Money Matters

Does your startup need an accountant? (Yes!)

Do you need an accountant? Mike Psaras can help. Here, he shares some super smart strategies to help small businesses thrive.

Mike Psaras

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Do you need an accountant? What essential things about tax should every startup know?

After a South-American sabbatical, Mike Psaras ditched the suit and tie, drawing on a decade of industry experience to practically help founders thrive with super-smart business strategies and be that bit smarter with their accounting and strategy.

Mike is laser-focused on small businesses and a disruptor who believes in jargon-free, straightforward language and advice.

Here’s what Mike talks about in this interview:

If you’re going to use an accountant, use them at the planning stage

Use a mixture of word and mouth and technology to find an accountant

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk about fees upfront with an accountant

Demand business value from your accountant

Accountant fees can range widely

Understand whether being a sole trader or limited company is better for you

Accounting for limited companies is more complicated than for sole traders

Get separate personal and business bank accounts

Know your product margins, overheads, and needed investment

Don’t wait too long to do your tax return

Understand payments on account and student loan contributions

Understand potential tax breaks

Read up on accountancy to demystify the process

Bex Burn-Callander:

Mike, welcome. Thank you so much for sharing your genius with us today. Could you tell me what makes you different from a standard accountant?

Mike Psaras:

Traditionally, many accountants focus on compliance in the small business space, meaning they focus on year-end accounts, corporation tax returns, and VAT returns. That’s pretty much your interaction with the accountant.

When I came into that space, having worked in other areas, I just felt there’s a lot more to give—more advice, hand-holding and help in general.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Most people who start businesses are not business or tax experts. They’re doing it because of a passion for making something, or they’ve got a great idea that they want to execute. All the accounting stuff is sort of extra which they’re not supposed to know?

Mike Psaras:

They’re not supposed to know it, but nowadays, many people take a lot more interest.

They want to know. I think that’s what prompted me to enter the space here to guide people a little more because I get a lot of questions from the younger generation.

Previously there was a lot more trust in accountants and professional services in general. Whereas now, people are more interested. They ask:

  • Why is that number like that?
  • Why is that number in that box?
  • What does this mean for me?
  • What does it mean for the future?
  • What does it mean for my taxes?

They’re not supposed to know, so that’s why bringing on somebody like an accountant is essential at the early stages, to guide them through, educate, and make sure that they’re on the right track before things go in the wrong direction without them knowing about it.

Our expertise can keep them in check and organised, making sure they’re achieving their goals.

Ultimately, you go into the business generally to achieve a goal. It’s just sometimes there’s a gap in your knowledge—you might think you’re doing it right, but actually, there’s a better way.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, the classic line is “you don’t know what you don’t know, so it’s always helpful to have advice”. The classic question is, when do you bring in the accountant?

It sounds like you’re saying that you need the accountant even at the planning stage. Is that what you’re suggesting?

Mike Psaras:

I think so. You need a budget to do things. You should have a budget as early as possible because they can help you figure out whether you have a viable business, whether it has legs, and if it doesn’t, at least you’ve not invested too much into something that’s never going to work.

It’s different for everyone, but there are some crunch points.

For some people, beginning to be self-employed or a sole trader is a fitting moment because they’re not confident in reporting numbers on a tax return that goes to the government.

Then maybe another crunch point can be on moving from sole trader to limited company. At that point, things get a little bit more complicated.

You’ve got a separate legal entity. You’ve got more reporting to do—to Companies House and HMRC on the corporation tax side.

On the personal tech side, you might have to deal with VAT.

VAT is another crunch point. Some businesses go along with an accountant who’s compliance-based until they’re VAT registered.

At that point, that might be a time to switch to somebody who’s got more experience in your particular industry—somebody who can help you with the ins and outs, who might know the VAT implications of certain things or particular ways that your business works.

There are all sorts of times accountants can get involved in different ways, and I would say, don’t leave it too late.

Bex Burn-Callander:

How does a small business owner go about finding an accountant?

I’d imagine that after this episode, you’ll probably get a few calls in, but just in general, what’s the process that a founder should follow to get someone?

And what kind of questions should they ask?

Mike Psaras:

I think everyone knows an accountant, or everyone knows somebody who knows an accountant. Word of mouth is quite important. At least they have that seal of approval from somebody else.

One issue is that their business needs might be a bit different to your business needs. And so, while that person might be a good accountant for them, they might not necessarily be for you.

I’d say get a few alternatives. Going on Google and searching for an accountant is possible. But obviously, you’re going to get loads of options and trolling through that will take some time.

Look for referrals or search online and then start whittling it down from there, trying to figure out what kind of business you are and what kind of experience this person has.

Mike Psaras:

Once you’ve managed to do that, get those initial conversations going and ask questions.

Sometimes, people are shy to ask questions, especially when talking to somebody in a profession that they’ve potentially never spoken to before.

Throw all that out of the window and ask whatever you like.

That’s going to help you see if you can build a relationship with this person because I think you have to trust them.

You need a strong relationship with them—see if you can feel that straight away.

Ask any questions you like, even if they feel silly or not relevant. They could be around fees—I think some people are shy to talk about fees upfront, but the more conversations you have, the better.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I like that idea of asking stupid questions because if someone makes you feel small for asking those questions, you know you’re not dealing with the right person.

You want someone willing to listen and be patient with you because you don’t know this stuff.

Also, on the fees, I wanted to look at that because we had a guest called Jess on a previous episode who got clobbered because she didn’t realise that the accounting firm she’d brought on was going to charge her every time she sent an email or made a quick phone call.

When you ask about fees, it must be imperative to make sure that you find out exactly how they billed you.

For example, I call you and ask you a quick question, and it takes five minutes. Is that going to be £50?

Mike Psaras:

Yeah. That is important to find out straight away. There is no industry-standard way of doing it.

Generally, when it comes to legal services, that’s what you expect because they are very much charging per minute, whereas I don’t think accountancy works like that.

It just depends on the model.

There’s been a move towards fixed fees because people want that clarity to know that it will be a grand or two more or less. It’s not going to go way beyond that or way under that. But the more information you can give the accountant to work with upfront, the more they’ll be able to kind of estimate.

I think for me, one of the hardest things is, particularly with startups where they might not have traded yet, ask, “How much is it going to cost me?” And I answer, “I don’t know where you’re going to go in the next year or two.”

If this takes off, it’s going to be a lot of work for us. If it doesn’t and if you’re running a lifestyle business where you’re working for the equivalent of a salary, then it’s a different story,

It depends on the intentions and ambitions and how much you want us to get the accountant involved.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s when your accountant is almost a financial director because they’re actively involved.

They know the numbers and understand where you’re trying to get when they’re very hands-on.

Mike Psaras:

Nowadays, I feel like that’s what people want more of.

I think within financial services or accountancy, it’s less my accountant deals with it, and I don’t want to know.

If you have a question, chat with them.

Now I think, especially with the younger generation and younger businesses, it’s more about collaborating, as you say, as a financial director.

Effectively you’re bringing somebody into your business to partner up with and spend time explaining things to you, I think.

You understand how and why your business works.

You are making appropriate decisions and steering your business in the direction you want it to go. It’s more like a hire rather than an outsourced service. You’re bringing the right person with the right fit into your business who’s going to help it expand and grow.

Bex Burn-Callander:

When a startup founder is thinking about accountancy fees, how do they approach that? Is there a way to find out in advance how much an accountant will cost?

Do people put their prices on their websites?

When you talk about budgeting, do you have to ask all the accountants that you’re speaking to precisely what they’re charging and what’s involved?

Or can you use a ballpark figure?

Mike Psaras:

Some accountants certainly do put prices publicly, especially price and cost leaders. The people who are trying to attract you to them with their pricing. Those guys say, for example, it’s a tax return for £70.

There’s transparency with them to a certain extent. You still need to ask about additional fees.

Because if it’s £70 for your tax return and, as you said before, £50 every time you make a phone call, then that can quite easily stack up.

How do you budget for an accountant?

I think you need to know if it’s going to cost you at least several hundred pounds. I would say prices can range and depends on what kind of service you’re going to get.

I’ve seen sets of quite involved accounts done for £300, and I’ve seen a similar set of accounts done for £3,000.

That’s the range we’re talking about.

That’s why I think it’s not easy to say because I don’t know what they did for £300 and what was done for £3,000. They may be doing complicated things that I have no idea of. I’m just looking at one aspect in the price.

When you’re talking to an accountant, it’s important to say what you want and the minimum you want.

You want compliance, and you’re doing the right legal things. Find out what that’s going to cost you.

Then you can compare like for like with different accountancy practices. And then, if you take it a notch up and you can ask, “OK, but I might want you to help me with this other thing.”

Or, “I’ve got this other problem.”

Or, “This is coming up in the future, so things might need to be tweaked. What do you normally charge for that?”

Then, you can start having a better idea of what it’s going to cost you.

But if it feels too much, don’t be shy to say, “I’m not sure about that.” If it doesn’t feel right then, just have a chat with somebody else.

Another way of doing it is asking your friends, “What are you paying for your compliance services?” And then, comparing that to what you’re hearing. Does that sound right or wrong?

Sometimes, you’re paying for expertise and a safe pair of hands. You can pay to know that this person’s going to be at the end of the phone when you need them.

If you call them on the phone and they answer, “Hey, how are you? I know exactly everything about your business is about—talk to me.” I think there’s a lot of value in that.

If you have a niche business, you might be paying a little more for an accountant, but they understand that technical industry sector stuff. They know the issues you’re facing, and they’ll know the answers and how to help you through them.

If you’re with a more generalist accountant, they might have to refer you to somebody else, or they might not give you the right advice.

What they should say is, “I don’t know. So, I can’t help you.”

I think it’s pretty opaque. It isn’t easy to know what you’re going to get from an accountant. So, that’s why I said at the beginning, ask all those questions and get a feel.

Bex Burn-Callander:

You don’t have to name the businesses, because I know that’s privileged information, can you give me examples of the advice that you’ve given.

Maybe something the founders would never have thought of on their own, which has helped that business be successful—a recommendation such as knowledge about a tax break—something that can be powerful.

Mike Psaras:

One of the main things we advise on is the right timing regarding self-employment to a limited company. That’s one of the big questions we get asked.

That’s one of the things that we look at and analyse quite closely, especially when people are on the cusp of the tipping point, if you will, when it’s more beneficial to be a limited company or stay self-employed from a tax point of view. That can save money in tax.

But, also, it’s crucial to look at the whole picture. There are specific reasons you might not want to be self-employed anymore for legal reasons, just to protect yourself or protect your assets outside your business.

So, I think those business decisions are important, and we can help with them. Also, the extraction of profits from a limited company, that’s another thing where you need to be set up correctly or in a way that makes sense to you.

I’ve come across businesses where two directors are taking high salaries. A combination of taking a lower salary and a bigger dividend combination, and we’re able to save some tax.

Bex Burn-Callander:

What is the tipping point? I mean, I know that this is a generalisation, but how much revenue should you be making as a sole trader when you think this is no longer tax-efficient and you should perhaps be a limited company?

Mike Psaras:

Profit is more important than revenue because what you get taxed on as a sole trader is your profit. With revenue, it’s fewer expenses. It’s the same with a limited company—it gets taxed on its profits.

Although the calculation for profits could differ slightly, I’d say the tipping point is if you’re earning a profit of around £45k, £50k, £55k. If you’re in that £45k to £55k region, I think you should probably be thinking about becoming a limited company.

But it depends on what’s the plan for the future?

If you’re going to scale back for whatever reason, opening a limited company can be a hassle and difficult to unwind. But a limited company is a good idea if you’re trying to push forward going beyond £55k, £60k, £70k, and maybe be VAT registered,

Some businesses know they’re going to be hitting those numbers early on, so they incorporate it straight away.

Another reason is the image it creates. I’ve got a couple of clients that became limited companies straight away because they wanted to go out there and work with bigger businesses.

The idea is that they might take a limited company more seriously because it’s got more regulation and compliance around it.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And on that point between a limited company and a sole trader, you said it could be quite a hassle to set up a limited company.

I love that you’ve said that.

Accountants are often keen to get the limited company going because their fees are usually much more significant once you’re a limited company.

So, thank you for your honesty. Why is it a hassle?

Mike Psaras:

First of all, limited company accounts are a lot more complicated. You have proper financial reporting standards depending on the size of the business, which can vary.

It can be more involved, and you also have the interaction between two different taxes, which you don’t have as a self-employed person.

When you’re self-employed, you’ve got your income tax and National Insurance issues to deal with.

That’s pretty much it.

All the money you make is yours, and it’s taxed upfront regardless of what you do with it.

Whereas, with the limited company, you’ve got a dual-layer. When your company, a separate entity, makes its money, it gets taxed on that profit.

As the business owner, you’ll want to extract that profit. So, when you extract that post-tax profit, it gets taxed on the individual’s income, which goes into another calculation of the personal tax calculation.

Business owners must understand that limited companies are sometimes a lot more challenging to manage.

The accounts need to be super organised and are much more involved, so the accountancy fees tend to be higher.

We spoke about the director’s loan accounts. Something that changes from when you’re self-employed to owning a limited company is that the interactions you have with your business can mean that you may extract too much money from the business then it might not necessarily have to give you.

Particularly in the last year, we’ve seen instances of people taking out Bounce Back Loans. When you have a Bounce Back Loan, if you extract all of the loan and take it for yourself, you could potentially be in a situation where you owe money to the business.

That situation can lead to a bit of a bad tax point because you have what’s called Section 455 Tax, which is where if that extra money you owe back to the business is not repaid more than nine months after the year-end, then that money you owe to the company is treated as a dividend.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So, you have to pay income tax on it?

Mike Psaras:

Exactly. So, you have to pay income tax on it, which you would anyway. But the point is that it gets taxed at a higher rate, which is not 7.5% basic rate, but 32.5%. So, it’s pretty steep.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Do you have to pay interest on the loan from the business as well? It wouldn’t be a loan if there weren’t interest.

Mike Psaras:

Technically the company is supposed to charge interest on the loan. But that’s probably not the main point.

The main point is that you may have taken out a dividend that you weren’t supposed to. The reason why I mention Bounce Back Loans is that you can only take dividends out of profits.

If a company made a £20,000 profit after tax in one year, then that’s what they’re allowed to take as a dividend.

But, if they took £30,000 out, that’s £10,000 more. £20,000 is OK, and you can treat it as a dividend. But the extra £10,000 is an illegal dividend.

Because it can’t be a dividend, it’s a loan. And so, that’s where you get into Section 455, and it gets taxed at a higher rate.

Then you have to deal with the paying of Section 455 and repaying the money. So, many things can go a bit wrong with director’s loans—here, you’re rinsing the company bank account, which is not what you want to be doing.

That’s where we come in. Often, we feel like we’re telling people off because say don’t take all of your money out of your business. It would help if you kept some in there to pay your tax, build that working capital, and have a war chest if things go wrong.

Sadly, last year showed that the people who are a bit cautious when it comes to keeping reserves in their business could ride it through, and others geared up to the teeth and took every single penny that they made are struggling now to get back on their feet.

Bex Burn-Callander:

100% it makes sense to have an expert who’s on your side and figure out this stuff because otherwise, you could unwittingly step into one of these traps and end up with a hefty bill from HMRC.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Mike, I’d love to talk a bit about the general basics would-be founders or recent founders should get in order when they’re setting up a business.

Let’s say, for example, I bake biscuits at home, I’ve got a real following in my neighbourhood, and started selling them.

How soon do I need to register for Self Assessment, or what stages do I need to go through?

Just take me through the process for anyone that’s listening that is that at the cusp. Break it down for them.

Mike Psaras:

Let’s go sole trader. Firstly, you set up a separate bank account because then you can segregate what’s going on in your business from your salary and Netflix subscriptions, for example, from your regular employment.

If it’s a side hustle, you’ve got your personal life separated from your up-and-coming business. You can see what you’ve transferred in from your personal life into your business and then go and invest into it, which might be machinery for baking or raw materials, whatever it may be.

You’ve got a primary way of keeping track of what’s coming in and what’s going out. You can see whether it’s working or not—if you keep pumping money into this side hustle and you’re not even able to take anything out, you got to think about what’s going on.

Set up a business bank account, and many people might want to stick with their normal bank because that’s easier.

Challenger banks are prominent in the game these days. They’re speedy to set up, so they’re a good go-to, especially for modern businesses who want to use some of the additional functionalities they have, like tracking expenses and income.

Mike Psaras:

Another thing in baking or anything in the food and beverage industry or example, is knowing your margins. Knowing your margins is the most important thing because you can predict what’s going to happen.

If you sell 10 items, you know that it costs you £3 to make a cake, and you’re going to set it for £10. You’re going to make a gross profit of £7. If you can scale that over 100, you know you’re going to have £700 if your margins are correct.

For any food and beverage product, you need to work out X amount of flour, that many eggs, vanilla extract, flour, whatever the ingredients may be—working out what goes into one unit of cake. So then, if you can extrapolate that, you’d know what your gross profit is going to be.

Then think about your overheads such as electricity and water.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Budget for that early.

Mike Psaras:

Yeah, budget for what you need to begin.

Machinery is what will make you at the beginning. If you need to buy things initially, just have that in mind and put that money to one side. I think if you’re going to start the business, it’s essential to know you’re going to have to make an upfront investment but then focus on turning your product into a profit.

So look at your:

  • Bank account
  • Gross profit margin
  • Overhead
  • Investment.

Then I think you could look at how you will scale your business—you gave the example of somebody doing well in the local area. That’s cool, and everyone has their ambitions.

But if you are looking to be more prominent in the industry, you have to start looking at your marketing channels.

What’s the budget going to be for that? How are you going to put the word out there? Are you going to collaborate with anyone?

I suppose also you have to think about how much time you have to put into it. If it’s a side hustle, you need to be realistic with yourself.

We all live pretty full-on lives these days and might have kids, full-time jobs or parents to look after. There are all sorts of other commitments. So figure out how much time you have and make realistic goals around your resources.

So to summarise, I think the business bank account, know your margins, know how much you have to invest, and make some realistic goals for yourself.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That point about the Self Assessment thing—what’s the window?

What’s the leeway you get between when you start making money and when you have to declare everything? Is it the end of the first year, or should you be registering way before that?

Mike Psaras:

As soon as you start, if you want to.

Legally you have a window, which is the end of the tax year that you started your business in, so after that.

So the tax year ends on the 5th of April 2022, so you would have until the 5th of October 2022, which I think is six months after the year-end. So in that window, you can register for Self Assessment and self-employment.

They’re two slightly different things. In theory, you’re supposed to do two forms.

One is to sign up for income taxes, and the other one’s for Class 4 NIC [National Insurance contributions] and Class 2 NIC, which sometimes goes over people’s heads.

Anecdotally. I haven’t really seen that being an issue, but I’m not confident in saying that—even though I don’t see it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

Let’s say you’ve done your registration for self-employment and self-assessment, and you’ve got your UTR [Unique Taxpayer Reference].

Your following milestone will be that first tax return, which is due by the 31st of January after the year-end. April 2022 is the end of the [current] tax year, so you’ve got to submit your return by the 31st of January 2023. That seems like ages away, but it comes around annoyingly quickly.

I always say to people in their first year of being a limited company or in their first year of being self-employed, get it done as soon as possible because the day you have to pay the tax doesn’t change—you have foresight.

If you’re doing your 2021 returns and started self-employment without doing things that you were supposed to do, like save for tax during that year, you’ve now got a window of six or seven months where you know you have to pay in January at the latest and can get your act together.

Please don’t wait until the 31st of January, scrambling around looking for an accountant to do it for you who’ll charge you money to do it last minute and then tell you you’ve got this whopping great tax return.

Mike Psaras:

Another thing that comes to mind with Self Assessment, which takes people by surprise, is payments on account.

Payments on account are where you have your tax year, and then you pay on account half of your projected liability for the following year.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Oh yeah. It’s split. You get two bills, and many people wonder they have to pay one in January and one in July.

Mike Psaras:

Yeah, exactly. In your first year, it trips people up because if it’s been your first year of trade, you have to pay all of last year’s plus 50% of your projected liability, so you’re effectively paying 150% in year one.

Understandably most people don’t budget for that, and it takes them by surprise. So, that’s one thing to bear in mind.

The first year is a little bit tricky. Save a little bit more because this comes up.

After your first, second, and third year, it becomes normal because you’ve already made your payment on account for the year before if you’ve been self-employed for two years.

Then you’re making a balancing payment for the tax year that you’re dealing with and forward paying it the following year.

It becomes a bit more regular as time goes on. It’s just that the first year can blindside businesses and business owners.

Another thing is student loans.

Tell your accountant about your student loan because if you don’t tell them, you’re going to submit a tax return, and then HMRC will talk to the Student Loans Company and say hold on, you owe some money, and then they send you back a computation.

Your accountant’s going to say, “What’s this? You didn’t tell me about this.” And it can be quite a bit of money.

So even though it’s not a tax, it’s still money that you have to pay back, based on your overall income.

I think it’s after about £17,000 you start repaying it, and that’s at 9%. So that can stack up. If you’ve earned a profit of £50,000, it’s a couple of grand that you’re not expecting.

It’s slightly different with the limited company because you might have most of your profits taxed within your limited company, and not so much taxed personally if you’re not extracting loads of profit. So you might be repaying your student loan a little bit slower.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That was all such great advice. And I want to second that point about doing your tax return as soon as the year finishes.

I just did mine, and just the relief of knowing that it’s done and that know exactly how much I’m going to owe and what I’m going to pay for various things. It just means you can just travel into the next year a lot lighter and with absolute transparency.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I recently saw that Rishi Sunak is doing a 130% tax break on new machinery, which meant replacing my doddering old laptop bought in 2010. I know that it’s a tax-efficient investment for me as a journalist and writer.

So are there any other kinds of sexy tax breaks or exciting things going on at the moment that startup founders should be aware of?

Mike Psaras:

Yeah, in terms of new stuff, the super deduction on capital allowances.

So it takes your investments from 19p off the pound to 25p off the pound in tax deductions.

So that’s quite good. It’s not a complete game-changer, but it’s an incentive,

I think that more kinds of sexy things revolve around EIS [Enterprise Investment Scheme] and SEIS [Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme] approval.

Just getting on board with those things if you’ve got a qualifying trading business—if you’re seeking investment, the people who are investing in you are getting a good tax break out of it and protecting themselves a little bit if it goes wrong.

If the business fails, ultimately, EIS and SEIS offer some protection there. That’s good if you are in the R&D space.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And a lot can count as research and development, right?

So when people think about their business, they may not realise they are doing R&D. Maybe they are researching a new market, or they’re buying expensive research from Mintel, but this all counts.

You maybe need a good accountant to tell you what qualifies.

Mike Psaras:

What you’re doing needs to be pushing the boundaries of science and/or technology, which is the broad take on it. But if you are meeting that criteria, this is quite a significant deduction.

I’m one of the accountants who would like to explore that space a little more within the SME sector because historically, it’s been the big accountancy practices that do R&D tax credits and R&D tax claims.

But with the help of technology and just a bit more awareness of how the tax credits works, more and more accountants are doing it.

But it’s a super-interesting area because you can find R&D in all sorts of different industries. It’s not just software development. It’s not just biotech. It’s in many places.

So it’s understanding that legislation and seeing whether or not it applies. It’s not regulated, so it’s not just accountants that can do it.

Bex, you could say, “I’m going to be an R&D tax consultant tomorrow” if you want to. And you could sell it.

R&D is a bit Wild West tax consultancy wise because it’s not regulated by ICAEW [Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales], CIOT [Chartered Institute of Taxation], FCA [Financial Conduct Authority], or any of these regulatory bodies.

There’s a lot of people out there trying to win this business.

HMRC has historically been a bit under-resourced in the R&D space when it comes to tax claims.

Combined with Covid, where people are reaching out for tax savings or optimisations, there’s been a lot of spurious R&D claims going in, particularly in the SME sector, because it’s historically been seen as quite an easy win.

That’s been out of reach of small businesses, but now, for example, these people claim a new recipe for muffins as R&D. No, it’s not. And so, HMRC’s response has been to pour more resources into it and make sure that the claims are legit.

I think that’s quite an interesting sector. One that I’m looking at.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I’m glad you corrected me because clearly, everything is not R&D.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It’s pretty challenging talking about technical stuff. I find it fascinating because I am myself a limited company, as a freelancer. So everything that you’re saying is gold to me.

But trying to tell that to people who maybe don’t understand or just can’t muster the interest is tricky.

Is that why you started your blog, Scribbles In The Margin? To try and get over that technical barrier.

Mike Psaras:

Yeah, I think so. I started the blog thinking about the conversations and issues that I see day-to-day—trying to put them down in words I’ve found helped me think about them a little more and get more clarity.

I can think better when I see something written down on a page, really organise those thoughts and say to myself, “OK, why are people spinning out a little bit and not necessarily in control? What are those barriers? What are the things that they could be doing better?”

That’s what I want to explore.

Other people are very keen on growth—so what are potential growth strategies? What are pitfalls?

A lot of people ask me questions that I can’t answer. So some of it is going to be exploring what accountants do and don’t do.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It is demystifying stuff for people who might think that a lot of this stuff is more complicated than it is.

You hear the word margin, and a lot of people will be confused. And then you explain it’s what you spend on creating the thing and what other people bought it off you for. And then you take one from the other, and that’s your margin.

Once you break it down, it’s simple.

Mike Psaras:

Yeah, I think that’s it. I think I started it because I like talking to people. I like talking to my clients, and sometimes that’s my downfall because it means that I have to fit that actual work around all the chatting and the Zoom calls.

But I genuinely think the more I can explain to you, the more it will empower you as a client.

I think you’re going to feel more confident when you are doing things, and in the long run, you might not have to ask me so many questions, or at least not ask me the same question more than once.

I think those are the essential things. And I think that accountants can this if the time to do it.

Are you looking for more helpful business advice?

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We would love for you to join our community and share your insights and stories. Season two is coming up, and we would love to take your recommendations for guests or even some questions you would like me to ask in future.

Let us know on Twitter @SageUK using the hashtag #SoundAdvicePodcast, on Instagram @SageOfficial at or in the comments below, and we will get back to you.

If you want to hear more from Mike, make sure you check out his blog, and follow him on Instagram @scribblesinthemargin.

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