Name, title & company name?
Lee Carpenter-Johnson, CEO, W1 Squared.
In five words or less, tell us what your business does?
E-commerce, digital marketing and social media.
When did you know that you wanted to set up your own business and what made you finally take the plunge?
After finishing the role I’d been in for a couple of years, I stopped to think about my future. At the time I’d done a number of roles in the e-commerce space, and I really needed a change. I knew I wanted to work for myself and take more control over the kind of projects I was taking on, so I decided to get into consulting. Two years later I now run a company with seven staff members, have a great structure in place and enjoy a varied mix of clients.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love the freedom to act and make business decisions that I feel are sensible. I enjoy the variety that being self-employed brings and the fact that I’m now responsible for hiring the right people; those that follow an ethos of can do and want to do, business development, general management and finances. It’s allowed me to develop my skillset and become a more well-rounded business person.
And the worst?
The hardest part is finding the right talent. I’m always looking for people who work at the same pace as I do and feel the same level of ownership as me. This makes the recruitment process a lot harder as I’m giving up precious time to ensure I find the right person. This also means that in cases where hiring decisions don’t work out, I tend to take it personally.
Why did you choose KPMG Small Business Accounting?
Having been with my old accountants for five or six years, and seen my business grow in that time, I needed a service that really added value. I was actually in a meeting with a former KPMG consultant when I came across a Small Business Accounting flyer on a table and decided to make an enquiry. My initial thoughts were that the service would be way too expensive for a company my size, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was actually paying slightly less with my existing accountant but not getting a complete accounting package, including bookkeeping, tax, compliance and payroll. This works really well, as with KPMG I can have a dedicated, named accountant to direct all my queries to.
How have KPMG Small Business Accounting and your dedicated KPMG accountant helped you?
I love the fact that I’ve been able to hand over a lot of the financial administration associated with running a business to my dedicated accountant. All I have to do nowadays is use Receipt Bank, raise invoices and approve payroll. My accountant is really accessible, friendly and provides great advice. Working with KPMG Small Business Accounting has helped me clean up my accounts and put me in a position to set targets for the business which are properly informed. I’ve gone from being a small consultancy to a business that is backed by a strong team and making profit. Furthermore, now that we have the management reporting that my accountant provides, we can see where we’ve been overspending, put away money for future expenses like VAT and make changes in line with our financial future. Being able to explore all the strategic and growth opportunities out there for us is second to none.
What one thing do you think the Government could do to help small businesses?
To really help small enterprises grow it would be nice to see the government offset the VAT bill for small businesses if they’re bringing on staff in the first two years of trading. I think encouraging and supporting small business growth in this way is something that is lacking at the moment.
Who do you most admire in business?
Richard Branson is an entrepreneur who represents some of the key values I really strive towards. It’s important not to be afraid to try new things as an entrepreneur, as well as see those ideas through. Not every idea will work out, but the key is to learn to move on and evolve. He, like many other successful business owners, has built his brand in that way and spread the risk across a number of different sub-brands.
If you could give one piece of advice to small business owners, what would it be?
Get your finances in order from day one, because back-tracking is a pain. Make sure your accountant is willing to deliver a service that fits the way you work. I also think from an entrepreneurial perspective it’s helpful to have a sounding board for any ideas you have. Whether that’s a mentor or someone close to you, it’s a real confidence booster to have someone who will listen to your suggestions, go away and think about them and then make suggestions for bringing them to life. That’s a real asset to any business owner.
What’s next for your business?
I really want to see turnover increase and take the business to the next phase. We’re in the process of bringing on a marketing director to help us understand our marketplace, what our clients think of us, and look at our brand proposition. The ideal scenario is to be a £3 million turnover business by year three, but we want to scale without taking on more debt. The reports that we get as part of the KPMG Small Business Accounting service have helped me interrogate our financial data and make these strategic business decisions as they’re updated every month and easy to understand.
If you hadn’t set up your company, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I probably would’ve continued onto another role as an e-commerce director, not really enjoying the freedom and autonomy that I now have working for myself.
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