Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

Posts Tagged ‘Finance Director

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

Accounts, Tax and Business Advice Sale ……… Must End Sunday!

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Accounts, Tax and Business Advice Sale ……… Must End Sunday!

  • The McGregors Business Advice Sale …….. Must End Sunday at 5pm.
  • Think Accounts, Tax and Business Advice, think McGregors.
  • Happiness is an adviser called McGregors.
  • McGregors refreshes the business parts other Accountants cannot reach.
  • Don’t start a business without them.
  • Probably, the best Accountants in the Midlands.
  • You’ll like us so much, we’ll help you buy the company.
  • I think therefore I’m McGregors.
  • Businesses wouldn’t give a XXXX for anyone else.
  • Make the most of your business, now.
  • McGregors, the best a business-man (or woman) can get.**

I am not going to say that I have seen it and done it all, as I am a great believer in the saying that every day is a school day.  I have, however, worked a bit, in audit, tax, accountancy, finance and business from both sides of the desk and (hopefully) seen what works and what does not.

Back in the 1990’s some Accountants came out of the closet and declared that they were “Business Advisers”.  The successful ones spotted the niche in the market, acted on it and built their businesses around it.  They proved that they were real businesses and, perhaps, real entrepreneurs.  I worked for one of those businesses at the time.

The issue (I will not say “problem” as I subscribe to a business life philosophy that a glass is half full with us striving to fill the glass, we intentionally avoid the negatives) is business is a broad subject, whilst centred on a very easy basis of customers, sales, products or services, staff, costs, profits and cash.  Accounts, audit and tax are only part of the world of business.  How can an “Accountant” claim, with any degree of experience, confidence or gravitas that they are a Business Adviser.  Well, I have looked at the theory, been on some courses, spoken to one or two people and my answer is …… Experience…. Real World Experience….  Real World Varied Experience….. Sometimes helping with success and sometimes helping after failure….. Something gained out of the box and away from the text books.

Can you, therefore, put all of your experience together and produce a business offering that is relevant to today and of real worth to a business, to be able to again create a niche and really become a successful Business Adviser and, dare I say a successful entrepreneur.  I believe that you can.


Leadership and dynamic change management is crucial.  I agree with the theory and I have lived and worked the theory in businesses that I have worked with as an adviser and as a Finance Director.  Time and again I return to the basics to help businesses achieve and these are the key foundations to success.

  • Love your employees; include them in the decision making.  Ensure that you have appropriate appraisal and development programs.  They are the life blood and success of the business
  • Building capacity; Documented systems and process really do help, but it is the competencies, resources and motivation of the team that is crucial.  Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus, with the right people in the right seats.
  • Connect peers with purpose.  Your team need to learn from you and each other.  Your business adviser and accountant also works with lots of other business and can help match your team members with other business to improve without the fear of losing staff.
  • Learning is the work, consistency and innovation.  The depth of understanding in your team is crucial and an absolute key to not only improving the business but also in adding to the capital value of a business, ensuring that the business owner can leave or sell the business and that business can continue without them.
  • Transparency and openness:  Do not treat your team as mushrooms.  Information, seeing how the business is performing with some key performance indicators is very powerful and for the more developed businesses a 360 degree appraisal system to allow the business leaders to be appraised by the more junior members of the team is revolutionary.
  • System learn (and improve); Once established your systems will and must improve and develop.

Knowledge and information

Knowledge and information is accepted to be vital in driving a business.  It is alarming, however, how many businesses do not have appropriate systems to give them key information, to help them control and drive a business.  It is also quite remarkable at the number of businesses people who believe that they know their business only to be proved wrong when the accounts are produced, often months after a period end and too late to act upon.  Large and established businesses use accounting and key performance indicators for a reason and SMEs should do the same if they really want to drive and improve their business.

The key to this is to have timely information that is relevant to monitoring, controlling and driving a business and an experienced Accountant and Finance Director will be able to help with this.


Working capital and cash control, live it and breathe it.  It is the life blood of a business.  Easy for an adviser to say, perhaps, however, a real adviser that can help and add value to your business is one who has controlled a business and has controlled the cash and working capital and one that can help steer you through this challenge, one that can help you control the cash also can find and source solutions, banking and facilities with you.

Ensure your Audit adds value

An audit is an opportunity to get an independent review of your business and to obtain some key and helpful observations and information to improve your business.  It should not just be a matter of signing an audit report.

Combining the experience and expertise of a formal audit approach from larger audit practices with the commercial experience of a Finance Director, an audit can produce an effective key issues memorandum that gives a business some serious food for thought including:

  • Explanation and clarification of financial performance for key areas and Key Performance Indicators
  • Use of valuable benchmarking data to see where our improvements will be crucial
  • Explanation of your tax position and assistance with a tax strategy
  • Improvements to your working capital
  • Assistance to groom and improve your business and business systems
  • Tell you about current and future legislation and tax changes affecting you and your business
  • Identify key control improvements and, more importantly, controlled delegation to help the business owner to work on the business and not just in it

Access to Finance

Whether it is helping develop your business plan (and I will refrain from going on about how a business is there to improve a business and to drive a business, not just for raising finance), Accountants have access to finance and we have access to a whole range of financial solutions which we help to source and secure for our clients.  Whether this is bank lending, asset or alternative finance lending or business angel and private equity/venture capital investment, we can provide the expertise, support and opportunities that businesses need.  Corporate Finance, whether raising money or buying and selling a business is not for the inexperienced and real professional independent help and support is vital.  A successful Business Adviser must have this support in their locker.

Tax and business structures

Back to what we are trained to do, it is remarkable, however, at the number of times we see advisers either not explaining what tax and business structures are appropriate and what are currently available; either because they do not know what is available; or because of internal commercial agreements that mean that they are only prepared to tell you about their own specific “product” ranges.

Tax is complicated, but it is not impossible to deal with.  Structures are available to help a business grow, whilst keeping the tax costs down.  Remuneration and cash extraction is possible without having to reach levels of tax that make it prohibitive.  Wealth management, pension maximisation, wealth preservation and maximisation are still key tools available to the accountant and all of these possibilities should be brought to a client’s attention and discussed.  Open and honest, what can be done and what cannot, some accountants do not do this as they believe that they really know their client and they would not want to participate in such structures or that their own business only offers a limited product range. My view is that the client should be made aware and the client should decide for themselves, with appropriate guidance and advice being given, including a review of the risks and opportunities.

Our role is to ensure that our clients and their businesses succeed and become as profitable and cash generative as they can be and this has to include a tax strategy.  Another key part of providing relevant professional tax support is the ability to stand up for our clients and represent them in dispute, arguments, minor tiffs or just day to day frustration in dealing with HMRC.

Costs control

Again, there are routes and strategies to keep costs down and a real Business Adviser must have access and knowledge of these to really help a client.  To name a few:

  • Specific cost reductions from utility and key supplier review and sourcing
  • Modelling key purchase usage and assisting with tendering
  • Outsourcing of certain functions (including IT and accounts processing)

Sales and business development

It is all well and good looking at keeping costs down in these austere times, but for a business to really succeed, sales, marketing and business development has to be at the top of the agenda.

Accountants are not sales people are they, and what do they know.  Well again, as a Finance Director, I was an integral part of the sales and marketing process.  I had to be, as I needed to be able to see the results of bigger sales and more cash, or not as the case may be.  Internet optimisation, online marketing, social-media marketing strategy, targeted marketing, knowing your customers, prospecting, cross selling and up selling, rolling marketing initiatives, networking, the pipeline, converting, keeping and improving business with your customers, cross referring and introducing our clients to our other clients and our clients to our key contacts.  Applying techniques from professional services businesses, retail businesses, technology business and manufacturing businesses and understanding what works.  That is why I am a real believer that helping our clients with building their business is crucial to our own success and is absolutely key to being a real Business Adviser.

My last blog I wrote about why Accountants are not boring.  I am an Accountant, but first and foremost, I am a Business Adviser and some have even called me an Entrepreneur, which according to Lord Sugar is a title that has to be earned and referred to by others and not one that you can call yourself, so it is a start.  Accountant, Finance Director, Entrepreneur, Sales-Person, Business Adviser is a heady mix, but one, I believe, that seeks to provide real and relevant support to my clients and customers.

To take advice out of the DFS book of marketing, surely such service and product sale must end soon, yes it must end on Sunday at 5pm !!!!!

** Theft of any advertising strap line is not intentional and McGregors apologise profusely to all those wonderful businesses that we borrowed their creativity from.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA, McGregors Corporate, More than just Accountants!

McGregors Corporate are a Member Of Probiz Tax.  We provide Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.  We are relentless in helping businesses.  Here are some examples of how we do that:

Midlands Investor Network – 18th May Spring 2011 Event and Current Businesses

How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up

We like to keep things simple, for ourselves and our clients;
We build our business by reducing our clients’ business and taxation costs;
We build our business by increasing our clients sales;
We build our business by helping our clients succeed in their business;
It is that simple and we meet you to discuss all these things for free;

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.

Midlands Investor Network Spring Event

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Investors and Businesses seeking Investment and Funding are being recruited for the Spring Midlands Investor Network Event

The second Midlands Investor Network evening is to be held on Wednesday 18th May 2011 at The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 4th Floor, 2 St Philips Place, Birmingham, B3 2RB at 6.30pm.

We have been delighted by the responses received from those attending the January event and following the support that we have received from Nat West and other, we have also been able to make a donation of £280 to the Birmingham based, Acorn’s Children’s Hospice, Those attending that event will testify to the quality of the presenting businesses and the unique entertainment provided by one of the pitches and we are intending to continue with that theme in the second event.

The Midlands Investor Network has been created to bring together groups of small and medium/owner managed businesses, based in the Midlands in the UK, seeking investment with groups of potential business angel and private equity investors as well as other providers of finance.

Businesses presenting range from new start-up businesses through to established businesses looking for project finance to expand. If your business is searching for the relevant funding and you wish to have the opportunity to present to a group of potential investors you should contact us now for an initial review and discussion.

Businesses seeking funding and interested in presenting at the Spring event need to contact us with their plans before 9th April with a practise presentation being scheduled for 11th May.

The Midlands Investor Network is organised by McGregors Corporate, (, Else Solicitors LLP, ( , Citizen Corporate Finance Limited ( and RBS/Nat West (, in conjunction with BA Capital, ( and Midven Private Equity (

To arrange a meeting to attend as a business or to be included as a potential investor contact;

Christine Gilligan

Telephone: 0121 236 3317

Midlands Investor Network Launch with a Song and Dance

Events are being organised in the West and East Midlands

Written by Steven Mugglestone

March 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Are Accountants Really Boring or Really, Really Boring

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Are Accountants Really Boring or Really, Really Boring

I started to write a technical piece, but I was distracted by the eternal debate that appears to have started again.  Are Accountants really boring or really, really boring.

Yes, I am an Accountant and yes I am part of a firm of accountants, in fact I am a Chartered Accountant and part of a firm of Chartered Accountants.  I have lived with this all of my working life.  I trained as an Accountant and qualified as an Accountant (although, I do not have an Accountancy degree, it was Economics).  I have worked in business, as a finance director, which is like an Accountant, just more decisive.  I have faced the stigma and the ridicule, the tumble-weed silence when someone asks you what you do.  I consider myself a fairly confident and comfortable individual, married with children.  The stigma of instantly explaining that I am an Accountant usually means that I tend not to tell new acquaintances what I do.  I tend to have a good chat and sometimes later in the discussion I get asked the inevitable question and usually I get the same response, “No, …. Really, … You don’t seem that boring.”

I have read recently how the debate continues, Accountants are boring.

So I have taken some time to have a look at this, …. Sensibly and with the respect and gravitas that the subject deserves.

The Science of It

It appears that in 2005, the City University of Hong Kong proved that accountants were boring and this was due to using dull words and dull methods of communication.

Now, I am sorry, but I think that you will find, that if you study any specialist talking through the technical areas of their roles, it is boring to others.  Physics and rocket science hardly makes great after dinner conversation, but Hollywood can make it look like that they are all Tom Hanks.  And anyway, an academic study to prove that accountants are boring, surely that has to be the apex of boring.

Technical or detailed aspects of any job will be boring but cannot make you boring.  All jobs have a level of technical knowledge and expertise; Formula 1 engineers are intensely technical, yet are seem to be glamorous. Honda pride themselves on the attention to detail and market that as a key USP for what they do.  Professional decorators watch paint drying for a living, but they are not labelled as boring as Accountants.

In fact the technical point and the issue that even Accountants are different can be seen in the categories that in the Accountancy profession, we find ourselves labelling each other, finders, minders and grinder.  The differences between those who are good at getting clients; those that build relationships and those that do the numbers.

The Butt of Many Jokes

Accountants tend to be the butt of jokes and they centre on the boring tag:

An Accountant is:

  • Someone who uses their personality as a form of birth control (I have two sons!)
  • Someone who makes a bold fashion statement by wearing a blue suit instead of grey
  • Someone who isn’t really boring, they just get excited over boring things
  • Someone who does not have the charisma to be an undertaker
  • Someone who does not know that Gap is a clothing store

An extroverted accountant is one who looks at your shoes while he is talking to you instead of his own.

However my favourites have to be:

There are three types of accountants in the world, those who can count and those who can’t!

There once was a business owner who was interviewing people for a division manager position. He selected an engineer, a mathematician, a physicist, a logician, a social worker, a lawyer, a trader and an accountant to interview and decided to select the individual that could answer the question “how much is 2+2?”

•       The engineer pulled out his slide rule and shuffled it back and forth, and finally announced, “It lies between 3.98 and 4.02”.
•       The mathematician said, “In two hours I can demonstrate it equals 4 with the following short proof.”
•       The physicist declared, “It’s in the magnitude of 1×101.”
•       The logician paused for a long while and then said, “This problem is solvable.”
•       The social worker said, “I don’t know the answer, but I am glad that we discussed this important question.
•       The lawyer stated, “In the case of the Crown vs. Svenson, 2+2 was declared to be 4.”
•       The trader asked, “Are you buying or selling?”

The accountant looked at the business owner, then got out of his chair, went to see if anyone was listening at the door and pulled the drapes. Then he returned to the business owner, leaned across the desk and said in a low voice, “What would you like it to be?”

Why is the last joke funny? Yet it speaks volumes about why Accountants are not boring.  It is not that we cheat or that we have an array of despicable tricks (ish).  It is that we are trained to think laterally, finding an answer and solution for our clients in what we do, despite apparent problems and issues.  We try and cut through the issues and problems and solve the problem, in whatever way we can.  We are solution providers and aim to get clients where they want to be.  There is no such answer as no and there is no such statement as “It cannot be done.”

Glamour and fame does not necessarily mean that you are not boring

Living with the stigma of being an Accountant has meant that I do not immediately tell people, as I explained earlier.  Yet it can appear that working in the more interesting world of showbiz can mean that you are instantly seen as interesting and glamorous, even if in reality you are, well, boring.

Everybody has an odd story about meeting a TV celeb and I am not any different.  Mine comes from meeting a celeb as part of the hobby that I have, a hobby that used to be seen as unusual and weird unless you were Welsh or gay with a Judy Garland obsession, I sing.  But now since the advent of Last Choir Standing, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and now Glee, it seems not only acceptable, but actually cool.

I was actually taking part in a large choral piece with a group of choirs and we had an afternoon rehearsal before the evening performance.  I stood next to a chap, who I did not know, and spoke to him during the coffee break.  Now I usually  have a high tolerance for boring people but he was pushing that somewhat and he started to say to me that he likes singing but “with his job” he does not really get enough time to join in with singing stuff.  Now at that time, I was going to ask what he did, but I did not get the chance and we carried on chatting or he carried on talking at me and he kept dropping in with, “of course with my job I don’t get a lot of free time and of course with my job I am out and about a lot.”  Well, I kind of got the message, but decided that I would not ask him what he did, let alone realise that I was supposed to know already.

Afterwards I was asked by the others around me, what was he like? What did we talk about?  I did not know that he was a famous TV presenter (of the DIY/house-changing/gardener-ish ilk), yet I declared that he was ok, a bit boring and pretty self-centred.

A lot of people in business say that perception is everything.  I think that is true in this case, he was perceived to be interesting and famous, and I am sure that it is true about Accountants.

Accountants in business and as leaders

The UK has about 50,000 family doctors, but nearly 280,000 professionally qualified Accountants.  That is a lot of boring people.  At any one time there are 165,000 registered students training to be Accountants.  That is a lot of young people wanting to be boring people.

Around 80% of FTSE 100 Companies have at least one Chartered Accountant on their main board of directors.  Many Finance Directors go on to be Chief Executives and prove to be successful, ok Gordon Brown did not do that well.

And Accountants have gone on to fame and fortune and have shaken off their old image as being boring:

  • Barry Hearn – Boxing manager and sports events promoter
  • J. P. Morgan – This famous financier and banker
  • Pádraig Harrington – The former PGA and Open Golf Champion
  • Lee Van Cleef – Hollywood star of spaghetti westerns
  • John Major – Former British Prime Minister and often described ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ (…no wait that’s Mike Tyson). Major trained as an accountant. Some might say, “Unsurprising!”
  • Kenny G – The saxophone player
  • Josiah Wedgewood – As in Wedgewood the potter.
  • Luca Pacioli – Big mates with Leonardo Da Vinci.
  • John Grisham – The best-selling author, and I thought he was a lawyer
  • Robert Plant – The Led Zeppelin rock legend
  • Cecil Parkinson, former Conservative MP and now Baron Parkinson

And for those in the West Midland who have already have heard of Peter Murphy, he was included in an article in the FT in December 2010 as the story of the Accountant who went on to feature on the South Bank Show, meet the Queen and play harp for Queen Anne-Marie of Greece.

Has Accountancy made me boring?

I do not believe Accountancy has made me boring, but I let others be the judge of that.  I do believe that it has given me an insight into how businesses work and what does not work.  It has given me insight into how you can build a business, sustain a business, the importance of supporting structures for business, for operational issues and improvement, the importance of strategic thinking, of assessing where you are now, where you want to get to and how to structure a plan of how to get there.  It has given me an insight into finance, into cash management and working capital and it has given me insight into taxation, what can be achieved and what cannot be achieved.  It has given me an insight into leadership and change management and what makes organisations work and what deters them from working well.  It has given me an insight into recruitment and appraisal and how to challenge others and help them improve, how to empower others to improve the business and to enhance the team, their skills and achievements as well.  It has allowed me to work with a large number of businesses, helping them achieve their goals.  It has given me an opportunity to understand the real meaning and importance of good marketing and sales as the lifeblood of a business.  It has allowed me to be involved in marketing initiatives, new start-up businesses, new funding initiatives, working with banks, with other business organisations, with universities and new technologies.  I have worked on business turnarounds, helping business turn a corner and re-build.  I act as Finance Director for a number of innovative start-up innovative product businesses, new technologies and leisure businesses.  It allows me to talk to and meet new contacts and potential new clients on a constant basis.

If all of that means that Accountants are boring, then, well I am ….. boring I suppose.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA, McGregors Corporate, More than just Accountants!

McGregors Corporate are a Member Of Probiz Tax.  We provide Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.  We are relentless in helping businesses.  Here are some examples of how we do that:

Accelerate Your Business Growth and get supported with Grant Funding.
Midlands Investor Network – Launch Event and Update
How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up

We like to keep things simple, for ourselves and our clients;
We build our business by reducing our clients’ business and taxation costs;
We build our business by increasing our clients sales;
We build our business by helping our clients succeed in their business;
It is that simple and we meet you to discuss all these things for free;

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

February 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm

To Budget or Not to Budget, That is The Question

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To Budget or Not to Budget, That is The Question

I have just read a number of articles and discussions in an Accountants discussion group about why a business/organisation budgets and whether it is necessary at all.  The discussion was heated at times (for Accountants), and it was interesting to read both accountants and non-accountants views (particularly those who view Accountants as unproductive evil bean counters whose sole purpose in an organisation is to suck the joy out of life).  I do not usually read Accountants discussion groups, as I usually acknowledge that Accountants are unproductive evil bean counters whose sole purpose in an organisation is to suck the joy out of life, but the discussion did touch upon a number of really key issues.

To a Finance Director or a Strategic Director the answer is simple; in fact the answer is why are you asking.

Business improvement and success is down to people, people, people

The success of any business does not (usually) just happen, in a Field of Dreams kind of way (i.e. if I build it, they will come).  Success, improvement and continued success of all businesses and organisations are down to a number of key factors:

  • People, people and people (and probably people)
  • Leadership, management and delivery (people, people and people again)
  • Marketing, networking and sales (what people are you selling to, how do you find them, and what do they want)
  • Systems and processes (tools being developed by people to help people)
  • The products or services (for other people by your people)
  • A plan to bring it all together (created by people for people)

We could digress down a route of leadership, management, journeys, buses, architects and builders etc., but the purpose of the blog is to concentrate on budgets.  We have already started our advice on successful change management,, and budgets and budgeting plays an important part in the changes for the better.

Given that people are the key, how can budgets really help to add value and drive a business?  Whilst business is about people, people are only, well human people, and we need help, structured help and systems.  Hopefully we can highlight some of those areas below.

Understanding and the starting point

All businesses are aiming to achieve something as, I would hope, are all people.  Leadership training and MBA theory would compare this to a journey.  Defining where we want to be may be one thing, but to get there we need a route map and a set of instructions of how to get there.  Any instructions for a journey, however, need to define where we are now.  Most organisations understand this and reflect on self-evaluation before they start on their development plans.

A budget can be seen as a starting point to actually understanding how a business operates financially, in the appropriate detail.  It is still quite incredible the number of businesses which only rely on an annual set of accounts to reflect on the business performance.  These accounts are usually prepared by their accountant up to nine months after the year end and provide little in the way of real support and direction for a business.  I read today that the key to success is to channel 80% of our time in effort in developing the opportunities of the future, rather than dealing with the mistakes of the past, and pretty much a large number of businesses are doing the opposite.

Many owner managed business people often claim that they completely understand their business, the gross margins, the product mix, the cost of production, the cost of developing, etc., etc., but actually when they look at the accounts, nine months later, they tend to find that they were wrong and we are now a year behind to address it.

Many people have said that accountants know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, but having a robust budget that allows an understanding of what is business is doing at the moment is the key starting point to being able to develop the business, improve the business and achieve its ultimate goals.

Spotting the improvements

At the early stages of using budgets, often a common quick win is to identify where improvements in profits can be obtained.  If budgeting is new to an organisation, it is likely that that organisation has been doing things pretty much in the same way for a considerable time.  Back to another saying, if you carry on doing the same thing the same way, you are likely to get what you have got.

The process of developing a budget to fully understand the operation of a business will produce the ideas and solutions to obtain improvements.  If it does not and your accountant does not help with this, it is more than likely that your accountant has never been a Finance Director within a business and has never had to tackle profit improvement.  Try talking to a Finance Director or an accountant who has been a Finance Director and I am sure you will be surprised at the improvements that can be found very quickly.

Executing the plan

OK, so we now understanding where we are and we have set a plan to reach our business aims (that bit, together with business turnaround and further change management, we will look to develop in other blogs, but we are sticking to budgets).

The budgets for each area, department, product, improvement etc., can know be used for control and evaluation.  A strategic plan will consist of a series of stepping stones and milestones of achievements, both operationally and financially.  Budgets can be used as a financial route plan to both control and evaluate, to ensure that the business is on course.  As with any journey, we need to understand that if we are going off course, we have the process and system in place to be able to identify this as quickly as possible, to be able to rectify this and head back on course.  As an analogy, if I am planning a trip to Edinburgh, I would hope that I realised that I was off-course before I reached Cairo.

Back to People

Budgets are just numbers really and I have already said that the key to the success of a business is people and good people change management Again, budgets can play a vital role in this as a toll for communication and motivation.

All good and successful businesses provide regular and relevant channels of communication to their team; it is the key to all great organisations and their success.  A budget can be used to communicate to the team how the business is doing.  It breaks down what is required of an individual or their department into easy to understand pieces.  How much can I spend on this area this month, how many sales do I need to achieve today, how much money needs to be collected today etc., etc?  Many organisations give their staff little or no information about performance and the owner/directors then wonder why their management ends in frustration from both sides.  Leaders need to be able to not only provide vision, they need to ensure that their team are fully prepared for the delivery of the plan and that includes tools, training and understanding.  In providing a plan, they also need to allow that information is used to be able to provide small simple to understand stepping stones for all of the team.

Back to another analogy, how do you eat an elephant, ……?  The answer is one bite at a time.

Not only do budgets provide a channel of communication, they serve as a vital tool for motivation.  Everyone likes to be part of success, and to be recognised for their part in success.  (If not you have the wrong team, another analogy for the journey, right people on the bus and wrong people off the bus).  Achieving and beating budgets should be recognised.  This does not have to be totally financial (although that helps), saying thank you, a round of drinks or a box of chocolates can really help when dealing with bite size budget achievements and milestones.

Whilst we could go on and on, the purpose of the blog is to briefly highlight why budgets are important and provide a business with a vital tool.  Some people may say that budgets are there only to control and get in the way.  We really think that budgets can provide a business with a real opportunity to achieve their aims and fulfil their goals by:

  • To provide an opportunity to fully understand the operations of the business
  • To provide an opportunity to achieve initial and immediate profit improvement
  • To provide a route plan, stepping stones and milestones together with support for the strategic direction and strategic plan of the business
  • To ensure that the business is adequately controlled and evaluated (and this is done timely)
  • To provide key communication to your team and this is a key area for successful change management
  • To provide a key tool for motivation for your team and in doing so continue your plans for continued success

We aim to provide real support and advice to our current and future clients.  We see everyone as either our clients or our future clients.  We utilise our real and practical experiences as specialist advisers and Finance Directors to do this and because of our unique backgrounds, we know that we can make a difference and provide real success to our clients.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA

We like to keep things simple, for ourselves and our clients;
We build our business by reducing our clients’ business and taxation costs;
We build our business by increasing our clients sales;
We build our business by helping our clients succeed in their business;
It is that simple and we meet you to discuss all these things for free;

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 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Is an audit a boring waste of money or can it really add real value to a business?

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Is an audit a boring waste of money or can it really add real value to a business?

Rhetorical question, I know, but having been on various sides of the table for differing sizes of business, I think it is a relevant discussion point.

From observation and discussion and having returned back into the professional accountancy world, it seems that many SMEs can sometimes see an audit as either a necessary evil or just an “insurance policy” to have a name on their accounts in case somebody needs to refer to them for credit or banking facilities (or to sue).

It also appears that many accountants to SMEs treat it pretty much the same. Carry out an audit (all very nicely done and within the relevant standards and guidelines), but in the end they have a brief meeting with the client, arrange the formalities of various letters to sign and then that’s it done for another year.

Having worked as an adviser in a large corporate environment and as a Finance Director for a number of years, I do not believe that it has to be this way. An audit and in particular the resulting memorandum produced, can add real value to a business and provide real support.

The Key Issues Memorandum

A large formal audit environment and large audit firm may look to produce a Key Issues Memorandum document as either a by-product of the audit or to report specifically to the audit company of a large corporate client. This is likely to address the following:

  • To summarise and report on the key points from the resulting profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow of the business
  • To address, report and conclude on any material issue that is significant In the year
  • To re-iterate the responsibilities of the director and auditors
  • To report that the company complies with the relevant legal framework to be able to sign an unqualified audit report
  • To report on changes on any other relevant and specific environmental or legal framework affecting the business
  • Maybe to explain the tax charge for the year
  • To report on any specific areas that the directors have asked the auditors to review
  • Maybe to report on controls, but more likely to report control problems
  • If really exciting to report on incidents of fraud perhaps
  • To report a list of minor or non-material errors found during the course of the audit

The thing is, these reports are very good, but for an SME business and business owner they could be better and even more useful.

The Commercial Finance Directors Key Issue Memorandum

Taking a Finance Directors view, we can take the concept of the key issues memorandum and make it far more commercial and of real use to businesses to be able to drive their business. Consider what a Finance Director would include:

Results for the period

Financial information is a measure, but are we measuring it against. If we sit down with a business first, the basic is what is the plan? Where are you now and where do you want to get to? To get to that position there will be stepping stones along the way. We need to consider the stepping stones and use them to guide and judge the business.

There is basic information that we can use. It does not have to a grand strategic plan; it can be done on one page. Whether it is sales, gross margins, percentages, number of widgets sold, cash generated, unit selling cost or production cost, telephone calls per hour, number of customers coming into a shop, sales per head etc., etc. these Key Performance Indications, KPIs, are vital markers to how a business is performing.

But what do we judge them against. Again, keeping things simple.

  • Prepare a 3-5 plan and highlight the KPIs in that plan, use them to judge on-going performance (amend them as you go, amend the plan as well, but do not throw it away, it is the framework of your business)
  • Prepare a detailed annual budget, use it to monitor and control the business throughout the year
  • Report the key changes from the budget and (more importantly), what is being doing to correct and amend these areas
  • Benchmark the results. All FDs will use benchmarking data to judge, review and amend their businesses performance. If your competitors are performing better than you, then you need to understand why and take appropriate actions.
  • We use benchmarking data from information from a UK wide database of financial information from accountants (not simply Companies House). We also use an easy “traffic light” method of benchmarking the performance against top, middle and bottom quartiles of similar UK wide business. If you are in the red, then we need to address that area, as 75% of your competitors already have done and are performing better than you. Moving up one quartile can have a significant effect on the performance.
  • KPIs are not only used to control and improve the profitability of a business; they should also be used to improve cash. Stock holding, debtor and creditor days and other working capital areas all impact on cash, and as any FD knows, when times get tough cash is king and when times get better, cash is still king.

Internal Controls

An auditor will look and report on an internal control in respect of potential fraud, areas where lack of controls may allow the opportunity to steal from the company. However, large audit companies are not whiter than white themselves in this area.

KPMG accountancy chief fiddled £545,000 to pay for his new wife’s £15,000-a-month luxury tastes

A Finance Director for an SME business may look at this differently and look at the area as controlled delegation, rather than internal control.

Controlled delegation is a more commercial approach and seeks to look at an area to free up the time of the entrepreneur/business owner from some of the area that they do not have to get involved with and allow and encourage them to spend more time on the areas that will enhance and grow the business. The controls need to be practical and allow the entrepreneur to work on the business, secure in the knowledge that those areas are appropriately controlled and reportable.

A practical example of how the information contained on an audit file and available for use by an auditor is as follows:

An entrepreneur was the main sales person for his business. He worked hard and was successful in growing sales, but in his opinion he was stuck, the business could not yet pay for another full time sales person, but the owner did not believe that he could increase the sales further in his own. On review of the monthly sales profile it could be seen that there was a consistent two months of good sales and one month of poor sales. On questioning the business owner it was ascertained that the product catalogue was quarterly and one month a quarter the owner would update the catalogue and not book so many appointments. A simple solution was that his assistant was trained to update the catalogue and report it back to the owner, allowing him to sell more. Needless to say sales increased and a future sales person was eventually paid for.

Internal controls are still very important. The report, however, should be able to come up with the practical controls that will allow the business to grow, but will also be able to highlight and recommend areas for improvement where the potential for fraud is high.

Risk register

Permanent Finance Directors, Contract and Project Finance Directors and Project Managers generally will all consider a formal risk register. Consider what can go wrong, rank them in the probabilities that they happen, rank them in respect of the financial impact to the business.

If it possible to go wrong and it has a significant financial impact, then what is in place to control and mitigate this, procedures, manuals, disaster recovery plans and insurance policies should all be considered.

A risk register that considers these areas, lists and puts in the controls for these areas is not only valuable, it is practically priceless. Generally audit procedures cover these contingent areas and can assist in the development of a practical risk register. Some of the areas, such as HR/IT control will have a practical solution and the controls can be outsourced, but the key is the risk register.

Tax area

This is practically a no-brainer. Yes the report should report on how the tax charge arises, but we can go further than that.

An audit gives insight to a business and practical tax planning can be applied to this knowledge. For example:

  • Tax advantageous pension contributions to key employees/directors
  • New product areas, new geographical areas and new markets may benefit from specific tax planning that can significantly mitigate the tax in this area for more than 5 years
  • Company cars and benefits can also be managed within a similar arrangement as those dealing with new growing areas
  • There are other tax strategies available, which will fit within the profile of the client and business, but the client needs to be aware of these
  • Build-up of cash in a business may look good, but for tax this needs to be appropriately addressed. A business should have a strategy for cash extraction. Dividend v bonus is a simpler one, but there are more.
  • Future tax changes need to be considered and appropriate strategies put in place. Again the audit and this document is a key tool to consider these areas and start an appropriate plan

The considerations can go further, but this is meant to be a short(ish) blog and capture some of the key points. An audit, a boring waste of money, with no practical use to the business, I do not believe so. SMEs should use an audit company that can call upon these valuable practical solutions and help while ensuring that the audit still results in the appropriate sign off of an audit report.

Without stating the obvious, I think we are one of this audit companies.
Steven Mugglestone BA FCA
West Midlands Area Director
McGregors Corporate

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 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm

How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up

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How an FD drives a business when sometimes Accountants are just catching up?

Recent debates and criticism from Finance Directors say that Accountants generally do not have the commercial skills required to truly help, support and drive a business.  What does that mean; when a significant number of FDs go on to be chief executives, could you see your Accountant doing the same.  What are the skills and experience that an FD possesses, that an Accountant does not and how can those skills and experience help all businesses.

Most FDs work within a structure of their role covering how a business operates and where it is going and this can be looked at within three distinct areas, support, operational and strategic.

Support Areas

This covers some of the traditional areas that you would expect an Accountant to be responsible for, but an FD may have a differing approach to improve and support the business.

Compliance reporting is one of those areas and whilst this ensures that a company is up to date and complies with its statutory requirements to file its accounts and tax returns, an FD will also ensure that the messages within those financial statements are firmly within the company’s strategic vision and missions and that those financial statements reinforce publicly where the business is heading.

An FD will also be responsible for tax planning and overall dealings with HMRC, on an annual basis.  Whist an FD may not be a tax expert, they will ensure that tax costs are mitigated and planned for and sensible structures are in place to ensure that all relevant reliefs and tax breaks are made available to help the business, and individuals involved in the business to manage its tax costs.  As part of this, an FD will assess the risks involved to ensure that overall risks are managed in line with the strategic plan of the business.

As part of a support role, an FD usually gets responsibility for the areas that the other directors do not wish to touch.  These are usually HR, IT and insurance (part of risk control and mitigation).  Whilst larger organisations may well have separate staff and departments (usually reporting back to the FD), in a smaller organisation and business an FD is likely to outsource these and other similar areas.  Outsourcing allows an FD to ensure that the relevant risks involved in these areas are controlled and mitigated and that costs are also controlled.  However, despite being an Accountant by training, costs are not the only reason why outsourcing is considered as the risk profile and support afforded by the outsourced provided may well be more beneficial than trying to carry this out in house.

Again an area that other directors or the owner of the business may have little interest or desire to be responsible, albeit an area key to the success of a business is dealing with legal documents and agreements.  Whilst an FD is not a lawyer, they do understand what reasonable terms and conditions would include and what clauses should be in an agreement and what should be avoided or mitigated.  An FD will liaise closely with the businesses legal advisers (outsourced) to ensure that commercial matters are reviewed and considered in all of the legal agreements that the business adopts.

Operational Areas

Again this would appear to be a traditional area that an Accountant would operate within to help support a business, but an FD will have a different emphasis to ensure that the operational areas truly help to improve a business.

An Auditor and Accountant will carry out tests and comment on procedures and reporting known as internal control.  An FD sees this area as controlled delegation, the difference being that the appropriate structures and controls are put in place to allow senior members of the business to concentrate and be allowed to carry out roles that they are good at and that are crucial to the improvement of the business.  As an example, if the key director is also a key sales person, they should not be spending their time writing brochures, catalogues or processing orders, but they need to be comfortable that those areas can be carried out to the appropriate standard without them.

A real traditional area is reporting, but an FD will always ensure that the reporting format and what is reported is not about dwelling on the past but ensuring that appropriate areas are planned for and controlled.  The term key performance indicators tend to be over used but an FD will always look to simplify the reporting to concentrate on key areas that really matter and these may not always be financial.  An FD will use budgeting as a control tool for reporting, but will also use benchmarking against best performance within the business and external to the business.  This is not done to dwell on the facts that the business is performing better or worse than others in a particular area, but to understand the reasons and address accordingly.  Sometimes you find that your competitors carry out some things better than you and if you can address these areas you can make a difference to the bottom line.

The use of benchmarking, budgeting and using key performance indicators by an FD will lead to identifying profit improvement, ensuring that operational reporting is used to enhance the earnings of a business.  An FD will usually be responsible for negotiating and agreeing many of the businesses supply and service contracts.  This will mean that they will look to consider all relevant factors, model usage accordingly and ensure that competitive tenders can provide what the business needs.

Profit is one thing, but cash is king.  Businesses do not go bust because of profits, but because they run out of cash.  An FD will always be responsible for working capital and cash management.  The maths in this area is relatively simple in that with high stocks, work in progress and debtors with low creditors comes a strain on cash.  An FD will control this area on a rolling weekly basis and on some occasions and with some businesses this will be done on a daily basis, to free up cash for use in the business.

Strategic Areas

This is an area that perhaps a traditional Accountant does not readily engage with or is involved in.  An FD will have knowledge and experience of an overall strategic plan which covers customer and marketing strategies, systems and processes and people development, but whilst overlapping, an FD will concentrate on the financial areas that underpin a strategic plan.

But what is strategic activity and how can it be defined.  An FD will lead defining strategic investment and activity.  This will mean assessing where a business is going to channel its resources to improve;  an FD will ensure that investments in both capital and human resource, marketing or other activities together with other related improvements and new areas that they are undertaking have a reason and a goal and that these are appropriately considered taking account of strengths and opportunities.  The costs and impact on the business can be measured and the future impact forecasted.  An FD is ideally placed and qualified to ensure that strategic activities are appropriately considered, planned, assessed and monitored and along the way they can add to the creative and entrepreneurial flair gained from the experience in this area.

An FD would not be an FD without considering risk.  All project management and strategic plans will contain a risk register.  Full consideration of both financial and commercial risks involved in all activities are considered and recorded and appropriate mitigation and insurance will be put in place.

All businesses should consider a time plan and an FD will ensure that an appropriate implementation timetable is considered and worked to.  This may be in respect of a specific area or the overall plan for the business leading to eventual exit by sale, or perhaps listing on a recognised market.

Underpinning a strategic plan is an appropriate funding structure.  The businesses own cash generation may not be appropriate to fund longer term investments and in return some higher risk areas may not attract bank or similar funding.  An FD will ensure that funding is appropriate for both the timescale and risks related to the business’ activities and strategic plan.  An obvious key area underpinning funding for a business is the relationship with current and potential future funders.  An FD is key to this relationship, whether banking, private equity or institutional as they understand what information is required and help to ensure that funders are comfortable with the current position of the business and its future aims, goals and requirements.

In summary an FD is not just an Accountant and some of the areas above highlight what FDs mean when they say that Accountants do not have the commercial skills and experience required to add real value to a business.  Some of their roles, including controlling delegation and support areas ensure that other members of the senior management team or the business owner are allowed to concentrate on other areas to enhance the business.  Other roles and functions such as reporting, profit improvement and cash management ensure that that the business can continue to improve cash generation which leads to cash being made available to support the strategic goals of the business.

Given all of this that an FD can offer a business, the only remaining question is why would you just use an Accountant when you can have an FD.

To find out how we can help all SME businesses with this real pro-active support, experience and background or to help you source a part time FD for your business, feel free to contact me at or call me on 0121 236 3317.

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

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