Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

Do we meet your aspirations? ……… Do you meet our aspirations?

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Do we meet your aspirations? ……… Do you meet our aspirations?

“You’re not an average business.  We’re not an average accountancy firm.  We should talk.”

For anyone who has seen our website, the above strap line is included on our site and now on the back of all our new business cards.

It is relatively simple to create a strap line and when it is created with the marketing and branding experts it seems to be * cool/sick/inspirational/succinct/to the point/capture the essence of what we are and what we are trying to achieve (*delete as appropriate).

The words are simple and anyone (subject to fees) can work with any marketing and branding consultancy to come up with either the above words or similar strap lines, but what is really behind the words.  Are we really different?  How can an accountancy firm be beyond average? Accountancy firms are all the same are they not?  For those who think they know if there is differentiation, it is only whether an accountancy firm is a local independent, part of a regional or national group or is one of the large international and well-known brand names.

Well let’s try and at the same time let’s explain why we do not see ourselves as an average business and why if you believe that you have aspirations as a business and you are looking for a firm to meet those aspirations, try talking to us as we have aspirations as a business and we are looking to work with clients who also meet our aspirations.

The difference in one paragraph

We are an independent practice with a difference as our principals come from a mixture of large international SME through to Plc servicing practise and local independent SME servicing practice backgrounds together with experiences as Finance Directors with businesses along the way. We are a business ourselves and one that can adapt and change to meet our clients’ needs, but our background and service mantra is very much one of “been there, done that, got the T shirt” and it is in this background and experience that we believe that we can truly meet the needs of growing and aspirational businesses, supporting those businesses with everything that we have experienced ourselves on our own journey.

What we bring to the party

We are a business; we have created businesses; we have worked with start-up businesses; we have worked with large established businesses; we have helped with tax and innovative structures; we have raised money for new companies and existing companies; we have worked in grant and consortium areas for UK and European projects; we have worked in strategic change management; we have carried out equity raises on the main stock exchange as well as AIM; we have turned around and re-launched failing businesses; we have helped clients buy separate businesses; we have helped clients buy the business they have worked for; we have helped clients secure and build their wealth; we have helped clients sell their business and move to pastures new; we have managed change and we have stood side by side with our clients through good times and not so good times.

If we were to summarise this it would list as something like this:

  • We can help with finance for small to large
  • We can source funding from banks, equity, grants, venture capital or main markets
  • We understand that an SME is made of a business, its owners and the owners family and the tax treatment, the structures and the advice should reflect that
  • We have a real understanding of how a more developed works, its support, its systems and processes and why they are there.  We have worked in and developed those businesses as well.
  • We not only understand the difference between a Finance Director and an accountant, we have been Finance Directors and we can bring those skills to the party too.
  • We can move your business to future success, through stages of change and development, through to either exit or listing.
  • We do not just talk the talk, but we have walked the walk in all of the areas above as advisers and working within the businesses as well.

But all accountants are the same aren’t they?

Not really, not at all.  Let’s take a subjective and very biased personal view and outline the differences. We feel that we are qualified to comment as we have been there and done that, we have worked within these businesses, we have trained, grown up and been promoted within these businesses, we have been seconded or contracted or employed to these business and as such we have observed the failings and successes of these businesses.  These are the reasons we moved on, why we are building our own business in our style and why we believe this will help our current clients and our future clients.

The small independent

As you would expect, a local accountant who deals with a small number of businesses and personal client and largely provides an annual accounts and tax service.  If you believe that you will achieve your aspirations with a set of annual accounts and a tax computation, you may wish to reconsider your plans.

The accounts factory

A larger version of the above, sometimes even a national group or franchise. Staffed with accountants that according to recent debate, and in the opinion of the majority of Finance Directors do not have commercial skills necessary to  truly help, support and drive a business forward.  Say no more.

The tax and/or corporate finance boutique

Specialist, expert, fantastic and glamorous, these are all of the positive words that come to mind.  Will raise you money, sell your business, or sell you a wonderful and innovative tax planning product but will walk away and leave you to your own devices afterwards.  Done their job, moved on, hopefully not caused you too much trouble or made too many mistakes that end up costing you too much money…… or prison.

Some of us have worked within businesses creating tax efficient structures, so we believe, we understand what good tax planning is …. and what is not so good.

Some of us have worked within both corporate finance boutique businesses as well as being leaders within corporate finance sections of large accountancy practices, so we already have the contacts and knowledge to make this area work for our clients.

The acquiring groups and pseudo big boys (or girls)

Becoming bigger and bigger and offering a comprehensive service to the SME client.  These groups are trying to replicate the success of the largest and older established firms with varying degrees of success.  Some have even become listed companies but have failed along the way as their business could not deal with the trading risks that they were grasping with open arms…. running out of cash as well.  Not really giving great comfort as an adviser or a Finance Director.

The nearly big boys (or girls)

Just outside of the largest international practices.  The leading support of owner managed businesses and SME market.  Their market focus of being the best in this area was second to none, but then they started to lose it.  Trying to be bigger and in particular bigger than their closest rival, they lost the reason why they were successful, lost their focus and USP, they want to be a really big boy but getting there, they bit off more than they could chew carrying out acquisitions with no real due diligence or reason.  Again, this is not great actions for a professional business adviser.  Practice and preach comes to mind.  Why did some of us leave, whilst not the Titanic, working within businesses that are equivalent to oil tankers means that change is not something that happens quickly and if you work on an oil tanker, all the systems may be very developed and work very well, but working in the engine room means that you rarely get the opportunity to steer the ship.

The really big boys (and girls)

Great, if your business is Tesco or RBS etc, but back to the real business world. Some of us, however, have learned systems, processes, audit, due diligence, tax and general client service from these big boys.

The escapees and FDs

If you need a reminder of how an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up, you can go back to our previous blog,

As a brief reminder, how does an FD really drive a business, look at the structure and the areas they/we deal with (bottom to top);

Helping the business (support)

  • Compliance and reporting for accounts and tax
  • Annual tax planning
  • Outsourcing HR and insurance cover
  • Outsourcing and supporting the legal advisers

Driving the business (operational)

  • Internal controls/controlled delegation or commercial controls
  • Reporting that gives the business relevant information and KPIs
  • From the reporting an appropriate profit improvement plan
  • Strategies for improved cash flow and working capital management

Steer the business (strategic)

  • Define the strategic investment strategies and activities
  • Risk assessment and register (what can go wrong and how do we deal with it)
  • Defining the timetable for implementation, development and eventual exit
  • To obtain funding that meets the short term, medium term and long tern goals of the business

If we add the leadership and change management skills of a Finance Director this is a very powerful mix.  Again successful change encompasses the success of the following, which is and has been lead successfully by many Finance Directors (including ourselves);

  • Ensure whole staff involvement
  • Develop staff purpose and connection
  • Building capacity in the work
  • Learning the work – consistency and innovation
  • Transparency and openness
  • System learning and documented processes

We have worked within and advised businesses on serious strategic reviews (some of our close friends and colleagues are strategic specialists and have helped us along the way), covering customer relations, products and services, marketing and brand development, systems and processes and people development and management.

And we will not even start on explaining how an FD works on a turnaround assignment to look to take a failing or faltering business and put it back on to the road to success.  Numbers, numbers, numbers, people, people, people, people, plan A,B,C and D.

Putting all of us together what do you and we get

It is a relevant and we believe successful mix.  We aim to only concentrate on SME businesses, their owners and their families and we aim to ensure that those businesses achieve success and fulfil the aspirations of the businesses.

We have taken the key skills and knowledge from where we have all learned our trade, the independent practice and desire to work with businesses on a one to one basis; the largest of practices and their structure and systems, the innovation of the tax and corporate finance boutiques, the business development and leadership skills of a finance director.  We have experienced and can understand why other practices have faltered and why their own actions as businesses reflect that their own advice is somewhat hypocritical.  We have chosen to be independent, to develop our own businesses using the skills that we have learnt on the way and sharing them with our clients.

We aim to support our clients throughout their businesses development and evolution, including eventual exit or even listing, we understand what is required in that area as well as we have worked on the other side of the fence as Finance Directors within listed company environments as well as auditors or within corporate finance of listed businesses.

We have high aspirations for our own business and we understand that you will have high aspirations for your own.  The only question remaining is why we have not already been in touch.

“You’re not an average business.  We’re not an average accountancy firm.  We should talk.”

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA
West Midlands Area Director
McGregors Corporate

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.


Written by Steven Mugglestone

October 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

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