Previously a London-based contracts and procurement consultant, this week’s Small Business Star John Plumridge developed an interest in capital allowances claims and began working in the commercial property sector in late 2009. After meeting former Deloitte employee Nick Johnson in 2011, they joined forces to bring their business, Curtis Plumstone Associates, to the market.

The early years can be tough

The first big risk for me was moving from a profession where I was reasonably successful to one where I was totally unknown. I think in the beginning I was quite naive about the barriers that would present themselves. The other risk was that I was going to use my own personal finances to back a venture which might have ultimately failed.

Starting out, you need to be aware it is going to take time to build a client base and you will have to invest capital and a lot of time to do this. During those early years, when I was trying to build a credible reputation in a sector in which I had no previous experience, I did consider going back to procurement where I am still professionally qualified. However if you live your life without taking any risks you could end up with a life half lived.

Staying small has its advantages

Despite my initial reservations, thankfully things started to really take off and we were kept busy with continual business coming our way.

We are relatively small compared to some of the larger capital allowances claims companies, however this has allowed us to keep our overheads fairly low. This in turn means we have been able to keep our fees realistic while providing highly expert technical advice not available in many other firms.

Our greatest successes are really to do with keeping our clients happy and making them richer by paying less tax. This year we completed our first claim on a single property where the capital allowances amounted to more than £1m. This will result in a tax saving for our client of over £200,000. This feels like a real landmark for us which should lead to our involvement with larger projects.

Be clear about your market’s needs

The market for our services is still very large because many accountants and commercial conveyancing solicitors remain unclear about the legislation (Capital Allowances Act 2001) and therefore the substantial tax benefits we could be bringing to their clients.

In a lot of cases people who own or lease commercial property believe their accountant must claim all the tax allowances they are entitled to claim. However our service requires a combination of tax and surveying knowledge not commonly found outside all but the largest accountancy firms.

We always have to keep up to date with changes in the law which includes looking at the results of any tax tribunal cases which have been decided. There was a substantial law change in April 2014 for example, which greatly reduced the capacity to make a retrospective capital allowances claim for properties bought after this date. It is now important that commercial conveyancing solicitors understand the law and start to encourage their clients to interact with specialists such ourselves before the property is actually bought/sold.

Valuable content and testimonials help to market our business

Over the years I have tried many forms of marketing, both traditional and digital. We do spend money on advertising online through Google Adwords but I have also taken the time to make sure our website provides valuable content which potential clients are trying to find.

However, attracting clients is only half the battle as you still have to perform a service to a very high standard, which I believe we do. There are a few companies in our market who have large marketing budgets and therefore have a high profile. In our experience this does not always translate into the best or most economic service for their clients.

I’m glad to say we now have quite a few testimonials from both clients and their accountants which we use to help market our business to others.

Commit to a lifetime of learning

If I could give one piece of advice it would be to read as widely as possible, not only to keep up to date with your technical area of expertise but also to keep up to date with general business theories and issues.

There is so much information available in books and on the web that you can educate yourself in many critical business areas. Many entrepreneurs give this same piece of advice as you need to commit to a lifetime of learning if you want to build on your successes.

Find out more about John Plumridge’s business at Curtis Plumstone Associates

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