Indie Oxford Interview: Ridgefield Consulting
Today on the blog we talk to Simon Thomas, co-founder of independent chartered accountants and business advisors, Ridgefield Consulting, on how they actively support independent businesses in Oxfordshire to help them flourish and grow.
Tell me about your business & how it came about.
My father is an accountant, and I trained at EY in London, but I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I didn’t like bureaucracy and wanted to make my own rules, do things my own way, and try out my own ideas, so you could say that I’m much more interested in business than I am in accounting. I started as many others do, at home, but the drive to grow bigger meant I ended up buying businesses from retired accountants and after my third acquisition I moved the firm into an office. Since then I have been focusing on growing organically, building our reputation through referrals and winning new clients purely on our own merit.
We truly want to support our clients to help them grow, because we understand that it means we grow alongside with them.
Why do you feel it is important to maintain family values as part of the company ethos?
It’s not so much that I feel it’s important, but that it just comes naturally. Our family are very close, so much so that mum and dad are in the office daily, and my sister, Helen, is in at least once a week. Family values just feed into the business, and you can see it in the rest of the team who work fantastically together. It also allows us to provide a stand-out service. Our relationships with our clients are built on integrity and collaboration. We truly want to support our clients to help them grow, because we understand that it means we grow alongside with them.
What qualifications and expertise led you to specialising in both accountancy & business advice?
I’m both ACCA and ICAEW qualified which means I’m a Chartered and a Chartered Certified accountant. It’s actually very important that people understand that anyone can call themselves an accountant without having to take any exams or be qualified with an official body. By choosing a Chartered Accountant, you are guaranteed that the person has completed the most advanced learning and professional development programmes available. We are held to a much higher standard and continue ongoing development courses which ensure that we are up to date with the latest changes in legislation. Everyone in the team is either qualified or finalists with reputable professional bodies.
How do you keep up to date with changes and innovations in your industry?
As mentioned, in order to maintain my Chartered status, I am required to continue with regular development courses. In addition to that, I am an active member of PRAG – Pensions Research Accountants’ Group – which is an independent research and discussion group for the development of the Pensions’ field. More importantly however, I’d say that my own keen interest in technology, start-ups, and business, allows me to draw from innovation in other industries. I like to think that Ridgefield Consulting is forward thinking, adaptive and agile to new innovation and trends, and that we’re different from other firms as a result of that attitude.
We really see the value in Independent Oxford and want to support more local independent businesses by offering our own services
Have you worked with any independent businesses in Oxford?
We ACTIVELY work with independent businesses in Oxford. We really relate to them, their aspirations, and their struggles, being an independent business ourselves. We genuinely enjoy working with and supporting our local community. We work with businesses of all sizes, from large established companies such as the Mogford Group, to newer ventures such as TAP Social Movement and The Jericho Cheese Company. We really see the value in Independent Oxford and want to support more local independent businesses by offering our own services, and giving them peace of mind that we’re trusted professional service providers.
Do you have any tips for start-up businesses?
Really do your homework. Know your market, know your niche, know your numbers. Create a strong business plan and make sure you regularly review where you are tracking against targets. Whether it’s pitching to investors, clients or customers, or even potential partners, this is the nitty gritty that wins buy-in. Being able to quickly adapt when the numbers show you are falling short, or to be able to spot opportunities where there’s scope for growth is also a key skill to learn and master. Of course, as accountants, we are readily available to help clients with just this sort of thing.
What advice do you have to help independent businesses reduce their tax bill?
Use an accountant! Tax is an incredibly vast and complex field. As experts, we really draw upon our wealth of experience in order to give the best possible advice. Every business is different so there is no secret formula. We look at all the details and use our extensive knowledge to devise the best tax strategy to help make a business more profitable. For general advice you can access our Free Advice page on our website, and more specifically our article: “5 ways to reduce your tax return bill”. Other tactics to bear in mind include: how you structure your company and whether it would be more worthwhile to operate as a sole trader, limited company, VAT registered or non-VAT registered etc.
Do you have any tips on GDPR compliance for independent businesses?
Take it seriously. Get it done. We’ve had to battle the challenges of GDPR too, but whilst completing our data audit we found that, once you just get on with it, you see that it’s quite a worthwhile exercise which will end up improving the overall running of your business. We now recognise it’s an opportunity to improve our standards and quality. It’s important that clients trust us to keep their sensitive information safe so GDPR actually allows us to give them concrete confidence.
What exciting new projects and events are you working on this year?
Last year we brought in an in-house marketing manager, Kizzy. Since then we’ve really seen growth from just some basic fundamental changes that she’s implemented. This year, we’re looking to do even more. We’re working with some local independent agencies to improve our user experience on our website, our branding, and even create our own app. We strongly believe that this is going to set us apart from the rest of the competition. There’s only so much that you can compete on when it comes to doing the work, but where we can really stand out above the rest is the experience our clients get when they work with us. As for events, we’re looking forward to Business in Oxford in May and Venturefest in October.
Lastly, which are your favourite Oxford independents?
Well, in the interest of not being biased, I won’t choose any of our clients – however we do frequent their businesses in a show of support, and would also readily recommend them to people we meet. I do enjoy The Perch. My wife and I are keen walkers, so a long stroll through Port Meadow with a well-earned pint sounds ideal to me. Shame they don’t show the football there though!
Simon’s passion for independent businesses is clear, and the services they offer at Ridgefield Consulting are a testament to that. We are grateful for their support here at Independent Oxford.
If you would like to arrange a meeting with Simon, or one of his team, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love, Rosie xxx