As part of our commitment to the companies we support and the ambition to see these brands grow and succeed, we’ve launched a series of articles that tell the story of some of the businesses we work with and the talented professionals who run them.
The first article in the series recounts the five years journey of Stephen Young from full-time employment into launching his first management consultancy. It follows the professional steps Stephen took in order to confidently transition for the first time in his life, into self-employment.
Starting in self-employment after 5 years of planning
Anyone who has ever considered self-employment knows it can be a difficult decision to leave the world of permanent work. For Stephen Young, the initial idea to start his own company came to him in 2015 – and 5 years later, the time was right to take the first steps with his management consultancy firm in the aerospace, defence and civil nuclear industries, Programme Success.
We spoke with Stephen about taking the leap into self-employment and how his journey has been so far.
When did you first start thinking about self-employment?
Ever since I was 18, I have always been employed. Even when I was at University, I was sponsored by the Navy and was working throughout my degree. So I quite literally went straight from school into employment, and have been employed ever since.
I have been with the same company since 2008 and honestly, I had never really thought about self-employment until around 2015 when a mixture of work and personal circumstances coincided to make me reconsider what I wanted from life. I set up my Limited Company in a bit of a rush in 2015, thinking my situation at work was close to resulting in an exit. At the time, a friend of mine was self-employed so he recommended me to a company who could help me with the legal set up – I filled out all the forms and received all the accountancy information, however, I ultimately decided to remain an employee so I kept my company dormant in preparation for a time when I was secure and ready to go it alone.
Describe your journey since 2015.
Since 2015, I have been preparing and building up my marketability so I would be ready to find work when the time came to set out on my own. I have completed a Masters Degree in Behavioural Change and earned various Institute of Directors qualifications.
I also gained confidence in my permanent role, as I found that I was taking on a lot of interim roles; for example, I spent two years at a University setting up a research centre, one year in Canada setting up a business, and I’ve spent the last 18 months on the senior leadership team of a project, delivering a large civil nuclear decommissioning transformation programme which came to an end only recently. It was this mixing and matching of roles made me feel ready to tackle self-employment and flexible working.
So, why now?
It was by coincidence really that, by the time I’d upskilled myself, one of our customers announced the termination of our contract, presenting me with the opportunity to discuss a redundancy package with my employer. Ultimately, this has given me the safety blanket I needed as I know I have the financial security to start on my own and see how it goes.
Having said that, I’ve already secured the terms of my first six-week contract and have been offered a range of permanent jobs – so I know I’ll never be short of work.
It’s a big gap from 2015 to 2020, how did you pick up where you left off in terms of the legal and compliance requirements?
When I initially set up in 2015, I never paid any mind to the accounting responsibilities as I remained in permanent employment. So, when one of my prospecting conversations suddenly turned into a tangible opportunity a couple of months ago, that’s when I realised there was a lot I needed to do and in a short space of time.
I had received a phone call from someone at Clever Accounts about 18 months ago to see if I was interested in their services. At the time, I wasn’t ready, so asked them to call back, which they did – and I’m glad they did, as I had absolutely no idea where to start!
The feedback I got from the initial discussion was that set up would be simple and easy, and I could do it online through a link on the website – which suited me perfectly. I followed the link and received an email the next day from my personal accountant with a list of things we needed to discuss and an invitation to arrange a meeting to work through it all.
With Clever Accounts, everything was really easy and straightforward. My diary has been hectic this year, so the ability to go online to register in the evening when I was available was invaluable. It really helped to receive advanced warning of what I needed from my accountant so that when it came to set-up with Clever Accounts, everything happened seamlessly.
Since set-up, how have you found managing the finances of a PSC?
I’ve found everything relatively easy, to be honest. The online portal and dashboard where I can view my accountant statements, manage my insurance, track my tax, and see how much I’m able to withdraw have made it incredibly simple for me – even as someone who isn’t particularly IT literate. All I had to do was load up my bank transactions and then it was all ready to go.
I felt that with Clever, I was at an advantage right from the outset. They gave me tailored advice straight off the bat about the most tax-efficient way to run things, how to manage my redundancy package, and helped me change my shareholders’ agreement to compliantly maximise my profits.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now, I’m excited about my first six-week contract.
Going forward, I hope I can continue to travel a lot with my work, as I’ve worked away from home for around 75% of my adult life and I’ve enjoyed this flexibility. I’m hoping that self-employment has a lot more flexible travel opportunities in store for me as I support people with coaching around mental wellbeing in addition to my consultancy work.