Monday, 15 August 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Simon Thomas, Kench & Co Accountants

Let's Get Down to Business: Simon Thomas, Kench & Co Accountants

SIMON THOMAS is the owner of independent chartered accountants Kench & Co in Station Road, Henley, which was acquired by his company Ridgefield Consulting in April last year. Born in Blackpool in 1975, Simon moved to Oxford with his family when he was a child and went to Abingdon School before studying business and management at Oxford Brookes University. He has been married to Michelle for 10 years and enjoys cycling, whisky tasting and supporting Liverpool FC.

Describe your business

Kench & Co was founded by Eric Kench in 1982. He retired when I took over in 2021. The business continues to deliver the highest quality service.

How many people does it employ?

Nine with support from Ridgefield Consulting, which has a team of 12.

What did you do before you started this business?

I trained at Ernst & Young and worked at Crowe Clark Whitehill, specialising in pension assurance. Ridgefield Consulting was established in Oxford in 2010 and was built up through a series of small
acquisitions. Kench & Co is my fourth acquisition but there are currently no plans to amalgamate the two businesses.

What was your objective?

To show how traditional accountancy can be done differently to benefit both clients and the firm. Strategic and efficient accountancy services may not be the cheapest option but it suits those who are ambitious and commercially-minded.

Who or what influenced you?

I admit that I am not the best employee. I am the type of person that does best making my own decisions so I became my own boss.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

My father is also a chartered accountant and director of compliance at Ridgefield Consulting. My family has always been entrepreneurial and my sister runs her own company, Blonde Money. I admire both of them and they are my go-to pillars of support.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

I would possibly have picked my battles better. A lot of things weighed down on me when I first started my business but I am continually learning.

What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on your business?

It affects our clients, so it affects us. However, as we are in the accountancy industry, we were heavily relied upon for support. We played a significant part in ensuring that all our clients received the best possible advice, including clarifying their eligibility for the various coronavirus support schemes issued by the Government. I am pleased to say that our team has worked tirelessly and the business continues to be stable.

How is your business doing compared with last year?

When you acquire a business, the transition inevitably comes with a few bumps. Business is stable but I am looking forward to growing it and adding my mark.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Seeing how the team grow, adapt, and help shape the business. It must be challenging to work with a new managing director who has a very different way of doing things.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Expressing and accurately communicating my intentions to a new team. I understand that there needs to be a period of adjustment where we learn to work together.

Where is your business headed?

I want to learn from the team first and then see how we move forward together, grow and do things our own way. It’s about how we stand out from other accountancy firms.

Do you set any goals for your business at the start of a new financial year?

I’d like to aim for a modest five per cent to 10 per cent annual growth.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

How different the Henley market is to the Oxford market.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Be willing to pay for expert advice. It will end up saving you money, or even help you make money in the long run.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Resilience, fearlessness and adaptability.

What’s the secret of your success?

Seizing opportunities when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. Your team are everything.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Giving away our value. When I first started my business, I thought discounts were an effective way to convert clients. We’re not the cheapest, nor should we be. If clients feel they should receive a discount, this only means that we haven’t effectively explained what we’re truly offering.

Do you have a five-year plan?

World domination?

How organised are you?

Ask my PA.

How do you dress for work?

I dress appropriately and professionally for client meetings. At other times, I’m in my sports gear.

What can’t you be without every day?

I’m all or nothing so some days I can very much do without anything.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I prefer it at my desk. I can’t think straight when I’m hungry.

Do you continue to study?

I have to maintain continued professional development.

What do you read?

Exhale by Richie Bostock and Super Human by Dave Asprey.

How are you planning for retirement?

I’m the type of person who will be working or doing something until I die.

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