A Small Business success story – to inspire you to set up your own business!


HRA (Accounting) Ltd Barry

customer-of-the-month-logoThere’s never the perfect time to set up your own business, even if you have all the money and support in the world behind you, going it alone will always seem daunting. However, Helen Adams owner of HRA, an accountancy firm based at The Business Centre (Cardiff) Ltd was thrown in at the deep end and set up her own business after being made redundant after working with an accounts firm for over 20 years. She had no experience in setting up her own business, but with a young family to support, Helen needed the flexibility that being self-employed could offer. There’s never the perfect time, or the perfect age to start your business, but 7 years on after taking the leap, Helen is not only making it work, she’s thriving.

It’s this determination and dedication to both her career and her family that inspired us here at The Business Centre to award Helen our Customer of the Month award for November. Starting your own business is difficult at the best of times, but as a single parent with a young family, 7 years ago, the workplace wasn’t as flexible or as accommodating to single parents as it is now, and it still has a way to go. We met with Helen to find out more about her journey to setting up her own business.

Faced with redundancy After twenty years of being safely employed with one firm, to suddenly find herself unemployed in her 40s was a culture shock. The jobs market had changed dramatically with much of it being online. Helen needed to update her CV and reskill in IT. Without much support, Helen wasn’t sure where to find new employment and was approaching recruitment agencies for jobs. It was a recruitment agency that proposed REACT training which provided £2,500 funding to re-train. This is what she used to get herself new skills in digital marketing, Excel, SAGE and payroll protocol. However, even with her new skills Helen was still facing issues around childcare and with three young children at home, a traditional 9-to-5 wasn’t able to provide Helen with the flexibility she needed.

Juggling work and family New initiatives such as the crèche at Google Campus are revolutionising the workplace and striding towards a workplace where everyone is welcome, encouraging people attending courses and training days to bring their children along if they need to. Many city companies are now moving towards offering better childcare schemes, whether it’s a crèche in the building, or extra childcare vouchers schemes to entice single or working parents to their companies. However, initiatives such as these weren’t available when Helen was starting up her own company and she needed to make her career work around her family. She also needed to build up a client base whilst keeping her overheads down and, therefore working from home was the obvious option.

The challenges of working from home Many of us, whether you’re a freelancer avoiding the coffee shop or are taking a rare day away from the office to work remotely will know that working from home isn’t always ideal, our day to day lives can get in the way. In addition to the distractions of working from home, starting to employ staff and to have this person in your home can be awkward. Three years down the line, Helen had grown her client base to the point where she was working full time and then taking on part time trainees in Accountancy from Cardiff and Vale College and it was at this point of her development that she started to look for something more suitable than working from home. Having first feared tying herself into fixed office space contracts, she was surprised to find that workspace could be more flexible than that and on meeting the team at The Business Centre (Cardiff) Helen immediately signed up to a 3-man office on a rolling one month contract, offering her and her part-time employee the perfect, flexible solution and a professional structure to work within.

Challenges facing small businesses in growth. We asked Helen what have been her biggest challenges as a small business owner. For many small businesses, one of the main challenges can be growing the client base, but for Helen, this wasn’t the case. Most of Helen’s client base has grown organically through word-of-mouth and through her own client’s growth and expansion. Helen is convinced that it is the Niche factor of her Accountancy company that has contributed to her growth and success. The fact that they offer a service that companies need, then they do it really, really well. In Helen’s opinion that is the simple recipe to success. Helen now has a team of 7 that she employs that are all multi-skilled and are able to juggle many different roles across accounting and financial services. However, conversely, it is this niche appeal and attracting staff that is the biggest challenge faced by Helen, and many other growing SME’s. How to attract and retain staff when competing against bigger organisations is always a struggle. The secret to keeping staff, according to Helen, is flexibility and being adaptable.

What advice would you give someone who finds themselves in a similar situation to you? We asked Helen, what advice she would give someone in a similar situation to hers, 7 years ago. This is what she said: Don’t be afraid to give it a go. Set up good systems and budgets etc, goals to aim for, but be willing to adapt and listen to advice. The easiest option for Helen would have been to go and get another job because going into self employment was daunting, but if she knew then what she knows today, she would have done it much sooner. Not wait for redundancy!

Any new company or start up will face difficulties and it can never seem like the right time to make the leap to entrepreneurship, but Helen’s story is an inspiration to us all and we, at The Business Centre, are thrilled that we have been able to help her along her journey from start up to thriving business. Her story from a single parent trying to make a new career plan work to thriving business owner is why we think she deserves some recognition and are thrilled to recognise her as our Customer of the Month for November.

If you’re looking for the inspiration to leave that 9-to-5 that’s stopped holding your attention, or you’re faced with a busy home-life like Helen and are looking for a solution to the juggling act that work and family life can be, why not find read more here  

HRA (Accountancy) Ltd provides a bookkeeping and accounts service for a number of companies from start ups, to international company groups. HRA can provide support in any area of your business. From raising invoices to paying bills, from running payroll to preparing cash flows, HRA can be as involved as you need to help you run your business. Please ring Helen on 07801 998785 or email on [email protected]

Find out more about our Customer of the Month for October, Piers Consulting, here.