Below is a case study provided by IAB professional member Nikki Belshaw AIAB about how she started her own bookkeeping practice in 2017 and how she has grown her business. Nikki also gives her advice for anyone looking to become a bookkeeper or start their own practice. Nikki is also a tutor with IAB Accredited Centre, Open Study College and was nominated for the Inspiring Women Awards 2019.
Accountant Nikki Belshaw owes her business success to her high school work experience when she got the chance to input invoices in an accountancy department.
At school in Burnley, Maths was not a subject that particularly excited her but now she lives and breathes numbers, sometimes 24/7 and on insomniac nights she seeks out courses to study to ensure she keeps ahead of the game.
Nikki, 31, is married to Jonny and is mother to Hayden and Charlie. She lives in Rossendale and her business Belshaw Bookkeeping Services is based in Bacup.
She said: “I opened the practice in May 2017 with about seven clients in the backroom of a shop on a side street where no one could find me. I would have new clients come to visit and I would see them walk past my window and small sign twice without realising where I was.”
In those early days there was just Nikki and volunteer Bridie Melvin, but on leaving high school Bridie was taken on as Nikki’s apprentice.
As business increased, so did the staff and Nikki shoehorned three members into what is now her office when receptionist Riga Jakovlevs joined the team. She said: “My 80-year-old granddad did all the decorating and fitted the carpets and we got the furniture from eBay including filing cabinets from Germany.”
When the landlord offered the chance to take over the former shop, Nikki and Jonny agreed the time was right for BBS to expand. Christmas 2018 was spent completely renovating what used to be an estate agent business and finally, six months before her 30th birthday, Nikki achieved one of her major goals – to open her own business.
Having a street presence and a shop front led to walk-in clients and the business has built up from a client base of 10, when she started as a sole trader, to now having 70 clients.
She said: “We have a mixture of clients, corporate businesses, limited companies, partnerships and sole traders from all different industries from engineering to waste, building to beauticians.”
Having a passion for her work and now being a self-proclaimed maths geek, Nikki gets excited when the numbers balance and enjoys being able to help people through her business.
Before setting up on her own, she used to work for a number of different companies and latterly was responsible for the payroll of 356 staff working in six outlets of Domino’s Pizza. However she said the most challenging part of her job was managing staff because it has been a learning curve for her having previously been an employee.
Nikki is particularly proud of two of her many professional qualifications which earned her the right to use letters after her name – AIAB Associate of the International Association of Bookkeepers and AICFA Association of the Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants.
Speaking about future plans, she said: “I would like to open another office – maybe in Scarborough. My sister lives there and I have got a few clients in Scarborough; there is certainly a demand for an accountancy practice.
“I am also writing a no nonsense straight forward book to help people who are self employed be able to understand what their legal obligations are. This is because I have come across a number of clients who never knew they had to register themselves, didn’t know how to keep books and proper accounts and then fell foul of HMRC.”
Nikki has personal advice for anyone who wishes to become a bookkeeper or an accountant starting with passion – she said you have got to want to have a career and not just see accountancy as a way of making money.
Secondly, she said you need to have good communication skills because you will be dealing face-to-face with new clients on a daily basis and finally it is essential to be organised and to plan your day making sure you remember to get the work-life balance right.