Growth Story: How Rachel Sestini grew a practice to £800k and 14 staff in 10 years


Ten years ago, Rachel Sestini knew what she wanted to build a business focused around the private client and their specialised tax needs. Now at £800k with 14 members of staff, she’s appreciating what she’s achieved so far with Sestini & Co and knows there’s still work to be done.

A couple months ago, Rachel sat with Heather for a virtual coffee to chat about her growth story and lessons learned so far as a business owner with a specialist practice and multiple locations. In this conversation, Rachel shared:

  • How she has grown a specialist US/UK tax practice from the ground up to £800,000 and 14 staff in 10 years
  • Her journey to release herself from doing client work
  • The key challenges she overcame when her practice went through periods of accelerated growth that she wasn’t fully ready for
  • The process of building (nearly) self-sufficient teams who work in different locations

We’ve recapped their conversation in this blog post, but if you’d prefer to listen or watch the interview, click below!


About Rachel

Rachel Sestini is a specialist in international personal tax with over 25 years'​ experience advising individuals and companies on cross-border tax planning and private client tax planning. After qualifying in both UK and US tax with PWC, she went on to work with international private clients at Coutts for several years before moving to the Southwest to work with a smaller practice and focus on raising her son.

“If people start their own businesses, it's because of something they want to do with their life.”

In need of more work-life flexibility and feeling frustrated at not being able to support clients in the fashion she truly wanted to, Rachel set up Sestini & Co as a boutique practice in 2013. Focused on providing clear, practical and coherent tax, accountancy and business management advice to high networth individuals and business owners, the business has grown from just Rachel to a team of 14 and a turnover of £800k in ten years.

Keen to put a bit of financial services into the mix, Rachel set up Sestini & Co Pension Trustees Ltd in 2017. The pensions team uniquely helps entrepreneurs and owner-managed businesses who wish to take control of their retirement plans as members of SSAS.


Setting up the business

A laptop, notebook and glasses to represent Rachel Sestini Growth StoryWhen Rachel started Sestini & Co, she was determined to offer tax and other services led by the private client. In this case, for US and UK clients, generally of high net worth and with an international element to their lives. This specialism has since expanded to ‘quirky and unusual’ clients whose tax situations aren’t standard and benefit from a tailored service.

Looking at her path so far, Rachel feels that three things enabled her to speed up the growth of the business once she got started: networking with the right people, office space and hiring (and delegating to) staff.


Networking to the right audience

Prior to and since starting her practice, networking has been a cornerstone of growing Sestini & Co. But with her particular USP and niche, Rachel quickly realised that the traditional avenue of networking to the end client wasn’t working for her.

Networking with potential referrers (law firms, banks and other private client providers) quickly proved more sustainable and easier to replicate for leads. Local networking has proved fruitful in other ways for Rachel though, as contacts have often turned into suppliers for IT, legal and other services needed to run the business.

Getting an office

As with many businesses, Sestini & Co started in Rachel’s home, with an employee starting shortly after in a hybrid fashion. It soon became apparent that an actual office space would be needed. Something that looked like a good business space, where clients could come in and she could easily fit staff into as the team grew. A dedicated, scalable space in Somerset made growing her team a more seamless experience, and a second office in London was opened in 2019.

Growing the team

In the ten years since the inception of Sestini & Co, Rachel has built (nearly) self-sufficient teams that work in different locations. The team is 14-people strong with a culture of continuous improvement over aiming for perfection.

The type of work and referrals make it slightly more difficult to anticipate when to hire, and it it takes time to get the right people and to integrate them into the firm’s ethos and aspirations. As the team has grown, Rachel has been able to (and had to) release herself from client work in order to focus on the business.


Committing to growth

Work meeting with sticky notes on wall to represent Rachel Sestini Growth StoryRachel readily admits that releasing herself from client work is a continual work in progress — particularly on the tax side. But she is always keen to look at the progress made versus beating herself up about what she’s still doing. Three strides she is particularly proud of are:

  • Releasing a significant amount of UK and US tax and compliance work
  • Hiring good people that she can trust to be client-facing
  • Clients feeling comfortable and building a trusted relationship with someone that isn’t her

The above has meant a significant amount of delegation.


Rachel’s guide to delegation

Systems & processes - In order to delegate effectively and efficiently, Rachel knew she needed to have really clear processes and systems in place so everyone can understand how to do things as they get passed on. An example of this is the ‘house style’ of templates, etc for client correspondence. This carries on no matter who deals with a client, as they have bought into this and it also builds confidence for staff when takin gup the baton.

Let go of the ego - Delegation is not a one-and-done exercise; it needs to be repracticed again and again, keeping in mind that it’s a good thing if the team don’t need you and/or don’t do things the way you would do them. (Except the ‘house style’. That stays.)


Getting through the hard times

woman with head in hands looking at laptopGrowing an £800k business from the ground up has been both rewarding and challenging. Rachel shared a few scenarios where she’s had to dig deep.

The early years

Initially, it was difficult to anticipate the type of leads new referrers would bring. Which made it difficult to know when to recruit as it can take time to find the right people; she never felt quite ready as it’s also a more purposeful and high-cost decision, not just a bum in a seat. Over time it has gotten easier to predict and Rachel has confidence in the pipeline, which she monitors by quarter.

Keeping up with accelerated growth

In 2019, things accelerated on the US tax side of the business. Rachel had initially kept this offering quiet, so it was eye-opening for her systems when it was quite popular and she needed to hire. She opened the office in London to widen the talent pool for international tax specialists, CTAs and CPA/enrolled agents — a limited bunch!

Juggling two locations

The Sestini & Co team are spread across Somerset and London, with some hybrid-working in the mix. Rachel’s advice to anyone considering multiple locations is to remember that it will be more complicated than you think it will be, but it’s doable with regular touchpoints and set lines of communication. Constant review and adjustments will need to be made as hurdles appear and/or the team evolves.

When difficult members of staff leave

Rachel has found that the most difficult exits have not been the people that didn’t fit, but those who didn’t work our with her expectations of what what they wanted from a role. A mismatch of expectations isn’t something necessarily picked up on right away — it can take months — and it can be disappointing.

Knowing the hurdles she’s had to lead, Heather asked her what keeps her going, and it turns out the AGC has a pilot in the mix! Rachel is licenced to fly private aircraft and says taking to the skies is like a meditation for her as there isn’t enough bandwidth to think about anything else. She loves to spend time with her son, and has also found movement helpful, having found a local gym where she can build body strength.


Lessons learned: key takeaways from the journey so far

Rachel at Sestini & CoRachel’s path has led to her running a specialised practice with interesting clients and a clear USP. So what are her key takeaways from ten years as a business owner?

  • The progress of growing, adapting and evolving the business is never done
  • Specialising in private client services was the right decision
  • Networking with referrers is the most fruitful way to get leads
  • Local networking is a good way to find suppliers and support the community
  • Systems and processes - always have them in place and continuously look at how they can improve
  • Hire slightly before you need to
  • Delegate; learn how to delegate again, and delegate more; repeat


What’s next?

Rachel looks forward to releasing more of her time so she can fine tune the business even more and take to the skies more frequently. She is currently taking part in the 2023 AGC Certified Growth Advisor programme.

** Sestini & Co is a specialist UK and US tax firm based in Somerset and London. If you want to get in touch with Rachel to learn more about her journey and/or to pick her brain, you can contact her here. **

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