An interview with Pie Accounts Founder and Owner Laura Gillespie

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October 2, 2018

An interview with Pie Accounts Founder and Owner Laura Gillespie

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by Daughter Louise!

 

I’m Louise and my mum is Laura – AKA founder and business owner at Pie Accounts. I’m super excited because very soon I’m going to be joining the Pie team working in marketing! And, what better way to get to know the business, what we’re about, who our clients are and what it is that makes her tick, than a coffee and chat…..it was a good excuse for cake too!

We talked about the business, her goals (what’s for tea!) and I really got to see how she literally lives and breathes the business in everything she does.

What I do know is that she is super passionate about helping other businesses – like hers – to grow with confidence as tax efficiently (a new area to me) as possible. Clients trust her to keep them on the right side of the line and stop them from doing anything silly….a bit like me! But to do all the sensible and tax efficient things they can. And they know she will tell them straight….also a bit like me!

She strongly believes everyone should be working towards a clear tax efficient plan, and has a clear plan in place to take an EXTRA c£46K of value out of  the business herself next year and over the next 8 years, up to an EXTRA c£234K – and all TAX EFFICIENTLY.

 

Let’s start at the beginning, tell me a bit about Laura and Pie Accounts…

 

Hey, I’m Laura – mum – business owner at Pie Accounts. Ooo well, I’ve been married 24 years now and my friends say he is very supportive but let’s not tell dad that! Need to keep him on his toes!

We’re fortunate to be in the position to have paid off the mortgage about 20 years ago. And we’re reaching that stage in life where our babies are growing up rapidly. I find it hard to believe sometimes, that you and your brother are all grown up and at Uni. But it is exciting that you are both getting involved in the business now. We’ve got your brother studying Economics who is taking on some bookkeeping, and then you’re studying Graphic Design and getting involved in our marketing. Just dad to get more involved and it is a full-time family affair!

Up until now it’s been me and my team of three, so it’s really exciting to think about the future.

Then of course not forgetting at the centre of family – and Pie Accounts – is our Snoodle, Rosie.

 

Yes, Rosie is definitely the favourite!

 

So, how did you end up setting up Pie Accounts & running your own business?

Well, I used to work in London, at Zurich as Corporate Accountant and Financial Analyst. And I loved it so much I was there for 11 years! I spent my days analysing why businesses worked or didn’t work, which as a more advisory based accountant stands you in good stead.

But the thing that was missing for me, was a connection with the clients. If I’m honest, I wasn’t motivated if the businesses we dealt with made another million, there wasn’t that personal connection for me.

Then when you and your brother came along travelling to London really lost it’s appeal. It became a pain. So, I looked to work locally instead and found a small practice, working with small businesses. I loved it. I was able to make a real impact. I was building relationships – making a difference to REAL LIFE.

But, I started to get a bit frustrated by the typical accountant practice approach – I knew I could do better for the clients if I had the freedom to make all the decisions I wanted to. I also had a family and wanted to progress my career. It feels like it get’s taken out of your hands sometimes as a woman…unless you take back control…so that’s what I did.

On reflection three things happened to me really: my father passed away, I wanted to serve clients better than I was allowed, and I wanted control of my own career.

So, I took control and Pie Accounts was born.

If I’m honest…I’ve never really taken the time to reflect on that before!

Oh and Xero had just come on the scene at this point and I loved it…you’ll get to know Xero!

 

I don’t think I have heard that story before…

 

So, what’s the business like today?

Well, we’re in our 6th year of trading now, with our great team of 4. Alice is the only other client facing member of the team and she is a star, she absolutely aced her exams, we’re talking 99% grades. Looking ahead though I’m planning to increase the team to 7, so we can serve our existing and new clients even better.

But I’m really proud of what I have achieved so far, and I wish had done it earlier to be honest. I’ve always wanted to be a good role model for you guys and I really want you to have an entrepreneurial outlook.

 

No pressure! Ha ha.

 

What are the clients like?

Well client wise, we have around 70 clients. You could say I’m a bit choosy with the kind of clients we take on. I only take on the right sort of clients, the ones I feel we truly connect with. This means I know I’m going able to deliver huge value to them.

About 90% of our clients are now moving into a new stage of their business evolution where they need more services and different services. This is similar to me and Pie Accounts to be honest. We/they need increased levels of planning.

This is exciting for me, as I feel now, I get to harness my skillset more than ever.

 

What’s next?

Well, the main focus really is going to be on the clients we already have. But I am planning for us to be able to take on a handful of new clients only because I want to build deeper relationships and deliver more impact.

But the new clients will be construction businesses only that have a turnover around £4m. We already have construction clients that I have worked with throughout their entire journey – pre-incorporation – all the way through to the success they have reached today. They are now turning over £4m and requiring different types of services such as tax planning.

These services are where we will be really focusing our efforts. And these are the types of services Pie Accounts needs also – which is perfect.

 

That’s really cool that you’ve been on the full journey with those businesses.

 

What are some of these services will you be really focusing on with them?

Well, I believe being as tax efficient as possible is really important.  So one of the services I recently launched is a Tax Diagnostic Review. It’s like a review that really delves deep into all the opportunities for saving tax; for the business owner and the business. So, it basically highlights where further tax consultancy or advice is needed.

All businesses should be working towards a plan and looking at tax to improve the business, as well as for them personally.

 

And, do you have a plan?

You know me, of course I do! I recently did the Growing Business Tax Diagnostic review on myself and Pie Account and there’s loads I want to do…. I have a plan that means I will be able to take an extra £46K of value out of the business next year and over the next 8 years, up to an extra c£164K – and all TAX EFFICIENTLY.

And my plan breaks down into three different areas:

(1) things I want to do to reduce tax in the business now to improve the value,
(2) things I want to put through the business or take out of the business to improve our lives as a family, and,
(3) things that I want to do to improve the culture of the business and for the team

 

That makes sense.

 

What things do you want to do in the business to reduce tax and improve the value?

Well, I’m currently investing in systems to build into the foundations of the business. These systems will enable us to better service clients and deliver a higher level of services, whilst building up the long-term value of the business, today. The types of systems we’re integrating are things like practice management software, pricing software, new equipment for the team, tax consultancy software – things like that.

In terms of new equipment for the team, I’m specifically looking into new computer equipment – which means we will be able to claim the Capital Allowances Super Deduction. This tax relief effectively allows a business to offset the cost of the asset investment against taxable profits up to a maximum of £1m. But with the Super Deduction, a limited company will be able to claim 130% for that investment as it is a new purchase – and there is no cap on the investment that qualifies.

 

Does that mean I’ll get a new Mac when I start? Ha ha! Jokes.

 

Okay, so what things do you want to put through the business, or take out of the business for us as a family?

There is lots to consider here. Let’s start with you guys. First, my husband – dad – is being brought in to do key things when the business needs it and he’ll be taking a dividend from the business. This means we will be able to use the £2,000 tax free allowance and pay tax at a lower rate as he will be in a lower band than me.

You and your brother are also working part-time for me, which means it is below the tax threshold, leading to more value coming out of the business tax free.

Next there’s pensions. I’d like to increase my pension contributions by £10K a year. Pensions can be a really tax efficient way to put money aside as you pay no income tax or national insurance when the money is paid in. The business will also get a corporation tax deduction on the money paid in too.

Then there’s something for me! When I was younger I always wanted a mini. But you end up putting everyone else before yourself and get the car that’s practical to the lug the kids around. Well, now you’re older it’s my turn! So, I’m going to get the mini I always wanted. Well, not the exact one, an electric one. But there’s loads of other add-on benefits. The cost of charging vehicles at the place of employment is exempt from tax and NICs, and if we purchase the car insurance, it will be deductible for corporation tax purposes, but no additional tax charge will arise on me. There’s also accessories you can buy via the business tax free…..I’m thinking PI3 LG!

There’re also other little perks I want to do like putting medical insurance through the business as a salary sacrifice and making sure I take £1K tax free from the business.

In the future I’d then like to start planning towards a little holiday let!

 

Sounds good, who new tax could be so fun ha ha! I can’t wait to drive the mini! Please?

 

Okay so finally, what things do you want to do to for the culture and to invest in the team?

Yeah, so I really want to put some focus on the culture in the business and rewarding my fab team. There’re loads of cool benefits that I want to explore for the team. For example, I’d like to offer the team medical insurance and use trivial benefits. This a massively underrated benefit. Something like a £50 voucher or gift for under £50 is a great way to incentivise the team, and it’s just a bit more personal than cash. And family members employed by the company, can also be given up to £300 in gifts in the same way…not sure I should be telling you this!

I’m also thinking about post Covid and the incredibly difficult times we’ve been experiencing. I want to really ramp up our staff function – I quite fancy a Bruno Mars concert! Providing the cost per head is less than £150 – it’s not taxable on the employees. Might have to be a Maccies for dinner though!

Another little perk I’m interested in is lunches. I can provide lunches to the team tax free – if it is at the office – and the business can claim corporation tax relief and recover VAT (where relevant). I need to investigate this more to figure out how I could make it work but I definitely like this idea.

It’s not to everyone’s taste but the cycle to work scheme is also a bit of a no brainer. For those who are into cycling; bicycles and equipment can be purchased under a ‘salary sacrifice’ scheme so that the cost of the bike and equipment comes out of your pay before being taxed. I’m sure your brother will be all over that one!

One of things I am really keen for the team to have access to, is Audible. It’s a great app for self-development, which is an area I really believe in. I can put this through the business if it used for business purposes, and I can build it into our personal development plans.

So yeah, all in all, it’s pretty crazy the impact tax can have on your life, not just your business. By focusing on the tax position of the business, it can help build a better business, and more importantly a better life for us.

And for businesses like mine, that have reached the growth stage, it’s a great time to take a closer look at your tax efficiency. But it’s more than that. It’s a chance for addressing problems and challenges with your business and identifying further growth opportunities.

 

So, if someone reading this is interested in making their plan, what should they do?

Well if anyone wants to get started making their plan, or if they want to know more about our Tax Diagnostic Reviews, you can drop me an email or give me call.

 

Brill! Thanks. It’s been great finding out more about the business, and the business owner (mum!) behind Pie Accounts. I can’t wait

Now what’s for tea?

 

 

 

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