Joanne Bell – Employ people more skilled than you are!


Tell us a bit about a day at Bells

There’s no such thing as a typical day but I start with a cup of tea and check my emails to prioritise them and add urgent tasks to my to do list before I leave home.  I then spend the day in one of my offices across SE London, I usually have 4-5 meetings a day with my team, other business contacts and clients. Having a meeting over lunch is definitely my favourite way of multitasking! I find working with entrepreneurs and seeing their businesses grow hugely satisfying, as well as helping the leadership teams save money in the most tax efficient way.


I left home when I was 20 just before the last big recession hit. I struggled to pay all my bills and my mortgage so I started my business on the side of my full time job. My grandparents had a big influence on me as they always inspired me to work hard and help others. More recently, my 5 month old daughter Mia is a great motivator for me. I want her to know that she can achieve anything she wants to in life. I started Bells Accountants eleven years ago when I was 22. I wanted to build my own client base and work for myself and it has steadily grown into a 5 practice business with 30 staff through both organic growth and via acquisitions.  The acquisitions have been most challenging as it takes time to introduce new processes to a team but everyone has been very supportive of the improvements we have introduced


However, Ive overcome challenges along the way with determination and perseverance and also with some calculated risk taking! Having great friends, an experienced business coach and an A+ team is essential too.


Im really proud that we work with the Chartwell Cancer Trust and are supporting them by taking part in fundraising events, we have also hosted a charity dinner for The Lilypad Appeal helping children who have cancer and their families.


I love having a great team around me. We call it the Bells family!


How has being a female influenced your career?

I find that in the main, women are great at communicating and building rapport.  Business owners often find talking to me about their business easy, that way, I can help identify areas where we may be able to assist them.  


It does amuse me however that I am often mistaken for the receptionist when people come in for meetings with “the Managing Director!”


What is your biggest achievement in life? Definitely my business and my daughter. I want Mia to be proud of her mum so I will strive hard to achieve my goal of being the first sole female director to get their business into the top 100 accountancy practices in the country.


What lessons have you learnt and what advice would you give?

Feel the fear and do it anyway! If you wait until you are ready, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life. Stop waiting and start today. Put yourself forward for projects, offer opinions and speak your mind in meetings.


Never be afraid to try something new, nothing is failure as you can always learn from mistakes, be confident in yourself and your abilities.


Employ people more skilled than you are! It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.


Listen far more than you talk. Understand that you do not have all the answers and ask for help when you need it. The team you are working with will have many brilliant ideas on how things can be done better, listen to them and implement their suggestions. Show them that you deliver on what you say you will. Be confident but humble and approachable. Your job as a manager is to serve your team and get them whatever they need to do the job they are paid to do. Empower your team. If they ask you what to do, ask them what they would do first and then help them weigh up the options.


Your life is in your hands! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!


Using a business coach has been invaluable to me. My business coach, Alison Stansfield, has supported and advised me throughout my business journey, I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am without her.


Anything else that you would like to add about your career or story:

I have recently featured on a podcast by The Leaders Council alongside the footballer Sir Geoff Hurst – have a listen:


Joanne Bell is Managing Director of Bells Accountants, supporting clients with accountancy and bookkeeping services.

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