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How to start, grow and successfully exit a business

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 05 May 2022

ICAEW webinar series offers a platform for entrepreneurs to share insight on successfully making the leap from employee to business owner.

To commemorate the launch of ICAEW’s new Small and Micro Business Community, the Institute is to host a series of webinars – ‘Top tips for Small Businesses’ – aimed at finance professionals already working in or with aspirations to work in small businesses. The events are free to members and non-members and the first will take place on 12 May 2022.

The events will be produced in collaboration with insurance company Marsh Commercial and hosted by ICAEW’s Head of Business, Simon Gray. No stranger to capitalising on opportunities in uncertain times, Gray started his recruitment business Cherry Professional during the financial crisis back in 2008. He believes that events like these are essential for finance professionals looking to start their own business. 

“The pandemic gave people an opportunity to reflect and consider the possibility of starting a business,” says Gray. “I’m excited to chair this session where the panel will share their experience and provide practical advice on what it really takes to start and run a small business.”

The panel of entrepreneurs

In the first webinar, Gray will host a panel of successful entrepreneurs with a finance background who went on to found their own companies:

Laura Beales, Co-Founder at Tally Workspace

Beales qualified as an ACA at KPMG, where she worked in audit and management consultancy. Her first start-up role was at The Accountancy Cloud where she managed a portfolio of over 200 tech start-ups acting as their outsourced accountancy team. Her first in-house role was as Head of Finance at Healthcare Marketplace Florence supporting their £5m Series A fundraise.

Beales said: “I have seen many businesses that may not have failed in the way they did had they understood basic accounting concepts, or at least had proper support. Many business owners underestimate the importance of finance until too late.”

Her company Tally Workspace provides organisations with a one-stop solution for workspace – whether that is full-time offices, meeting rooms, event spaces or hot desks. Since its launch in 2020, Tally Workspace has grown rapidly and now has more than 1,500 workspaces available to book. Last year it was ranked by Startups.co.uk as one of the top 100 Start-ups for 2021.

She added: “The way we work has fundamentally shifted but the way that workspace has provided hasn't. I saw an opportunity to challenge that.”

Raj Thiruchelvarajah, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Hytro

Chartered accountant Thiruchelvarajah worked across the financial services sector, both in industry and as a management consultant for 15 years. With degrees from the University of Southampton and University of Warwick, his career in the City of London spanned roles at PwC, Barclays, Bank of England, PA Consulting and Bank of New York Mellon, among others.

“Audit and accounting are underrated as professions,” says Thiruchelvarajah. “They are a great stepping stone to other things. Alongside the financial aspects that you learn, there are the soft skills, the development of the ability to rapidly understand new businesses, analytical skills, commercial awareness, teamwork and much, much more.”

He combined his business skills and entrepreneurial spirit with his passion for health and fitness by joining his first start-up Goal Master as its CEO in 2018. Raj subsequently co-founded Hytro and leads the day-to-day activities of the company in his role as CEO.

In the webinar Thiruchelvarajah will explain how in business ‘pivoting the norm’, meaning that the idea entrepreneurs start with will almost certainly change to something else, is essential to remain agile.

“Learn to live with imperfect information,” Thiruchelvarajah adds. “There is no magic formula that successful start-up founders know. You need to make the best decisions you can with the information you have to hand and there is almost always an element of a leap of faith as a result of imperfect information.”

Liz Norris, Solicitor, Marsh Commercial

Also on the panel is Norris, a solicitor who heads up the financial lines claims team at Marsh Commercial. She has nearly 20 years’ experience of supporting professionals in defending claims across cyber, professional indemnity and D&O insurance policies.

On the panel, Norris will be looking at some of the risks that can be transferred and mitigated when starting a business.

The series continues…

This is the first in the series of three events, all supported by Marsh Commercial. Panellists on the second webinar will share their expertise in growing a business, while the third in the series will offer tips on exit strategy and advice from the coalface about selling a business.

These next events are scheduled for September and November respectively. Further details will be published in due course.

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