Jenny Bowden

Jenny's LinkedIn profile

I had a place at university to do finance and business accounting, but after a summer job in the accounts department of a telecoms company, I realised that I liked working in finance and I could see others studying for a qualification whilst working rather than building up student debts so I enrolled for AAT at my local college. I quickly realised the benefits of working in practice during my first year of AAT and joined a practice. 

Over the years I’ve worked for a top 10 practice, a top 20 practice and a small local independent practice – the latter being where I got the confidence to start my own practice. I was looking for a more fulfilling role and had an offer to work at a forward-thinking smaller practice but I had started to think that I could set up my own practice. The principal at the firm that offered me a position became quite the cheerleader, she helped me to consider all options and encouraged me to, so I took the plunge. 

"One of my doubts about setting up my own practice was not having anybody to lean on – but I feel I am more supported now than I ever was."

And that’s because I have such a great network of practices I have worked with in the past, and other practitioners that I know and along with putting in much effort to establish a new local community alongside becoming a member for an online nationwide community too. 

I choose the work that I do now - if something comes across my desk that I judge to be too risky for my firms PII cover then I’ll refer it to somebody in my network that the work is more suited to. A trusted professional is someone that collaborates and / or can introduce known experts to refer to. And work comes to me from the opposite direction. I don’t have a competitive nature and I believe there’s plenty of work to go around for all of us.

In a digital environment, we've got to keep embracing change and learn. It will be critical for our role in ESG - we're very much on this digital journey to get real time information. My clients are SME owner-managed businesses and they’re less directly affected by it at the moment, but all the major players have 2050 net zero ambitions to meet, and it will trickle down, so we've all got to play a part. ESG sits under different hats in different organisations, but accountants are the ones with the data, and the analytical and soft skills to apply that data, so that’s the perfect person for the ESG role in my opinion.  

I think the role of the accountant in society is to be a trusted advisor – but not limited to just tax compliance and tax strategy planning but the bigger picture. There’s a strong chance of mandated accounting standards on Environment Social and Governance so the future accountant has that greater responsibility to support companies to make disclosures on it.

We’re all using artificial intelligence - even if you aren’t using AI for your data analytics, you’re still using it when shopping online. All my clients are on Xero so they’ve all got bank feeds. They've all got AI picking up that a repeat transaction is the same this month as it was last month.

"We want AI to do the easy bit for us, and then we interpret that data - you’re never going to replace that human intervention."

If you’re thinking of starting your own practice, then my top tips are: 

  • Get as much of the practice admin and system set up – not just the authorisations from ACCA and HMRC, but doing really good software research. There’s so much software out there and it can be overwhelming and time consuming if you deliberate too much, so get your research in, then pick one and get practical experience of using it – and remain open minded if you have to switch later.
  • Get your website sorted before you launch – you can do it in the back end in advance and then turn it on when you launch. I got someone to help me with my website and it has been invaluable support, but if you go for a basic platform then you might be able to do it yourself.
  • Get your branding and all your templating ready – I put all my brand colours and fonts into Canva which is what I use for marketing. You could get somebody to do that for you and it can all be done behind the scenes.

I didn’t set myself a target of getting a specific number of clients by a specific date – I knew where I thought capacity would be, and I knew how much money I needed to earn to meet my bills, equally; I was conscious from the start not to take on the wrong clients – especially those that didn’t value my time. I’m getting so many of the right clients after creating a few versions of the ideal client avatar, yet I struggle to say no so I need to work on this! I have engaged a business coach and my goals are being updated regularly.

What I enjoy the most about running my own practice is the freedom of doing what I want, helping people and always learning. I like learning things in my industry but also learning about other sectors. I have an interest in how businesses conduct their affairs with others, and how the little changes can have such a transformational impact for efficiencies in working practices - and how businesses succeed and fail as there's a lesson to be learned everywhere.