We are delighted to have been chosen to appear in this month’s edition of Economia Magazine, in which Andrew Rhodes discusses the Sobell Rhodes many pronged approach. To read the full article please click here.
Sobell Rhodes has an enterprising approach to filling gaps in its services requirements: rather than buying them from someone else, it sets about acquiring the skills and expertise first to fulfil its own needs, and then to sell those services to other businesses. “It was a conscious business decision,” says managing partner Andrew Rhodes, “to turn as many of our costs as possible into profit. It didn’t make sense in the long term to keep spending on IT, on training, on being part of an international network, when, with a bit of forward planning and an initial outlay, we could not only eliminate those costs but actually turn them into income generators.”
First off was a global networking division, the International Network of Accountants and Auditors (INAA). Founded more than 20 years ago, it is now the 12th largest such organisation in the world with 150 offices across 50 countries and six continents. Then, 18 years ago, came Sobell Rhodes IT Solutions, a joint venture with a small IT business specialist that provides integrated IT and accountancy services. Two years after that, the practice set up its Continuing Professional Development arm, which now trains more than 50 firms and 1,000 delegates per year.
Diversifying into related areas has given the practice a boost but it remains what it has been since it was founded in 1995, an exceptionally good provider of core accountancy services but with an eye on strategic expansion and development.
“Tax was our starting point,” says Rhodes. “When Melvyn (Sobell) and I set up, we were all about compliance. We’ve built on that, now 40% to 50% of our work is consultancy and advisory.”
It also covers the fastest growing and the highest value area of the firm’s business, its forensic and expert witness work. Headed by Sobell, a member of The Academy of Experts and an accredited mediator of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, the forensic team advises in personal and corporate cases. This has led to another core specialism – acting for solicitors. “This has given us the opportunity to develop our expertise in legal accountancy. We’ve become specialists in mediation and in divorce arrangements, acting for divorcees and their solicitors,” says Rhodes.
The firm has 900 clients. In addition to legal and divorce, its other key fields include property and building, and charities and not-for-profit organisations. “We have a special interest in the charity sector professionally,” says Rhodes, “but also because we take our social responsibility very seriously. We do a lot of work on a pro-bono basis and also offer discounted fees to charities. It’s part of our commitment to leave a positive impact on our community.”
Being good, being principled, acting at all times with integrity and excelling in customer service are the firm’s defining characteristics, a fact borne out by its extraordinarily high client and staff retention rates – both around 98% in 2016. “It matters enormously to us that everyone we work with is happy with us,” says Rhodes. “We constantly monitor our customer and employee satisfaction, with a view to improving what we do. We use Net Promoter Software to measure client happiness and our latest score on that was 90%, but we want to do better.
Sobell Rhodes is a multi-award winner: The National Practice Excellence Client Service Firm the Year, 2016; British Accountancy Awards Independent Firm of the Year, 2012/2013; WOW Small Business winner, 2011 (the only national awards for customer service based solely on client nominations). Rhodes seems most proud of being a gold standard Investors in People business. “Only 7% of businesses have been awarded a gold, so yes, I really am very pleased about that. That’s what we’re all about – being a good firm to work for and with.”