Our Businesswoman of the Month is Archna Tharani who founded Oculus Accountancy in September of 2014. Oculus Accountancy is committed to providing quality personalised service so that their clients can maximise their potential. They have also established a reputation for providing excellent value added client service.
Would you mind giving us a brief explanation of what your business is and when you launched it?
I run an accountancy practice, Oculus Accountancy, which provides accounting and tax compliance services to businesses and I launched in September 2014. I work with business owners to really understand their business and create efficient financial processes. We take care of all the numbers so they can concentrate on running their business.
I have also recently launched ‘Small Business Finance School’ with my business partner, Lucy Whittington, which provides financial education to small business owners. We have created an online training course for small business owners to give them the financial knowledge that all business owners should have. We launched this in the summer of June 2017 and it has been a huge success. The feedback we are getting has been extremely positive and this business really give me the opportunity to package my knowledge in a more digestible way
What made you want to start this particular business?
Having taken a career to have my children, I knew I didn’t want to go back to an accounting role in a big corporate as I was looking for flexibility and being in control of my own destiny. I also really enjoy working with small businesses so combining the 2 elements, I knew, setting up my own accountancy practice was the ideal solution. I could use all the technical knowledge I had from years of doing exams and working in finance to really help business owners. A lot of business owners find the accounting and tax quite scary or complicated. But I knew I had the skill to really explain things in a simple way and not use any jargons. I have a passion for business so not only was I running my own business, I am also working with and helping other business owners with an area which can be a little technical.
What do you think it takes to succeed in business?
Really understanding the numbers in your business! It’s really important to monitor how your business is performing by having regular management information prepared showing your sales, profit, debtors and cash. You can then use this information to make the key decisions in your business. Whether you need to spend more on marketing to increase sales, whether you can afford to hire staff and whether you can invest in new equipment. All these decisions should be based on sound financial knowledge. It’s also important to know how tax works – not the detailed rules, as that’s what accountants are for! But you do need to have a general understanding so you can plan for it when looking at the cash flow in your business.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
To be adaptable and embrace technology to make things efficient. I acquired the accountancy practice from another accountant who retired and it was being run using desktop software and a lot of paper files. I rapidly changed to using cloud software and automated a lot of the data processing so I now have a completely paperless office which led to winning “Cloud Accounting Firm of the Year” award! Change can be a hard thing but I have always embraced change and being adaptable is really important especially in business as things aren’t always going to go the way you expect.
What do you think it is about you that enabled you to turn an idea into a business?
Having the right mindset and taking the opportunity when it came. My parents have always ran their own businesses so I grew up knowing the dedication and the commitment that is required to run your own. Having trained as an accountant, I also had the necessary financial skills. I have always had an entrepreneurial mind and was always coming up with ideas. Running my own accountancy business, not only means I can use my professional training but also work with people to really add value and help them run their businesses better.
If you were starting all over again tomorrow, what are the top 3 rules you would follow?
1. Getting the price right for the services. Benchmarking and pricing based on value not time.
2. Monitor costs and prepare a cashflow forecast
3. Have a clear picture of my ideal client
What difficulties did you experience setting up your business and what has got you through the tough times?
The first year was tough to get the right childcare in place. It’s really important to have a good network of support around you. My family are nearby so they did help out when me and the childcare didn’t work. Eventually, I got an Au Pair which has been the best thing for our family.
I also needed to build my confidence up as it was tough going “back to work” after a career break as I thought I had forgotten everything! But I spent a lot of time on courses and studying to bring my technical knowledge back up to date. Other skills such as selling, pricing and managing team were things I just learnt “on the job”. I also attended a lot of conferences and built a network of other practice owners, who I could learn from and call upon if I needed any advice.
Looking back now, would you have done anything differently?
Not really as I believe I have achieved a lot in a very short space of time. I would like to have had more training around recruitment. Finding the right team can be critical in a growing business but I think I am getting better with that now.
Starting a business can be all-consuming. As a mum, what are your tips for dealing with the struggles of balancing work and family life?
Have a good support network around you. Childcare and housework especially as you can’t do it all yourself. Find some mentors as it can get lonely running a business.
Be clear on your vision as to what you want to achieve from your business. Do you want to just work a few hours while the children are at school or do you want to take over the world? Either way, make sure you know what you want and then set out to achieve the lifestyle that works for you and your family.
Be present at home when you are with the children, switch off phone and try not to think about work and be present in your business when you are at work and trust that the children are happy too.
Do you have (or did you have) a mentor and when you need advice, who do you talk to?
My husband is very supportive and excellent on advising and training. He also works in a similar industry and has an accountancy background so he understands the issues in my business and has been a great sounding board. He has been able to train and coach me in areas where I needed support and also listen and support me when I have had bad days. I also have a network of other practice owners with whom I can share my experiences and get advice from people who have more experience than me.
What are your plans for the future?
I am really looking forward to building and growing Small Business Finance School. We have plans to create more financial training and education products for small business owners. It has been exciting to launch the online training programme and reading some of the amazing feedback from the initial batch of “students” we have a lot more ideas so stay tuned …
Do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to start a new business?
Understand the numbers as that is what is going to help you run a profitable business. Accounting and tax can be seemed complicated but there are some basics that all business owners should know. Like, is your business making a profit and can it fund your lifestyle? Accountants are there to do all the technical stuff but as a business owner you should know what they are talking about.
Knowing and understanding the numbers in your business really will give you the confidence to have a successful and profitable business.
Oculus Accountancy can help you find the most effective solution for your business. See here for their wide range of financial services. And to finally understand the dark art of accounting, head on over to Small Business Finance School.