TaxAssist Accountants: The franchise opportunity
The award winning small business accountancy franchise tells Startups the essential qualities it looks for in a franchisee
Franchise: TaxAssist Accountants
Description: TaxAssist Accountants is a multi-award winning franchise with the largest network of accountants specifically servicing the small business market.
Started in: 1995
No. of franchises: 200
Coverage: UK (International opportunities also available in Australia and Ireland with further expansion planned)
Average cost per franchise: Franchise fee is £36,950 + VAT & working capital
TaxAssist Accountants is the largest and most successful franchise accountancy network in the UK with over 280 shops and offices across the country, servicing more than 65,000 clients.
The franchise business specialises in servicing the needs of small businesses and self-employed individuals, that have traditionally been over-charged and under-serviced.
Operating from unique shopfronts, our franchisees provide an accessible and welcoming location for small business clients to meet with an accountant at their convenience.
Moving into franchising
So how did TaxAssist Accountants move into franchising?
After taking specialist advice from experts in the franchising arena, the founder – a chartered accountant – made use of his experience and knowledge of how to build up a successful accountancy practice to develop the TaxAssist Accountants business model.
Through franchising, growth potential could be maximised to the mutual advantage of both TaxAssist Accountants and franchisees, as well has helping to minimise the risks and pitfalls usually associated with business start-ups by providing specific guidance for franchisees newly into business.
Where did the business open its first franchises?
The first franchisee joined TaxAssist Accountants in 1996 when the franchise was very different to its current format. A pilot franchise-owned shop front office was launched in Norwich in November 2002 and was subsequently bought by a franchisee. This pilot proved to be so successful that there is now a network of over 200 shop fronts around Great Britain and Northern Ireland and 20 in the Republic of Ireland.
How successful were those original franchisees?
The franchise today, in terms of support and growth potential, is almost indistinguishable from how it was when it started back in 1995. As the network has grown, so have the aspirations and achievements of our franchisees.
The franchise opportunity
What makes the franchise different unique?
TaxAssist Accountants is the leading franchise accountancy organisation with over 20 years’ experience of operating a substantial national network of branded offices that are well recognised and respected.
Unlike some of our competitors, our entire support centre staff are 100% committed to supporting the franchise network and have no other business interests to take their focus away from the importance of assisting the network.
We have a highly visible presence both around the country through our shops, and online. Our unique online and offline marketing strategy has been carefully crafted over many years and has won several industry awards. Its effectiveness is shown by the network recording that two of the top three sources of new business come directly from this blended mix of activity.
Traditionally, accountants lack visibility, positioning themselves behind closed, brass plaque doors. Our shop front concept, designed specifically to appeal to the small business market, in terms of accessibility and visibility, positively encourages walk in trade and makes the ordinary extraordinary by delivering core tax and accountancy services in a unique and exciting way.
Clients of our franchisees receive fixed fee pricing, paid monthly to spread the cost, and are made comfortable with the use of clear and jargon free language.
What services do you offer?
TaxAssist Accountants work with small businesses and the self-employed with a turnover of up to £2m. Services include year-end accounts, tax returns, bookkeeping, VAT returns, payroll and cash flow projections amongst other things.
How big is the market opportunity?
The small business market is huge in the UK.
According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS), small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015 and 99.9% were small or medium-sized enterprises.
Every small business needs to have an annual set of accounts prepared. Very few business people have the knowledge or inclination to prepare their own accounts, hence the ever-increasing demand for accountancy services.
The small business sector has traditionally been ignored by larger accountants and is poorly serviced by smaller practices. By establishing a unique network that focuses solely on smaller businesses, we are targeting a market that has a need for our services.
How many franchisees do you have today?
We have franchisees covering over 200 areas. Some franchisees have an area and a half or a double area, some with one, two or more shops.
How is the brand marketed?
TaxAssist Accountants continually strives to be at the forefront in terms of marketing and technology and we are proud of the initiatives we have instigated to allow our franchisees to flourish.
We provide franchisees with a marketing toolkit containing everything they need to run topical campaigns throughout the year. These toolkits include support with social media presence, PR, advert templates, initial and ongoing training, telemarketing and an unparalleled internet presence. These and other initiatives will generate inbound leads for our franchisees.
How do you divide the regions?
Each franchisee operates in an exclusive territory, based on population.
The perfect franchisee
What do you look for in potential franchisees?
We take on franchisees from a range of ages and backgrounds but they all have plenty of energy, a friendly persona, are technically competent and have a desire to succeed and reach their goals. Fully and part qualified accountants as well as those from the finance, corporate, banking and insurance world have all made successful franchisees.
So do franchisees work from an office, or are they home-based? Is it part-time or full-time?
The franchise is very much a full-time business opportunity. Franchisees have the choice of operating from an office or a shop front premise to start with but are required to be in a shop front before the end of their third year.
How are franchisees vetted?
Franchisees are required to submit their CV and complete an application form before attending our open day which we call a ‘Discovery Day’. The discovery days are very much a two way process and we work extensively with each candidate to establish if taking on a TaxAssist Accountants franchise is the right thing to do.
How much do franchisees pay and what are the ongoing franchise fees?
The franchise fee to join TaxAssist Accountants is £36,950 + VAT. Total investment figures will be dependent on location, working capital and level of personal drawings required, which will vary from person to person.
TaxAssist works closely with each individual throughout the business planning stage to establish the level of investment required, and has strong working relationships with the major banks who are very supportive of the franchise. They will typically lend up to 70% of the total investment required.
Whilst you are running your business and taking an income, you are also building a valuable asset for when you decide to exit the franchise.
Ongoing costs are lead charges, a management service fee, a brand awareness and client acquisition fee, a training fee and software costs. We offer comprehensive support to help franchisees complete and submit their business plans to the banks.
Success and growth
How successful are some of the franchisees today?
Sales across the network continue to grow and franchisees should aim to build up turnover and profits consistently, aiming after five years for a turnover of £300,000+.
Those franchisees who are continuing to be proactive with networking and marketing strategies, are pushing past the £500,000 turnover level.
Certainly, franchisees that commence their business in shop front premises will have a big advantage with regards to client growth compared with those who start from a conventional office, who will build up their business more slowly.
Of course, we cannot guarantee what a franchisee will achieve – ultimately it is down to each individual franchisee to set their goals and, with our help, ensure these goals are achieved.
How is the brand looking to grow?
These are exciting times for TaxAssist Accountants in the UK as we expand our support centre staff in order to support our growing network of franchisees, their staff and sometimes multiple shop front premises. We are also continuing to expand internationally but will never take our eyes of the UK. We will continue to work hard to deliver a first class service to our franchisees who can in turn offer a first class service to their clients.
What is the potential of the business?
TaxAssist Accountants is now a global organisation.
In 2009, TaxAssist Accountants was awarded its first master franchise rights to a firm of accountants in the Republic of Ireland. Having established the pilot operation, the master franchisees in Ireland have successfully recruited franchisees who cover 18 franchise areas and have taken on over 5000 clients with combined fees of €5.1m (as of August 2017). All of the franchisees have opened shop front premises.
In 2015, the Master Franchise licence for Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria was sold in Australia. There are now seven franchises operating there.
TaxAssist currently has master franchise opportunities in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with plans to also launch in the USA.
What will the challenges be in achieving that?
Whilst there are many differences between the UK and our target countries, both culturally and legally, there is one constant – every country has a high number of small businesses and self-employed individuals who have to pay tax and are in need of a professional accountancy service.
Over the last few years there has been a global recession, coupled with a downturn in banks’ willingness to lend. However, TaxAssist continued to perform well during this time and our growth rate has in fact outpaced many larger firms.
What awards has the business won?
TaxAssist is a multi-award-winning franchise. In 2016 TaxAssist was, for the fourth year in a row, awarded 5-star franchisee satisfaction from independent research firm Smith & Henderson. This is a great vote of confidence from the network and also marks TaxAssist out for recognition for receiving better than average feedback in all key areas, joining as the organisers of the award put it “an elite group of the UK’s best franchisors.”
The network was placed 21st in the 2016 Accountancy Age Top 50 league table on UK fee income, up 13 places from when we first appeared in the 2010 report.
In 2015, TaxAssist was awarded a ‘Best Franchise’ award and won the bronze award at the British Franchise Association Franchisor of the Year awards, arguably the most prestigious awards ceremony in the UK franchise industry calendar.
In 2014 TaxAssist was awarded ‘Most Innovative Tax Team of the Year’ by Acquisition International as well as winning Best Franchise awards in our investment category and for continuous improvement.
In 2013 TaxAssist won a number of awards and accolades including ‘Accountancy Firm of the Year’ from AIA (Association of International Accountants) and ‘Best UK firm supporting apprentices’. For the third year running TaxAssist was awarded first place at the Best Franchise awards for ‘Best Training and Support’.
In addition to the franchise and accounting industry awards, TaxAssist has also won various marketing awards. In 2017, TaxAssist won ‘The Local Campaign of the Year’ award at the UK Biddable Media Awards, a prestigious award received for our local digital marketing campaign.
Finally, is the company a British Franchise Association (BFA) member?
Yes, we are full members of the BFA. In addition, we are also members of the Franchise Council of Australia and the Irish Franchise Association.
Three of our staff members have been recognised as British Franchise Association Qualified Franchise Professionals (QFP). The QFP is a formal recognition of professional knowledge and experience in franchising and demonstrates the individual’s understanding of the complexities, best practice and expertise in franchising.