Wednesday, 12 December 2018
ERIC KENCH is managing director of chartered accountants Kench & Co in Station Road, Henley, which he set up more than 35 years ago. Born and raised in the town, he attended Henley Grammar School then Reading College where he obtained a BTec in business studies. He lives in Caversham with his wife Kathy whom he met at college and married in 1974. The couple have three grown-up children. Eric obtained his private pilot’s licence on his 18th birthday and continues to fly. He has a share in a Piper Arrow, which he flies from White Waltham airfield.
Describe your business
We are chartered accountants and business advisors providing a comprehensive range of services to a wide range of clients.
How many people does it employ?
There are 12 of us, including me.
What did you do before you started this business?
Having been in the Air Training Corps while at school, my ambition was to become an RAF pilot. However, because I had a slight problem with my eyesight, I failed the selection process — perfect vision is required for flying military jet aircraft! I looked in the Reading Evening Post and saw an ad for an articled clerk and that’s how I started my professional career. After Kathy and I married we wanted to buy a house but my salary as an articled clerk was really low so we went to Wigan where my wife had a sister and houses were much cheaper. I finished my articles there and then we came back to Reading.
When did you start your business?
In May 1982. I had been managing a practice and hoped to become a partner but they didn’t make me one so I decided to work for myself.
Who or what influenced you?
My father introduced me to Colin Allum, an accountant whose practice, Scott Watson, was in Station Road, Henley. We had lunch together and worked out an arrangement whereby I rented some space in his office. I was able to do some work for him while at the same time begin to build my own business. Eventually the two businesses merged into one.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
David Grimwade, the principal in the firm I trained with, taught me a lot.
What would you do differently if could start again?
It’s possible I might have made more money had I not set up on my own but I don’t have any regrets.
How is your business doing?
We continue to win work and are still growing but we don’t have enough space to add many more employees.
How do you market your business?
Most come through recommendations but often they will have Googled “accountants in Henley” and found our website.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Not being beholden to anybody else plus we don’t have to take on clients that we don’t feel comfortable with.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Keeping up to date technically and all the compliance work.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
To talk to people. Emails are fine but are not a total substitute for a proper conversation. Also I’ve learned the importance of developing good negotiating skills.
What would you advise anyone starting a business?
You must have a plan, not with loads of numbers, but clearly stating the headline issues such as exactly what you plan to do and how you are going to pay for it.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Nothing that I’ve lived to regret.
How organised are you?
Extremely. We have processes for everything.
How are you planning for retirement?
I don’t plan to work for ever but I still enjoy what I do, so I imagine I’ll eventually take more time off, especially as we have a home in the south of France. These days it’s possible to work without having to be in the office.
What three qualities are most important to success?
The ability to make decisions, flexibility and having the skills required for whatever you have chosen to do.
What’s the secret of your success?
Hard work! I believe that you can make up for not being especially clever by working hard.
How do you dress for work each day?
I always wear a suit and tie but never the same tie on consecutive days.
What can’t you be without every day?
Lunch at your desk or going out?
At my desk.
Do you continue to study?
Yes. Continuing professional development is essential. There is some element I need to study almost daily.
What do you read?
I read fiction for about an hour every night. I read the Times and Daily Mail and the Henley Standard cover to cover every week.
03 December 2018
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