TaxAssist adds up to success

After a career that has spanned everything from a personal banker to a nanny in New Jersey, Claire Cooper finally realised a lifelong ambition to run her own business with TaxAssist Accountants.

As a mother of four sons, Claire, 44, knows all about the pressures of juggling work and family life, but as she opens her doors to clients this month as owner of TaxAssist Accountants Bristol, she said the achievement had only been possible with great support – both at home and as part of a national network.

“I always wanted to run my own business,” explains Claire. “I guess it’s in my blood – my father ran his own haulage business – but it was a matter of finding the right fit. I was always good with numbers and enjoyed working on budgets, business strategy and financial issues, but at heart I’m a people person and couldn’t face the prospect of working away in a dusty office. I wanted something which combined my finance background with relationship skills.”

Claire, originally from Cheltenham, took a diploma in hotel management, before embarking on a career in banking and corporate finance in 1985. A year out as a nanny in the USA gave her a taste for independence and new challenges. This led, in 1996, to Claire deciding to fund herself through university, achieving a BA in Accounting and Financial Management and later added qualifications in business accounting and mortgage advice.

She then began a career as an independent financial adviser at Co-op Insurance Services and more recently HSBC. It was while working as Business Development Manager for a major property maintenance company that she started to research running her own business.

“The desire to run my own show had never gone away and working increasingly in customer relationship and business development roles gave me even more confidence,” says Claire.

“I had come across TaxAssist Accountants before when I visited The National Franchise Exhibition in Birmingham and loved the concept of shop-style premises, rather than working from home. It just seemed so much more convenient and user-friendly for the small business customers they serve.” When the Fishponds franchise became available, it was the final piece in the jigsaw.

“As soon as I took the plunge and began the induction and training programme, I knew I’d made the right decision,” admits Claire. “The network is so supportive. As well as formal training and support on technical, IT and marketing issues, the established franchise owners are such great sounding boards. They’ve all been where I am now, so they know exactly what my concerns and challenges are and are more than willing to help and set me on the right track.”

Now living in Claverham with her partner Paul, an insurance specialist, and with her three eldest sons at university, Claire is already planning the next steps for her new venture.

“I want to have fun growing this business and building a team over the next three to five years and then I might consider opening another TaxAssist shop,” says Claire. “I’m enjoying the flexibility of running my own business – it means I can take my youngest, Edward, to school in the morning and do catch-up in the evening if I need to. I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, so having that flexibility is really good for me.

“The accountancy industry is not usually seen as a haven for work-life balance, but this is one way to achieve that. I’m really looking forward to working with the Bristol business community – the Fishponds area is a thriving centre for tradesmen and women, small retailers and consultants. As a small business owner myself, I’m really looking forward to helping them look after their books and protect their hard-earned income.”

Written by Christine Mortimer