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Marcus Warry of Archie & Doris talks to Workingmums.co.uk about his virtual accountancy business.
When Marcus Warry started his accountancy business Archie & Doris he wanted to build a virtual business which he could run “from a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean”. “I wanted something that would allow me and my colleagues to work from anywhere in the world,” he says.
He aimed to target working mums and semi-retired accountants who wanted to keep their hand in. “I targeted people who wanted to work flexibly and not full time 9-5pm,” he says.
The accountants [Dorises] who work for Archie & Doris are self employed. Archie & Doris provides them with business and training and can buddy them up with other accountants who can help them learn skills they might lack. Being under the Archie & Doris brand also means it is easier for them to get work.
Marcus’ idea was to build a virtual business which could grow organically without the need for a large head office. Two and a half years since it started up, the firm has built a large network of accountants. Its tone of voice is deliberately friendly and approachable. The whole Archie & Doris brand aims to be more personal and quirky to appeal to those in the creative and technology industries who might be put off by regular dealings with HMRC.
The company's flexible business model is a selling point in itself. “It’s part of the brand and many of our clients feel a sense of solidarity with that,” says Marcus. “We tell them about it and a lot want to support it.”
His first career was in direct marketing and advertising, but he has had previous experience in start-ups, once when he worked for a student portal yoonee.com at university and once when he was working in advertising when he set up a dating website. He says these experiences taught him important lessons in running a business, particularly in what not to do.
He found that he had got to a crossroads in his career and wanted to do something more entrepreneurial, but without too much risk. He decided to take a three-year training contract in accountancy. He felt this would teach him how to do accounts and give him a plan b if entrepreneurship didn’t work. Ironically, Archie & Doris combines both his desire to set up a business and accountancy and it also helps support other entrepreneurs and freelances, particularly those in the creative industries. “Most start-ups fall by the wayside after a couple of years and one of the main reasons is that they do not have enough support and knowledge from other people,” says Marcus. “We are trying to address that.”
As well as helping people with their accounts, Archie & Doris also gives them advice on business plans and helping pitch to investors, something Marcus is keen to be involved in.
Marcus has just introduced a discretionary bonus scheme for his accountants based on a survey of client satisfaction. They get paid a set amount with Archie & Doris earning a percentage for finding work for them, training and other support. The accountants also get a percentage of any further work a client may request.
They may be asked to go and visit clients face to face. The support Archie & Doris offers clients includes everything from book keeping and corporation tax to business plans.
As the business has grown, there has been more focus on building the core team. Many of these work remotely and all work flexibly. Marcus works out of the office in Victoria which also has a co-working space used by around 20 creative entrepreneurs, from writers to web developers. It costs just £60 a month to use the space. “It’s a key part of our brand and aim to help entrepreneurs,” says Marcus, who was a non-executive director of the Start-up Loans company.
Many of his accountants come through adverts on Workingmums.co.uk. He had 180 replies to a recent advert. “Their stories were a grim reminder that some companies are still very much behind the times,” he says.