Keeping the startup feel while moving into big business

Everything’s going to be SRK

“I’m used to getting photos taken, I’m good at it.”

Quite a skill to have in your locker, and as much as it pains me to say, he wasn’t wrong. Then again, I am good at taking photos…

photo

These were the words of Simon Kallu, one of the hottest young business minds on the block, founder of SRK, and more importantly, my accountant. Simon did his time at big accountancy firms before deciding to start his own business; I wanted to know what motivates him, how a growing business maintains the personal touch and where he finds satisfaction at work.

What was the big idea?

“We wanted to provide paperless accounting and tax to owner managed businesses. The idea was to offer something that didn’t exist: the quality of a big four firm at a much more reasonable price with a personal service.”

“It’s all about genuinely caring for the business and helping businesses grow.”

Has this changed since you started?

“We understand that in five or ten years time, the accounting bit could be done by a piece of software so our value is in helping you grow your business, helping you save on taxes – being a professional adviser rather than a paperwork filer.”

“I want to be the go-to person in all aspects of your business, so the first person you would think about calling, because our advice is helpful.”

“That was the original vision which we have still tried to stick to. I could make more money by working with bigger names, but I love this.”

What’s your motivation?

“I genuinely believe that small businesses should be empowered by having good quality numbers. Those good quality numbers will enable them to make good decisions to move from a startup to big business. Without good quality numbers you can’t do that.”

“In my experience a very small percentage of accountants in the UK are proactive, understand business and care about helping their clients grow their businesses. I know that if we go in front of a client and they don’t have good quality accounting, we can help them achieve their goals and ambitions by helping them with their accounting.”

Is SRK a startup?

“I would say we were a start up. We’re in our fourth year now and have a reasonable size team in place so we are more in the growth phase rather than the startup phase. We ourselves are going through the growing pains of moving from what would be a lifestyle or startup business into a real business.”

If you scale up, how do you keep the small business touch?

“Good question. You grow sideways, almost creating mini sub-businesses within one business. Then you can maintain a personal approach.”

“People are key. If your people don’t understand your vision, and what the client’s goals are from their perspective (plus how the client is going to feel as you grow) you can’t maintain that personal relationship. It’s all about bringing on good people who understand your vision.”

What are the benefits of running your own business?

“I enjoy the lifestyle. You have the ability to be the master of your own destiny and you get much more job satisfaction. I love it. I absolutely love running my business because I actually believe in what we do. If I was just targeted by revenue, profits and not client satisfaction, it would be different and I would see work as a chore.”

Do you still have to put the work in?

“Absolutely. We are in the growth phase so I am working twelve hours a day but I’m smiling while I do it. I genuinely enjoy it, I am like a psychotic accountant!”

“Don’t kid yourself, if you start your own business you are going to work more hours than you did working for someone else but you will be happy to because it is contributing to your own success.”

Epilogue

Two cups of Earl Grey later and we had wrapped it up. Simon is one of those people for whom the phrase ‘fountain of knowledge’ was invented for. (His advice on the mechanics of starting a new business is coming soon.) So he’s a nice guy, running a successful business and he’s good at having his photo taken. What can’t this guy do? Well, I’ve never heard him sing…