Stephen Paul is the Managing Director of Valued which won the Accountancy Firm of the Year (under 50 employees) award at the recent North East Accountancy Awards
I honestly had no interest in entering Valued into the North East Accountancy Awards - I’d tried ten years ago and got nowhere. Our new office manager really wanted to enter us and drafted the nomination and asked me to read it over. It was when I was reading it over that I thought wow - we do all of these things?
As principals of firms, we often don’t realise how different we are to other firms until we sit down and think about it. It was a real “wow” moment for me and after adding in a few bits, we submitted. I couldn’t believe it when we were shortlisted – I thought it was absolutely phenomenal. We had to go off to see the judges and I have never been so nervous in all my life, but it allowed us to give them more insight into what we’re doing.
After we won the award, one of the judges told us why - it was all about the empowerment of the team – how we work to collective goals, and how we work to identify our clients’ goals and then work with them to achieve those goals. To win the award on those points meant so much to me.
Going forward we will enter for awards again but we’re going it do it for a reason and a purpose – otherwise it’s just a distraction from running the business. I want our entries to be based around how we can help our clients, ourselves and our community. I don’t want an award entry to be about a moment in time – a photograph on a stage – it's got to be living and breathing and about what we’re trying to achieve. I’m absolutely delighted to have won this award, but I’ve had my moment of celebration and now I want to continue on my journey.
We mustn’t forget the people who support us as principals in the firms. That’s what I want to focus on in the next 12 months – the people behind the business owners because they rarely get a voice. My team is everything – without a great team, I can’t do the job I do which is talking to and mentoring clients.
I don’t just hire on the qualification - you’ve got to be able to have a conversation with the client as well and be able to listen and help the client. That’s where ACCA is different – it bridges the gap between being the management accountant and the auditor so we’re commercial accountants in my opinion. At Valued, every single team member gets to talk to clients.
When I’m talking to a client about a set of accounts, the team member who prepared those accounts is in the room with me so that they can learn. I want them to build the relationship so they understand what they need to do to really help the client. You have to trust your team and I trust mine. If you’re not going to trust your team to speak to clients then why do you employ them? Giving them exposure to clients will help the next generation come through.