Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham

Young Enterprise Impress Again!!

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……which is why we support Young Enterprise and Young Entrepreneurs

For another year, I had the absolute honour and privilege to join the judging panel for the West Midlands finals of Young Enterprise 2012, held in the Great Hall at Birmingham University, having been included on the judging panel for 2011.  The winners having already sold their innovative laser cut vinyl album clocks to a trade fair in Switzerland.  There is the obvious saying about selling coal to Newcastle, but these young entrepreneurs from the Black Country actually sold clocks to the Swiss.

For those who have never heard of or seen any of the great work they do, check out their website at Young Enterprise and you will see how this charity seeks to inspire young people throughout the UK, to set up and run their own businesses over the course of nearly a year, being mentored and supported by teachers and voluntary business advisers.  From their establishment in 1963, Young Enterprise, have continued to forge relationships between education and the business community and have been responsible for inspiring thousands of young entrepreneurs.  It is also part of the global Junior Achievement Worldwide organisation, helping to reach 9.7million students across 123 countries.

Six young businesses reached the West Midlands finals, having won their respective local regional events.  Their businesses, whilst very much commercial and making profits, also touched upon strong current themes of social enterprise, recycling and the environment, retro designs and multicultural education.  The winners go on to the UK finals in London, where the standard of business ideas and development will be astounding to anyone who has not already been involved in what Young Enterprise does.

All the positives and excitement
The really great thing about the young entrepreneurs who take part in this journey from business novice to budding entrepreneur is that it always reminds me about what is so good about developing businesses.  All of the positive energy, the bright ideas, the sheer enthusiasm, the innovative ways of reaching markets and building contacts, the reward of seeing something develop and a business grow is all there.  What are not there are the egos, the cynicism, the blame culture, the negatives, the traits you see time and time again on the likes of The Apprentice (and unfortunately in the grown up business world as well), which is also the reason that I prefer to watch Young Apprentice as all of these positives are so obviously illustrated in that program as well.  Young entrepreneurs take the challenges as they are, challenges, and deal with them creatively and positively.  This was in abundance with all of the business teams on show at Birmingham University.

It’s a serious competition
It is no doubt that Young Enterprise is a serious competition as well.  The teams are judged on innovation, product development, their overall business report, their financial reporting, questioning from meeting with them at their trade stand, their slick Powerpoint presentations to a large audience and their creative advertising media and branding.  They are supported and mentored by both teachers from their schools and colleges as well as voluntary business advisers helping support and develop Young Enterprise and the young entrepreneurs themselves.

It was also interesting to be made aware of the gritty competitiveness of the advisers and teachers, in a way that is similar to the TV program Glee, in that they all seek to polish their performances and maximise every area of the judging criteria.

Interesting and completely relevant all of this is, what becomes apparent is that the judges actually judge and choose the overall winner as if they are a real business, which in essence they very much are.  My judging panel included fellow judges who were part of HSBC Bank, University product development experts, social media and branding advisers, past winners and representatives of the Federation of Small Business.  Discussions and the overall selection of the winner centred very much on the belief that this was the best credible business, that not only had a real chance of future commercial success, but one that the judges themselves would be willing to invest in, which is how it should be.  It may be a competition for young minds, but the business ideas and potential were very much real.

It always inspires us to help young entrepreneurs further
Young Enterprise serves as a reminder as to how business can inspire and give opportunities to a wide number of young people from all areas of society and not just the privileged few.  It also reminds us that the future of UK Plc very much depends on the young entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow, which is a key reason why we continue to help, support and mentor young entrepreneurs who approach ourselves for support and business advice.  Our own belief that the local, regional and UK economy as a whole, depends on the continued development of young entrepreneurs and we as a business set ourselves very much as a part of that positive approach.  Judging by the standard of young entrepreneurs on display in Birmingham, UK Plc does have a positive future and so do all of them.

As for Young Enterprise, long may it continue to do the great work that it does, but it is a charity and does require financial support as well as the voluntary support of mentors, advisers and even judges.  I would recommend everyone to visit their website, Young Enterprise, and get involved in whatever way you can.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317      T: 0115 9415193
Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.


Written by Steven Mugglestone

June 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Join us for a free Peninsula, Times & Telegraph Essential Employment Law Event: 1st December,

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Click link for booking details: Peninsula – 1st December – Radisson Blu

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317

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

Written by Steven Mugglestone

November 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm

You Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

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You Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”  (To be precise and the actual famous statement)

These are very famous words, spoken by Franklin D Roosevelt at his inaugural presidential speech and talking about the US depression and the prospect of turning the economy around.   This is looking as relevant today as it was when the words were said back in the 1930s. To succeed and change, to build a business or an economy, to be a successful entrepreneur, we need to be fearless and we need to look to build success.  Successful entrepreneurs, the Steve Jobs’ (he seemed not to even fear death), the Sir Richard Bransons’, The Lord Sugars’ did not fear the task at hand.

Yet fear itself sells; fear underpins many sales strategies; fear is the bedrock of many legal, accountancy and other professional service business sales training.  I was part of a large brand accountancy business and I was trained to sell fear.

How do we sell fear?

It is relatively easy.  Identify and find an issue or problem or something that a person loses sleep at night about.  Discuss this further and make it worse, take the issue to its most extreme conclusion, anything, the lack of growth, lack of cash, no pension, no will, a large tax bill or undeclared income.  Ensure that we can all see and understand what “could” be the result of the continuation of this situation; fines, court action, bankruptcy, failure or even death.  Make them feel really bad about something that they have created themselves.  Then, after a short period of time…… offer the solution, the solution that you knew all along.  Add on to that, the famous approaches of “you can’t do that,” “ that, sounds wrong, you need ours,” “really need to stick with this, use ours, everything else is too small, too big, too risky, wrong, etc, etc.”  Fear sells by the bucket load.

I have never at all agreed with this as a sales strategy, it has never sat well with my own positive outlook on life and the wish for my own success, my business success and success for my clients businesses and any business that I am associated with.  We, as a business, do not adopt this approach, we wish to promote, ensure and share in the success of our clients and we want to do everything we can to help promote and ensure that success.  Yes, we acknowledge problems and pitfalls and look to plan for those, but underpinning this is a positive approach rather than the negative one of fear.

As well as selling fear, we sometimes see fear as a solution to our behaviour ……

Have you heard about the man who owned a parrot ……… that swore like a sailor? This parrot was so terrible, it could swear for five minutes straight without repeating itself. One day the man finally got tired of this parrot’s horrible speech, and decided to do something about it.

He grabbed the parrot by the throat, shook it really hard, and yelled, “QUIT IT!” every time the parrot said something ungodly. But this just made the parrot mad, and it swore more than ever. Next, the man tried locking the bird in a kitchen cabinet. This really aggravated the parrot, and it clawed and scratched furiously until the man finally let him out (upon which the bird released it’s fury in a torrent of language so horrible it could never be repeated).

At that point, the man was so frustrated that he threw the parrot into the freezer. For the first few seconds the parrot made a terrible amount of noise in protest to this treatment, kicking, clawing, and thrashing about. But after a few moments it suddenly went very quiet. As the silence grew longer the man started to think that the parrot may be hurt. After a couple more minutes of silence, he became so worried that he opened up the freezer door. The parrot calmly climbed onto the man’s outstretched arm and said, “Awfully sorry about the trouble I gave you. I’ll do my best to improve my vocabulary from now on.”

Of course, the man was astounded. He could not understand the transformation that had come over his unruly parrot. Then the parrot asked, “By the way, what did the chicken do?”

Growth, the solution

Easy to say, and what do accountants know about this anyway.  Well some accountants think that they do, because they offer an associated marketing support system, but this really is only part of it.

Growth Strategy

Marketing and sales support is vital, and we have access to material and support, together with the creative expertise to help most businesses in this area, but that is really only part of the solution and a business needs to assess what it has to offer and what is its business strategy well before engage the creative juices.

Form our own business background and from working within businesses at board level, we ensure that our clients are equipped to grow their business successfully, and as our strategy we will also look to include this as a formal product and service area of our own.

Start with the sales strategy

This is addressed by identifying, promoting and assisting with the following:

  • An understanding of leadership with the vision and missions of the business, in order to effectively lead growth
  • An understand of the business theory (McKinsey) to effectively lead and evaluate growth
  • An understand of the key aspects of organic growth, the market, the business proposition, the people, the tools and the systems and processes, together with appropriate funding
  • An understanding of the key skills of account management, key client management and how to retain and expand existing relationships and value
  • An understanding of key marketing techniques and how to win new work and new clients and how to lead a sales strategy
  • An full understanding of how to create and fully utilise a business plan to set the agenda for a business and to use that plan as a road map and driver for success
  • After all of this we can then look at the creative marketing, sales and support services available through our associates to promote and accelerate this area

Build on to this, skills and approach of the Finance Director

I have touched up this before in detail as a former Finance Director, who will look to set areas for improvement covering support, operational and strategic areas and will look to structure the improvements in these areas, to be able to drive the business, with an article called “How an FD Drives a Business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up,” on

The key points to this, in my opinion can be seen as funding, operational improvements and controlled delegation.

Funding is vital to any business, but the funding needs to be appropriate to the business and for appropriate uses.  One key area that we see time and time again is a business losing control of their working capital and short term cash flow.  This is in essence the life blood of any business.  We always ensure that our client consider and implement appropriate strategies for the control of working capital, be it stock, purchases, creditors, taxation and cash flow.  A key tool is a 13 week rolling cash flow, which seeks to ensure that a business has a full understanding of the peeks and troughs of cash requirements to ensure that it is able to deal with this area.  Another key positive outcome of this tool is that for many businesses, it also allows the business to look to channel cash to appropriate growth areas and growth strategies in the shorter term.

Without including another chapter, then there is the external funding and the growth by acquisition or sale, the banks, the grants, the business angels and the private equity investors.  As being part of a number of organisations supporting these areas in the midlands, as well as helping fund new start-up businesses, buying and selling private SME businesses and floating and managing public company share issues, as both finance directors and as advisers, we have access and a little bit of expertise in this area as well.

Operational improvements can be assisted with both key performance indicators, KPIS and benchmarking with other businesses.  This allows an understanding of what are the key areas of business performance that have the most significant impact on its success.  Benchmarking is not about either complacency or fear and worry that your business is either doing any better or worse than others, it is an understanding that if your performance ranks as low compare to many similar businesses operating within your industry, then it points to something that you doing wrong and helps to start to correct that performance.

Aligned to this is controlled delegation or internal controls.  These are not considered for the sake of it.  Controlled delegation is about identifying the skills and attributes of a business team and allowing individuals with the most appropriate skills to work in areas most suited for those skills, whilst doing this under a documented structure and system that everyone understands.  An example of this is a business that engaged a new part time finance director, adopting the same approach to business that we encourage and utilise.  That finance director looked at some numbers and KPIs etc and this included monthly sales patterns.  The patterns showed two months of good sales and one month of poor sales and this was consistent for quite a long period of time.  When looked into and queries further, the reason was that the main owner/director, who was also the key person for sales, re-wrote the company catalogue every three months and so was not engages in selling.  A relatively simple solution, with appropriate controls and checking ensure that another member of staff was engaged in this role and the business increased sales by 20% in the following year and profits and cash accordingly.

Add on appropriate tax planning support and additional cash

As a business grows and becomes more complex, bigger and with more profits, so can the complexity of its tax planning and more complicated and expensive areas are available to support that business and its owners.

There are, however, still simple and legal ways to ensure that new and growing businesses do not give away profits or incur large tax bills.  We work with our clients to ensure that these areas are all considered and adopted accordingly.  Without going into detail, these are few:

  • Consider the need to incorporate at an early stage or the valuable tax breaks later if you choose not to,
  • The use of unincorporated businesses, such as partnerships and limited liability partnerships to grow a new area of a business, a new market, a new product a new geographical area etc, to share in the tax breaks of incorporation of these areas at a later stage,
  • A review of tax breaks available including the still over looked capital allowances within properties, as well as a business costs of research and development where even more tax incentives are available, including tax credits against other tax areas
  • The use of pensions such as SIPPS, SSAS and ORBS to increase wealth, lower a tax charge, finance and acquire properties and even provide cash for the business to utilised to grow further.

Our own view is that businesses need to be fearless to be successful and we embrace that approach.  We as a business always aim to be positive to ensure that our clients succeed and grow, which we adopt for ourselves.  This does not mean that we do not plan for the problems, the downsides, the tax issues, the cash shortages, the plan Bs, the risk registers.  It is just that share in our clients’ vision to want to aim for the stars.  I really like the saying that if you aim for the moon and miss, you will at least end up in the stars, and that it the philosophy that we encourage and promote.

Going forward, our own business is in its own way looking to help ensure that businesses can grow in the midlands region.  In the new-year we are aiming to create cost effective business groups in the Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester area to share in the skills that we have touched upon in this article as well as introducing even more cost effective monthly accounting support to smaller businesses by use of new cloud technologies, after recently introducing our 33% reduction in audit and accounts costs to established businesses.

As Roosevelt famously said himself and we are embracing, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317

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

Written by Steven Mugglestone

November 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Location, Location, Location, Cost, Cost, Cost, Service, Service, Service

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Location, Location, Location, Cost, Cost, Cost, Service, Service, Service

As any business should, we are constantly reviewing what is important to our current and future customers (yes, we are a business and yes, we have customers; we sell services and products; and yes they are also our clients as we have a professional responsibility to do what is best for them and to represent them to the professional standards that we have been trained to meet).  Customers and clients are not mutually exclusive, you ensure the best possible service to your customers and you will do the same for your clients.  Many accountants shy away from this, constantly referring to their clients, trying to disguise the simple fact that we are also in a business, our clients are also our customers.

From our research and understanding we have simplified the key issues facing our customers, when they look to choose an accountant and adviser down to three, location, cost and service.

Location, location, location

Some businesses only sell to their local market.  Most businesses look to sell to their local market and beyond.  Many businesses look to sell throughout this country and beyond, and in respect of Virgin Galactic well, it starts to go further than that.

Whilst most businesses look for customers across a wider geographical spread and are happy to travel themselves, they will look to choose an accountant within a mile or so of their offices.  Why, when the accountant and their staff can travel and we live in a world where communication is almost instant.  I remember a time, not so long ago, when documents and plans being drafted were sent by post and returned with manual mark-up changes.  This is now instant, technology has moved on.  We are moving to the provision of monthly online accounting for clients as well as keeping up with the online filing with HMRC and Companies House.

A business does not have to walk around to their accountants office to discuss a problem, depending on an accountant’s approach to email, you are likely to get better value from your accountant by emailing your query and getting a written response, rather than exchanging niceties face to face or over the phone which, unless you have a fixed fee arrangement, you would be paying for under the traditional/old fashioned hourly charging basis of many practices.

An accountant who is available via email can give a more considered answer to your question and provide links to useful resources. There are also very few queries which need an instant response.

You may also consider whether your accountant needs to be local at all. Do you really need to have a regular face to face meeting? Do you value having a local accountant over the distant, competent/specialist, cost effective accountant? Perhaps there is a middle ground, literally as we generally help clients within the Midlands region of the larger West Midlands/Birmingham area, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.  All of this is achieved within an hour’s drive from one of our offices.

In over 20 years in practice, I find that a client/customer face to face meeting is becoming less and less necessary, although we very much have appropriate meetings with clients directly as part of our key planning process to ensure that we are still providing our client with the most appropriate advice and service. Correspondence is generally via email and telephone. Queries/advice are usually emailed and read/answered at each other’s convenience which is more efficient than leaving messages for each other to call back and also the questions/answers are more focussed.  Meetings are still held to discuss key issues and for periodic updates, but these should be focussed to achieve an appropriate outcome for both parties.

Some accountants will “sell” location, but just because they have an office on your doorstep does not mean that they will provide you with the most appropriate service and advice and at the most appropriate cost to you.

Some accountants and auditors actually seek to perpetuate the myth that location is vital by seeking to send their staff to a client’s premises to spend longer than is actually necessary.  For those out of the audit profession, most audits can be split into equal thirds of time; a third planning, whereby information is gathered and key issues are identified; a third fieldwork, whereby the audit testing is carried out; and a third completion, when reports of key issues and treatment and checklists are completed.  Only the fieldwork requires staff to actually be at a client’s premises, and then not for all of that time either.  Some accountants actually encourage their staff to spend longer at the client’s (customers’) premises than is necessary to make it look as if significant time is being spent, when mostly the client’s staff could do without the auditors being there for longer than is necessary.  We are honest enough to explain that to our client’s the process and will only spend the appropriate time at the client’s premises.  If the managing director wants us to be there longer as they see the visibility of the auditors as important then we will, but this will done as part of an honest discussion around what is actually required.

Cost, Cost, Cost

Interesting one, and a key issue that many accountants really do shy away from, when many other businesses have to transparent and open.

The key issue is that many accountants continue to use an outdated (Victorian) business model for their own business.  They charge by the hour (usually by 6 minute units) and continue to do so for whatever they do, and some firms 6 minute rates can be quite high (let alone an hour).

There is a different model and certainly one that we adhere to.  General compliance work (i.e. the stuff that has to be done for legal/tax reasons, the accounts, audit and tax returns) is a commodity product and can be set at a fixed price and this price does not need to use high charge out rates with partners charging even higher rates for their minimal input.  The majority of this work is process driven and costs can be kept low.  Many SME businesses pay far too much for this work.

A separate area of service is where you can actually make a different to a business; save them tax; reduce their costs; increase their profits; grow their business or find them finance.  Again, is an hourly rate appropriate?  We do not think so and will always look for the fee/cost to the customer to reflect the VALUE of the work done and SAVINGS or IMPROVEMENTS that we have achieved.  Surely this is WIN/WIN in the game theory rules of business.  A dark art, I do not think so, but honest and open business.

Service, Service, Service

“You pays your money and you takes your choice,” well, sometimes.  Service covers a multitude of areas, including, but not exclusively being polite and acting quickly for your customers.  Most clients/customers use the term Pro-active, when asked what it is they are looking for from a client.  To be pro-active, you have to offer a wide range of services to a client and understand where the client is going, where they are now and what are their aspirations and goals.  You also have to care; none of this is about completing accounts that are six months or more out of date.

We believe that to provide great service for all SME businesses there are number of key factors:

  • A partner lead service from an experienced, approachable and positive business professional
    (many accountants can either sit in ivory towers or just do not have the drive or experience)
  • The ability to grow and drive a business with the skills of a commercial Finance Director,
    (most accountants have never worked within a business or part of a business at all, yet claim to be business advisers and specialists)
  • The provision of strategic marketing and sales opportunities to grow a business organically
    (most accountants do not understand marketing and shy away from this crucial support)
  • The control and reporting skills for a business with the skills of experienced auditors
    (most small and mid-tier accountants, have never been part of large complex auditing or accounts assignments, and larger firms can cost…..a lot!)
  • Obtain finance to ensure your business continues to grow
    (corporate finance is still a crucial part of a business success and requires experienced and “well-connected” professionals to deliver appropriate funding)
  • Provision of innovative tax saving structures with the support of imaginative tax specialists
    (large firms sell their own “products” under the heading of advice, small firms tend to hide under a rock, but tax planning is still very crucial and strategies and planning opportunities change as often as tax laws do….. tax laws change as the tax planning proves to be effective and legal.  Some people claim that these are loopholes, when actually it is the law)
  • Control and reduce your costs with utility, insurance and other key supplies associates
    (in today’s climate cost control is vital, and this includes your audit, accounts and tax compliance costs as well, but find an accountant who can source other cost reduction reviews, as part of my first FD position, we reviewed, re-modelled and re-tendered out all main costs, having fully understood what usage we faced .… and this included the audit)
  • Innovative structures to protect and grow your wealth
    (never have an IFA/wealth management specialist provide support without being part of an accountant team, they need to work together)
  • To maximise your wealth and value of your business when the right times comes for you to sell or retire or pass on your business to your family
    (experience, experience, experience and the skills of an FD to really groom your business for sale)
  • Pass the barbecue test.  I spent some time with a UK wide group of FDs and after all the experience and qualifications part of the recruitment process, the final part of the recruitment procedure was whether you were a person who you actually wanted to spend time with, have a drink with at a bar or barbecue, someone interesting and with personality.
    (ACCOUNTANTS/AUDITORS …… enough said!)
  • All of this should be provided with a smile on their face and with real positive attitude and energy.  Their aim is to improve your business and personal situation and their attitude and drive to do this should shine through.

Get yourself the right accountant today and you will not be repeating this process for years at a time, but also do not be afraid to get a check-up and re-tender a service proposal to find out what else is out there.  Accountancy firms change; some get better; some get lazy; some get more expensive and some never had it in the first place.  Better yet, you will save yourself tons of time and money in the long run, and you will have a new trusted partner to bounce ideas off of down the road.

A Final Joke

A newly qualified chartered accountant applies for a job advertised in the Times.  He is interviewed by the owner of a small business who has built it up from scratch.

“I need a qualified accountant,” says the man, “but mainly I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.”  “How do you mean?” says the accountant.  “I have lots of things to worry about, but I want someone else to worry about money matters.”

“OK,” says the accountant. “How much are you offering?” “You can start on sixty thousand,” says the owner. “Sixty thousand pounds?” exclaims the accountant, “How can a business like this afford
to pay so much?”

“That,” says the man “is your first worry.”

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
West Midlands Area Director and Finance Director Services

McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business
McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

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

Does your Accountant really have the Ability and Experience to Help Grow Your Business?

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Does your Accountant really have the Ability and Experience to Help Grow Your Business?

And we mean really helping your business grow …….

Ask yourself the question; what should a business look for in an Accountant and Business Adviser to provide your business the advice and support it needs to really grow and prosper?

McGregors Corporate can provide the answer and the real difference, Ability and Experience, delivered by innovative and very approachable finance professionals: Ability and experience ….

  • …. to grow and drive your business with the skills of a commercial Finance Director
  • …. to provide strategic marketing and sales opportunities to grow your business organically
  • …. to control and report your business with the skills of commercial auditors
  • …. to obtain finance to ensure your business continues to grow
  • …. to provide innovative tax saving structures with the skills of imaginative tax specialists
  • …. to control and reduce your costs with utility, insurance and other key supplies associates
  • …. to provide innovative structures to protect and grow your wealth with commercial wealth management specialists
  • …. to maximise your wealth and value of your business when the right times comes for you to sell or retire
  • .… and we hope you will enjoy our company over a drink or two,….even if it’s only a coffee.

Our principals’ backgrounds and experience include many years with international accountancy practices and as commercial financial directors.  We have helped start and build businesses; raise funds from banks, private equity and stock exchange.  We have re-structured and re-launched businesses and helped turn around businesses facing trading issues and we have helped business owners maximise the value of their business when the time is right to sell.

Our aim is to provide the quality, experience and range of service of an international firm at the cost of a local practice, all delivered by really nice people.  With McGregors Corporate, our Ability and Experience will prove to be the real difference.

Ask yourself again, does your accountant really have the Ability and Experience to help grow your business?

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

We Can All Learn Something from Young Enterprise

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We Can All Learn Something from Young Enterprise

I had the absolute honour and joy to be asked to part of the judging panel for the 2011 West Midlands Regional Finals held at the Great Hall of Birmingham University on the last Friday in June. The first thing to say is that there are a lot of people out there who have never heard of Young Enterprise or who do not fully comprehend, or appreciate, what they do, so go and have a look at their website to find out more at

My involvement stems from my firm carrying out an audit for the West Midlands region, prior to them merging nationally to be part of the single Young Enterprise national charitable company. After a brief working relationship, I wanted to find out more, so I volunteered to be a business adviser helping a school, part way through their business year, as they had been without an adviser prior to then.

Young Enterprise use a tag line of “Start Something … and igniting the spirit of enterprise..”, with the Finals being tagged with “Start Something….Inspirational.” and that is certainly what it is and what the organisation does.

Spending the afternoon and evening with the six teams of 16/17 year old budding entrepreneurs helped me not only understand what Young Enterprise stands for, it also helped to remind me, why I am in business and why being an entrepreneur and being an adviser to other entrepreneurs is one of the most fulfilling careers that someone can undertake.

I do recognise that there is an attempt to build business as the new rock and roll, with Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice television favourites. All I can say is that all of young entrepreneurs in the final would make the Apprentice finalists look like amateurs and Lord Sugar would look to help to invest in all of them.

The finals were the culmination of nearly a year of a business life from the initial ideas to sales fares, websites, county finals, deals with local shops and even Amazon and Waterstone’s, through to presentations and pitches and the production of an annual report charting their success and continuing to pitch and promote their businesses.

The judges received six business reports to read prior to the finals day, had the opportunity to speak to every business and see their products at their trade stalls, watched their presentations and 15 second adverts in order to discuss and choose the winning businesses. In fact all the six were already winning businesses.

We were asked to judge the competition for awards in marketing, finance, product development, individual leadership and the overall winning business that then goes on to the UK finals in London. It was a difficult task as the standard of all was incredibly high and a reminder to everyone that you can start a business with next to no money (starting capital raised was around £140 each).

The winners of the marketing award, business name One, and based in Stratford Upon Avon, had created, produced and published their own cookbook, with each three course meal based around the short synopsis of a Shakespeare play. The book is called “Much Ado About Cooking” and is being sold at Waterstone’s, has been accredited by the RSC and has a forward from Dame Judy Dench. Their presentation at the finals was excellent and confident, starting with the words “To cook or not to cook …..” and ending on “All’s well that ends well.” These young entrepreneurs really did understand the power of their brand and were already looking at the American and world market, utilising the power of the Shakespeare brand.

The winners of the product development award also hit upon a number of key themes and USPs to create and drive their business. The business is known as Novelty and utilised the strap-line “Wooden it be nice,” for their hand-made wooden garden bird houses. Creating a number of designs, sourcing wood and local carpenters to create the basic boxes, the company had created its own production line for finishing and customising the boxes for individual customers if need be (and charging accordingly). Planting trees themselves and ensuring that the business was carbon neutral added to their strong business ethos and with new development of introducing remote battery powered web-cams to watch the birds on your own pc, the ingenuity and product development was superb. The business also won a media award for their 15 second animated advert that showed a bird flying into a bird box, sitting down in front of a TV set and finishing with the strap line, turn your bird house into a home.

The winners of both the finance and overall company award, and now going to the national finals in London, were Versaleaf. These bright young entrepreneurs had created a range of double sided material to create Knotthebag, created from Furoshiki, the Japanese art of folding a tying material to create a wide variety of different bags. The company had created pattern and instruction cards, an instruction DVD and a range of patterns and styles. Creating a sewing production line, various supplies and cloth designs, an online retail facility and in discussions with Amazon, the business has covered everything. Their presentation was a slick as most of the “professional” pitches that I have seen, with their obvious finger on the button and knowledge of the multi-billion pound women’s handbag market. Having recently bought new bedroom units, I was fully aware of this particular market potential.

The runners up, whilst not walking away with a trophy were equally as impressive and entrepreneurial. Sweet Sensations combining the favourite gifts of chocolates and flowers and creating impressive ranges of bouquets of chocolates. J’Adore created and published The Essential Guide to Boarding School, and impressively sold this across schools around the UK culminating in an offer from the British Boarding School Association to purchase the copyright. The final company, Dynamic, faced the common business trials of their original product design not reaching safety standards and having to start again, but their entrepreneurial spirit kept them going to create their range of personalised gift canvases.

All in all the sheer drive and enthusiasm for their business was inspiring and all of the businesses and young entrepreneurs deserved not only to be their but should ensure future success in these businesses and others that they create. There were some obvious clues to more opportunity and contacts being available to the private school students, but this was more than made up by the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation from the businesses from the state schools. So much, I am sure that Lord Sugar would be impressed.

The business skills and drive shown was also an inspiration to me and all of the judges. All of the young entrepreneurs reminded me of why being in business is so important and why it is also so important to help promote this in young people. They certainly reminded me that the positive attitude, the drive and pride to see your product being launched and your business succeeding is the real thrill. In a business world that can be sometimes cynical and sometimes stagnant in a recession, Young Enterprise helps the older entrepreneurs rekindle their real entrepreneurial spirit.

I am certainly looking forward to helping another Young Enterprise company in the new academic year, in the autumn. I know that I will get as much out of it as well as helping the young entrepreneurs themselves. I would ask everyone in business to consider helping, forget about an MBA, become a Young Enterprise Business Adviser and help a real young business and by doing that you will help to ignite the spirit of enterprise. We certainly can all learn something from Young Enterprise.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,

McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

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

Written by Steven Mugglestone

June 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Recruitment is Like Choosing an Accountant, it’s no Joke!

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Recruitment is Like Choosing an Accountant, it’s no Joke!

A man has died and is standing at the gates of heaven in front of Saint Peter.  He moves forward and Saint Peter welcomes him to the gates of heaven and tells him that he is a chosen one, someone who has lead an exemplary life, someone who has contributed so much to the world when alive that on his death he is now able to choose whether he would like to spend the rest of eternity in heaven or hell.

“But how will I be able to decide,” the man says.

“Well,” says Saint Peter, “I will grant you a day in each, for you to see which one suits you, but remember, when you come back to me, you must decide and your decision will last for ever.”

“OK,” says the man, “that sounds fine, where do I go first.” “Your choice,” replies Saint Peter.

“Fine, I’ll try hell.”  At that moment a lift door opens and the man walks in, waits for the lift to arrive at its destination and walks out into a beautiful Caribbean beach setting with a beach party, music and groups of beautiful people dancing and having a fantastic time.  The man stood admiring the scene, when the devil walks past with two beautiful bikini clad women on each arm.  The devil stops in front of the man and asks the two women to look after the man for the day.  Needless to say, he has a great time.

On returning to the lift at the start of the second day, the man enters heaven. Heaven is serene, quite, with the gentle sound of angels singing, but, the man thinks, generally boring.

After the second day, the man returns to the gates of heaven, for Saint Peter to stand in front of him and ask, “Well, you have seen both heaven and hell and you have experienced what they both have to offer, you now must decide, but remember your decision will be eternity, for ever.”

“I have made up my mind,” says the man. “Are you sure?” says Saint Peter, “As I said, this decision will be for eternity, there will be no going back.”

“Yes,” says the man.  “Where is it to be then,” replies Saint Peter.  “I want to go to hell. This is my decision.”

On that, the lift door opens again, the man enters, but when the doors open again he is confronted with a desolate waste land of fire, sulphur and lava, with the sounds of incessant screaming ringing in his ears.

As the man stands in disbelief, the devil walks past him again and the man stops him and asks, “erm.…, where is the beach, the party, the music, the girls.”

“Oh, sorry,” says the devil, “you were here the other day weren’t you.  Well that was recruitment day, you work for me now.”

Recruitment is no joke

There are a number of versions of the above joke, known as the recruitment day joke.  It is as relevant to the employer as the potential employee, yet still do we take recruitment as seriously as we should.

Employment of any staff is important and, obviously, senior leadership and director level appointments even more so.  They can either add to the success or contribute to the failure of an organisation, more than any other of your team.  Yet again do we take enough time and effort to select and choose the appropriate person or do we leave it to someone else.

I have been involved in my fair share of recruitment, on both sides of the desk, but as an employer, I have recruited graduates for an international accountancy practice, recruited accounting staff for clients, recruited chief executives for a public company and even recruiting head teachers for schools.

The Recruitment Pitfalls

Are you really qualified or do you need support

Everyone believes that they can recruit.  A recruitment agency provides a short list and you only have to choose, but have you really given enough consideration of the strengths, skills and experience that are required for the role.  I have seen instances of a senior position being recruited and appropriate skills and experience matrix being created only for the selection and decision makers concentrate on one area and ignore the rest.  Why go through all of the time and trouble to have the matrix prepared and considered, only to disregard it.  The result was the person just did not have the relevant experience for the large organisation and floundered from the start.  The recruitment agent should have picked it up, but did not and the recruitment group and interviewing committee, in this instance a school, did not have the experience to review and make the right judgement.  In this environment when the leader is key, the recruitment is even more so.

Missing the evidence

Possibly the number one mistake.  If you are going to review a CV and a major success stands out as a key draw, do not just rely on it, ask and find out more.  This seems obvious really, but again, I have seen examples of where just a little more background either from an interview or finding external evidence exposes a rather different story and claims of success that have actually been due to the work of others.

The advice from others

A very senior managing director/chief executive role for an MBO team is an important recruitment decision.  The individual is being recruited to work with and lead the others in the team.  A CV and interview will help to provide some of the support and answers but for a position like this a written reference may not either be available (or if the individual has been subject to a compromise agreement from a previous position, this reference will be sterile and very carefully worded).

In a role where management style is paramount, I have seen a business recruit this position and only afterwards when speaking to their former colleagues it was ascertained that their style of management was divisive, convincing one of the team was a weak link and needed to be removed, while saying the same thing to the others individually.  Childish, selfish, petty and divisive.  The same situation happened in the new team as in the last.  To find out you only had to ask and listen to a number of the former colleagues.

Experience and age are strengths not weaknesses

What an individual has done over the last year or two is important, but so is what an individual has done over the last 20 years.  Experience and age are strengths and not a weakness and too many times there are examples of employers (and recruitment agents) selecting the recent experience of younger candidates rather than considering the values of older and more experienced individuals.  I am still not convinced that I understand why age is an issue and not a key strength.  Perhaps the recruitment consultant is looking for a life-long candidate and contact; perhaps I am getting older myself.

If you don’t have references ensure you have controls

Obvious I know, but I have seen a number of examples where the new company bookkeeper, financial controller and even the FD has been caught with their hands in the till.  Cash expenses, personal cheques paid to the individual and posted in the books against old creditor balances that are not being chased, these are the obvious frauds.  If you are not going to find out more from other sources, either written or verbal, at least have the controls in place to ensure that one individual cannot carry out these obvious and easy ways of extracting money from a business undetected.  If they are single signatories, ensure that there is a system of matching payments with invoices; ensure that larger payments require more than one signatory.

This is not a full and comprehensive list, only some observations and lessons from actual experiences from real life situations and pitfalls and hopefully the lessons to be learnt from them.

On a positive and practical note perhaps I can list some other helpful tips;

Practical recruitment tips

  • Plan ahead…..what does your production schedule and work-planner tell you for the year ahead? When are you likely to need new people especially when you consider your marketing plan and winning additional work targets.
  • Nurture recruitment agency contacts. Meet with them so they can see your firm and know your business. Have an ‘on-going’ recruitment policy and see good quality candidates as they become available. Don’t just look to recruit when you have a gap to fill. The most successful businesses I know recruit good quality people and make a role for them. This always proves successful in the longer term and businesses find they have no problem in finding work to keep them busy.
  • What can you offer as an employer that will make people want to work with you? Do you share your business plan with your team so they know where they fit in and what the future holds for them?
  • Do you regularly survey your team, get feedback and report back to them on how you have taken their issues on board and what you have done about it. This may sound a bit ‘fluffy’ and in the territory of what only larger corporate businesses do. However, smaller businesses that do this report that the business plan progresses much more effectively and it sets them apart as a successful company.
  • Do you have a system of communicating regularly with your team so they feel involved in the business?
  • Do you have a simple system in place to measure how existing team members feel? This really does help you to retain good people. How often has someone handed in their notice and when asked why they are leaving you say ‘If only you had told me….I could have done something about it?’ Again, measuring staff happiness really does help to retain those you want to keep within your business and proves that you are different as an employer.
  • When interviewing do you have a set list of questions that you always ask people? Don’t just focus on technical matters- you want to assess an individuals’ attitude and personality. Also, everyone is human. How often have you conducted an interview that is different depending on your mood or the time of day? With a system in place you can ask the same questions every time and ensure every candidate receives the same information and impression of the firm.
  • A great interview question to really get under someone’s skin is to ask them to choose a friend or close colleague to describe, ask them what they like and admire about them, what they value about them and also what they dislike about them.  Then ask how their friend would describe them and their strengths and weaknesses.  Another way of articulating strengths and weaknesses but one that helps to ensure that the candidate talks openly and honestly.
  • Get your team involved in the interview and recruitment process. Second interviews are often best conducted when they are held by a member of the team and not you. If the team is involved in the process then a new recruit will be much more likely to have a clearer picture of what it is like to work for you and will settle in better.
  • Do you have clear written roles and responsibilities for everyone in your company? This simple ‘booklet’ is easy to produce and should be shared with candidates and existing employees. Again, this makes it clear how existing team members and new recruits fit in to the big picture. People like clarity and the sense of security of what part they have to play in the development of the business and its plans.
  • Do you have a comprehensive job offer letter which includes what the induction progress will be and how a new recruit will be trained on what to do?
  • When someone leaves or joins do ensure that everyone else in your firm knows about it. I have often seen a new team member join a company with no one knowing who they are or where they will even sit! Ask yourself what kind of impression this makes and is it any wonder that people then chose to move on in a short time to another job?
  • Many firms now offer ‘working second interviews’ whereby a candidate come back for half a day and is ‘tested’ on  a piece of work so you can assess their technical competence. This can prove very effective.
  • Accept that not everyone wants to progress in the company. Such people can still be a valuable asset – make sure they know that.
  • Do you have a visible training plan for all your team? For people to want to work and stay with you they need to know how you will train them, give them feedback and offer skills development. This is also necessary for you as an employer in order to people to become more competent and valuable to the development of your business plan.
  • What do you have in place to ensure people feel valued in your organisation and how do you reward them? Reward does not mean just financial. Have a flexible package of rewards as time off may be more important to some whereas others are target and financial driven or put a greater value on a social day or evening out.
  • When a new recruit starts working for you ensure you meet with them weekly for the first 3 months to give and receive feedback. Many times I have listened to employers say ‘Oh- they were useless and had to leave within 3 months and it has cost me a fortune!’ When I dig a little deeper I find that the new recruit had no opportunity to see the management team and had no idea what their role was or what exactly they were meant to be doing other than be given a box of records and told to get on with it! No feedback on jobs is given and no opportunity to learn from mistakes. Often, they didn’t even know who their ‘mentor’ was who they could go to and seek guidance or training from.

Recruitment is no joke for either the candidate or the employer, whilst it may not be a decision that lasts for eternity it is pretty important to both parties and as such both parties should take is seriously.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

T: 0845 519 5659
T: 0121 236 3317

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