26 June 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts
Kate is the founder of AccountAbility-Plus, a back-office service support company based in rural Suffolk. The business offers ‘day-to-day’ business support to a range of clients, from sole traders to medium-sized corporates. We caught up with her recently to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
My first love was music – I am a classically trained musician and I have had my 15 minutes of fame singing semi professional at venues such as The Royal Festival Hall. Unfortunately I knew I would never make a living out of it. So, what could I do: Classically trained musician with a gammy knee but can drive a tractor – obviously I went into accountancy.
Working on the family farm, our diversification project showed me how fascinating and interesting being in business is. Despite my Headmistress continually recommending banking and accountancy I always had an interest in sales. The diversification project gave me that sales experience as well as, marketing, procurement, strategic planning, relationship building and of course accounts – everything involved in running a successful business.
My husband and I formed several businesses. We didn’t know anything about fishing but we knew how to run a business, so our fishery proved extremely successful as was our accounting practice, building maintenance and architectural salvage businesses – all run from home! We were so very busy, and it got to the point that I need a rest! So, I kept an accountancy client and started working in the City.
Now my vision remains – to grow AccountAbility-Plus further. We have recently expanded our team and launched two new services ‘The 300 Club’ aimed at fledgling businesses, and our ‘Solo’ packages aimed at sole traders and the self-employed.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
After a short time in practice, I found auditing was not for me and I embarked on my first venture helping small businesses as a roving Financial Controller in the City. I literally arrived in client offices with my computer. I revolutionised my clients’ ability to assess their profitability and deal with any potential financial issues before they became problems. Despite having no support from the bank, I financed the business venture myself, gradually increasing my roving support team. This business was successful, offering a wide range of range of financial-related support and I sold this business in 2004, when I relocated to Suffolk.
The success I achieved in offering this diversity of services led me to my most recent business venture – AccountAbility-Plus – a complete back-office support solution to assist growing businesses. Having run my own businesses in multiple sectors and working in large corporate businesses in London, I was well aware of the time and expertise needed to ensure a business runs effectively and within the law. Time and expertise, that owners of new and growing business often do not have.
My team and I can ease those pains for other growing businesses. We work with them becoming an integral part of their team. Using our expertise and experience we can optimise our clients’ business growth with our day-to-day business support.
How did you achieve awareness?
We continue to build and raise awareness of AccountAbility-Plus all the time. Of course, we use the media in all its forms: press and most social media platforms, but there is also focus on building relationships within our local business community in East Anglia.
There are businesses we partner with strategically as well as membership organisations that offer all manner of support and opportunities that we find invaluable including networking events and business shows.
My vision is to offer support to all businesses and share knowledge, so we also hold our own successful ‘Women in Business’ networking events, or we did pre-COVID! Attendees benefitted from joining a good size network of contemporaries and the opportunity to hear from speakers that are experts in their fields. These were well regarded and attended, so I hope we can bring these back soon.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
So far, the business has been totally self-funded, after my poor experience with the banking sector I made it my mission to fund as much as possible myself – after all I have a point to prove! As the business grows and if we need future investment, grants and other funding schemes will be researched before approaching banks. Fortunately, the business doesn’t need a great deal of capital investment as our most expensive (and valuable) asset is my team.
What are the key successes?
We have several long-term clients, which we have helped develop and grow, and this gives me great pleasure. I certainly see their success as our success, even though we are very much in the background!
I love seeing my ideas come to fruition, so launching new services always excites me. Some have, or course, been more successful than others over the years, but I have the drive and ability to quickly adapt ideas, or on occasion, dump them if they do not work!
Being named as one of the ‘Future 50’ businesses to follow in 2016, was a huge achievement. Future50 members are selected from the most ambitious and dynamic businesses across the region and are chosen because of their ability to demonstrate the drive and ambition to be leaders in their sector.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Challenges for small and growing businesses are not insubstantial – and constantly changing. Invariably they seem to fall around financing, staffing, client retention, and as we have seen this year, elements outside of the owner’s control. You name them, a small business owner will face them all!
Over the last year, my main business challenge has been managing the changing needs of my clients and the speed in which we all had to change our working. Along with everyone else, my team have worked remotely which we were not set up to do pre-pandemic. We have mastered ZOOM, Google Meet and every other online platform, as has everyone!
My personal challenge is being full time carer to my husband who falls into the ‘Clinically, Extremely Vulnerable’ category and requires a high level of care. Managing my time between running a successful business and caring for my husband is always challenging.
What are your plans now/for the future?
For now, and the future, we are looking to grow AccountAbility-Plus by increasing the range of clients we offer our services to.
Our new products – The 300 Club and Solo Plus – are aimed at fledgling businesses, the self-employed and sole traders. With the increasing number of new businesses forming, we believe these products will help them set their business up in the right way and grow without the growing pains. We are including mentoring sessions in both packages as I find it is vital to be accountable, particularly at the early stages of your business. We are also working with other business partners who will offer advice to our clients on very specific areas, like trade marking, GDPR and insurance.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Successfully running your own business is, I find, the most rewarding way of working. It can be stressful, but for me, at the end of each week there is nothing more satisfying than knowing I have helped people on their own business journey.
Have a go but be aware. Many small businesses fail because they are not well thought-out. Either the idea is not right, it is underfunded, or some section of the business planning is missing detail. If you do want to go into business, be prepared to learn many new things about many new subjects – and quickly!
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
· Plan, plan and plan again.
· Stay true to your values but be prepared to be flexible to achieve your goals.
· We all need a tribe of people we can trust and who we know will be supportive, yet honest.
· Remember to take time out. Vitally important! It is very easy for your new business to take up every minute of your day. It’s not healthy and invariably not productive.
· If one business fails, don’t give up. Go back to the drawing board and have another go! You will find you will have learnt from any mistakes and come back stronger.
· When you win a new client, launch a new product or service, win an award or even just get to the end of your emails – celebrate!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
Perhaps controversially, Margaret Thatcher was an inspiration to me, not necessarily her politics but she, as a grocers daughter wanted to do ‘something’. A woman trying to prove herself in a man’s world, this is something I have experienced personally and she taught me that a thick skin is required!
My old headmistress, Miss Daisy Bubbers, instilled a phrase that has stayed with me all these years ‘you need stickability’, hang on in there and don’t let yourself be beat.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Website link: https://accountability-plus.co.uk