Barry Florida-James is director and co-founder of JustAccounts, a cloud-based accountancy platform designed to optimise processes for contractor accountants and Umbrella/Payroll Providers. Speaking on a recent episode of the Leaders Council Podcast, Barry recalled his own experience setting up his firm and shared his words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future, urging them not to shy away from starting their own business and to go and pursue their dreams.
Speaking to podcast host, Scott Challinor, Barry said: “The first thing is just to go for it.”
He added: “There is no right or wrong way to start a business, you’ve got to do it your own way, and you will meet plenty of people that are detractors who will tell you that it cannot be done.”
Barry also warned listeners to abandon the idea of overnight success, emphasising that setting down firm foundations in the marketplace and building as successful businesspeople have done is the key to success.
“Secondly, I’d tell any aspiring businessperson to read as much as you can from people that have done it. I know the likes of Elon Musk can come across as interesting characters, but what he's achieved given all of the obstacles that he has had to get through and the money he has made, makes it all pretty astounding.
“Anybody like that who has got anywhere always looks like an overnight success story, but it is not. It is always in the foundations: you must understand the market you are dealing with and understand your product and offering. Then, you’ve got to work hard on it. All the books you will read like the Harvard Business Review will tell you that what carries those people through when under pressure is sticking to the process and doing things the right way. Never take shortcuts or cut corners no matter how hard things get.”
Barry then told of his own experience setting up JustAccounts as an example of how that determination and willingness to trust their own researched and thought-out processes culminated in success, alongside a willingness to adapt where required.
He recalled: “The original intention of our software was to serve sole traders that found it difficult to manage all of their books themselves and perhaps couldn’t afford an accountant. Now, we’re primarily a payroll provider for umbrella software companies and that is fine. It is where we’ve found our niche and our success. Being agile is the one advantage you have as a small business over larger corporate entities. You can be closer to the market and adapt.
“I and my two other co-founders at JustAccounts all took voluntary redundancy from our previous roles at Sage UK to start our business. I was essentially the technical guy, another an accountant and the other worked in sales. We used that money to build our product that we took to market for the one-man bands and then as the product developed, we moved into the contractor market because we found our software was particularly suited to accountants that have large volumes of clients. Now, about 20,000-to-30,000 people every week are paid using our software and that feels like a great achievement for us. For the economy it is critical that people get paid and we now have more end users than ever.”
Barry was also pleased to reveal that given the nature of JustAccounts’ software, the business was able to operate and succeed during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We continued to grow even during the crisis. You can run our software remotely from anywhere which made it well suited to the work-from-home agenda we saw during lockdown. We also received more enquiries from people wanting to use our software that needed to run payroll but couldn’t access the systems they were originally using without going into the office.”
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