Julie Relf – Applause Accountancy Services Ltd – FINANCE TEAM, NETWORK FOUNDER

Name: Julie Relf

Company: Applause Accountancy Services Limited

Website: www.applauseaccountancy.co.uk

Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/SgJdHC

Twitter ID: @JulieRelf

Location in the North East: Birtley (Between Gateshead and Durham) but we cover clients from across the UK.

Applause Accountancy Services Limited is a friendly and professional firm of Chartered Accountants based in Birtley, County Durham. We are a family business, run by Julie Relf (BA Hons, FCA) and Stephen Relf (MPhil, FCA, CTA). We each have over a decade of experience helping a broad range of businesses and entrepreneurs with their accounting and taxation affairs.

Julie has worked closely with local businesses, entrepreneurs and mumpreneurs, helping them to meet the requirements placed on them and to achieve their potential. As a Chartered Accountant, Julie is able to advise on a wide range of accounting and business issues. As a small business owner herself, and having started The Inspire Network, Julie also has invaluable experience of setting up and growing a business.

As a Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Tax Advisor, Stephen specialises in helping a wide range of companies and individuals with their tax affairs. Since March 2014 Stephen has led the Technical Team at the Chartered Institute of Tax (CIOT) in its efforts to improve the tax system, and in keeping its 17,000 members updated on developments in tax. He is also a leading tax writer and has written a number of books and articles articles on tax.

As an owner managed business, we understand the needs of, and pressures placed on, small businesses. We offer a friendly and accessible service, which is tailored to the needs of each client. We take the time to get to know our clients and work proactively on their behalf to help their businesses develop and grow.

Give us a call and see if we can save you TIME, STRESS and MONEY!

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When did you start your business and why?

I started my own practice in 2007, shortly after the birth of my first child. I loved my work as an accountant and was passionate about helping local businesses. I had previously worked as a manager in a large local practice a role that I loved but involved long and often not flexible hours which wouldn’t fit with a young family. I had been looking into the idea for establishing my own practice at some point in the future so started researching what I wanted to achieve and what my practice could offer. Research highlighted that lots of new smaller business in the region were struggling to gain access to the professional accounting and tax advice they needed, this was especially relevant for women setting up in business. I saw this as an opportunity to establish a business that not only offered the professional standards and experience of a qualified accountant at an affordable price to small local companies, but also offered me the opportunity to build a practice offering me flexible working around my own growing family.

Since this time my family has grown and both children are now at school, over this time my business has grown and flourished as well. I am immensely proud to now have a well established accountancy practice offering one to one support and assistance to a wide range of businesses and individuals.

Alongside starting my practice it became apparent that women setting up in business in the region whilst juggling a family had a huge gap in their ability to access information and networking events. From my own experience and speaking to other connections I had made I became passionate about solving this major obstacle. Together with Ann Williams-Maughan we began planning a network that would be relaxed, informal and accessible to all with family friendly networking events allowing everyone the opportunity to attend. We wanted the network to be a hub of information sharing and support that connected women with a common purpose across the region. In April 2010 we held our first meeting, expecting around 5 people to turn up we had over 30, the need in the region was huge and it just grew and grew!! Now with an amazing admin team covering the whole of the region and quickly heading towards 4,000 members the Network has become an amazing resource which I am extremely proud of. The network is run as a not for profit with our admin team all volunteers who share a huge passion for promoting north east women, we have seen many hundreds of business start and grow and watched business making connections and developing friendships along the way. We have forged links with many local support networks enabling our members access to vast amounts of local and national business advice and support.

What gives your business the edge?

We say to prospective clients to choose the accountant you feel understands your business and you feel you can happily talk to with all your questions. We work one to one with our clients and offer a very tailored service, running everything from payroll, bookkeeping, accounts, tax and company secretarial services, working with clients to take away all the stress of tax compliance so they are free to develop and run their businesses. Our clients know us well and feel comfortable to contact us no matter what the query, knowing who they will speak to on the end of the phone. Most of our new work now comes from client referrals, a testament to the relationship we have built.

What is the best thing about running your business?

So many things! I love the control of my working week which can be so varied, the close working relationship with clients and seeing their businesses grow and develop, the million new skills I have developed outside of accountancy!

Running my own business gave me the freedom and flexibility to develop The Inspire Network, the network has been a great passion over the years and has taken countless hours at times from to organising events, websites and newsletter developments, meetings, developing relationships. But through the network I’m able to give back some of the skills, experience and opportunities I’ve experienced to others in the region, which is a nice feeling.

Through the network I have made some amazing new friends, so although it is just Stephen and I in the office during most working days, I feel I’ve not missed out of any of the companionship of a larger practice as I’ve got The Inspire team on hand for those important catch up chats 🙂

And what is the worst?

The weeks when everyone turns up at once with records usually just before a filing deadline … although most clients these days are very organised to be fair 🙂

On these busy weeks you just have to knuckle down and clients know it will all get done in time as it always is (touching wood). We often get a lovely card or flowers as a thank you for turning it round so quick which is always lovely (chocolates also welcome in case anyone asks… 🙂

Describe your typical day running a business and balancing family life?

As most families our day starts with the school run, by 9 we are either back at the desk with a coffee ready for work, out on site with a client to do management reporting, off to catch up with an existing client or meet a new one or on route to a networking event. Days can vary dependant on the work to be done, we have set days for payroll and client visits and other days are filled with a variety of accounts, Corporation Tax, Self Assessment, VAT, Company Secretarial work, meetings, answering emails, business development, blogging, writing … the list goes on 🙂

We have flexible appointments with clients which means that we sometimes have meetings or phone calls or catch up with work on an evening or weekend when they can fit us in, we balance this by splitting the childcare/parent taxi service dependant on who needs to work (or call in the grandparents if needed).

How do you envisage your business changing over the next 5 years?

We have a well established and busy firm now and we would like to expand this in the future to offer flexible, family friendly work to others in the region.

What advice do you have for other women setting up in business?

1. Do something you are passionate about, it takes a lot of work and drive to establish a business but it is worth if for the feeling of accomplishment when you are there. If you pick something you are passionate about it will give you the drive to get there!

2. Don’t expect an instant hit! We see lots of business plans showing £xx,xxx profits in year one, in reality it often takes 2-3 years to get properly established. Make sure you plan for this and have the cash flow to support it.

3. Don’t be isolated!! We see new business owners in Inspire all the time who initially say they are terrified of networking and will have “nothing to say” “feel out of place” “not feel established enough to attend”, we persuade them to a meeting and they never look back! Networking is not about instant selling, forget that completely! It is about making connections to other business owners, learning from their stories and sharing your own, learning new skills from all the information you get a meetings that can help you develop and grow. Networking isn’t a one time thing, it is a long term plan to build relationships, who will in time be talking about you to others and introducing you to people who may help you on your journey. So pick a network that suits you (formal/informal/early morning/daytime/evening etc lots of choices) and stick at it. Think of these people as your new work colleagues and soon you will feel at home and reaping the benefits.

4. Just believe in yourself! You can totally do this 🙂