The Houston Partnership: future-proofing through training
Education Editor, Alex Burden, speaks to David Houston about his company’s experiences of becoming an authorised training office and taking the business to new heights.
David Houston CA, together with his brother, Andrew set up The Houston Partnership – a medium-sized chartered accountancy practice, with the aim of delivering end to end business advice, including management, compliance, development and improvement for small to medium business owners.
Together they have over 30 years’ expertise in chartered accountancy and recently have begun training a student with ICAS to add to their growing practice.
David worked within cross-border tax planning in France for ten years until 2010, when he decided to go back into general practice. He set his sights on Glasgow, where he still held many contacts, and together with Andrew, who trained as an ACCA in the 80s, they created The Houston Partnership in 2011.
The successful business is modelled on looking past basic box-ticking financial tasks for businesses and sought to provide a full service of chartered accountant activities: “We find that the competition in our sector is too focused on accounts / tax preparation and compliance, and not in actually doing what accountants should be good at i.e. business / financial advice and guidance.
“Most small businesses can’t afford a full-time FD, so we believe we step into that gap for our larger clients and support them in managing, expanding and controlling their businesses.”
Moving forward through training
Recently, the Partnership has branched out to become an ICAS training office in a bid to future-proof their own business as well as provide a solid educational experience for the next generation of CAs.
“Almost by coincidence we had started a school leaver under an apprenticeship scheme at about the same time we were having our ICAS quality control visit,” explains David. “In discussions with the ICAS representative, we became aware of the possibility of the school leaver route to CA qualification.
“We had considered putting our school leaver forward for AAT as a stepping stone to an eventual professional qualification, but when the CA school leaver route became available, we and the student jumped at the opportunity. Our experience to date with ICAS has been totally positive, and the laid-back, informal but positive support offered has been exceptional.”
That’s not the only forward-looking activity that the Partnership has been involved in – recent additions to the business include a tailored app for clients that allows inbuilt tax and financial planning calculations, as well as delivering push notifications to maintain frequent and immediate contact at the tap of a button.
“I feel that having a student work though the training / exam process will bring many benefits to the practice, and as she grows through the exams, then her ever-expanding technical ability will be a major asset.
David Houston CA
A quick scan of The Houston Partnership’s testimonials reveal clients’ enthusiasm for their business-building activities and David notes one particular client who was impressed with the vital savings they were able to make on their behalf:
“One of our major clients had a long-standing battle with a High Street bank for mis-sold loan products, where they had been effectively sold high-interest products where other options were available.
“We worked hand-in-hand with our client, preparing many financial analyses and comparisons, and our efforts helped the client secure a c.£1 million reduction in bank debt, which was around 20% of the total debt.”
Education that reaches all levels
It is these skills that The Houston Partnership would like to ensure for the future of the business, and training a student goes a long way towards this: “I feel that having a student work though the training / exam process will bring many benefits to the practice,” said David, “and as she grows through the exams, then her ever-expanding technical ability will be a major asset to the practice.
“My own technical knowledge has been refreshed and enhanced by working with our student as she works her way through her various courses / exercises, and opens up my mind to things I feel I should know but may not have heard of without the student on board.
“For me personally, I feel that as I head towards retirement I will be leaving behind a new CA to take my place, and I feel personally responsible for making sure she succeeds in her exams. For the practice, we believe it enhances our image as it shows us to be thinking of the future rather than resting on our laurels!”