Enhancing Customer And Colleague Experience At Oscar Fairchild

Published 22nd October 2021 by Charlotte Porter
We spoke to Kim Redwood-Lee, Managing Director of Oscar Fairchild about her experience of I-Construct mentoring.

Since 1997, Oscar Fairchild have been providing Construction companies across the UK with Consultancy, Bookkeeping, and Accounting services.

These services are made up of:

  • VAT returns
  •  Annual returns
  • Self-Assessments
  • Tax Planning
  • Payroll
  • Auto-enrolment pensions
  • Credit control
  • Management Accounts

They also have an in-house business coach that they offer a free 1-hour consultation with to every new client.

The small but highly skilled team of ten behind Oscar Fairchild is led by Kim Redwood-Lee, Managing Director, who has more than 28 years of experience in Bookkeeping and Accountancy.

Kim recognises the value in Continuous Professional Development and, as such, has been working with our I-Construct mentors over the course of 2021.

Mentoring that adds value

Speaking to Kim about how the mentoring has been going so far, she comments:

“I’ve loved the mentoring much more than I ever imagined – and I offer coaching, so it’s not new to me. I’ve done most of my sessions so far with Mark Waine, and then I’ve just started to do further sessions with Mark Curle. I knew it would be interesting and would help, but I can honestly say hand on heart, it has been invaluable. Really, really good!”

When working with a mentor, it is important to find someone who is best suited to your specific needs as this is when the greatest amount of knowledge can be gained. As Kim notes:

“Mark [Waine] is so knowledgeable on HR – and he’s done all of this before. So, when I say it’s added value, I mean, it has massively added value to my business. In fact, I didn’t want to stop the mentoring – I really enjoyed it. So that’s how good it was!”

The importance of culture during a merger and when engaging with clients

The value of mentoring can vary from person to person depending on what it is that they want to gain from it. For Kim, one of the key benefits has been learning more about building a strong company culture. As she comments: 

“Mark [Waine] has been so knowledgeable about culture. I’m currently going through a merger with another accountant, and we’ve also got the construction payroll company, and Mark has been so helpful with advising me on culture and how this should be considered within the merger situation, as we’re very different cultures.”

Indeed, the culture of the two businesses is very different; for Kim’s existing business, it is predominantly all women who are at a settled stage in their lives with homes, families, children, and the various other responsibilities that come with this. They’re used to a much more flexible way of working to allow their staff to attend school plays or sports days, with work then being done in the evening to catch up.

However, at Eazitax (the business Oscar Fairchild is merging with), there are a lot of younger people who are at a very different time in their careers. People who may not thrive as well within such a flexible workplace. The business will also grow to a team of 24 – more than doubling the numbers.

As the saying goes, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ – and indeed, culture is king. Kim likewise recognises the value of this for the customer, noting: 

“Culture is crucial in that we need the right people to be acting in the right way – not only to each other, but also our clients. We want them to answer the phone in the right way and be welcoming when customers visit us.
“We want clients to come in and feel that it’s a relaxing environment. We don’t want them to walk in and think we’re just another stuffy accountant. We’ve got people coming in with their work boots on – and we want them to come in and say, ‘how does VAT work? I don’t understand it’, rather than feel they can’t ask us because they’ve already been running their business for two years.”

Being a mentee and a mentor

Kim has worked with construction companies for many years, and she knows a lot about moving from being ‘on the tools’ to being in the office. As she explains:

“My husband has a successful construction company, so we live and breathe construction in our home really. I’ve noticed that construction businesses quite often see themselves as a sub-contractor, so they don’t have that business mentality like other professionals. They’ll be a plumber one day and then a director of a limited company the next, so often they don’t realise the responsibility and how it all works.”
“So, we offer mentoring through our in-house business coach (which is unusual for an accountancy practice to have) to help educate customers on what they need to be thinking about – What are their profit margins? What is their turnover? What is the difference between a P&L? How should they create a cash flow? – as well as then getting their finances sorted. We take a lot of time to speak to customers, make them feel that they can come in, and never feel afraid to ask questions or say they’ve done something wrong.”

Understanding customer needs

However, even with existing knowledge of her customer base, Kim is still keen to learn more about how to best serve her construction clients. Through her I-Construct mentoring, Kim was able to learn more about what those working in construction are looking for, to then offer them a more refined service as a result. She remarks: 

“I was advised about the right kind of language to use, and how to get construction businesses to trust what I’m doing, as they often think I’m offering a service that they don’t need. They don’t like to be sold to, so I’ve been learning more on how to best to talk about how we can help them.”
“I’ve just started some further mentoring with Mark Curle – what we’re working on is a completely different thing. He pointed out to me that often, construction SMEs are led by a plumber or bricklayer who has suddenly overnight become a director. There’s a lot for them to learn, and many places in which the industry overall needs to become more professionalised, so it’s about helping to educate them – showing business owners that cash flow is so important, understanding the cost of their work, recognising where there is under-ordering and over-ordering, and how this will impact a project.”

So, what does Kim want new business owners to know?

“Our door is always open – come in for a coffee, and let’s talk through everything. Don’t be worried that you don’t know everything. We’re here to help. Get a good team behind you, and absolutely get a bookkeeper. Never undervalue a bookkeeper because so many, especially in the construction industry, really undervalue book-keeping, end up giving it to someone underqualified and then it costs a fortune to put it right.”

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