Although travelling around the world has been an enjoyable pastime for Paul Tutin, Chairman and Managing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, his roots are firmly planted in Lincoln to provide a wealth of knowledge when it comes to business finances and accounting.
“I travel for both work and leisure. I did an around the world trip around 12 years ago now. Within the last 12 months, I have been to Brazil, Dubai, Bahrain, Hong Kong and I am going to Bangkok with a client.”
Paul started with Streets Chartered Accountants in July 1989 after qualifying with another practice which Streets then merged with. He later became a partner of the firm in January 1993 and managing partner in November 2001.
The firm supplies a full range of services to suit a variety of client needs. “We do everything from start-ups, year end accounts, audits, taxation, corporate finance, general business and support advice. We have also got a link with another practice that is branded as Streets which deals with administrations, liquidations and bankruptcy. So we do everything from birth to grave of both individuals and companies.”
Yet Paul’s hard work hasn’t stopped there and even now he is working on introducing a new service. “At the end of last year, we were one of the first chartered accounting firms to be licensed to do probate work. Will probates had normally been reserved for solicitors practices, but we can now do that. That is something quite unusual. I don’t think any other firm in Lincoln has registered yet to do probate.” This new service will be launched in the next two or three months but no date has been confirmed yet.
The big picture
With a practice a diverse as Streets, Paul has accomplished a lot in his time there. “I am most proud of developing and growing Streets. Since I took over we have quadrupled in size and in the last 12 years we have gone from having three offices to 10. We rarely lose clients because client service is important. Our lifeblood is our clients and if we don’t provide a good service, then we won’t have a client base.”
The London office is now their fastest growing section, as it is the focus for the media entertainment and sports division within the practice, dealing with several different comedians as well as other people in the entertainment industry.
“I find it interesting when I have been watching something and I get to the credits at the end and I think, ‘we act for them.’ We have credits now for Streets Media and Entertainment appearing at the end of films. I have sat in the cinema once and waited for it to slowly scroll through. So that is a very rapidly growing part of our business.”
But the success is not only for London; Lincoln also has many clients who live here but work in a media environment. “With modern technology and with the ability of partners and staff, it doesn’t matter which office you go into, you can tap into anything around the practice,” Paul said.
“In a way, geography has almost gone in our business. More and more now, clients are less bothered about which office they are dealing with. It used to be that we always saw people but now, with modern technology, people are overseas or in other parts of the UK. We can use emails and Skype. We don’t have the same boundaries as we used to.”
Paul has strategically worked to move away from being a local firm since 2002 and turned the firm into a regional practice. “Firms of our size are often just local. A regional spread has been useful since 2008 when things have been a bit more difficult, as some regions fared better than others.”
For 2015, Paul is unsure how strong the start of the year will be for many businesses. With the General Election coming up, companies are looking at what the results would bring.
“I think things won’t be quite so good as 2014, certainly for the first part of the year because of uncertainties around the election and what that might bring. It is making people uncertain and slightly less confident.
“The economy is still continuing to grow, but it’s expected to grow slightly more slowly than 2014. You can see the pressures from Greece. Things have slowed down in China. America has picked up very sharply. We will see growth but it is not easily won. Our clients are more sophisticated, they expect to see more for their money and rightly so.”
As the world becomes more and more competitive, Paul realises that the business needs to keep up with their client’s requirements and stay ahead of what is going on. More business people are going to other countries to get their accounts done, as it is no longer just a local market to compete in, it’s a global one.
“Gone are the days of manual cash books and things. Stuff can be done anywhere and we have to be alive to that,” said Paul.
The General Election will bring uncertainty for businesses, but Paul feels that it shouldn’t make a huge difference to day to day business. “Some, people may hold back a bit because of what might happen, but it could also bring forward some decisions,” he said.
“Taxation may be up or down a bit, National Insurance may be up or down a bit, some people’s benefits may be up or down a bit, but broadly nothing much changes. In business, most people are pretty resilient and things that seem like horrendous problems create an enormous uncertainty in people’s minds.”
There is also a lot of uncertainty when it comes to tax legislation. “It is becoming less and less transparent. There is more and more discretion that has been given to HMRC so where it used to say ‘black is black and white is white,’ now it is ‘black might be white, it might be grey, we will decide afterwards,'” Paul said.
Coming out the other side
The recession is starting to look like it is behind us, as 2014 saw many businesses make a profit for the first time, and Streets has fared better than others, without taking a dip in their profits.
“Because we have a full spread of services and we have a solid client base, we have been very strong with marketing and business development, we have done well since 2008. It has impacted on us, but we have had to work harder to maintain the income.”
Paul has made sure to make the firm as open as possible, even by hosting several different events where people who are interested in their services, can go and talk to them to see what they, as a firm, can offer potential clients.
“We try and make them as interesting as possible so that somebody always comes away with something. We try not to make these too technical and make them user-friendly. It is actually a good place to get free advice as there are usually plenty of Streets people about and you can ask them questions.”
As with any business, there are always difficulties, but Paul has managed to see his goal and head straight for it. “You have lots of different personalities and opinions, but the hardest bit is driving them all in the one direction to buy into a single culture. That is the hardest thing that you will find with any large business when there have been mergers and rapid growth.”
This feature interview was first published in issue 16 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine.