For many of us, the idea of a meeting with our accountant is up there on the list of necessary evils. It’s also arguably one of a few situations – along with a doctor’s prescription – where we often have little idea of what’s been written on the pages in front of us, but we sign the documents and pay our money anyway.
Kathryn Halfpenny knows only too well the fear that accountants can strike into even the hardest business heart and is determined to change the way we look at her profession.
To begin with, the lady herself is completely approachable, with a big smile and gentle manner. She’s just moved into new offices at Wynyard Business Park and has taken on her first employee, Gillian, who she is investing in and encouraging to do the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification.
Most importantly though, she is offering – along with the usual book keeping, payroll and self-assessment services – a guarantee that she will explain, in layman’s terms, exactly what’s happening with your finances in terms of tax, and how best to handle them.
Maybe Kathryn’s down-to-earth manner has something to do with the fact that she actually wanted to join the police or fire service, not become an accountant. “I even did a pre-uniform course,” she laughs. “But it never worked out so I got an apprenticeship doing admin and some finance at Lionweld Kennedy.”
Within three months Kathryn had proved herself an unlikely yet extremely talented lady with figures. “The finance director approached me and said ‘Would you not want to do a finance course? I’ve had a look and the AAT starts tonight’. So that was that. I started that very night and haven’t looked back.”
The journey to branching out on her own started in 2017 when Kathryn was made redundant from her role as finance manager with Arriva – a position she’d worked her way up to over a decade with the company. “I loved that job – and when you’ve been somewhere for ten years, it’s scary to leave. I’d gained my ACCA qualification in 2014 and when I knew I was leaving Arriva I decided to apply for my practising certificate, which I gained just before the position ended.”
Kathryn soon started picking up clients, as well as working for the charity Eleven Arches in Bishop Auckland. A stint with a large corporate company reinforced the fact that she was much more comfortable in a smaller set up with a more personal and hands on approach. “My whole work ethos is to be a more approachable, more friendly accountant. I want to be a trusted business partner to my clients; someone who is always there at the end of a phone.”
Mike Racz has been a constant source of support for Kathryn as her company grows. Having worked for Racz Group as financial controller, she still consults for them today. “Mike gave me so much confidence, as did those who run the Natwest Entrepreneur Scheme, who have a hub in Newcastle and who gave me one-to-one mentoring which has started me thinking how I can expand the company and employ more people.”
Meantime, with tax return season upon us, it’s a good time to book in to see Kathryn. “When it comes to finance, even brilliant people sometimes look terrified, but I promise to make things easier and more understandable,” she smiles.
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