"Rapidly scaling a business is rapidly scaling yourself"

with Rachel Harris, Accountant She

Show notes:

Rachel Harris aka Accountant She is an impressive woman and business owner. She’s taken her company from the dining table to £1.5million turnover in 4 years. And as Rachel says, ‘rapidly scaling a business is rapidly scaling yourself’. Which sounds to me a lot like motherhood.

Not only does Rachel and her business offer a best in class consultancy service for parental planning, but since going self employed at 26, a family has been in her business plan. AND she has some incredible advice for business owners who want to improve their services and scale their business. While, of course, potentially raising a family.

Finances can be scary, and women often have a lot of imposter syndrome around them. But financial wellbeing is a muscle, we just need to build it into our routine to make it strong.

Rachel is full of insight about building a wildly successful business, creating a culture that is accessible and inclusive for clients and her team alike and having those difficult conversations about parenthood that move the collective conversation forward.

If you’re scaling a business, planning parental leave, dealing with a disability, building motherhood into your business plan, or want to know more about your mat leave options, Rachel has some excellent advice for you.

This episode is sponsored by Accountant She. Rachel and the team at StriveX are there to support you going from Bump to Business Owner and beyond. Not only do they offer a huge range of business and personal support, but Rachel offers a HUGE amount of valuable and completely FREE financial education via her IG account.

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

 

About Rachel Harris and Accountant She:

Rachel Harris, Accountant She is an award winning content creator, author, a speaker, a business owner of Strive X and most importantly, an accountant!

She was named as one to watch on the 35 under 35 list, she recently won the First Intuition Apprenticeship mentor of the year award for 2023 and won breakout star of the year by Accounting Excellence and accounting personality of the year 2023 by PQ Magazine.

In addition to the above, She is the director of striveX, which she runs with her husband James which is a much broader, paperless accountancy and tax advisory firm that uses cloud software to provide a digital solution for your everyday accounting.
Rachel was awarded with the Apprenticeship Mentor of the Year award in 2023 for her close work with her team to strive towards their professional qualifications.

Rachel has also grown her accountant_she community to over 90,000 people which is a portfolio of social media platforms where she creates long and short form content for accountants in training, qualified accountants and small business owners who want to learn more about finance.

She wanted to build the community that she didn’t have when she decided to become an accountant and become the role model she wished she’d had. She is a role model to aspiring accountants and in 2022 she became the youngest ever director and trustee of AAT. In January of 2023 she launched the first ever corporate bursary scheme which is fully funding a person in financial hardship through AAT level 2, 3 and 4 supported by 1:1 mentoring, study support and full tuition covered.


Accountant She Links:

Accountant She Website
Strive X Website
Accountant She Instagram
Strive X Instagram
LinkedIn
Strive X LinkedIn

Transcript:

Accountant She

Today’s episode of Bump to Business owner is proudly sponsored by Accountant She the disruptive, holistic, and person-centered accounting team helping to take you from bump to business owner and beyond. From fully outsourcing your business finances to strategic and enhanced maternity planning. We’ve got you covered and if you don’t need an accountant just yet but want completely free, accessible consumable financial education, then you can find me everywhere that you consume content at Accountant She.

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:00):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and I am so pleased to welcome today Rachel Harris, Accountant She. She is an award-winning content creator, author, speaker, a business owner of Strive X and most importantly, an accountant. She was named as one to watch on the 35 under 35 list. She recently won the First Intuition Apprenticeship Mentor of the Year award for 2023 and won breakout star of the year by Accounting Excellence and accounting personality of the year 2023 by PQ Magazine. In addition to the above, she’s director of Strive X, which she runs with husband, James, which is a much broader paperless accountancy and tax advisory firm that uses cloud software to provide digital solution for your everyday accounting. Rachel was awarded with the Apprenticeship Mentor of the Year Award in 2023 for her close work with her team to strive towards their professional qualifications.

(01:55):
Rachel has also grown her Accountant She community to over 90,000 people, which is a portfolio of social media platforms where she creates long and short form content for accountants in training, qualified accountants and small business owners who want to learn more about finance. She wanted to build the community that she didn’t have when she decided to become an accountant and become the role model she wished she had. She’s a role model to aspiring accountants and in 2022 she became the youngest ever director and trustee of AAT. In January of 2023, she launched the first ever corporate bursary scheme, which is fully funding a person going through financial hardship through AAT level 2, 3 and 4 supported by one-to-one mentoring, study support and full tuition covered. Wow, what a long bio there. That’s amazing. I think that’s the hardest one I’ve ever read out. I’m definitely rerecording that, but I’m super, super excited to have you on Rachel, my first non-mum, but supporter of, service provider to, and aspiring. So for anyone who doesn’t know you, Rachel, where did this all start? Let’s start with Strive X, with your husband James.

Rachel (03:07):
Yeah, of course. I am so excited to be here, super honoured to be the first non-parent that you’ve let through, let through the books into the podcast even more excited that we just get to spend the next half an hour together. So my name is Rachel and I am a disruptor in the accounting industry, and so I’m disrupting what it means to be an accountant, what it feels like, that word is double underlined, to have an accountant and disrupting the concept that you can’t scale a business to seven figures without losing yourself along the way.

Caroline (03:37):
I love that we need that here, we need that on the podcast.

Rachel (03:41):
We need more people using feelings in the same sentences as their finances, and that’s something that I definitely didn’t have access to as a child, as a young person. I was a charity shop kid, a free school meal child, and actually was just a young woman who loved maths, so you can imagine school was really fun for me. But yeah, just really, really determined to lower the barriers to entry to the finance profession for everybody, whether that is consuming it as a business owner, consuming it as a soon to be parent, consuming it as somebody who wants to be a business owner or wants to be a parent or wants to do both at the same time. And then also just lowering the barriers to people who want to become accountants and take part in the finance industry as well. So I own one of the UK’s fastest scaling accountancy practises.

(04:26):
We’ve scaled from a one man band around a dining room table to a 1.5 million pound firm in under four years. And yeah, we do that by providing accountancy services, mortgage advice, financial advice, consulting advice. So I get to work with companies who are about to go on or have just come off shows like Dragons Den and yeah, just trying to reimagine the way that everybody approaches the finance industry and just lean into that financial wellbeing muscle that, you know, we’re not born with that muscle. It’s a muscle that we have to build. I think for a really, really long time, the finance profession has alienated people away from their finances, and so it’s my job to, through passion and content creation and normally the colour pink, just trying to really, really change the way people think about their finances.

Caroline (05:09):
I love that. And it’s so needed because actually me and my husband touched on this the other day, I said it’s kind of similar, but we have someone recently who specialises in birth and explaining that for us, and actually a weird way of relating this is that I think sometimes in birth being highly medicalised, it’s like they don’t want us to understand it and it’s not necessarily a conscious choice of doctors, but it is just been the historical thing of like, well, this is a doctor’s job, so it’s too complicated for you. And I think the same with finance. This is a finance job and then typically those roles have been with men or become highly medicalised, finance is the same and it’s like, you don’t need to worry about this. And it’s like, yes, we do.

Rachel (05:49):
A hundred percent and a really strong part of our business scaling has been core values and if anyone says to me, who do you work with? I say, I work with people that align with my core values. We don’t specialise. We work with business owners, influencers and celebrities in the UK, but the one thing they all have in common is core values. So literally based on what you just said, our core values are don’t tell, ask, and to always ask more questions than you answer because again, in exactly the same way medicine is treated, we don’t want to be told, we want to be asked. And if someone comes to you with a question, don’t just answer that question. The real pain point is probably three questions down. So for my job as an accountant, if someone comes and says, what’s my tax bill going to be this year?

(06:38):
The reality is they probably haven’t just woken up with that question. The reality is something is keeping them awake at night, and so it could go from what’s my tax bill going to be this year? One question down from that is, my income has dropped this year in a cost of living crisis. Question down from that is, should I be increasing my prices? I’ve seen a drop in engagement in my service. All of those things are three questions down, and again, bringing it back to medicine, we shouldn’t be just be treating the symptom. We need to be treating the cause and by asking more questions and you answer at every touch point, that’s how we can get to the really impactful financial conversations that normally only happen when and trust the person that you’re working with.

Caroline (07:13):
I love that. It’s like keep asking why it’s that five why’s kind of reason and then you’ll get to it. Thank you for sharing your journey about your childhood a bit and a snippet of it, you’ve had several things that have impacted you along the way that could easily be seen as barriers. Did I see you’ve suffered from hearing loss as well, Rachel?

Rachel (07:32):
Yes, I’m profoundly deaf. Yes, I have no hearing in one ear and then between 10 and 15% in the other. So I’m profoundly deaf. I wear two hearing aids. It’s an invisible disability. I wasn’t born hard of hearing either, so my speech developed when I was hearing, so very often I don’t sound deaf. I’m losing a little bit of speech now, but I generally don’t sound that deaf. And so it’s quite an invisible struggle I guess. But I’m a very positive person, painfully positive most of the time and have actually just really used it as an opportunity to bring lots of open conversations into the finance industry about accessibility, because we at every touchpoint ask clients, what are your communication preferences. For their benefit, but also for the benefit of our team. I remember training in a really big firm, emailing clients, emailing clients, emailing clients, and there was absolutely no talk of this person could be neurodivergent and their inbox could be a complete hot mess.

Caroline (08:32):
Struggling.

Rachel (08:34):
And they are not going to answer that email. That was not even something that was ever discussed. If I tried to call someone, it was never like, actually they get quite bad anxiety talking about their finances. Why don’t you book them in for a walk and talk? So we do walk and talk, which is where if someone has quite high levels of anxiety talking about finances, we both go on a walk and talk, we use call recording software so we can transcribe and make notes of everything that was said.

Caroline (08:59):
Oh, you literally walk and talk virtually?

Rachel (09:01):
Oh yes. If they book a walk and talk, and the team love it too. That means from a team perspective, you get to go outside, you get to literally go outside and go for a walk. You can make some notes on your phone, you can have notes there. Obviously we have to make sure that the type of call is appropriate for a walk and talk, but if it is just a general catch up or you’re going through a couple of queries, if you ask someone that struggles with anxiety or actually just really has a lot of fear around their finances, doing something like that on a human level can really help to build a relationship but also just meet them where they’re at. Yeah, so communication preferences also come in because I have to be able to work with people in a way that works for me.

(09:37):
So when I do things like this, I’ve got live transcription subtitles on my screen. I love emails. My inbox is my happy place, so I can compensate for that. But lots of business owners, lots of service providers don’t have that enhanced awareness of communication preferences. And so I am hard of hearing, I’m deaf, but I think one of the best bits about being self-employed is that I get to curate my working environment. I’ve then been able to pass all of that flexibility onto my team in terms of an incredible benefits package, hybrid working, work from anywhere, all of the things that make it a great place to work. So we’re the top 30 SME employers in the UK, and we are a teeny tiny, but…

Caroline (10:12):
Can I come work for you?

Rachel (10:14):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But it’s those sort of things like just meeting people where they’re at when it comes to finances, because I think for so long it’s our way or it’s not done at all, and that just doesn’t get people comfortable.

Caroline (10:28):
No, and I’ve got so many questions on that. Firstly, do you think going through things like the hearing loss or being the underdog essentially has made you so self-aware to do the work? I either feel like you said, you’ll have some clients who may not even be aware that ADHD and struggle with their inbox and it’s a hot mess or something like that, but you are so aware and that’s because of the journey you’ve been on and you’ve done the work to make yourself aware of these things.

Rachel (10:56):
Yeah, I think the first Ted talk that I did back in 2021 was all about how to scale a business as an introvert. And I think having a very high level of self-awareness can really help you to delegate scale faster, lean into soft skills, be more core value driven. And I actually think sometimes even saying to a client, I have a disability, which is why I implemented this process, but you don’t have to have a disability to just have a choice. If you could choose, how would we communicate with you in order for you to sit here in 12 months time and you to score us a 10, what do we need to do? Knowing that every single team member that speaks to you will check that box before they speak to you every time. And sometimes people are so blown away by even having a choice and being asked those questions because it is quite rare, especially in professional services, even in a transactional relationship it’s uncommon, but especially in professional services,

Caroline (11:55):
I think in very traditional professional services as well, where it’s like, well, this is how we do things and every firm does things this way. And can I ask the ones who get anxiety about their finances, have you noticed a trend in demographics? Is it largely women versus men or it just can be anyone?

Rachel (12:11):
Yeah, a lot of women. A lot of women I think. I mean, that’s a whole other podcast episode about why, but yeah, lots and lots of women have very, very high levels of anxiety around finance. I think everybody has equal anxiety around finance. I think women have a lot of imposter syndrome specifically when it comes to finance. And again, I think just surrounding yourself with people who really encourage you to tackle it head on. I literally had a prospect call with someone who just came off Love Island last week, and she literally started the call and within the first minute told me, I’m not good at maths. I was not good at maths at school, and I do not want anything to do with my finances. By the end of the call, oh my God.

(12:56):
By the end of the call, I had shared my screen. We’d gone and looked at Companies House. She was able to understand the difference between a profit and loss and a balance sheet. She was able to work out all of her deadlines from Companies House. She was also able, I taught her how to work out why every single time she files accounts, the Daily Mail runs stories on how much money she makes, how can they do that when they are restricted accounts on Companies House. I showed her how they calculate how much money they think she’s making based on her accounts. I said to her, it’s okay to not be good at maths, but I guarantee a terrible math teacher told you that. And you have carried that for the rest of your life. You might not love maths as much as I love maths, but nobody knows your business better than you.

(13:41):
And that is the one thing that everybody listening to this every self-employed person, you don’t have to be good at maths to understand your business and nobody understands your business better than you. And so it’s my job. Consider me a translator. My job is to just translate this every single month in a way that is accessible, consumable, and just really building and keeping great financial wellbeing routine into your business. So we do live sessions. So every single client gets access to group sessions with all of our other clients where once a month, it’s an hour long with me building and keeping a great financial wellbeing routine. And then the second is monk mode where we all work on our businesses for an hour together. And so yeah, there’s like 800 people coming together to work on their business every single month in a really safe environment where there’s an accountant to ask questions if they’re logging into their government gateway or they’re planning and saving for tax if they’re doing their bookkeeping. All of those things are just building that muscle that we’re not taught where that muscle is at school, let alone how to build it and keep it.

Caroline (14:40):
And it’s about routine, isn’t it? I guess a huge part of that. It’s like, okay, now I know and confidence in routine in that. And I guess I surround yourself. You talked briefly that you are an introvert and hard relate on that, people I’ve met, people are like, no, she’s not. They have no idea. When you’re an introvert, naturally it’s like, no, this takes great energy to do this, but we know the great things that come back by putting ourselves out there. Do you think surrounding yourself with people that also do these kind of things because your clients firstly, but other people as well, really helps you keep going and manage your energy?

Rachel (15:15):
A hundred percent. And this is such a feminine experience. I feel like I have two best friends. The group chat where there’s three of you, that’s my group chat.

(15:25):
There’s three of us. They are, all three of us are successful business owners at different stages, like different followings, different monetary values, but they’re just my people, they get it. And we met up the other day, one of us had an Airbnb in London and we were like, should we go out? And then finally one of us cracked and said, can we just stay, get a takeaway? So we stayed in and got a takeaway. We literally just did delivery. The three of us sat there and I just stopped at one point and said, I just need to say meeting you guys and having you in my life just makes the insane stuff. It keeps me sane. It is insane running a business at this level. It’s chaotic. It’s hard. I’m a service-based business owner, and so I’m not just selling little widgets or computer mice. I’m selling services that people come back to me. The bigger my profile gets, the harder that gets, the more people attach that to me. It’s so hard and so much of it’s so hard, but being around you guys makes it feel easy. And we all just sort of took a deep breath and then one of them burst out laughing and said, do you know if we were blokes, we’d be telling everyone that we were in a mastermind?

Caroline (16:36):
Yes. No, that’s so true. I was looking at something, someone was talking about this today about a bunch of guys. They’re not guys, they’re just CEOs that meet up and she was like, are any of them parents? And it’s like there are women in it, but none of them are the main carer. And they call it something very different to what we call it. It’s like a spa date. Yes. When it’s actually like, no, we are just strategising.

Rachel (17:02):
And that’s the thing. Yeah, I feel like if it was men maybe a little bit older than we are, we’re all sort of late twenties, early thirties, the three of us. And yeah, I feel like if it was blokes, they literally would be posting about it on Instagram or LinkedIn telling everyone that they were in this really big mastermind group and that it’s like a seven figure only boss babes. That’s the vibe. And the reality is it’s just so wholesome and I don’t want to turn it into a bloody members club. They’re just my friends.

Caroline (17:31):
And it’s just the three of you, your friends. It’s not something to, not everything is there to be turned into that, is it?
Rachel (17:39):
Definitely. I remember having conversations with people. I started and scaled a business before I want to start and scale a family. James and I got married two years ago. We’d love to have a family. And I feel like I’ve learned so much about the concept that it takes a village.

(17:57):
Because on a tiny scale, like running a business takes a village. It sucks so much out of you. Rapidly scaling a business means rapidly scaling yourself. Sometimes one of them scales faster than the other, and that can hurt. Sometimes one scales faster than the other and it feels good. You have to surround yourself with people who you’re not second guessing yourself with. You’re not questioning yourself. They don’t make you feel shame. They don’t make you feel embarrassed. I feel so grateful that I’ve got to experience this before parenthood because I think I have rapidly scaled through the process. I am in weekly therapy. I’ve just built these processes into my life that I think will make me a much more present parent. I think I’ve been in scenarios over the last few years where I feel like I’ve missed out on my life because I’ve been so busy running the business.

(18:47):
And both I run the business with my husband as well. So for anyone that’s listening, me and Caroline want to bring you on the journey. And so I feel like this is episode one, which is pre family, but we run the business together. We are life partners and business partners and we want a family. And so really excited to just sort of keep you guys along on the journey of what that looks like. And I’m sure I will listen to this episode back in a few years time and laugh and be like, what was I saying? But even that, I’ve spoken to you before around, I have a lot of imposter syndrome talking if I feel like I’m talking to parents because I’m not one myself. And that’s something that I’ve struggled with even with clients. I find it so hard to, I’ve done so much work in the maternity, paternity and shared parental leave space in the accounting industry for clients. We have a best in class service for people who are going on maternity leave or paternity leave as business owners. But even in those conversations, I’m not sure if anyone will relate to it, but pre parent, I really find a lot of, I feel like I can’t be listened to. I’m not a parent.

Caroline (19:59):
Oh my gosh, so much to touch on there. Firstly, you’re absolutely right on the fact that scaling a business and things like that can be lonely and going through all of that and you’ve found ways not to. And I was lonely in early parenthood, so when I started a business, I was like, I’m not going to be lonely. And I’ve made it my mission and I’ve never felt lonely as a business owner. And I think there’s such truths and parallels to draw from that. On the other side of it, you are absolutely right. No imposter here you are so right with that. But yes, there is so much to touch on that that’s why I wanted to talk. I think you recognising you’ve got a lot to learn, we’ve got a lot to learn. I feel like brings such a valid conversation. We should be having more of these conversations of I want to have children, I want to learn more.

(20:45):
I want to understand this. Am I getting this right? And us on the other side, not scaremongering, which I feel like can be a bit of a thing or being like, you’re not a parent, you don’t know, which for so many reasons we know is so wrong now. You never know someone’s journey with fertility, circumstance, just life, we’re living in a cost of living crisis. You just don’t know what people are dealing with. So you’d never say that, but I’ve witnessed people saying this, so people still say this, but that must be a thing. So from our side, it’s right. How can we be less patronising and be like, well, you are not a parent and from your side, which you are clearly doing, how can you be like, right, tell me what your needs are. How can we support you? And I think naturally as a service-based business owner, you’re in the privileged position. You would do that, wouldn’t you? So you’ve set up this business in mind for having children. Has this always been part of the conversation and do you mind me asking any questions you’re not comfortable with? Because from my side…

Rachel (21:50):
Nothings off limit.

Caroline (21:51):
…it’s not natural for me. It’s not natural for me to start talking to non-parents. These questions we know we shouldn’t unless we’re given permission and we’re good friends.

Rachel (22:00):
You have my implicit permission and you are my friend, so we’re fine.

(22:06):
So we’ve scaled very rapidly. It’s not normal, especially for service-based businesses, we, it’s worth saying, are entirely bootstrapped. We’ve never exchanged any equity. Its all self scaling. So I’ve gone from a standing start to 1.5 million pounds in four years. We’ve got 20 members of staff, two offices, one in Oxford, one in Manchester. That was, and I think sometimes people really underestimate the intentionality. And I think for me that’s something that if I become a parent, I would be so keen to talk about the fact that as a young woman, I was 26 when I became self-employed. And as a 26-year-old woman who had someone who I loved was engaged to planning to be married to, I knew I had two choices. I either had to scale the business past the point that I could remove myself from it, which is where I’m at now. And even that still feels sticky and hard and I dunno what that looks like. And I’m a content creator as well. What does that look like? There’s still so many questions.

Caroline (23:10):
Oh yeah. All the feels. And I’ve just done a podcast with someone who did that and imagine a lot of people look at you and make assumptions that you wouldn’t be intentional with everything you do when in fact you are.

Rachel (23:23):
Yeah. And so it was very much a, we either need to tick this along and turn it into a lifestyle business until we have children. And one of us just leads it probably my husband for 17,000 reasons, which are probably biassed. And then, or we need to scale it past the point of, I’m at the point now where I could turn my phone off for three months and the business would still grow without me.

Caroline (23:46):
Well done. And I’m saying that in a non patronising way. I’m like, how can I do that!

Rachel (23:51):
And this is the thing. So I do a lot of consulting with specifically female business owners who want to find a way to step out of the business when they have a baby or have a family. And very often a really strong part of that conversation is there are three types of business owners. There are business owners who can turn their phone off temporarily to go on holiday, but they come back with the same workload as they had before they were just off. There are business owners who can turn their phone off for two to four weeks and their business stay the same. It doesn’t get worse, but it doesn’t get better. And then there’s business owners who can turn their phone off for three months and their business still grow while they’re there. And that’s the goal for everyone. You want your business to grow, to grow while you are not in it because life happens.

(24:34):
The many reasons that we would do that, but those are the really three key models. And for us, that was the opportunity. And I think for me as someone who didn’t grow up in a family that was hugely privileged, my mom was a full-time parent. I knew from the second of being self-employed that I didn’t know what I’d want, and I don’t what I want until I become a parent for the first time. But I know that I want a choice. And for me, the ultimate form of privilege and the entire reason I became self-employed and worked hard to make a lot of money is to give myself choices. Because you can’t predict how you feel. You can’t predict what you want, but privilege to me is having a choice over what parenting looks like.

Caroline (25:13):
I love that. And it’s, you have gone down that route all in of like, I’m going to get my career to a certain stage so I have this choice. That’s where I think a lot of us thought we might get there, and then life happens and you get setbacks or your career path doesn’t go the right way. And it’s just incredible to kind of see that and kind of listen to it and be open about it. It is that, how can I give myself choice without delaying things too much or impacting things. Do you think you felt this together, you and James, do you think it would be very different if you were a man running your business right now from that perspective?

Rachel (25:53):
I have so many things to say. How long have you gone on this one? So there’s a couple of things that have been really interesting. So after I became an accountant, I did an MBA, which is a master’s in business, and it’s a super prestigious qualification to have. And I was so excited and I, at the end of my MBA had to present a business plan for a business that I had “imagined”. For anyone who’s listening, I’m doing inverted commas. I had imagined a business, I was scaling Strive X at the same time as doing my MBA. And so I did the business plan based on Strive X and I’d put in all of the plans to remove myself from the business for three years. And it was a shit hot business plan. I presented this business plan alongside five men who also presented business plans. I was the only person that was pulled up. Also I was the same age as everybody that was presenting alongside me.

Caroline (26:48):
No ageism.

Rachel (26:49):
I stood up and presented and I was the only person that was picked on by a panel of four judges for not having incorporated family planning into my business plan.

Caroline (26:57):
You were the only one who was picked on for that. No one else had included family planning?

Rachel (27:02):
No one else was challenged. No one was challenged. I’ve literally been at networking events where I was the only young female business owner, an older male business owner passed me his drink and said, I’ll have another one please. Because he thought I worked there and my outfit was great. I didn’t look like a waitress.

Caroline (27:19):
Not wearing all black or white and black!

Rachel (27:23):
And I say as well, me and James have parallel experiences of having grown the business together.

Caroline (27:28):
Exactly. You must have.

Rachel (27:29):
And at so many touch points, I get asked about what you can do when you have a family. You can take maternity leave. And every single time I say, oh, I’m not sure. Let me just ask my husband. You’re like, why is it different? And I know why it’s different.

(27:47):
But again, you have to have boundaries. Why is it acceptable? What if I burst out into tears and said I can’t have children? Why, ask people this stuff.

Caroline (27:56):
I feel like sometimes when people ask you awkward questions about having another or something, they’re kind of asking for the awkward response I just started to do when people were asking me about a third, I’d be like, well, my second almost died, so I’ve got to do some recovery trauma therapy on that. You’re asking me an awkward question, so I’m going to give you the realistic answer, but it’s so true. It’s either ask everyone of a certain age or ask no one kind of thing. And I do wonder what kind of people are asking you do you think? Sometimes it might be, it’s like the how do you do it question. So I feel like sometimes I’m being asked by other mothers who are literally like, how on earth do you do this? I need to know the secrets kind of thing. And so do you think sometimes it might be mothers who are not happy with where they are, might not have been happy with their maternity leave and be like, well, how are you going to do this?

Rachel (28:51):
I’d say, actually just hearing you say that out loud has made me realise that I think that’s where a lot of my fear of talking about wanting to be a parent comes from is there’s a split between it being very clumsy men asking the question.

Caroline (29:07):
Let’s leave the clumsy men.

Rachel (29:09):
Park them for a sec, clumsy men. And actually women who are parents are very often the people who are asking me those questions. I think that’s actually where a lot of my fear of talking about it has come from. And every single time we’ve spoken offline, I just have this huge desire to speak very openly about it as much as I feel comfortable doing so because so few people, I can’t go online, I can’t go on any mainstream media, not even content creation platforms like YouTube and really, really in depth watch the decision-making process that people go through as business owners that decide to become parents. And I want more of that. I want more of that to be in the world.

Caroline (29:52):
Definitely. And I feel like because we talk about it in retrospect here, and it is, I think the learnings are sometimes it goes bad, sometimes it goes good, sometimes it’s neutral. I’ve just come off a podcast recently from Siobhan at the Positive Birth Company who’s amazing. She’s had her business through four children, and there’s lots of different factors, things that happen. And I think it’s that control thing of, and I feel like it’s probably the most out of control place we can be in is about to start a family. And embracing that is the hardest thing to do for so many people, especially women who’ve been kind of conditioned to be a certain way in control of things.

Rachel (30:35):
I sometimes feel so scared for parent Rachel, because I am the most type A, organised, but anxious, organised, almost controlling.

Caroline (30:48):
High functioning anxiety. My husband diagnosed me with a few years back.

Rachel (30:51):
Yeah, yeah, that’s very much like my personality type.

Caroline (30:56):
It’s a wonderful change. I’m going to be on the positive side, lots of wonderful changes, but I think these conversations are so important to think about. It’s like you are doing it now and you are doing the sensible thing of preparing it, but not just that you are bringing a great service to parents for them to feel prepared and to listen to them and understand them from a service perspective. And do you think if we lived in a society where we did talk about this more, it could help parents in the workplace and as business owners?

Rachel (31:25):
A hundred percent. I saw something the other day that was a woman was on a Zoom call and it was a whole team Zoom call and a man was late to the meeting. There was 20 people on the call and man was late to the meeting and he came on, he took himself off video and off mute and was like, guys, I’ve just had a 12 week scan with my wife and we found out it’s twins. I’m so excited to tell you all that we’re having a baby. And obviously it was great and everyone celebrated, but this woman came off the call and just reflected so hard on the fact that if a woman came on a Zoom call before speaking to HR, before telling their direct line manager and before putting a maternity plan in place, went on a Zoom call and told 20 members of staff that they were having twins, HR would literally be like, what have you done?

Caroline (32:12):
It’s so true,

Rachel (32:13):
Isn’t it? That story lingered with me for days afterwards and I don’t think it’s an easy fix, but I think just having real open potentially uncomfortable conversations around why does it look a certain way? And even within my industry, there is a 50/50 male to female entry rate into the industry. Less than 7% of leadership positions are taken by women in accounting. And again, that is so much down to maternity, gender pay gap, gender wealth gap, all of these things are happening in the finance industry. And for there to be, because I get asked all the time, is there a gender split in the finance industry? Is it imbalanced? I have to say, well technically no at the start, but actually there’s a bigger problem here because what’s happening to everyone that comes out? And I’m there with a disproportionately, my husband is the only male manager at Strive X, everybody else is female. So yeah, there’s just so many things to be done, but I think a lot of it comes around very respectful, not clumsy, but sometimes uncomfortable conversations around what we’re doing about this.

Caroline (33:26):
That’s it. And holding companies accountable, you must know this as well, if you have a diverse leadership board as well, so more women on your board, you’re literally going to be a more profitable business I heard this morning. And so it literally makes financial sense as well as being the right thing to do. But that’s such an interesting point is I feel like we focus so much on, oh great 50/50 gender split, more women coming into finance. And this is the area that I like to talk about is that if you especially come from quite a privileged background, nice education or just a family that have really encouraged you, that you can do whatever you want as a woman, now be who you want to be, go off live on your own, get a job, and then we’re missing this key part of the education is what does that look like though when I become a mother? And so with your Strive X hat, how did you start supporting your clients from that perspective? I’d love to know just because it’s just so refreshing to hear an accountancy firm. So if I became self-employed, I need to take maternity leave, help me.

Rachel (34:24):
Alright, cool. So the service line was built from a problem, which I feel like most businesses get started because either someone’s pissed off or there’s a problem. But this service line and this sort of unique part of the business that we’ve built came from a problem, which is that a client came to me and it was a client that has been with us from dining room table vibes. And she said, I’m pregnant. I was like, cool, why are you talking to me? And I think there’s a really big misconception between accountants, HR advisors and people’s legal teams of whose responsibility it is to tackle maternity pay, paternity pay and shared parental leave in self-employed land. And I felt quite like, well, this isn’t a me thing. If this was a me thing, I would’ve been taught about it in my exams. And at no point during the many exams I sat, nobody spoke to me about shared parental leave period.

(35:19):
So I was really like, cool. So what are we doing? Who do you need to speak to? And she was like, well, I’ve kind of looked online and it looks like there’s no one to speak to. It looks like there’s just this online calculator. I just fill in the dates of my pregnancy and that’s it. And we’d built a really good relationship and I sort of knew her well enough to say, I really feel like I’m letting you down. I think there’s a huge gap here between HR advice, accounting advice, business planning, and the legal side of what you’re entitled to. And I think we need to work together to build something that sits in the middle of all of it. Again, we knew each other very well, so I knew very early on in her pregnancy that she was pregnant and I said, can we just go away.

(36:07):
If you’re happy to be a bit of a guinea pig, let me go away and work out what your options are and we can just work together. And that was three years ago. And since then we now have a maternity contingency planning team. We have a maternity strategy business plan template, and so we now have the solid process where if a client comes to us and tells us that they’re pregnant, they have lots of on-demand resources that they can consume in their own time, in their own headspace with a partner, on their own. They can watch it as many times as they want and then they can choose how they deal with it next. Some people really like to just consume the information that we’ve got on demand and make their own decisions and just come to us and say, Hey, I’m going to be taking maternity pay, can we just chat about payroll? Other people are like, okay, I’ve looked at all of the options. I want enhanced maternity pay. How can we work at pulling together a business plan? That means I can take enhanced maternity pay at a good rate, reclaim lots of it from HMRC and get my business to the point where I’m earning passive income. I want to sort of have some consulting sessions to build passive elements into my business, so I can do that too.

Caroline (37:11):
Do you have to be director? So forgive me, just so if I ask you this question, is someone taking enhanced maternity pay, do you need to be a director of your own company or can you be self-employed to go down those routes?

Rachel (37:24):
Good question. So if you are self-employed, you’ve got maternity allowance. Yeah, but I’ll come back to that. As a limited company, you’ve got maternity allowance if you’re not eligible for maternity pay. And then you also have enhanced maternity pay. So if you are a director of a limited company, we’ve got three options, enhanced maternity pay, maternity pay, and maternity allowance. As a sole trader, we’ve got maternity allowance, but we can still do a lot of the business planning. So as a sole trader, you can claim maternity allowance, but people very often forget that on top of maternity allowance you can still pay yourself all of the profits from your trade. And so again, doing things like building passive income streams, it’s just the way that you’re paying yourself is different over here versus as a limited company, but as a sole trader in terms of support from HMRC, it’s going to be maternity allowance, but we can still do lots of very serious maternity contingency business planning to build passive income streams.

(38:17):
And I’ve literally worked with, someone once came to me and I was like, oh boy, this is a head scratcher. She came on the call and on the call told me, I’m pregnant, I’m a watercolour artist and I want to turn my business into passive income. She’d paid for an hour of my time and at the end of the 60 minutes, she had three different products available to sell completely passively that we basically turned into watercolour tutorials delivered by Amazon where they buy a package from her that automatically buys things from an Amazon list, she gets affiliate Amazon revenue from them buying those products, and they get a downloadable video of her doing step-by-step tutorial, teaching them how to paint. And so it’s completely passive. She’s not even responsible for the delivery. That’s all Amazon. She’s monetised the delivery of the product, she’s monetised the videos, she can build up a mailing list, she’s got recurring revenue. I just absolutely love that side of the business. If I’ve said high level consulting, that’s what I mean. People literally just book time, come with a problem and I’m like, well, we’ve got an hour to work out. Let’s see what we can do.

(39:33):
That’s one of my favourite examples because she was literally devastated. She’d become self-employed after having two children, and it was a surprise third child, so she literally was quite upset.

Caroline (39:48):
Oh, bless her.

Rachel (39:49):
And it’s just the most profound, impactful piece of work that you can do. But it’s my favourite example because it’s a very hands-on job. She’s a watercolour artist and literally up to that point in the business had only ever exchanged her time for money doing bespoke commissions, and we managed to turn it into this completely on demand product that was actually going to fuel her maternity leave.

Caroline (40:11):
I love this. You literally hear so many self-employed people saying, oh, but it’s me, that people only buy from me. And it’s kind of like you’ve just got to be creative and it’s not easy. You’ve got to put in the time and the work, but there will be a way to manage this or support this definitely. Oh, excellent. And so with the limited company, did you say, so there are three other ways you can do it?

Rachel (40:34):
Yeah, so in the limited company, you have to be eligible in order to get maternity pay. So if you’re not eligible for maternity pay, it’s maternity allowance. Common misconception is that one is higher or lower than the other, then not. They’re absolutely the same amount of money. The only difference is how we process it. So we’ve got maternity pay, maternity allowance, or enhanced maternity pay. With enhanced maternity pay we need to have business planning, we need a business plan. We need to be able to prove to HMRC why you are eligible to claim enhanced maternity pay because we can reclaim a lot of that maternity pay from HMRC and within there as well, we’ve also incorporated a hands-free payroll filing service, which is where we can agree in advance for a fixed term, normally between nine and 12 months for maternity leave, a fixed term where you sign off and agree your maternity plan and we process payroll without you, you just get pay slip every single month and we can do that. And an extra layer over and above that as well is if you are an employer or you need to pay yourself maternity pay, but you’re actually quite short on cash, you can apply for an advanced payment of maternity into your bank account so you get paid before you have to pay either yourself or a member of staff for maternity pay as well.

Caroline (41:40):
That’s so valuable. I feel like you should be teaching this across the country. We’re going to wrap up soon, but is one of your fears. Have you ever seen the fact that people, I just read a statistic, it’s like something like Careers After Babies, 50% of other people perceive mothers as not ambitious or don’t care about their careers. Have you ever experienced this with the people you work with and their concerns or even yourself?

Rachel (42:06):
Yeah, I’d say it’s one of my biggest fears, like genuinely I, and I’ve actually really toyed with not telling people that I was pregnant and not telling people that I’d become a parent for literally that exact reason. I think as a young woman, specifically in the finance industry, I’ve worked so hard to not just be taken seriously, but for people to be like, oh shit, this is really, you’re doing great things and I feel like I’ve pushed that boulder up a hill and now it’s just going to get steeper. My career is in some way going to come to an end or the speaking gigs will dry up, the TV opportunities will go away. It’s a huge fear of mine and I think the fact that I feel like I should be hiding it is part of the problem and it’s why I never would.

(42:53):
I think a lot of my community online, a lot of people that follow me online, it’s very personal and very open. I’m not like a cold, hard finance platform. It’s me and I would feel like I was lying to people. And I think the fact that I feel it, it’s like talking about money. The fact that you think you shouldn’t talk about money is part of the problem and the only way to make it better for anyone is to talk about money. It’s exactly the same thing with being a parent. I think we all just need to have better conversations and even for me, that’s really fed into the way that I operate as an employer. We employ lots of people who are parents and just from a cultural perspective, but also very practical perspective, making sure that you as a workplace as an employer is built for parents and we have employees who without the flexible working that we offer would have to work part-time and they work full-time.

Caroline (43:42):
Thank you for being so honest there about your fears for it and on the other side of it, how we’ve talked about you, how you help us, how as mothers and business owners can we help you in these conversations and to feel more secure going into that?

Rachel (43:59):
Oh, that’s a good question. Yeah, I guess I meant what I said earlier, and I think a lot of that fear comes from what can sometimes feel like quite loaded questions. And I think sometimes it’s a spiral, right? If I say one thing and get a loaded question back, the next thing that I say, I could get a genuine question back, but it feels loaded. I feel defensive and I think, yeah, just super honest, open, transparent conversations. Like you said, sometimes it can feel not patronising, but like you wouldn’t understand.

Caroline (44:31):
Yeah, yeah.

Rachel (44:32):
There’s sometimes definitely a tone of that specifically on the internet. There’s a tone of that.

Caroline (44:37):
I think that’s it. It’s the internet harshness, so you’ve probably got some real tired mom at 3:00 AM go God’s sakes. Well just you wait. I know. It’s like, no, we need less of that. Go send that to your friends who are doing it as well, and let’s all be supportive in this. On that note, Rachel, honestly thank you so much. I don’t know pre parenthood if I would’ve done this. I definitely was very defensive about talking about this sort of stuff and had my wrong point of views, and it’s so lovely to meet someone so open and just really wants to hear each other out. And thank you so much, Rachel. Where can people find you, especially if they’re planning for maternity leave and need your help?

Rachel (45:23):
Of course. Yeah, I would absolutely love to hear from you. Thank you so much for spending so much time with us today. So I create content across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and you can find me everywhere that you consume content at accountant_she.

Caroline (45:38):
Amazing. Well, Rachel, I’m looking forward to welcoming you back and talking about the next stage of your journey when you get there.

Rachel (45:44):
Very excited. Thank you so much for having me.

Caroline (45:46):
Thank you.

Outro

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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