TaxAssist Accountants: 'Exceeding all expectations'

Having operated his TaxAssist Accountants franchise for 31/2 years, Terry Peachman's business-to-business accountancy practice is reaching new heights through its shop-front branded office. Stuart Anderson reports

"I can be as cynical as the next man and always temper projections I'm given,' admits Lincoln-based TaxAssist Accountants franchisee Terry Peachman. 'But since I opened my shop-front branded office in April, it has exceeded all my expectations. In fact, the increased business has paid for the cost of it already.'

TaxAssist Accountants developed the shop-front branded office concept to provide its franchisees with an option to establish a high street location and build not only more credibility and brand awareness, but also add walk-in business to their income streams. Since the concept's launch, franchisees have opened 26 shop-front branded offices and a further 20 are reported in pre-launch.

'Particularly now, with several shop-front branded offices in place, there's been extra energy given by the head office support team to developing them,' Terry comments. 'The franchisor has coordinated the sharing of best practice among the network of franchisees, provided advice on location selection and supplied assistance in fitting out the offices.

'Since I opened my shop-front branded office six months ago the rate of client sign-ups has doubled month-on-month. The office provides market visibility and differentiates us from traditional accountancy practices - it's more open and friendly and people do pop their heads round the door to ask for a quick word. I'd liken it to a friendly and welcoming building society compared to how stiff and cut-off behind glass walls banks used to be.'

Terry selected TaxAssist Accountants from a number of business-to-business franchises he'd examined. 'My background includes 22 years in banking, and I'd previously been a Business Development Manager for an accountancy practice,' Terry continues. 'I got frustrated with partnership politics and decided to work for myself. Franchising appealed because of the national brand image, franchisor support and the knowledge that I wouldn't be doing it alone. I was also aware, from my banking days, that franchises tend to be more successful than businesses starting up totally on their own.'

Terry launched his business from a serviced office in the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce building in April 2002, after a five-week training period which included three weeks on a residential course. 'A big reservation for me was how I was going to turn myself into an accountant, but the company's reassurances and other franchisees' testimonies convinced me that it was possible,' he reflects. 'The course covered tax, accountancy and marketing the business and gave me enough knowledge to get out there and do some business.'

In addition, Terry's business has benefited from TaxAssist Accountants' ongoing support. 'It is very valuable,' he comments. 'When I launched I was in constant phone contact with the head office in Norwich and the Franchise Development Manager made visits to assist in building the business. I made heavy use of the outbound telemarketing service to develop leads and kickstart the business.

'The technical helpline is always there when you get that question you don't know the answer to. As your knowledge enhances you use it less and less, but when you do it's for something more complex. It means you can take on any job you like, not having to worry if you can do it because there's always help available.'

Terry's business had built to a fee bank of £82,000 with 154 clients by year three, after which he moved into his shop-front branded office. 'After six months the shop-front branded office has boosted my client base to 191 and fee bank to £102,000,' he reports. 'Also, I'm getting more referrals from bodies such as the Federation of Small Businesses and local banks - in fact, for the first time, last week I had a bank come in to see me, whereas for the last three years it had been me trying to keep contact. As a franchisee you have to develop relationships with banks and organisations so that you can pass clients between each other.'

Terry achieved his original fee bank target for this calendar year two months early, and is now expecting to overachieve on his year-four target of £120,000 by the end of April. 'This level of business is looking easily achievable,' he observes, 'and will probably be well exceeded.'