My first child was a baby when I realised that I was the only chartered accountant on the island of around 2,000 residents. A local business man was working at our house one day and asked me to take him on as a client, I felt like I couldn't refuse. But I was left wondering whether I could juggle looking after my children on an island that has almost no child care, and grow a client base at the same time. I had no idea what future opportunities this would open up to me at the time.
I'm 37 and my husband is 59, so I'm aware that I may one day be in a position that means I may have to support my children financially myself, so it makes sense to build my practice. And anyway, I love working and helping people alongside bringing my children up, it is all about getting the balance right. I feel great when I am using my skills to help people run their own businesses more effectively, I am very keen to empower my clients. Once my second child was born there was one available nanny on the island, but she could only do 3 hours a day. So that's how I started - building my business in 3 hours a day. I took on small jobs and slowly built up a good reputation. I want to be able to be a key player in my children's early years but I also think it is good for them to see their mum as a worker and a capacity to help others. For me, getting that balance right is crucial.
Life on the island has its challenges because we're so remote, but it's worth it for the close-knit community. It's given my practice a real vision and an understanding of my client base and their needs. I want to contribute to the economy and wellbeing of the island, as well as improve the reputation of accountants and my industry. I really want to help people become more competent with their own taxes by training them to use accounting software and offering affordable rates for islanders. I'm training someone in bookkeeping skills and I'd like to sponsor local events where I can. I do very little marketing or advertising, because everything here is based on word of mouth.
Eventually my wonderful nanny was able to offer me more hours, and I now have childcare 3 days a week, so I've been able to grow the business and have a good work-life blend. I think I'm doing well because I am embracing new software and empowering my clients to manage a lot for themselves. People now come to me from the mainland, even though there are other accountants there. My dream is to work when it rains and be outside when it's sunny!
While researching how to grow my business, I saw the ICAEW tax conference. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to stay focused, keep my skills up-to-date and offer my clients everything I can. I really wanted to attend, but it was a minimum of 3 trains and a ferry, and 3 nights away. That's just the reality of getting off the island and to a city. Between travel, accommodation and childcare, it was going to cost me nearly £1,000. At that stage of my business development, I just couldn't justify it.
I phoned caba and explained that, while I had a steady income, this cost would hit me quite hard. They were nothing short of fantastic. They came back to me to tell me they would pay for 1 night of accommodation and also cover the conference fees. It made my day. Suddenly the conference became affordable for me. I was able to invest in myself and my clients because caba backed me.
I'm so glad I was able to attend the conference, it was such a breath of fresh air to be able to network with other professionals having come from such an out-of-the-way environment. Professional development is important, but not always straightforward. I'm running a really modern business in a very remote place, and caba's helping me do that.