Mike’s Reflection Point

If someone had told me 5 years ago, as I prepared to launch Fabulous Group, that by its fifth anniversary, over 20% of its lifespan would have been spent in a period of national lockdown and restrictions I would have thought they were crazy!

And yet as I sit here reflecting on those 5 years, it’s hard to think beyond the last 12 months to the four years prior we had spent building the business.

Fabulous Group – the early days

2016, a time where we tentatively started with a small team delivering financial management services; preparing management accounts, budgets, forecasts and management information for SME’s.

As this developed, we struck up partnerships with other firms who could complement our services and provide our clients with additional accountancy & tax, HR and marketing solutions. This was essentially the start of the framework of the group becoming a one-stop business & financial solution for SME’s.

Two years in and we were well on the road to taking some of these services in-house, having launched Fabulous Marketing whilst at the same time expanding the scope of our financial management services to incorporate our own ability to provide accountancy & tax services.

By now, the team had rapidly expanded, having more than doubled in size, it was apparent we were outgrowing our original office space, and it was time to find somewhere of our own. A beautiful building in the heart of Market Harborough town centre that we could call home.  

18 months later this culminated in the acquisition of another accountancy practice, one with which we had worked in partnership with for the previous 3 years and the owner of which I go back nearly 25 years with.

The excitement of bringing these two businesses together was incredible and a significant milestone for us. Plans were drawn up for the integration of the two businesses; the bringing together of the teams, the rebranding into one, the selection of best practice systems and operations but most importantly the communication and meeting with our newly combined client base. We couldn’t wait to make new acquaintances and to share the vision for the development of the business and the positives this would deliver for them in having access to a wider range of services, expertise and experience.

That was in January 2020…

News of a National Lockdown

As with most businesses what has followed since has resulted in plans at best being revamped and, in most cases, thrown out the window and completely redrawn. In a lot of cases plans are now reviewed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in line with the latest government restrictions in place.

We were and are no different. Most notably, it was immediately apparent that plans to get out and introduce ourselves to our new client base weren’t going to happen and we’d have to find virtual and digital means to make and maintain contact.

It was also quickly apparent that our strategy and plans for the two arms of the business, Fabulous Marketing and Fabulous Financial & Accountancy, had to be focused separately and succinctly.

Fabulous Marketing in Lockdown

For our marketing business this meant a rapid response to the loss of nearly all of our income as clients were forced to close or significantly retract. Initially, we had to adapt to having a skeleton staff, working flexibly to support the limited work we had. However, within 3 months it became apparent that the restoration of this area of the business was going to be a slow and tough process amidst a backdrop of a changing arena where marketing services were becoming increasingly freelance driven.

Tough decisions were needed, and supported by an incredible team, were subsequently made resulting in the heart wrenching outcome to close down the marketing agency division of the group.

This decision was made not only in the best interests of the company but of the team involved, to ensure they stood the best possible chance to continue their careers positively and with purpose.

Thankfully every member of that team has gone on to other successful ventures.

Fabulous Financial & Accountancy in Lockdown

For our Accountancy & Finance business this meant continually adaptating in response to clients being closed, then open then closed again whilst adjusting to having to work from home, then back at the office then at home in line with government guidance.

We’ve had to adapt to providing different services in support of Covid measures; grant applications, loan applications and something we’d rarely heard of before, furlough, yet here we are one year later supporting furlough claims as part of our payroll service every month.

We remain proud that we’ve been able to absorb these new and additional services without passing the cost on to our clients, whilst continuing to ensure that the delivery of our core service has been maintained.

This has been achieved against a backdrop where we, like so many, have had to be flexible and cope with reduced access to resources as a result of restrictions and personal circumstances.

Overcoming the challenges of a National Lockdown

Probably our biggest challenge was how to communicate with and meet our newly merged client base, all of whom were themselves in different situations, some open, some reduced, some closed entirely.

There has been so much information we’ve had to digest and disseminate quickly and succinctly not only about evolving Covid measures and support for business but also about the changes we were making in our own business as a result of the merger, not to mention the small matter of a Budget announcement last month.

Again, like many, the way we communicate has probably been one of the biggest changes we have had to make, and although we can’t wait to resume business face to face we have made some positive changes that are likely here to stay.

The introduction of client video meetings, routinely for those where we provide a regular monthly service and on request for those we work with less frequently.

Immediate, regular and consistent email and social media posts regarding key information that our clients need to know as it happens.

The launch of Fab5, our monthly newsletter encompassing key financial, tax and Covid support information along with contributions from partner businesses.

And more recently our monthly panel, Fab Forum, that allows clients to book in an appointment for a video meeting for any specific business related questions they may have be it financial, personal tax or general commercial advice

We know that in the last year it’s not been possible to do things in the way we’d have ideally chosen nor do as much as we’d have liked to have done, no area more so than the ability to have yet met so many of our clients from those we brought together at the start of 2020.

However, it’s vital that we look to what we have achieved and the progress we’ve made and can only hope that people will recognise us for that.

Looking ahead – Fabulous Group

Undoubtedly, in the 5-year evolution of the business things have changed and been enhanced as we have grown and adapted. The brand, the offices, the service offering, the operation, the team – all have developed.

Despite this, the backbone, culture, vision and values have stayed the same; one team working in partnership with our clients in the delivery of quality solutions that they deem valuable and are valued by them.

So for now, we’ll focus on our core, namely being a personal, professional firm focused on providing Financial, Accountancy & Advisory services for interesting and ambitious businesses.

However, we don’t like to sit on our hands for too long and we’re always looking at ways we can enhance the range of essential business services we provide to our clients; so watch this space…

Through our business, we are very fortunate to work with some fascinating businesses and amazing businesspeople and we look forward to getting back to seeing them in person and bringing them together for shared benefit.

After all, Fabulous has always been about you and the partnership we can bring with us and others!

I am also tremendously proud of the team of people that we have brought together; their credentials, qualifications, experience and expertise give our clients access to top quality resources in financial management, accountancy, tax, and corporate & business development.

However, most importantly is their spirit in working together in a professional yet relaxed and fun way that goes to the heart of what makes our business uniquely us.

So, in summary my biggest take out from the last year is probably this; regardless of whether times are tough or good, never stop reviewing your business, always be prepared to make tough decisions in the best interests of everyone involved, see every change of plan as a step forward and always look for the positive in every situation as this usually results in the best outcomes for all.

A big Thank You

All it leaves me to say is a huge thank you to the team here at Fabulous Group who have stayed positive throughout, working flexibly to remain focused on the support to our clients. I know we are all looking forward to getting back together and to a more consistent working basis.

And, it goes without saying, a huge thank you to our clients for their continued support and for staying positive with us, allowing us to continue to support them in a flexible manner. We hope that the support we’ve provided has played some small part in keeping them standing and in a position to recover their businesses over the coming months. We look forward to continuing our relationship with you and helping in the restoration and development of your business in the years ahead.

Up next…

Over the coming weeks we will be picking back up the plans we were forced to park at the start of 2020 and bringing them to fruition. Look out for some changes, mainly with regard to the two businesses coming together…