at the same time. As a result of the seminar I generated 6 appointments and I signed 5 new clients.
Getting my TaxAssist branded mini was fun. My kids thought that I'd become a racing driver. Someone stopped me in the street to say that they'd seen my press release in the paper and my son asked if I was famous! When I signed the lease on my shop and my wife told me she was proud of me (that was a really special moment).
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
I feel that I'm working on my future full time. I see my fee bank grow each month and I can see that in a few years it will be substantial.
I have worked harder this year than I've ever worked before and it has been one of the best years of my life. For the first time in many years I work close to home and even though I work long hours, I still feel that I see my family more. I feel really excited and optimistic about my future and I actually enjoy going to work each day.
What differentiates TaxAssist from the competition?
That's easy. Most of my competitors seem to be stuck in the dark ages. They charge by the hour and I've seen some horrendous bills for having a cup of coffee with an accountant (and I don't think they even bought the coffee). We offer fixed fees - all advice and support is included - we make life really simple and we'll ensure clients pay the lowest amount of tax they're legally obliged to pay. We have modern up to date processes and technology that many independent accountants don't use.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
You have to work hard, be self-motivated and determined. Mostly you have to follow the system. Don't try to reinvent the wheel.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying a franchise with TaxAssist?
Do your due diligence, talk to existing franchisees and make sure your family is behind you, then just do it.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to see how far I can take my business. I would like to have multiple locations and a large team and I would like to get to the stage where I only work 4 days per week. Ultimately, I want to sell the business (in around 20 years) and retire.
Would you do it again?