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Is a lifestyle accountancy practice possible?

The typical owner of a “lifestyle business” was likely to be financially established and perhaps starting to wind down towards retirement. Back in the day the phrase was not invented yet, more likely to be coined semi-retirement.

In recent years we started to see the lifestyle business moniker creep beyond the cohort of soon-to-be retirees to include somebody unwilling to commit to the stresses of building or running a business, who is happy enough to earn less but pursue their interests in a timetable that places more emphasis on leisure and family time or pursuit of a hobby.

Some of the best examples are tradesmen and women who only take on one or two jobs at a time and rarely have forward bookings. They are not fazed by having to turn down work. If they are really good at what they do, and their reputation goes before them it actually has the effect of creating scarcity value which leaves them working less but earning more.

I have pivoted from a full day of  “9 to 5” into the lifestyle mode of working and that was prior to my newfound family commitments which caused me to move full tilt to a Lifestyle Business 2.0  .

Allow me to elaborate.

Most lifestyle businesses will operate on reduced hours or perhaps certain days of the week or perhaps even on an ad hoc basis, as long as the clients are serviced or the orders fulfilled. Given that it is about reducing stress it is less likely that these business owners would be working late or even into the wee small hours.

However, as a new entrant into the “sandwich generation” with a whopping filling of 90 years I found myself needing to burn the midnight oil just to do the jobs requiring uninterrupted thinking, such as writing this blog. Disclaimer – it is midday NOT midnight as I type!

However, I have discovered, so to speak, that working at silly-o’clock into the night is not as taboo as it is made out to be. After all, if the day is spent on family responsibilities or on pursuing a hobby, then why not stay up late?

The numbers on the clock are simply numbers. If you are not tired then why not plough on? An email sent at 1am is likely to have a reply by the time you sit down to work during the following day. Late night emails have had a bad press and need to be put into perspective or looked at in context.

But what about our august profession - can it work for beancounters, given the pressures of time limits and client problems popping up out of the blue?

Also, once one's work drops below a certain level questions are asked as to whether the game is worth the candle in terms of regulatory matters.

Furthermore, when a client calls up with an urgent issue you cannot simply respond with an answer-machine message that you are deep sea diving at the North Pole until further notice. It does not quite cut the mustard, even if they know you work to an unconventional schedule.

It is  probably more suited to those accountants who act as project consultants but in my view general practice is not designed for those beancounters seeking a lifestyle practice, unless they have a really well-oiled machine with reliable and competent staff who are as good as partners, but getting your practice to that level is quite a feat because staff who act as partners in all but name do not grow on trees .

It is usually the preserve of larger practices but is not for the average high street practitioner and likely to be even trickier if you are running a lifestyle practice. Staff who accept that their boss is not exactly sweating it out while they are toiling at the coalface, need a certain type of employer who is motivational. But these employees do exist and if you can find those that cut the mustard with no ambition, run with them.

Ultimately whether you can find your lifestyle niche is going to vary from person to person, but it is possible for the "one-man band" to achieve as long as he or she thinks it through carefully. Just make sure that the utopian vision doesn't suffer from mission creep! That’s called retirement.

About the author Norman

I’m Norman Younger BA(Hons) FCCA MCIArb and on this blog I’m going to share over 20 years of professional and business experience at the sharp end of small business in the UK, one of the world’s most enterprising nations. As a professionally qualified accountant I have experience advising start up micro enterprises and multi million pound turnover firms. During this time I have owned several business and gained valuable insight into all aspects of the day to day operations covering everything from staffing to marketing. I established and am currently a working trustee of a charity that helps people find sustainable employment and supports entrepreneurs in getting their feet on the business ladder and climbing higher.

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