How kindness and empathy put this AAT entrepreneur on the 100 most inspirational list

FMAAT Kay Daniels is a multi-award winner and a business finance transformation specialist who has carved out a career mentoring others.

Now she’s been named as one of the UK’s most 100 inspirational female entrepreneurs by Small Business Britain.

Her journey shows that emotion – and kindness – should never be underestimated.

Getting emotional

People don’t associate accountancy with emotion. It’s more usual to see the profession as highly-technical and driven by numbers and compliance.

But the modern accountant knows it’s also much more. Soft skills such as communication, relationship building and emotional intelligence are highly prized: the accountant is less of a number cruncher these days and more of a business advisor.

FMAAT Kay Daniels, the founder of The Financial Female, is precisely that.

Her career trajectory has evolved from the traditional accountancy role into business mentor and consultant. And emotion, she says, features hugely in her consultancy work with clients.

After working as an accountant for several decades, Daniels moved into consultancy ‘with a financial bias’.

Switching to consultancy

It started with wondering how she could add value to her clients businesses and be ‘more useful’. As she started to talk more with clients about their personal and business goals, it grew from there.

“There is absolutely a place for statutory accounts and tax returns to keep business owners compliant, but for me, you should always be looking to add value. It’s being more forward-looking, putting plans in place and growing business profit.”

Daniels’ business helps clients transform their business finances to improve profits and cash flow and, ultimately, achieve personal goals. This is where it can get emotional because, as Daniels explains, everything personal is tied up in a business so it can be quite an emotional experience.

“Most business owners I’ve worked with are quite keen to talk about the emotional side,” she says. “They’re not going to do that in front of colleagues or their team, but they are willing to share with me as an outside party because I am the safe space to try out ideas and have a fresh pair of eyes on the business.”

A learning curve


Daniels didn’t go down the traditional accountancy route. She worked in payroll initially at First Choice Holidays which had lots of scope to move around. But it wasn’t until she happened to see a colleague study accountancy that she decided to take the leap because she thought it ‘looked interesting’. Her accountancy career took her from travel to the legal and then publishing sectors.

Later in her career, Daniels set up her own accountancy practice despite having no practice background and was therefore a bit ‘clueless’ when it came to pricing and marketing. Yet despite the learning curve, her business was doing so well, that ten years later, she relocated her business and her all-female team to the West End.

“My practice was one of the first in the country to win an AVN excellence award,” she says. “There was a very lengthy process, covering twelve areas of excellence such as proactivity, teamwork and services to clients. We were externally assessed to make sure we were delivering excellence in all these areas. Winning the award gave me the confidence to know we were on the right track.”

From accountant to consultant


Daniels’ transition into business advisory services and consultancy happened around 2017 following family illness. Her focus changed and she decided to ‘close the door’ on new accountancy clients and make the switch into consultancy. The Financial Female was set up soon after.

But what was that transition like? Did she feel out of her comfort zone in the beginning?

“It didn’t feel strange at all,” Daniels explains. “It’s actually just about having conversations. Everything is about rapport, that’s what’s important when you offer this kind of service. Because on a technical level, every accountant should be equal, in theory. People expect you to deliver on the technical and compliance side. So it’s more about your personality fitting with that of your client. It’s having those emotional conversations, giving people advice, sharing experiences and being vulnerable with it.”

Daniels stops short of describing herself as akin to a counsellor, but in some ways, the role is similar. Often, clients share worries and concerns with her which they wouldn’t share with anyone else.

Charity and mentoring work

However, Daniels’ passion in supporting other businesses and individuals goes beyond the scope of her own business network. Since 2018, she’s been heavily involved in charity work and mentoring at the Friends of Charing Cross Hospital plus the Prince’s Trust and The Girls Network West Midlands.

For Daniels, it’s about giving a helping hand to people who need support on moving up the proverbial ladder. As she points it: “Kindness goes a long way.”

It’s how she’s responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Her focus throughout has been on providing extra support to struggling businesses. She had relocated to Birmingham just before lockdown and had expected to be up and down to London for meetings and consultancy sessions, but of course, none of that happened. Instead, Daniels made herself available online for anyone who needed support. She even spent several days on Twitter helping business owners with general queries about furlough and other financial issues.

#LeaveNoBusinessBehind  

The Corporate Finance Network launched the #LeaveNoBusinessBehind campaign last year to encourage all business owners to prepare cashflow forecasts to ensure they have a roadmap out of lockdown and into recovery. It was a collaborative effort by accountants and Daniels was one of the entrepreneurs who was happy to get on board.   

To date, Daniels has mentored several individuals through the organisations and charities she’s worked with, including schoolgirls from disadvantaged backgrounds and young women starting their own business.

“You definitely get the feel-good factor mentoring others,” says Daniels. “But also it gives you valuable insight into other peoples’ businesses and you get exposure to different sectors you wouldn’t otherwise see. And you learn so much from the mentee, too. The first person I mentored at the Princes’ Trust was a young artist. It was totally different to anything I’ve done and it was really interesting to see their creative process as well as the business side of things. I’m a naturally curious person.”

Inspirational female entrepreneur

This year, Daniels was named one of the UK’s most 100 inspirational female entrepreneurs by Small Business Britain’s f:Entrepreneur #ialso campaign. The annual #ialso campaign, which first launched in 2019, celebrates the contribution of 100 female entrepreneurs who do over and above through business and beyond.

Daniels has been delighted with the new connections that have resulted.

“I would strongly encourage any female entrepreneur to enter,” she says. “It’s such a warm and welcoming community.”

Daniels invites any FMAAT who has questions about any aspect of running a business to connect with her on LinkedIn. “You have to be a certain kind of person to be cut out for running your own business, but there is support out there. So if anyone wants to reach out to me, I’m always happy to help.”


Career highlights

  • Founding and growing a successful accountancy practice.
  • Supporting clients through successful sale of their businesses.
  • Mentoring young female entrepreneurs.
  • Supporting the NHS during one of its biggest crises.

Awards

  • AVN Rising Star Award – 2012.
  • AVN Excellence Award – 2013.
  • British Accountancy Awards finalist 2015 – Independent Firm of the Year Greater London.
  • F:Entrepreneur #ialso 100 – 2021.                                         

Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.

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