Renee Mackay is from a training and development/IPD background but had run her own business for nearly 10 years before buying into TaxAssist Accountants. Before that she had worked with LloydsTSB and Telewest Communications. Customer service was (and still is) her background.
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose the TaxAssist Accountants franchise?
A large part of the work my training company undertook was in the franchise market, so I knew franchising inside out. I also knew TaxAssist very well. So, when I started looking round for a business to get into (because I wanted to stop travelling so much – so I could get a dog), TAA was a no-brainer.
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
Got a shop front location. I wasn’t going to get into this franchise without following the shop front model. Fortunately, one presented itself pretty much straight away and I was able to negotiate a good lease. I already knew the model and brand inside out so no research was needed, really.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
The initial training programme. The software and we get lots of leads from the Support Centre
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I walk into work which takes about an hour – I get in for 8.30-ish. We now have a team of 11 so I dedicate my time during the day to them and to client meetings – both signing off accounts, tax returns and signing up new business.
I have dedicated slots through the day for checking work. When the team goes home I can then do the things I need to do sitting at my desk. So any technical work that I need to do, answering emails and catching up with existing clients…doing my follow ups and the pro-active stuff needed to run the business.
I usually leave the office somewhere between 8.30pm and 9.00pm for the hour-long walk home.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
I do a lot of marketing: networking is very important and I network at least twice a week, preferably more. We are active on social media, advertise in three local magazines, distribute leaflets regularly, have a branded car and the shop front is very visible. We hold receptions and drinks parties in the shop at least twice a year.
We sponsor a local rugby team and have an advertising hoarding at their ground; we advertise in their programme and take clients to their annual fundraising ball.
What differentiates your franchise from the competition?
Most accountants try to differentiate themselves on how good they are at the job. But that should be a given – after all, all accounts should be about the same. Next accountants try to be different based on their price.
I do neither of these things – I differentiate my business based on the service experience that our customers receive. Whether it’s a £250 tax return or a £3,000 set of accounts I would say all my clients like coming in to see us.
All the team know how important service is, too, and they all subscribe to the ethos, too.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
It depends how you define success.
For me there are three things. Someone who is prepared to put in more effort than they ever thought they could, someone who understands the brand they are joining inside out and thirdly, someone who is passionate about their business.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Easy, three pieces of advice:
- No matter how hard you think you’re prepared to work, you will work harder…if you’re serious about building a business
- At some point (and sooner rather than later) you have to employ people and at some point (sooner rather than later) staff will break your heart
- If you have one minute spare in any given day use it to market your business; contact a prospective client, send an email, arrange to go networking…and never ring the Support Centre complaining you don’t have any leads if you aren’t marketing locally
One final piece of advice – get a dog for the office. My dog comes into the office every day and customers love him.