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PQ profile

Doing it by the books How does it feel to be named Small Practice of the Year and win a Luca Award? I was over the moon to win the award. I started But the Books two years ago, so I was very proud that my hard work had been recognised at such a high level, competition was high within the category and I certainly didn't go the awards expecting to win. Why did you decide to set up your business? A combination of things. Before I started the business I’d been mentoring young entrepreneurs through the Prince’s Trust, specifically helping them with their business plans and accounts. My experience of this made it very clear that business finance just isn’t taught at school. Then while I was on maternity leave and getting questions from many friends and family about their tax returns it felt like the right time to formalise things and I started But the Books as a side project. I took the business full time in August 2018 and I’ve just appointed our fourth team member. What does being your own boss enable you to do? I’m in control of my workload, the clients I choose to work with and how and when I work. There’s no doubt that running your own business gives you a lot of responsibility, but it also gives you a lot of freedom, and I feel much more creative now than when I worked for somebody else. What advice would you give to others just starting out? Speak to other bookkeepers and find out how they did it. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only person in the world starting a business, but there are plenty of us who have already been on that journey and are happy and willing to share our tips and advice. Is it possible to ‘have it all’? I think you can have most things if you prioritise what’s important to you and plan well to achieve the balance. As a business owner and mum of a busy toddler there’s no denying there are days when it seems like there are just too many balls in the air, so I just try to be realistic about expectations for myself. How many clients do you have and how many could you have? Since starting out in 2017 we’ve worked with over 40 small businesses. This year we’re focusing on taking on slightly larger clients we can work with on a regular basis. The team is growing, and we can 22

Meet Zoe Whitman MCIB of But the Books, winner of the ICB’s Luca Award for small practices grow more if we take on more clients, but at the same time I want to ensure that the quality of our work remains high. So we’ll always be looking to achieve a balance of growth with continuing to provide a personalised service. What does the future hold for your practice? We’ve spent the past year understanding what our customers really need from us and this year we’ve launched some new advisory services. We’ll be focused on this in the first quarter. What further training/CPD needs do you have? We need to be prepared for Brexit and potential changes to the VAT regime and there will always be technical updates to stay abreast of, but I’m also aware of where my soft skills fall short. Personal development is very important to me and I’ve identified strategy and leadership as two development important development areas this year. What do you most enjoy about your work? I love working with other business owners, talking to them about their businesses and understanding the challenges facing them. Taking on staff and wanting to make sure my team work in the way that I work has made me think hard about our values at But the Books and one of those is definitely active listening. Having those ‘discovery’ conversations with our clients every time helps us develop strong relationships and

means we can really get to the route of what they need to provide a service that is exceptional. How much of your day-to-day is actually bookkeeping? I’m moving further and further away from the bookkeeping, and as a business owner that makes sense. I’m building a team to do that part of the job, so I can focus on our business strategy, make sure we have the right people and build a great business delivering a great service to our clients. How easy is it for you to retain clients? We don’t have any issues retaining clients, the main challenge for us is converting the very small, one-off jobs into regular clients, so we’ve developed entry level services which are aimed at filling that gap. As you were already ACCA qualified, why did you decide to become an ICB member? When I started But the Books I was working in financial services. I have an industry and local government background and until that point in my career had never thought I'd have reason to apply for an ACCA practising certificate so I hadn't kept a PCTR. Since the work I wanted to do when I started the business was clearly at a bookkeeping level, it was more straightforward to apply to the ICB for a practising certificate at that point. The ICB are also able to oversee my antimoney laundering which, of course, is a legal requirement. PQ PQ Magazine February 2019

Profile for PQ magazine

PQ magazine, February 2019  

PQ magazine is a free monthly magazine for student accountants, focusing mainly on the ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW and AAT qualifications. It's...

PQ magazine, February 2019  

PQ magazine is a free monthly magazine for student accountants, focusing mainly on the ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW and AAT qualifications. It's...