Meet the mentor: Lucy Cohen, co-founder of Mazuma Accountants

Lucy Cohen is co-founder of Award-winning accounting firm, Mazuma. She chatted to assistant accountant Marelize Bott, who was keen to get some advice and hear about Lucy’s experience starting a business.  

Lucy, based in Bridgend, Wales, started her award-winning accounting firm Mazuma accounting in 2006, and now has 30 employees. Marelize Bott MAAT AATQB, known as Maria, recently completed all three levels of AAT in just 10 months. She started her own accounting practice, Add-Worth Accountancy, earlier this year. 

Lucy is also one of the panelists at the AAT Future Finance Online conference which you can register for below.

On-demand: AAT Future Finance 2020 Online

You can now access all 14 hours’ worth of webinars from AAT Future Finance 2020. Click the link to register for free access.

View on-demand

Spotting a gap in the market

Maria: How did you go about starting your own firm and turning it into the successful practice it is right now?

Lucy: For us and what we wanted to do, it was about spotting a gap in the market and then making sure that there was a market in that gap. From the very beginning, we were disruptors. We looked at pushing out the incumbent ways of working by coming up with a different way of working.

The next thing you need to look at is – what is your differentiator? What is it that you’re going to do that other accountants don’t? I think you would do well to identify really early on exactly who and what it is you want to work with and then stick to that. Then you can tailor all of your messaging and marketing, and the way that you talk about yourself can be tailored around that.

Finding your niche

Maria: So you said you spotted the gap, what is the niche that you are focusing on? 

Lucy: We focus only on micro and small businesses. We deal with a very high volume of clients, but they pay low fees. It’s both a safer and riskier model – it takes longer to build up a good income from it. If you’re going to look at that model, you perhaps need to have some reserves or some savings behind you to tide you over before you start making any money.

The other option you’ve got is to have a bespoke service – where you’ll have fewer clients, but the level of service you have to give them is that much higher and they will be paying a higher fee to you. So this is better in that you will start making money straight away. But obviously, if you lose one client then you’ve got to replace them very quickly, otherwise, that will be a big hit on your cash flow.

CPD is very beneficial

Maria: I think I have decided that I am done with studying. Do you think further study has helped you in being successful or do you think having MAAT is sufficient? 

Lucy: I think MAAT is sufficient. To be honest, you’ve got all the technical skills that you need. Another useful qualification to have would be taxation. As a lot of the conversations, you will have with clients will be around tax. I’m a big believer in continuous professional development and lifelong learning, so every year I’ll learn something new.

Maria: In the current situation that we find ourselves in, how are you helping your businesses through it? 

Lucy: At the moment, we are just being as supportive as we can be. We are communicating with them, we’re signposting them. Where possible we are helping them with making sure they can meet fees. And if you want them to be there at the end of this, you’ve got to stick with them through it.

Networking and getting to know people locally

Maria: Marketing-wise, how did you grow your business? 

Lucy: We started off by going to networking events and getting to know people locally. Over the years it’s evolved, so we’ve now got a marketing team and a sales team. In the first instance, if you don’t have a lot of cash behind you (we definitely didn’t), the best thing you can do is get out there and start introducing yourself to people. 

Maria: I’m still employed full-time and I’ve just started my own practice on the side, so I’m quite active on LinkedIn. Do you think that is helpful? 

Lucy: LinkedIn is good. Although you do get a lot of people on there that says, ‘oh we can generate you leads, we can do this and that and the other’, and maybe they can – but they cost a lot of money. If you can invest your time rather than money into relationship-building, I think that will go a lot further than spending money on marketing or advertising.

Adapting to the current climate

Maria: Are most of your staff working from home now? 

Lucy: We’ve got skeleton staff on-site – because HMRC are so old school and everything comes by post, so we need people there to open up post for clients. We also have clients that use our paper-based service, so we have staff who are opening up this and scanning it and getting it back to clients. Then when that’s done the majority of people are working from home. 

Maria: With regards to taking clients on-board, obviously you’ve got your on-boarding documentation, do you do it mostly electronically? 

Lucy: 100% electronically, yes. To keep it sustainable. 

Maria: In times like this, when you have clients who may not be able to pay, obviously you want to help them – how would you deal with that situation? 

Lucy: On a case-by-case basis. At times like this, it’s all about listening to our clients. And seeing what it is they need and trying to help them with that. We’re well placed to be able to say to clients: ‘We can see your cash flow and you’ve got enough cash reserve left, which will last you 3 months – so we suggest you go to your mortgage company and ask for a payment break for 3 months of your mortgage, which then buys you 6 months’.  
We can give advice like that.   

On-demand: AAT Future Finance 2020 Online

You can now access all 14 hours’ worth of webinars from AAT Future Finance 2020. Click the link to register for free access.

View on-demand

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