Two of Stratford upon Avon’s leading accountancy firms have merged to create exciting new opportunities for businesses in the region.

Murphy Salisbury is combining forces with Leigh Graham Associates to further enhance its stellar resources, adding to the incredible overall knowledge and experience the firm already has and protecting the quality of service upon which the firm prides itself.

The decision by both firms will support their ambitious growth plans through collaboration and aligned goals.

Speaking about the exciting opportunities on offer, Luke Bryan, a Partner at Leigh Graham Associates who has taken up the role of Director at the newly merged firm, said: “We are delighted to be merging with such a respected and well-established local firm who share the same values for client care and service that we have.

“Through this merger, we hope to share ideas around what makes a great accountancy firm, what we each do especially well, and how best to tackle new and interesting areas within the industry.

“We seek to be at the forefront of people’s minds when they think of capable, friendly and approachable accountants. With the increased resources at our disposal, we feel we will be best placed to help our existing and future clients navigate the changing landscape of taxation and compliance.”

Current plans are for both firms to remain in their current offices at Warwick Road and John Street in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. The newly merged firm is now led by four passionate Directors, supported by a team of more than 50 accountancy, tax specialists and business advisory professionals.

Mark Bullock, Director at Murphy Salisbury, said: “Our merger with Leigh Graham Associates brings experience, passion and a wide range of clients, from a variety of sectors to our practice.

“This is a great way of growing both of our firms and reaching a broader audience of individuals and companies that can benefit from our advice and support.”

To find out more about Murphy Salisbury’s tax, accounting and business services, please contact us.

The growth in demand for takeaways during the pandemic and the reopening of eat-in premises is keeping a Stratford shopfitting specialist busy in a difficult year.

Timothy’s Bridge Road-based ICM says the past few months were ‘crazy’ as food outlets invested in making their premises Covid-secure for diners returning to sit-down eateries before the relaxing of restrictions in the summer.

This year also saw a good deal of interest from takeaway operators benefitting from the growing trend for ‘eating out’ at home.

Global brand Burger King required ICM’s services to reconfigure existing outlets to ensure Covid security and make two reopened branches customer-friendly. 

ICM managing director Steve Lewis, whose company specialises in the restaurant and fast-food business, explained: “When the pandemic struck, we went from a really busy business to a zero-turnover operation overnight. But after a difficult 2020 the dust settled and in 2021 we’re very much in demand and looking forward to getting back to full capacity before too long. As well as the traditional takeaway businesses, restaurants started doing home delivery.  

“Over the past few months it has been extremely busy. Many food outlets took advantage of the government funding available for businesses and did everything they didn’t do last year.”

ICM has also won new contracts from food operators keen to tap into the rising demand for takeaways. The first nine months of 2020 saw Just Eat orders rise by 27% over the same period the previous year and there has been a rise in the number of ‘dark kitchens’ to feed demand.

New clients include gourmet street food specialist Shoot the Bull, whose eight restaurant locations in the North of England have received the ICM fitout treatment. And the growth in interest in home and garden improvement, fuelling demand for garden centre restaurants, has seen ICM called on to fit out three such premises for national chain British Garden Centres, with plans for more in the coming months.

Steve says the advice and support of Stratford accountancy practice Leigh Graham Associates has been invaluable in helping him ensure the business continues to thrive and expand as the effect of the pandemic eases.

Advice from partner Leigh Day on the existence of government business finance packages to ensure they remained on a stable footing during the initial uncertain weeks of the first lockdown is just one example.

“Leigh is always there when I need her.  She directed us towards loans to keep us going in the early days. She let us know about everything that was available,” he said.

Leigh Graham has also helped recruit staff to ICM’s in-house finance team as it has grown over the past two decades.

Steve Lewis and the team at ICM saw huge demand for their services during the pandemic,  and received expert advice on government support funding from Stratford accountancy practice Leigh Graham Associates

A very niche residential air conditioning specialist which has seen turnover grow fivefold  since appointing Stratford accountancy firm Leigh Graham Associates is anticipating a busy 2022 as working from home continues to be the norm.

Cool You, which specialises in systems for London apartment dwellers and owners of houses in conservation areas within the M25, says its services are likely to become even more popular as people return to the capital after the early months of the pandemic.

The Stratford-founded company has seen immense growth since 2012 when it appointed Leigh Graham and decided to focus on the ripe London market.

Its emphasis on helping property owners unable to use traditional air conditioning systems means its niche product and service is much in demand by those living in apartment blocks or areas where outside units used by other methods are banned.

Cool You managing director Julian Peyser explained: “We’ve seen considerable growth ever since Leigh Graham came on board. Not surprisingly, things were quieter during the peak of the Covid pandemic, but now those who moved out of London then are returning and we’re expecting a lot of interest well into next year. 

“We’ve always attracted people who work from home, long before it became the norm. Now we’re seeing more enquiries for people in the capital who used to work in an office and are now either working from home full time or expecting to spend maybe only a day or two a week at their office. So I see some really good growth coming up.”

Julian credits Leigh Graham partner Leigh Day with some of his business success.

“She enables us to get on with what we’re good at without having to concern ourselves with the financial side of the operation. She and her team are really good for us. They do an excellent job.”

Leigh added: “We do all the day-to-day accounting and act as a sounding board for the management of the business. We also offer tax planning advice which enables Julian to operate flexibly while his team in London handles the operational side of the business.”

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.”