There was a time when your accountant would be there to fix a tax or financial problem for you when you needed it. But nowadays, they’re capable of doing that plus a whole lot more. “The world has changed,” says David Hillan, tax partner at Grant Thornton. “Back in the day a company would use us if they had an accounting or tax issue and we’d help sort it out – but we’ve moved into the realm of being trusted advisors, almost like an agony aunt.”
Aside from dealing with the often-confusing world of tax and accounting, Grant Thornton can provide a range of other services aside from its traditional remit. “Firms will often get in touch if they want to expand overseas and ask how they do it,” says Hillan. “We’re a big global firm – we have offices all over the world – so I would put them in touch with the Grant Thornton office in that territory so you can have a conversation with someone who has expertise in what it’s like doing business in that country. For instance, in countries where the bureaucracy and red tape can be difficult to get your head around.”
Grant Thornton’s customer base is what Hillan describes as the “mid-market” – but its main priority is to work with companies who have bigger plans. “Our client base sits between £10m to £300-£400m annual turnover – but the key thing we look at when we’re looking to work with a business is their growth aspirations.”
Getting finance or investment is usually an important factor in planning for growth, and that’s another thing which Grant Thornton could potentially assist with. The firm is adept in helping companies get access to finance – be it from a bank, angel investors or a grant – the latter of which can often be tricky. “The world of grants can be difficult to navigate. A lot of businesses might not know what’s available from universities too. Businesses can have great ideas but might not know about funding and support that’s available to them and we can help with that,” says Hillan. "We also have a team of highly qualified technical specialist in place to help tech businesses to maximise the benefit they can receive through Innovation tax reliefs and patent box applications."
Grant Thornton can also help when it comes to potentially selling your business. “Whenever we meet a business we ask what are your ambitions, where do you want to get to. If in say in three or four years’ times you’d want to sell, we take a look at the business and point out areas potential buyers might be concerned about,” adds Hillan.
For Hillan, it’s the personal approach which Grant Thornton can offer which separates it from other advisors. “I think the difference with Grant Thornton is we’re very personable – we’ll spend a lot of time with clients, many of which we meet with on a quarterly basis. We don’t charge clients for these meetings – there’s a myth that seeing an accountant is like getting into a taxi and you pay what’s on the meter. A lot of the time clients like a sounding board, and I’ve yet to find a business with a problem we can’t help with.”