Efficiency

CEO of the UK’s fastest-growing accountancy firm: Don’t wait around for a game-changing idea like Uber

Rebecca Smith | 1 October 2015 | 9 years ago

Crunch co-founder Darren Fell
Crunch co-founder Darren Fell
Since founding Crunch Accounting in 2007, Darren Fell has overseen its speedy ascent to the current heady heights asthe UK’s fastest growing accountancy firm, as noted byaccountancy Age. He spoke to Business Advice to share his thoughts on how to get a new micro business onto a fast-track to growth.

While Fell didn’t come from an accountancy background his graduate training and early work was in corporate telecoms, after setting up his first business email marketing service Pure360, he felt the accounting industry was ripe for a massive overhaul. Accounting specialist Steve Crouch approached him with an idea for a system that could help freelancers, contractors and small businesses and Crunch was created, funded by money from the sale of Pure 360, and investments from Bebo co-founder Paul Birch and former Skype CEO Michael van Swaaij.

The firm has appealed to the UK’s SMEs, recognising its efforts to change how accounting works for smaller firms we want it to be cheap, simple and on-demand. Crunch recently reached 7, 400 clients, up from 4, 700 at the same time last year. Fell is unsurprisingly proud of this figure, noting that an accountancy business having nearly 60 per cent growth in one year is pretty phenomenal.

Its online system can provide an interim set of accounts in two seconds, which Fell stated was ‘still the most cost-effective in the marketplace. He feels that while some of the bigger accountants have been trying to muscle in on the idea, they haven’t yet had the effect on the marketplace that Crunch has.

For Crunch, filling a gap in the market and then doing it better than competitors has proven the recipe to success, but as with all new firms, there were obstacles to overcome in the early stages.

the actual launching of Crunch was the toughest part by miles. For a good while there were five-figure sums leaving my bank account every month and still no revenue on the horizon, Fell said.

It took two years of development before the company started taking clients on board at a decent rate, with things picking up from there. For micro businesses assessing how they too can develop at an impressive rate, Fell said it’s important not to get disheartened if they don’t initially see the growth they desire.

Fell said the toughest part of Crunch's six years was its launch
Fell said the toughest part of Crunch’s six years was its launch
don’t get too hung up on the perfect idea, Fell added. If you think your idea is a good one, then run with it. At the same time, he stressed the importance of taking in others’ input make sure you listen to feedback and tweak it if you need it if you need to.

He thinks too many possible entrepreneurs ‘sit around waiting for the big game-changing idea; the Uber or the Facebook; but that’s never going to happen overnight.

Crunch after all, started life as simply a piece of software as Fell pointed out. It was only during the development that we realised we needed to be an accountancy firm as well, he said.

He also urged caution about going into business with someone who is already invested in another firm too. I decided to go down that road but discovered the conflict of interest can really jeopardise your position.

For business owners starting up a firm, they’re understandably incredibly invested both financially and emotionally in its fate. Fell was no different, he’d always thrown himself into problems at full throttle, so from his perspective, it’s important to have people on board in the early stages who also feels as strongly as you do. To have someone else who wasn’t as invested emotionally or financially created some problems for us, he said.

His other, more wry observation was that as a non-accountant, if he had known the scope and scale of how Crunch turned out to be, he may have felt entirely overwhelmed at the prospect. Had I realised the difficulty and size of the project I was undertaking I’d have probably walked away.

For businesses beginning to blossom and overseeing impressive growth, often a concern will be making sure the staff they have delivering great results are happy and well-provided for. This can arguably be trickier to keep an eye on as growth increases and Fell has made it a priority to keep employees engaged.

it’s good business sense to make sure you have happy and involved people working at the company, he agreed. We’ve got a great series of benefits for our team, including an extra half-day on your birthday, free breakfasts, childcare vouchers, a cycle to work scheme and loads more.

Making sure you’re considering how to make employees’ working days better is a great way to keep quality of product or service high and growth more likely. As Fell put it: If people are happy where they work, our clients will get a better service, everybody wins.

Topic

Efficiency

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