Interview with an FD; Richard Barnes

December 17th 2014 | Posted by phil scott

Richard BarnesRichard Barnes
Director, Studholme Bell

How did you get where you are today?

I left college just as they were bringing in university fees. I knew I wanted a career in accountancy, and I knew my options were to pay for a degree or go out and work and get my AAT. I thought the latter would put me in a much better position – I’d have lots of experience and no student debt.

I was lucky enough to find myself at BDO Stoy Hayward in Blackpool. Because of its size and location, I think I got access to lots of opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I had been at BDO in Manchester or Leeds.

It was a bit of a shock, because it wasn’t the most technologically advanced era. I had seen P+L tables at college but when I got into the workplace I was handed huge A3 analysis pads. But I always enjoyed the numbers and seeing how things came together.

I rose up through the ranks, starting at the bottom as an office junior and taking on more roles as I went, but at a firm like BDO they train you for a specialism and I wanted to broaden my range. I went to work for Abrams Ashton so that I could get more from my qualifications and begin doing tax work. I  spent seven years there but didn’t think that I would be able to make director level, and so I joined Studholme Bell in December 2012.

What does your job entail?

We are quite a young firm, and I really enjoy having some input, rather than working for a more established firm where you have to do things they way they have always been done.

The role is really varied. It’s an FD’s role, but we oversee 440 tax returns, catering for everything from small contractors to multimillion pound audit clients – and they all deserve your time. There’s a lot of variety and that’s the best bit about my work.

There are 15 of us, seven working on accounts, which I oversee. We are quite a big firm in terms of client base, but we want to continue improving the business and pro-actively seeking growth.

What makes a great FD?

Communication skills. I work with a lot of different clients, and some are very successful at doing their job but aren’t necessarily comfortable with numbers. You can produce a report that’s pages and pages long, and they will skip straight to the back two to see how much money they made and, more importantly, what their tax bill is.

I have to be able to give business owners peace of mind, explain why the profit is what it is, why the tax bill is what it is and what we have done to mitigate it within everything that tax law allows. You need to be able to explain things as clearly as possible to somebody who may be bamboozled by finances.

You also need a strong personality, as people don’t always want to hear what you have to say. Somebody might think they are having a great year but then it’s my job to impress upon them that they have a massive bank overdraft or they owe a lot of creditors and that things do need to change.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

I have two daughters, aged six and four, and I love spending time with them. I especially like taking them down to the rugby in Wigan with my dad, where we are all big fans and season ticket holders.

You spend five days a week at work, so it’s important to make the most of your family time at home. I really enjoy seeing my daughter’s face light up when she finds out I’m the organiser of the school’s summer sausage sizzler.

I have also taken up running and recently completed a 10km. I run three times a week, and have found you can get a lot of thinking done over five miles.

Who or what inspires you?

My mum and dad run their own business and it was through them that I first got an interest in learning how things work. They inspired me to make it as far as I can in finance so that I could affect the way my company works, rather than just do a job and earn a wage. They have worked very hard to get to where they are, and and I have tried to follow that approach.

The fact that I help businesses grow and develop is also very rewarding. You get very close and involved with businesses, you get to share in their success and you’re the first one to know when things are going badly.