Ahead of the Accounting Excellence Awards in September, we're interviewing the ICB members who have been nominated, to see what makes them tick and unlock some of their secrets to a successful bookkeeping practice.

Today we’re interviewing Helen Bower MICB PM.Dip, owner of Adder Bookkeeping based in Worcestershire. Helen is nominated for the Bookkeeping Team of the Year category of this year’s awards.

How did you come to be a bookkeeper? 

Accidentally! When my husband set up his own business and I ‘had a go’ at doing his books.  I realised not only did it suit my personality, but would be a perfect ‘fit-around-being-a-mum’ job, which I did as a sole trader for 10 years.

What makes your practice special?

We have a strong branding and personality. We are known for friendliness and a lot of humour, making things as fun and interesting as we can.  We have showcased this through our website, social media and through my networking at local business clubs. 

Staff wellbeing is also really central to my practice. We have a lot of friendly banter, lots of in jokes.  We all love being together and coming to work (at least that’s what they tell me!)  Twice a day we have ‘Monkey Business Time’ when my team can ask me questions and we also stop at these times to dance, move and stretch to music away from our screens for five minutes.   My team also get a one to one ‘Monthly Monkey Business’ with me.  This has reduced interruptions within the working day and focused us more. We are now introducing the same for clients in a monthly ‘Cobra Call’.

Helen Bower MICB PM.DipHow has your practice grown over the last year?

In the last financial year, we have added a new team member and increased two employees’ hours to full time. 

The numbers also look pretty good, and last year, turnover increased by 40% on the previous one and our number of clients increased by 23% too.

We have relocated for the third time in five years to bigger premises.

How do you feel about being shortlisted in the Accounting Excellence Awards?

I’m thrilled to bits! It is so important in life to be appreciated, valued and praised, so any form of recognition is always a gift.

What’s your proudest moment as a bookkeeper?

My proudest moment as a bookkeeper was undoubtedly being a speaker at the ICB Inspire Tour 2021 (even though this was on Zoom due to the pandemic). It’s a pretty scary thing to speak in front of people, even if you can’t see them, and I didn’t do a bad job, even though I say so myself!

How has ICB supported you as a bookkeeper and business owner?

I absolutely would not be where I am without ICB. When I decided to become a professional bookkeeper, the first thing I did was look for an Institute to join. I have been attending tours and conferences since 2006, which have been vital for my professional development.

It’s also so lovely to feel part of a family and a profession, where friendships develop over the years and it’s like coming home.

What’s your advice to other bookkeepers looking to grow/ start up their businesses?

I could talk about this for hours! In fact, I was recently recorded talking about this on the business podcast, ScaleUp Radio. 

My tips for a successful business are:

  1. Value yourself – Do not discount/work for nothing/stress about difficult people.  Be paid what you are worth and don’t work with ‘not very nice people’.  Pick and choose your clients!
  2. Branding – Aim to build a recognizable, memorable brand and maintain a market presence
  3. Teamwork- Employ the right people and don’t just take on someone because you are too busy
  4. Systems – As you expand you can’t hold everything in your own head.  You have to be able to trust your team.  Let systems run your business and your team run systems.
  5. Have a sense of humour – I think if you asked any of my clients or team what stands out about me, it’s my sense of humour and fun.

ICB is committed to supporting its members in applying for awards and recognition, and will continue to communicate these opportunities. For more on this year’s Accounting Excellence nominees, please visit the awards website here, and don’t forget to book your table for the star-studded awards ceremony on 8 September at London’s exclusive Tobacco Dock.

You can now nominate yourself for ICB's own LUCA Awards which are presented as part of the Bookkeepers Summit on 7 November. For more information please click here.