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19th March 2024
Practice Spotlight: Celtic Bookkeeping and Accountancy Services Leanda Daddow and the team from Celtic Bookkeeping And Accountancy Services discuss their business journey and Ideal Schools’ on-going role in their success

If I’d run the business fifteen years ago, the way we’re running it today, we’d all be sitting in Dubai right now!

It’s Thursday morning and Leanda Daddow, Co-Director & Visionary Leader at Celtic Bookkeeping and Accountancy Services is at home sitting on her daughter’s bed, while Co-Director & Chief Organiser Extraordinaire, Stacey Smith, and Client Manager, Kerensa Platts, are in the office near Portreath. Leanda has an association with Ideal Schools going back to 2009/2010 when she first enrolled on the old ICB Level 1 and 2 courses, and all of her team, herself included, are still studying with Ideal Schools today.

Leanda explains that, back then, she had been working for a bank, and that her husband was self-employed and in a partnership with his father, with his mother doing their books. At the time, this had involved notebooks and paper receipts, and Leanda was sure there was a more efficient way to do things. She also wanted to understand the transactions and the detail of the books and so, knowing in the longer term she wanted to travel and to have a family, she started researching qualifications and training providers, and opted for the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Ideal Schools, with self-employment as her longer-term goal.

From the outset, Leanda explains that Ideal Schools were a good fit for her:

I could ring up on the phone, I could go on the Facebook page, I could send an email, and it could all be done remotely. For me, doing it at my own pace and working it around everything else was what mattered, and not being forced to do it in a certain time. And actually, that and having that extended time because when you sign up, you can have, the two years of support, just means that you don’t feel pressured to rush into it and just get it done, and then just be passing the exams, but not actually gaining the knowledge. It’s been really good.

Once qualified, Leanda got on with setting up and building her practice, which involved doing her husband’s books initially and then picking up some work from the accountant these books went to. She says that over the years, 90% of their business has come through word of mouth and referrals, and that, in the beginning, this was a bit of a problem, as she struggled to say no to anyone who approached her. This has now changed, and the business today looks vastly different to when it was just Leanda in her shed. She explains that they mainly deal with construction firms, property portfolios and those running holiday lets, and are clear now in their marketing and advertising that these are the types of clients they want to work with. Leanda still works remotely, but they have a team in Cornwall as well as remote workers elsewhere in the country and subcontractors, and deal with around one hundred clients at varying levels at present.

Everyone has their own roles to play in the organisation and these are explicitly defined nowadays. Leanda clarifies that the staff in the office do day to day bookkeeping, VAT returns, payroll etc, and that she and Stacey deal with HMRC compliance, Companies House etc and wider strategic issues for the practice. The central office team do the day to day, client strategy work, with Leanda and Stacey completing the strategic work with clients, to help them make informed decisions at the top, in order to make their bottom line better, and to assist them to fulfil their dreams. Mastering this approach has been based on hard-won knowledge, and it has been a steep learning curve to really understand how to best add this sort of value to clients.

Leanda goes on to reveal that she almost closed the business just before Covid hit, because she had suffered a succession of family bereavements and was at rock bottom, running a practice that was constantly firefighting. While organisations like ICB now run webinars on how to run your practice, back then, there was not so much support around that side of things. She says that after she signed up for a free bootcamp with Zoe Whitman FCCA and Jo Wood MICB PM.Dip of The 6 Figure Bookkeeper, she felt she had the knowledge and support from peers to turn things around. Moreover, she feels that what she learned from this experience of going through hardship and having to make changes to her own business means that she is uniquely placed to help clients with their own businesses. Leanda goes on:

So, I’m trying to get rid of the image that I am a corporate bookkeeper or accountant, and I am going to come in and tell you that you’ve done it wrong. No, we’re going to work with you to make sure that you understand your figures: you know what impact your sales are having; you know what impact you choosing to do business a certain way is having, and what we can do to change that. And the biggest thing that we try and share with our clients is, your business is there to provide you the lifestyle and the life that you want. So, if you want to take your kids to Disneyland, let’s work out how the business can do that.

This approach is, at the same time, practical and solution-focused but also speaks to people’s bigger aspirations, their “whys?” Leanda’s own aspirations included being able to home school her children and travel and that is exactly what she now does. The reason, in fact, that she’s sitting on her daughter’s bed is that the children are using the desk in her room for schoolwork.

Stacey Smith had some bookkeeping experience and, as a friend, came along to help Leanda out with things back in 2017 and she is still there and is now Co-Director of the company. Stacey is also currently studying MICB – ICB Levels 2 & 3 Certificates in Bookkeeping & Accounts  with Ideal Schools and has completed Level 2 and is now well on her way to finishing Level 3. She explains she has found the Ideal Schools approach very flexible and that this has been a godsend when other commitments have had to take priority. She also credits a pep talk from Advisor/Director Brian, for getting her back on track with her studies a year or so ago. Her advice to others studying alongside work and other commitments is to study and complete assignments little and often, and to not get worked up about what is still to come.

Kerensa Platts joined Celtic Bookkeeping and Accountancy Services from a hospitality background, having already completed AAT Level 2 in Bookkeeping at college and is currently undertaking AAT Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping with Ideal Schools. The company has allocated a weekly slot to Kerensa’s studies and come Thursday afternoons; she is immersed in all things AAT Level 3. The fact that this time is scheduled and factored into the working week really helps, according to Kerensa. She explains that her role in the business involves a lot of the jobs the others are not so keen to take on but says she has really enjoyed working on the website, their processes and software.

All three women agree that they are a very good team with complementary skills and that communication is a strong point. They worked together initially because they were friends, and they are still friends. This teamwork has been recognised by accounting software firm, Xero, with the practice a UK finalist in the Bookkeeping Practice of the Year category at the Xero Awards this year. Leanda credits the team for submitting their nomination, but Kerensa is quick to point out that it is Leanda’s story, the hardships she has faced, the journey she has gone on and the way that she has built the business which have got them there. It is also worth noting that three of the four finalists in this category are ICB members.

The whole team agree that their ethos is all about work/life balance, and when you are at work, working in an environment you enjoy, and this is what they aim to pass onto their clients.

Leanda feels that it has been important to her and the whole team to have had on-going support from Ideal Schools as their “go-to” training provider and to be constantly learning and updating their skills:

Everybody within our company has studied some level, of bookkeeping course, and but having that accountability… Brian, will drop an email or a Facebook message over saying, “Haven’t heard from you in a while. Is everything alright?” Being able to just pick up the phone and chat through an example with someone really, really helps. Because you don’t want to wait 24-48 hours to get a reply. If you’re working on it, you want to do it there, then, and now. And in the world that we live in, where everything is tech and online, it’s nice to actually be able to pick up the phone and speak to somebody, that is a human being. Have a laugh and a joke, but then also cover the main thing, and I think, as well, it’s about the personality. It’s a very relaxed, chilled company that, in actual fact, you could have a conversation with them, and not feel that you were a burden to them which was really good.

Leanda would do some things differently if she were embarking on this journey today. She advises others to start writing processes from the outset, and not to let these be kept in one person’s brain. She would also encourage them to hold themselves accountable and take action to get themselves out there and talk to others, whether this is via Facebook, LinkedIn or whatever. She values hugely collaboration over competition and suggests finding a mentor, asking questions, and remembering that someone will always have trodden the path before you.

However, one thing she says she would certainly not change would be choosing to go with Ideal Schools as her training provider, and she goes onto recommend them to other business owners:

I do recommend Ideal Schools, because in actual fact, the support you get and the training that Ideal Schools offers, will grow with your business.

We wish the whole team at Celtic Bookkeeping and Accountancy Services the best of luck at the Xero Awards.

If you are a business owner who would like to discuss how our Employee Sponsorship Scheme can help you train yourself and your staff and grow with your business, please get in touch for a no obligation chat.