When he first began his career as an accountant with a prestigious firm, Trevor Billard had no intention of ever running his own business. But in October 2006, a change in circumstances led to him doing just that. Initially a part-time venture, within five years the business had grown enough for Trevor to take it full-time.
With their values of providing a good service and building a relationship of trust at the heart of everything they do, Trevor and his team have found that most new clients come via word of mouth and referrals. It’s been a proven strategy, with the team now nearly at full capacity, all without an internet or social media presence.
Clients tend to be small companies with a turnover of up to £1million, often with some book-keeping provision onsite meaning they can do around 80% of the financial work themselves. Trevor then steps in to do the final 20% and gives a strategic overview, using his strength in problem solving to interpret what the figures are telling them.
“We’re a generalist firm working on company accounts, VAT returns and PAYE. Our niche covers Barnsley businesses needing an accountancy firm for small amounts of time in the year. Many of our clients are not big enough to warrant their own in-house accountant, so we act as a sort of locum financial director for them.”
Trevor strongly believes that people are the focus of his business and that “accountancy is all about people skills”. He’s found that clients come to them because they trust them, and says it often feels like he’s providing a service to friends, some of whom they’ve been working with since 1988.
“Over the years, the online systems have developed to the point where everything is now available on the HMRC and Companies House websites. We’ve responded to that by changing how we work, taking businesses through the process a couple of times, and giving them the confidence to use those systems themselves.”
Despite the pandemic, business has grown 20% over the last two years with many new referrals coming in. That said, the enforced change to home working did prompt a review of their working systems, with the team finding that key software was only available on Trevor’s computer, giving him more work to do during the lockdown weeks. It highlighted just how important their office base in The Business Village is!
Trevor first took office space in The Business Village (then the BBIC) when he started his business back in October 2006.
“It was a natural choice as I’d been involved in the origins of the BBIC to develop a business plan and cash flow forecast when it was just an idea back in 1989. We later became the auditors, so I already knew everyone here. They offered easy in-easy out terms and cheap rent, so it was low risk and an absolute no brainer.”
He initially started out on the Genesis support programme which offered shared office space. Indeed, one of his co-tenants from those times is now his biggest client!
Over the years, Trevor and his loyal team have picked up several clients through their presence in the Business Village. Favouring personal interaction over networking meetings, Trevor says his USP used to be that he knew everyone in the building!
The free parking at The Business Village, whilst a huge advantage, is something Trevor almost takes for granted. However, the 24/7 access has been invaluable, especially in the early days when he was juggling two jobs and needed to come in at weekends.
Looking towards the future, Trevor is aware that HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ scheduled for introduction in 2024 will be a challenge. With many businesses still not scanning invoices or receipts to an app, it’s likely to be a difficult transition for them to make quarterly uploads. He therefore sees his role as both providing an existing service and educating businesses on the forthcoming changes.
“Making Tax Digital will be a big change for one-man-band accountancy firms, and many are choosing to close down before it happens. We’re currently making a business decision about which accountancy packages we’ll be able to support. It will end up being a balance between being what we would like to offer and what we can offer.”
As for the future of Trevor Billard and Company Ltd, Trevor is planning on growing the business organically and continuing to give a good service to his clients. Longer term, he’s hoping that his daughter will take over the business, giving him the opportunity of retiring to sunny Rotherham!