"I am my own boss!"

James Sheard is enjoying building his business in its first year, while Sarah Ferguson is approaching the term of renewal on her franchise

In my previous line of work as a Finance Director of a logistics company, I spent most of my time on the road travelling up and down the country," reflects James Sheard. "I hated being away from my family so often and grew tired of driving long distances, so I decided to look into becoming my own boss.

"As I did not have any experience of running my own business and had a young family to support I could not risk starting up a business completely on my own - so becoming a franchise owner was the ideal solution. Franchising would enable me to be my own boss, while using a tried and tested business model and established brand name. My wife Julia and I are chartered accountants by trade and had heard positive things about small business accountancy and tax franchise TaxAssist Accountants through other accountants, so we decided to research its franchise opportunity in more detail."

Established in 1995, TaxAssist Accountants began franchising in 1996 and to date has over 160 franchise owners operating across its nationwide network, 85 of which operate from a shop front office. "Although I did investigate other accountancy franchises, the TaxAssist Accountants franchise package was without a shadow of a doubt head and shoulders above the rest," enthuses James.

"I attended a discovery day at the head office in Norwich, which gave me the opportunity to meet the company directors who were both open and knowledgeable. I also received presentations which explained the contents of the franchise package, the training provided to franchise owners and the franchisor's commitment to providing ongoing support."

James launched his shop front office franchise in Stalybridge in March this year. The opening day was attended by the Chief Executive of TaxAssist Accountants Karl Sandall, who cut the ribbon and generated a lot of free publicity in the local press. "The training and support so far has been brilliant," James reveals. "Before the launch I completed a five-week course at head office, which helped to refresh and update my memory on tax legislation. Since the launch I have returned to head office for further training and to compare notes with my peers.

"The support office is excellent - it has designated departments to help with marketing, and technical or employment queries so if you have a problem you know you are talking to someone with the right qualifications and knowledge to point you in the right direction.

"I love running my own business and being in a position to make the decisions gives me a great deal of job satisfaction. It is a great feeling knowing I am in a position to help alleviate the stress of my clients. As my own boss I also have control of my timetable, so I can work around any family commitments and I am able to ensure my weekends and evenings are free to see my family and to go running or mountain biking."

"I CAN'T WAIT TO RENEW MY FRANCHISE"

Holidays abroad have become a regular occurrence for TaxAssist Accountants franchise owner Sarah Ferguson since she joined the franchise network five years ago. Last year alone, the mum of one enjoyed 10 holidays including skiing trips to Colorado and a month long break travelling around Dubai and South Africa.

"I love travelling," exclaims Sarah (pictured, left, with TaxAssist Accountants Chief Executive Karl Sandall), "so I try and go abroad at every available opportunity. Already this year I have taken a relaxing break to St Lucia. The great thing about being your own boss is you are in control of when you go on holiday and how many holidays you take. This is a novelty for me because before I joined TaxAssist Accountants, I was a Finance Director for a chemical company so had to be in the office Monday to Friday nine-to-five and had to request any time off."

Fed up with her job, Sarah decided to leave in search of a new challenge and came across the TaxAssist Accountants franchise. Established in 1995, the business specialises in providing a range of tax and accountancy solutions to small businesses. "Finance was all I had known, as I am a Chartered Certified Accountant," reflects Sarah. "So it made sense to try and find a new career path where I could use my existing skills. I was intrigued with the TaxAssist Accountants business proposition and so decided to book myself onto one of the discovery days."

Three weeks later, Sarah had signed the franchise agreement for the Kensington territory and was put on a five-week initial training course, which taught her everything she needed to know in order to run the franchise effectively including ways to market her business, which proved invaluable. "I love being my own boss," she enthuses. "Initially I was at the office 15 hours a day seven days a week to get the business established. I'm pleased that I dedicated my time to the business back then because now, five years on, with 451 customers on the books which includes companies, sole traders and partnerships as well as tax return clients, I am able to reap the rewards of my success."

With a great group of properly trained staff, Sarah now plays a less active role in the day-to-day running of the business. "I go into work two days a week after I have dropped my daughter off at school," says Sarah. "I have been able to cut my hours in the office because my staff are capable of running the business by themselves now and I know if they have any queries they can contact the TaxAssist Accountants support helpline for advice and guidance.

"This year I am due to renew my franchise agreement and cannot wait! My business is already on target for a £200,000 annual turnover. A couple of years ago I bought out a neighbouring franchise owner, and I'm now looking at taking on another territory and opening a shop front too in the near future."

Interview by Jess Sturman