Redundancy provided the ideal avenue to becoming a franchisee for Mark Fordham, who is now preparing to open a TaxAssist Direct shop-front office. Stuart Anderson reports

Analysing risk was part of Mark Fordham's career for 19 years in the banking industry, which saw him become a qualified auditor and lecturer on tax accountancy, so when it came to considering his future he applied the same analytical skills to select a TaxAssist Direct franchise.

'When the bank restructured and I was offered redundancy I saw an opportunity to do something for myself, so I took the cash,' he recalls. 'I'd looked after lots of small businesses in banking and had dealt with franchises before. I could see the advantages: support in getting up and running and lower risk due to an established business history.'

Mark seriously examined four franchise opportunities. 'I got a warm glow about TaxAssist Direct,' he reflects. 'The head office team comes across as very professional and open. I also spoke to a dozen or so franchisees and all parties were very candid.'

Although he originally launched the business in October 2003, Mark switched territories very early on when his home patch of St. Albans and Harpenden territory became available. 'This slowed me down as I had to start my area research from scratch, so I wasn't ready to start advertising for business until January 2004,' he reveals. 'In the first six months I turned over £10,000, then things started moving more quickly and I'm now trading at £60,000 per annum. It's been a mix of emotions, spending money then seeing it start to pay off - very exciting, but also very scary.'

As well as initial training, from which Mark singles out the sales & marketing section as being vital, TaxAssist Direct's ongoing support has been of great value to getting Mark's business up and running quickly. 'I've enjoyed valuable support in my sales & marketing and advertising, as well as technical support in producing the accounts,' he adds. 'In addition, a Business Development Manager visited after a few weeks to guide my start-up.'

Currently working from home and a serviced office, Mark has been searching for a suitable high street premises in which to open a branded shop-front office - the TaxAssist Direct concept which aims to break down the barriers of professional tax accountancy to small business by creating a welcoming, walk-in high street presence. 'It should have a very positive effect on my business,' comments Mark. 'The shop-front office will give me a greater presence in the market and pull more clients in. I've got my eye on a suitable location and I'm hoping to open doors by the end of the Summer. I will then be able to take on a full-time member of staff which will allow me to divulge myself of much of the accountancy work and concentrate on managing and building the business. My goal is to build up to a turnover of £400,000 per year in the next five years.'

The experience of being his own boss has been 'great fun, but hard work' for Mark. 'I probably work harder now than ever, but it doesn't feel like that because I'm taking the rewards for myself,' he adds. 'TaxAssist Direct's support has been invaluable - I have been able to take on clients that I couldn't have coped with without their support. Also, I would have spent and wasted a lot of money finding the best ways to promote my business. I'm probably a year ahead of where I would have been if I hadn't become a TaxAssist Direct franchisee.'