“I remember having two or three hours’ sleep one night whilst trying to submit the annual accounts to HMRC on time. Now a great deal of the stress has been taken out, giving me space in my head to think.” – Dawn Helwig-Jones, Hope Place.
People refer to ‘balancing their books’, but there is another balancing act that small business owners need to address: the need to balance being in control of finances, whilst not letting financial administration control their working life. This is the story of how the HR, training and development consultancy, Hope Place, finally achieved balance on both counts.
About the Business
Hope Place was originally set up to provide socially-excluded members of the community with the same training and personal development opportunities as those employed by large organisations. It then diversified into providing HR, training and development consultancy to employers directly.
Hope Place has provided technical HR consultancy to clients such as Transport for London and Ghana International Bank. Hope Place has for a number of years contracted with a Local Authority delivering personal development workshop to parents and children in family centres to increase their confidence and self-esteem.
Having enjoyed significant growth, Hope Place started to struggle with profitability. The response has been to explore other revenue streams. Hope Place launched a personal develop and business quotation called ‘Encouraging you to be Your Best’quotes on postcards, keyrings and t-shirts etc.
This has worked to an extent, but the owner, Dawn Helwig-Jones, suspected that profitability could also be improved through better financial management.
Whilst there have been a number of challenges, some months on, Dawn has learnt key lesson such as the importance of faith, patience and courage; it takes time to establish a brand and presence in the market place; to have the technology to take customer payments in a number of ways; be prepared to overserve your customers where you can; and as long as you have developed a quality service or product stand by your pricing model.
The quotation range has added a new funding stream. Dawn has been able to integrate the quotation side of the business within the personal development workshops – yet both can be sold in their own right. After a difficult few months there has been a slight improvement in consultancy and quotation sales in the latter part of 2015.
Having been disappointed with her previous accountant, Dawn ‘shopped around’ by first speaking to a number of different companies, before going on to the Enterprise Nation website and finding KPMG. After speaking on the phone, Dawn arranged to meet a KPMG advisor the very next evening, and was impressed by the way the service uses technology, deep expertise and a comprehensive service to remove the burden of financial management, while providing her with continuous insight into profit and loss:
“…I just liked the platforms that were used… It’s helpful to have someone taking care of monthly reports and management reports in the background….”
These are the key benefits KPMG’s Small Business Accounting Service has provided to Hope Place, in Dawn’s own words:
Real-time functionality: “I think what’s satisfying – and will be more satisfying as profit goes up – is the fact that you can see your profit and loss sheet at any one time, so you can see stuff in real time… Now that the system is up and running I generally don’t have to supply bank statements, that’s fed into Xero, and as long as I provide the stuff on time which is my responsibility, it literally runs itself. There have been times when I’ve gone into Xero and I’ve seen a figure that’s not quite right and I’ll just drop an email to my accountant and it gets quickly resolved, in real time.”
Less stress: “For me at this moment in time, the greatest benefit I’ve had is that the stress is gone…before I came to KPMG there was this huge pressure; I’m at work trying to deliver a contract but also conscious that I’ve got to make sure the accounts are right…”
Providing a clearer picture: “Once all the figures go in, the reports will show me the profitability and the margin of the profitability, without me having to get distracted. This allows me to ensure that I’m as fair and transparent to my client, who will be offered a fair pricing model.”
One-to-one, professional advice: “…in a couple of months’ time I will have a one-to-one conversation with my accountant regarding my business figures, to draw on their expertise and reflect on whether I am charging enough, etc. At the end of the day no-one likes a price increase, but I personally think that if people can see that there is a robust rationale behind it, they are more likely to sign up.”
Dawn concludes: “I’m happy. As long as we continue on this trend, I‘ve got high hopes for the relationship between Hope Place and KPMG… I sleep very well at night now.”
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