A Stoneleigh-based construction materials specialist which has seen a four-fold increase in business over the past year is looking to expand into Northern Europe with help from Leigh Graham Associates.

The Ground Screw Centre, which provides a greener and hassle-free alternative to concrete bases for garden rooms, fencing and sports facilities, says demand for its products has exploded over the past 12 months – with the pandemic driving sales further.

And it says that, with the added complexities of Brexit, it needs John Street-based Leigh Graham Associates to help look into the implications of exporting or licensing its products overseas or setting up its own offices in Europe.

Leigh Graham partner Luke Bryan, who has been working with the Ground Screw Centre since it launched in 2018, has also been helping it plough some of its profits into tax efficient investments such as pensions and capital equipment, as well as restructuring the firm’s shares allocation.

The wider accountancy practice has worked with The Ground Screw Centre’s co-director Paul Brown in another business capacity for many years, and so asking it to work with his new venture was a natural move.

Paul explained: “I like working with them. They’re professional, friendly and they’ve given us great advice on building the business and tax planning. We’re now three years ahead of where we thought we’d be a year ago, with turnover increasing by just under 400% in the last year.”

The Ground Screw Centre expansion has been driven by a number of factors, not least the rise in people needing garden offices or investing in outdoor home improvements during the lockdowns. In addition, Paul says the fact that its products can be installed on a DIY basis and offer a more eco-friendly alternative to concrete foundations make them an attractive proposition.

Away from domestic premises, the centre has supplied its products to major UK brands including housebuilder Persimmon, McDonalds and Blenheim Palace.

Luke Bryan said: “In line with many appointments, we were initially instructed by Paul and his co-director Steve Hawthornthwaite to assist with year-end compliance work. In year two, that remit expanded towards providing corporation tax planning and tax efficient profit extraction advice and resulted in a share restructure for the improvement of their greater personal affairs.”

“When the business started it was just Paul and Steve working on a part time basis.  Now it’s expanding so much they have taken on staff, so we also help with the payroll. And if they decide to move onto the continent then we will give them advice on the complex tax planning around that.”

A Stratford company which specialises in solar PV and electric vehicle charging points has enjoyed a record year – thanks to a combination of changed buying habits during the pandemic and the business advice it has been receiving from a town accountancy practice.

Stratford Energy Solutions has seen its workforce expand more than fivefold and enjoyed sales increases every year since it started working with John Street-based accountancy practice Leigh Graham Associates a decade ago.

And it’s now poised to expand further over the coming year.

Stratford Energy Solutions director Jason Savidge, who founded the company with co-director Andy Hollis, explained: “Leigh Graham is a key ally. We have meetings once a quarter at the minimum to talk to about strategy, discuss employment expansion and our own personal career paths. 

“The team there do so much more than basic payroll and tax returns. While they get on with the strategy, Andy and I are free to get on with the core of our business.”

Jason and Andy appointed Leigh Graham when they realised, soon after forming the company, that they needed  external business expertise to help manage its rapid expansion.

“Since then, we’ve seen growth every year, with 2020 our biggest sales year yet. And we’re are on target for more growth in 2021,” said Jason.

“Solar PV sales and installations have been particularly impressive over the past 12 months, partly because householders have had more time to think about property improvements while they’ve been working from home.

“Things like the stamp duty holiday have also meant that people who’ve moved house have been able to spend the savings on improvements such as solar PV and still have money left over. Or, they’ve decided to invest the money they would otherwise have spent on a holiday in energy saving measures.”

Leigh Graham Associates partner Graham Beach said: “We feel very much part of the Stratford Energy Solutions team. We work with them to discuss long term strategy and investment opportunities. 

“For some companies, at a certain stage, we look at succession planning, how the business can be passed on or sold in the best possible state for all concerned. These are perhaps not services one would naturally associate with an accountancy practice. We are with our clients for the long haul and love helping them develop their businesses.”

• Stratford Energy Solutions director Jason Savidge says Graham Beach from the town’s Leigh Graham Associates has played a key role in helping his company expand over the past decade.

A Stratford accountant whose dream was always to be a partner when he hit his early thirties has achieved his goal.

Luke Bryan joined town accountancy practice Leigh Graham Associates as an 18-year-old school leaver in 2007, later qualifying as a fully-fledged chartered accountant.

And now, at the age of 31, he has become the third equity partner in the 14 strong John Street firm.

He joins founders Leigh Day and Graham Beach whose ability to talent spot when they set up the business 14 years ago has paid off.

“It was always my dream to be a partner in my early thirties,” said Luke. “When I went for an interview in my teens at an old school practice in Birmingham they looked at me in horror when I told them. Leigh and Graham have a much more refreshing approach and have always supported me in my ambition.” 

Luke is looking forward to helping the practice offer its strategic business advice and accountancy services to a wider pool of businesses, to add to its existing stable which ranges from large multinational organisations to small local firms.

He says the most satisfying part of his job is making a difference to the lives of the individuals who run the businesses with whom he, Leigh and Graham work.

“Seemingly little things can make a difference. For example, we may save one client £1,000 in tax, which enables him to go on holiday. For another, suddenly their business blossoms and we need to find ways to save tax and grow wealth by perhaps increasing pension contributions, shareholding restructuring or investing in capital equipment.

“We know what we do is great and we’d like to be able to offer our expertise to help people who need it.

“Clients tell us that as well as helping them develop their business and manage their financial affairs they also appreciate how supportive and approachable we are.”

“I’m so pleased to be committed to a firm I value, respect and relate to. It’s another step on the path that I had planned out.”

One of the firm’s two founding partners, Leigh Day, explained: “We knew Luke had something extra about him when we employed him as an 18-year-old audit and accounts junior. He was a young man absolutely dedicated to a life in accountancy. And he has the knack of getting on with everyone in the team and all the clients. 

“And it’s these personal skills combined with our expertise which I think makes us stand out as a firm. We manage to combine expertise in our professional life with approachability. We’re very much looking forward to working alongside Luke as a fellow partner.”

Since joining the firm Luke has married and he and his wife have three young children to prevent him from being bored when he’s not at work. 

  •  Luke Bryan, who has been promoted to equity partner at Stratford accountancy firm Leigh Graham Associates, will work alongside fellow partners Leigh Day and Graham Beach

This week’s Budget has thrown out a lifeline to many Stratford businesses and will help its world-famous leisure and hospitality sector get back on its feet once lockdown eases says town accountancy firm Leigh Graham Associates.

Partner at the John Street firm, Leigh Day, says the furlough extension, continued VAT cuts for the hospitality sector, tax relief on investment and a financial boost for theatres are all vital to support individual businesses and the economy as a whole.

“Obviously these sectors have been hard hit across the country, but with Stratford such a focus for tourism and culture the impact of Covid on pubs, restaurants and holiday accommodation means a large chunk of the local economy has been badly affected.

“The continuing freeze on VAT at 5 per cent may provide a little relief to them as they start to reopen in the spring, while the £400 million arts recovery fund will hopefully provide some help for our much-loved RSC.

“The continuation of the furlough scheme is of course vital both for the individuals who are unable to work at the moment and for the businesses employing them. These organisations perhaps now have the confidence to plan their reopening over the coming weeks and months.”

Leigh also welcomes Rishi Sunak’s so-called ‘super deduction’ for investing in certain capital equipment.

The measure provides allowances of 130 per cent on most new plant and machinery investments which ordinarily qualify for 18 per cent allowances.

“Over the past year we have been helping many local businesses adapt to the very different world in which we now find ourselves. This has been a combination of helping them reshape their businesses to adapt, accessing the various grants and funding available and deciding on the best approach to furlough. 

“The coming months will now also see us helping some of our clients look into capital investments which will not only enable their businesses to grow, but will also reduce their tax bills and even provide additional revenue from the government.”