Interview: managing partner of Chiene + Tait, Carol Flockhart caught up with Chiene + Tait’s managing partner, Carol Flockhart on the importance of accountancy firms to be as agile as the scale-up companies they serve.

Working with the right accountants who can advise on complex issues like tax planning is vital to a firms’ progress. Accountants may also have good contacts with investors who can help you raise the right money at the right time. Here, Chiene+Tait’s managing partner explains what scale-up firms need to know when selecting an accountant for their business.

Tell us more about the company.

Chiene + Tait, an independent Scottish accountancy firm, was founded in 1885. To date, we have 10 partners, eight directors and 130 staff. With a heritage of over 130 years, we consider our firm to be innovative and adaptable to client needs. We are passionate about what we do and how we can share our knowledge and experience to ensure that our clients’ financial affairs are cared for. Though we have increased in size, we remain proud of our independent status: it allows us to provide fast, accurate and personalised services to clients, and a partner-led delivery and relationship.

What do scale-up companies need from their accountant?

As company’s look to scale up, the requirement for an accountant to simply provide services and present a fee is no longer relevant. Scale-up companies need a collaborative relationship with advisers – excellent relations are key from the earliest stage. Collaboration means regular catch ups on progress of the business to ensure opportunities are maximised, results are monitored and directors have good understanding of the financial state of their business.

Accountants should approach services with growth of the company in mind, providing seamless service across multiple areas of expertise i.e. bookkeeping, annual accounts, corporation tax and corporate finance. Scale-ups need forward looking advisers with understanding of preparing for growth utilising key tax reliefs, employee incentive schemes and making use of the range of software available to companies to provide information instantly.

Scale-up companies also seek services from accountants who specialise in working with entrepreneurial clients and understand the challenges facing a high-growth company. Great services are vital when reaching the stage of fundraising and exits as accountants will provide invaluable support during a due diligence process. A good adviser will have ensured that the company is ready for any such process to make it as straightforward as possible. Keeping the house in order from the beginning is the key to success.

What high-profile deals such as IPOs, equity fundraises and MBOs has C+T worked on in the growth business industry?

C+T’s Entrepreneurial Tax Team (ETT) works with companies from the earliest stages throughout the scale-up process maximising tax reliefs, advising on structuring and providing ad-hoc advice. The particular areas of expertise include advising companies and individuals on the Enterprise Investment Scheme, share schemes and long-term incentive plans and Research & Development Tax relief – these are vital sources of relief and often a key part of the strategy for growth to scale-up companies. Our range of work includes advising on over 40 R&D claims with a 100 per cent success rate with repayments for growing businesses of over £1.5m and we also work on establishing or advising on over 50 share schemes including four complex LTIP structures.

We’re working with dozens of high-growth companies, 18 angel investment syndicates, three VCT funds, two EIS funds in the last 12 months advising on complex EIS issues and we are advising and providing due diligence support on over 10 company disposals.

C+T’s Corporate Finance (CF) team works closely with the ETT, to offer a seamless start-up to exit service for clients – in particular, CF frequently picks up when an ETT client has reached a certain stage of business maturity. The CF team specialises in latter stage growth capital fundraises. This is ordinarily after the early seed capital, family & friends, angel funding rounds with a typical fundraise size between £1-5 million. Currently we’re assisting a company with an acquisition and two company mergers.

What is your standout transaction in recent months?

We advised an ultra-high net worth family office on its multi-million pound institutional equity investment in a high growth service business. This investment was used alongside institutional debt to simultaneously acquire another established business within this sector.

Our technical expertise and understanding of the market enabled us to advise and negotiate on behalf of our client on the structure of the investment ensuring they achieved targeted returns and suitable protections.

Our commercial expertise enabled us to evaluate both the business and its acquisition to validate the assumptions this business could potentially generate the required returns for the investor . C+T also negotiated on our clients behalf with institutional debt provider to ensure equity terms sat alongside debt terms and the debt terms and structure are ‘on market’.

What advice do you have to an ambitious entrepreneur when it comes to accountancy services?

Choosing the right accountancy/corporate finance firm to partner with and guide you on this next step of the entrepreneurial journey is critical. Technical ability and a personal ‘click’ are important as this individual needs to become your trusted adviser.

A good adviser should be able to demonstrate deep technical experience of structuring, negotiating and executing of a fundraising transaction with an ability to evidence past relevant transactional experience. Also important is an understanding of the funding market landscape for a business operating in a client’s specific sector, including tax planning, approaching relevant investors, and hiring a good advisor who can identify effectively.

Further reading on tax planning

What your business can do with a tax rebate

Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for from 2018 to 2019.

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