A Scottish accountancy firm that has had a whirlwind year of expansion, employment growth and business acquisition is now looking to expand into the Central Belt.
Faith Simpson Accountants is basking in the glory of being named business of the year at the Association of Scottish Business Women Awards 2015 last month.
The firm was nominated in the same awards for outstanding contribution to business and has been shortlisted in the Scottish Business Awards for female business leader of the year.
It is also in the running to scoop Independent firm of the Year (Scotland) at the British Accountancy Awards, but for managing director Faith Simpson, life was not always so glossy.
She said: “I literally started out the business from a box room. I was working for another accountancy firm in the area.
“When my mum died from cancer I realised that life was too short and I wasn’t particularly content in my then current role. So I quit my job”
For two years, Faith who now runs two offices – one in Elgin in Morayshire and the other in Huntly, Aberdeenshire – did not work and spent her time writing books and publications until the job she now loves found her again.
She added: “Setting up the business was not initially a conscious decision. It started organically. People knew that I was an accountant so would ask for help with their taxes and accounts and it ultimately spiralled from there.
“I realised there was a niche in the market and there were lots of small to medium-sized businesses and individuals that the big firms wouldn’t touch and these people were not getting the support they needed. I jumped on that and set up the firm. That was in 2006.”
Although business is now booming for Simpson, she initially never intended a career in accountancy and instead studied hospitality, enterprise and tourism at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
She said: “I always dreamt of working for Richard Branson. My plan was to get my degree and join their graduate training programme.
“As part of my degree I had to do work placements and I was offered a position in Guernsey working for Condor Ferries.
“I fell in love with the island and decided I wanted to stay. However, realising very quickly that Guernsey is an expensive island to live on the only way I was going to make serious money was to work in the finance sector.
“A meeting with an agency secured me a position at Deloitte. With them I sailed through my Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) exams and I started to realise that I had a natural ability for the accountancy profession.”
Simpson moved to the north-east after meeting her RAF husband, who was on detachment in Guernsey.
She went on: “He obviously couldn’t just relocate due to the nature of his job, so I did and the rest as they say in history.”
Going into her tenth year, Simpson recognises though that it is the last two years that her business model has really taken off, but this is not enough for the entrepreneur, who now has her sights firmly set on the Scottish capital.
“It’s all coming together. Last year we took over Huntly business David Brown & Co and we have moved into new premises in the centre of Elgin.
“This was not just because our workforce had expanded, it was a strategic decision. The offices we have now are in a great location with fantastic visibility, but due to the size it means we can expand without having to relocate which will save in the long term.”
Simpson has a strong team of nine and her latest has been the appointment of a director of tax.
She explained: “I took on Helen Crowley last November who is bringing in new revenues and tax clients due to specialist nature of her tax. This was a really important move strategically for me as it is enabling us to compete more with the larger firms.”
“But I’m not done yet, there’s so much more I want to do. I am definitely looking at opening an office in Edinburgh. I think there is a market there for what my firm does and what our ethos is.
“Our mission is to be the most approachable accountancy practise in Scotland. We can grow but if we retain our ethos then we can be a big firm without losing that personal touch. It’s really important to me to still speak to clients on the phone, meet them face to face and each member of staff is carefully trained so that they too give the clients the personal service they deserve.
“I have the right team of like-minded individuals who all go that extra mile for every single client. That’s what makes us stand out. You can have the clever branding, the gimmicks and straplines but if you don’t deliver on that message then you fail. We follow through every single time for every single client.”
And what is it that makes her a good business leader and gives her the drive to keep going?
She said: “I know I mentioned Richard Branson and he really is an inspiration but on the whole I am not really interested in the normal business role models of the world.
“What inspires me are sports men and women. The Andy Murrays of the world. The ones who keep getting knocked down but get back up and win.
“That’s dedication and persistence. I like people who are self-made. I have worked hard and I have the tenacity to keep on going. I am one of those people who sees something, wants it and won’t let it drop until I get it.”