Entrepreneur Friday – Claire Black
Time for another Entrepreneur Friday where we interview fabulous business owners. This week we have Claire Black from Black Cat Accounts.
Tell us a bit about your business and your inspiration behind it
Black Cat accounts specialise in supporting solopreneurs with their accounts, from software to self-assessment, via bookkeeping and management accounts. We demystify the numbers and give clients the information they need to take to take control their business.
What inspired you to start it?
Being very honest, I needed flexibility, which my pre-children job just couldn’t offer. I knew that I wasn’t alone in my situation and there would be other parents out there feeling the same. I also knew that not everyone loves numbers, and could be put off starting their own business. Many high-street accountants were not what many first time self-employed needed or wanted, they wanted simple to understand, timely information to help them understand the impact their decisions have on their business.
What is your career background?
I started out at 16 working in Cinemas, selling tickets, before moving into accounts and cash office, and then management. After 12 years of very late nights, I joined the civil service as a business manager. After the birth of my twins I 2009, I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and go solo, I used previous qualifications to join the IAB (international association of bookkeepers) and the rest is history.
What is your vision for your business?
Our core values as a business are approachability, integrity, and professionalism. We want to be a friendly ear for our clients, Recent advances in accounting technology and software mean that everyone can have Real time accounts now, which is really exciting to us as a business. A one man band could change their business pricing model today and have the impact data tomorrow, it’s the kind of information that only large companies have previously had access to.
You’ve balanced being a successful business woman with raising a family. Any advice for other women?
Be realistic and define what your vision is – it’s easy to take every bit of work you can, but its important to stop and consider what you are doing on a regular basis, if a piece of work is going to be a nightmare to complete due to a lack of childcare, its OK to renegotiate deadlines or even say no. Define what success looks like to you, it may be having an over flowing diary, or having a fancy car, or it could be taking every Friday off to relax on your own, then stick to it.
How do you maintain a good work/life/family balance?
Setting your core business hours and communicating them to clients, my clients know I don’t work on the weekend or after 5pm. Buying a second phone just for work was also life changing, Friday evening I lock my phone in the office and don’t pick it up till Monday morning. I was constantly distracted by “just checking” emails, even if I didn’t reply, they would pray on my mind till they were dealt with.
What was your light bulb moment? When did you realise you wanted to be an entrepreneur/business owner?
When I realized that I had something to offer other people, it sounds strange, but I think when we excel at something, we presume others do too, and wouldn’t need our help
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Stay true to your objectives, if a piece of work doesn’t quite fit, or you don’t gel with a prospective client, walk away, its fine. Another door will open, and the work on the other side will be a much better fit.
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
How many small businesses there are out there, quietly working away building amazing businesses!
Who and what inspires you?
The amazing people I get to meet and work with, and how much I’ve learnt from them. Every single one of my clients has taught me something new about creating a successful business.
Do you have a daily routine or rituals you do?
I get up at 6am, I don’t work, it’s my quiet time to potter around the house, I don’t necessarily achieve much, but I really feel it the rest of the day if I haven’t had my me time. I also head straight out to my garden office once I’ve dropped the kids at school, stopping to put the washing on/have a cup of tea has cost me whole days before.
What obstacles have you had along the way?
My husband taking a job at the other end of the country! At the time I just cracked on with it, while he lived away Monday to Friday, but with hindsight, it was bloody hard work. I was working while the kids were at school, then doing all the after school stuff that comes with primary age kids, then I would go back to work in the evenings once the kids were asleep, because I could. Eventually, I decided that if I was going to work in the evenings, I would take time out in the day, which I did and started going to yoga classes, something I had wanted to do for a long time, but somehow never found the time to do.
What is one thing you wish you’d known when you first started?
You don’t have to take every bit of work offered to you! In the early days I would quote for anything and everything, even things that weren’t quite bookkeeping or accounts, or for people who I really didn’t “fit”. It’s ok to say no.
Tell us your favourite tools that make your life easier (apps, websites, software etc)?
I use Asana to manage tasks, I have a team member now, so we manage work between us, it’s great knowing how a set of accounts is progressing at any given stage. I also use FreeAgent for our accounts, it’s a brilliant bit of kit, that can be as simple or complex as you need it to be, from estimates to credit control, it does it all seamlessly.
What is your favourite quote?
“I’m a great believer in luck, and the harder I work the more I have of it”. Thomas Jefferson
Claire lives in a small North Bucks village with her husband, 3 children and 2 black cats. Previously employed in the cinema industry, where she discovered her love of accounts, and the Civil Service, where she discovered her love of process. She started Black Bookkeeping in 2011, after 2 years maternity leave, during which time she recovered from the shock of having twins. 2013 saw a change of name to BlackCat accounts, and a renewed focus on supporting solopreneurs with all things accounts related. In her spare time, Claire loves pretending to be Zen and flexible at yoga and suspects she will have a lifelong love of the cinema.
Thank you for taking part in Entrepreneur Friday Claire!
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