A DESIRE for digital dynamism has driven a North East accountancy firm to be among the first to access new business support funding.
A vibrant, modern company with traditional strengths and values, Harlands Accountants accessed a grant from the North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF), to increase its digital profile and drive new business.
Based in Annfield Plain, County Durham, Harlands Accountants has developed a reputation for excellence since it was formed in 1982, becoming the largest accountancy firm in Derwentside. However, following a management buyout five years ago it was decided a brand refresh and new focus was required.
Harlands directors also recognised the need to hone its online offer – understanding what worked and what didn’t to gain access to a whole generation of new businesses conducting their banking and accountancy via mobile apps and other digital platforms.
Commercial Director, Phil Murray, has overseen the company’s successful foray to expand its online reach and also the re-branding process. He said: “This wasn’t ground-breaking information for us, but what it did do was provide a focus for us thanks to the NEBSF support, so we were able to act quickly on what we had learned.
“The process to apply was straightforward, the support from the team at NBSL was fantastic and delivery was incredibly fast. We brought in digital marketing specialists Silverbean and worked with them to create a digital marketing plan, content for social media, copy and ideas for blogs and how to be smart about targeting specific geographical areas, sectors – we even know what time is best to post or advertise to hit specific audiences.”
The focus on online expansion has also seen Harlands Accountants create a new digital marketing post, operating under Head of Digital and IT, Darren Wingfield.
Darren said: “This funding and project has helped evolve our business enormously. One of the key things we help our clients do is take control. Control of their finances, their futures, their investments, their exit plans…we are now working with a range of businesses, young and traditional, large and small to break down the misconception that accountants are the guys you hand over a box receipts to and they tell you how well the business is doing.
“We are a modern, fast-paced company that not only takes the hassle out of handling accounts, we provide a wealth of services to make sure your business is running efficiently, smoothly and remains fit for the future.”
John Atkinson, Business Funding Adviser for NBSL, which manages and administers the NEBSF funding, said: “There is a lovely symmetry to helping a business that helps other businesses. Harlands Accountants is an excellent, modern company with a determination to break into new markets and engage with potential new clients, so it’s fantastic to see the NEBSF funding having such an immediate impact.
“We need more firms like them to contact us. Our entire reason for being is to make North East businesses grow and be successful. NBSL takes the heartache out of the application process and cuts through all the funding red tape. Accessing funding support could not be any easier for a business.”
The last iteration of the NEBSF, a two-and-a-half-year programme that ran until August 2015, approved investment of £2.5m, funding projects in 2,500 businesses, creating 650 jobs and safeguarding countless others.
The new scheme allows businesses to access up to 35% funding towards projects costing between £3,000 and £8,000, with a maximum grant of £2,800.
The North East Business Support Fund is part financed by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
To watch a video of Phil Murray explaining the benefits of NEBSF, click here.
For more information about the North East Business Support F