This week’s Small Business Star is finance and accounting coach, Rosie Slosek. As founder of One Man Band Accounting, Rosie provides sole traders and small businesses with one-to-one support and advice on anything from tax returns to bookkeeping.

The business was born out of the want to make tax and accounting information more accessible and understandable in a friendly and reassuring way. Armed with a unique proposition, Rosie founded her coaching business in 2012. By slowly edging her way into the market, Rosie allowed herself the time to develop her marketing and sales tactics to help on-board prospective clients. Working exclusively with UK freelancers as a tax return coach, Rosie shares her savvy money management advice with cake-loving freelancers and SMEs.

1. From humble beginnings, my business was born

I had that ‘lightbulb’ moment for my business when I recognised the potential in merging my expertise with coaching to become an ‘information go-between’ that was warm, welcoming, friendly and reassuring. I translate tax and accounting information, so my clients understand what HMRC needs them to do and how to fit those requirements into their lives easily and confidently.

My clients want to understand tax and accounting and they want to get it right. They want to know what their accountant is doing for them (which is often not explained, even when asked). They want to understand about legal structures in a way that relates to the cutting edge businesses they are starting and growing. They want to know how they can save for the future and get the best systems in place that are easy. All of us need support in our businesses, and I feel that businesses and individuals recognise that investing in quality support is an investment in the fast track to growth. It’s a lot harder doing it all by yourself.

2. Make yourself relatable to your customers

Accounting needs haven’t changed that much for my clients since I started. They come to me for fundamental advice and if they need more specific services, I refer them on. So many companies are friendlier and easy to approach, making coaching them much more fluid. Independent business owners and freelancers talk to each other more, so the benefits of products like professional indemnity insurance are more appreciated and understood.

I’m relevant to the people I work with because I’ve faced the same challenges they have. One of my slogans, ‘because tax should always have pics of cake and kittens’, is a key way of breaking down the barrier of confusion and fear surrounding tax and accounting and relating it to people.

3. Be distinctive and offer a unique proposition

To my knowledge, I’m in a market of one. That’s why I started my business, I saw a gap and I was uniquely placed to fill it. There are hundreds of thousands of freelancers who need help and support in doing their own accounts and tax returns, or help understanding what their accountant is doing. I designed a business model that works for me, even if it’s not the norm. There is big demand for information presented simply and clearly, with a sense of humour, and truly understanding the reader’s world and challenges.

It’s about recognising that your proposition is needed and no-one else is doing it the way you’re going to do it. One element that’s always popular is the chocolate brownie I send to all my clients. A brownie through the post helps a lot of my clients to face their fears! But they’re not there as a gimmick. I really do love baking and it’s a part of me.

4. Build and maintain client trust

Most of my clients aren’t retained year after year, as the point of my services is to help them do it themselves. As my business has grown, referrals and word of mouth have played a more significant part. A lot of my clients come back when their businesses have grown enough that they need to update their strategy and make key decisions (like sole trader to limited company).

Social media has been my core strategy from the start, to help start conversations with the right people. My website was a disaster at the beginning, but within a few months I needed to build another myself – which was quite a task! On the other hand, that site is still going strong now. Everyone has challenges at the beginning and things that go wrong. Since then I’ve spoken at conferences, festivals, developed relationships with key people in my target markets and done some face-to-face networking. Primarily, I believe trust is the core of maintaining and growing my client base.

5. Understand the needs of your clients

Understanding is under-rated and an accountant’s job is mostly to DO accounts. My job is to help my clients feel in control of what is happening. I truly understand how terrifying it can feel when trying to do the right thing for your business. Tax, money and accounting are complicated and new to most people. It’s the single biggest stumbling block to starting a business with all the people I’ve asked. Underlying all of the practical information, is the emotional understanding and support that tax can feel overwhelming and deeply stressful. I put emotional support at the core of my services. Until my clients feel confident and in control of what they need to do for HMRC, in a way that is legally compliant and works for them, I haven’t done my job.

6. The first rule of business: know your strategy

Know your strategy. My business grew, even under severely challenging circumstances, because I knew what my strategy was. When I was able to work full time again, my turnover increased 50% in four months because I had the pieces in place to enable that to happen as soon as the opportunity arose. Strategy is key.

Find out more about Rosie and her coaching service by visiting: http://onemanbandaccounting.co.uk/

For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub.