Growth Story: How Graeme Morris Turned a Declining Practice Into a Flourishing Business

A journey from grumpy to grateful and from worried to winning (on the way to growing to £400k!).

In 2022, Graeme Morris of Cloud Accountancy Ltd was struggling. He was just over £100k in turnover, but the practice was declining, clients were leaving, and his mental health was not at a good level. It felt like the world was against him. He had lost focus, feeling frustrated and was trying to do too much, reaching for a goal it turns out he didn’t actually want to achieve. This is a story of mindset shifts, (re)finding joy and the power of community.

In this Growth Story, you’ll discover:

  • The strategy Graeme took to turn a declining practice into a flourishing business — growing to over £250k in 18 months and on track to hit £400k in the coming year.
  • Critical mindset shifts that propelled him from "Grumpy Graeme" to "Grateful Graeme" and how these changes significantly boosted his practice's performance.
  • Graeme’s journey of embracing team-building, transforming a point of fear into a pillar of strength.

If you’d like to listen to or watch the conversation, click below for the YouTube video of Graeme’s chat with Heather. 

About Graeme

Toto the dog from Cloud Accountancy LtdGraeme Morris is a passionate, tell-it-like-it-is accountant and Manchester City fan with 30-plus years of practice experience and two decades of experience running his own practice. His firm, Cloud Accountancy, specialises in cloud accounting, tax, and business advisory. With a speciality in supporting clients in construction and property in Manchester and across the UK, he and his team also support a variety of owner-managed businesses. A particularly special team member is Graeme’s Daschund, Toto (pictured left), who keeps everyone in line and provides joy to staff and clients alike.


Setting up the business

Twenty years ago, Graeme started his firm with an eye to support clients with their numbers and grow to be the absolute best. He was always keen to make a difference and possibly felt like he had something to prove.

While doing initially well and with a team, the 2008 credit crunch made for a difficult time after heavy exposure to property companies — the business was almost lost as many large clients folded. At various points in the past, Graeme had a team, but just before the pandemic, he was operating solo. Although at £110k with losses at a minimum, referrals were drying up, and his life revolved around work. Graeme was losing his temper, feeling frustrated and under a lot of (in his words: self-imposed) pressure. He was trying to re-engineer his practice and get the workout, which made his attitude worse as he was falling behind on both.

It was time to make a change. This initially started with a high turnover as the grand prize (and getting there on his own), but as you’ll read, and as Graeme knew deep down, the prize was growth of a different kind.+


Committing to growth

Knowing he needed to pull up his bootstraps, and with achieving £5 million in a year as his goal, Graeme signed up for the Accountants´Growth Club and worked with Heather as his Growth Specialist. They worked on focusing on the following:

Reconnecting with WHY

man on a mountain peak to represent reconnecting with whyAfter his first sessions, Graeme was coming around to the fact that there was a better way. He needed to build the practice for him, his way, but with purpose and without ego. He had taken part in a number of coaching offerings but found he couldn’t implement cookie-cutter methods that seemed to be helping other ambitious accountancy entrepreneurs thrive. Additionally, a turn-up and listen twice-a-month package never went deep enough (for him) into what was holding him back.

If you’ve worked with Heather or any of our Growth Specialists, you´ll know that one of the first questions you are asked when developing a growth plan is, "WHY did you start your business?" Rather than an ego-driven, ‘my practice is bigger than yours’ viewpoint, Graeme realised he needed to reconnect with his reason for building the practice and slow the bus down so he could move forward with purpose and realistic expectations. To be slightly clichéd, success does not happen overnight.


(Incremental) ch-ch-ch-changes and managing expectations

When Graeme worked on his WHY and managing expectations, he started to think about what it was he really wanted. To use an analogy from Heather, we all ‘want’ a fancy, expensive car, but do we really need that to get from A to B? And in knowing he needed to make changes, did that mean he had all the answers and knew it all? (Spoiler alert: no one knows it all!) A dose of reality with his Growth Specialist and attending Daily Power Ups and various AGC programmes started to give Graeme a perspective shift.

Properly listening to and interacting with other accounting practice business owners in a safe, open forum opened his eyes to various ways they were handling similar issues. It helped him understand where he could flex and what could or wouldn’t work for him with where he was at that time. And if he was ‘wrong’, it was always okay to pivot and try something different.


Taking the leap to hire

Team with their hands togetherCircling back to the need to hire, Graeme was resistant. He did not have a good experience with having a team. But he came around and decided to hire a bookkeeper or a virtual assistant to help offload the admin and "doing" of the business.

Working with Donna at The Accountants’ Recruiter (TAR), he started the recruitment process only to realise that a more senior (and more expensive) accounting candidate was who he needed to bring into the business. Now, knowing this was the right decision did not mitigate feeling hesitant about the higher salary, but Graeme is the first to admit now that Mo has more than proved his ROI.

“If I wanted to grow to the size I wanted to be, I needed to hire. I was initially resistant. But you told me I would burn out and walk away in six months.” - Graeme Morris


Knowing the numbers in order to relax and grow

It turns out that taking the opportunity to step back, listen and make some (initially) scary decisions worked wonders. Graeme started to feel less stressed, and a visibly different Graeme was showing up to the AGC community and his coaching sessions. Another thing that helped him grow both in the business and personally was properly looking at the books for his own business. (Believe it or not, accountants often focus more on their clients’ numbers than their own…)

No one wants to be a spreadsheet millionaire and key questions from Heather (What’s the plan? What does capacity look like?) helped find further clarity of purpose. This led to raising fees, not discounting for anyone, and offering more advisory services. If he needed any further proof that he was doing the right thing, a recent look at the accounts gave Graeme a happy shock: he had doubled his turnover and was well on his way to achieving £400k in the next year.


Getting through the hard times

Slowing down may have initially felt counter-intuitive, but the alternative was not an option. Graeme hadn’t taken a holiday in years, clients could see he was stressed and ‘Grumpy Graeme’ was scaring away clients and prospects. Referrals dried up, and everything was hard work. By hitting pause to get clear on what he wanted and implementing some discipline, he’s rediscovered the joy in his work, and the practice is thriving. And when things do go awry, Graeme’s perspective has drastically changed, knowing anything can be fixed.


Lessons learned: key takeaways from the journey so far

Only two years ago, Graeme essentially wanted world domination (but did he, really?). He knows now that while he does want to grow his practice further, he doesn´t if that means increasing his stress levels to unhealthy highs.

rocks piled up to represent zen accountantsSo what are Graeme’s lessons learned and mindset shifts so far?

  • Always circle back to your WHY
  • It’s okay to slow down
  • Success looks different for everyone
  • He didn’t actually want his practice to grow dramatically; he wanted to be happy
  • There are always different ways to do things
  • Perfection is boring

Another takeaway in his growth journey is the value of friendship and community. Through Daily Power Ups, Graeme has cultivated friendships and a network of fellow accountants who are on the same journey and happy to reminisce, share knowledge and have fun while doing it.


What’s next?

Graeme still wants to conquer the world, but that looks a bit different now. He looks forward to further growing the Cloud Accountancy team under the watchful eye of Toto the Daschund and seeing the practice thrive its way to £400k.


** Cloud Accountancy is a growing accountancy practice in Manchester. If you want to get in touch with Graeme to learn more about his journey and/or to pick his brain, you can contact him here. He is always happy to have a chat over a cuppa and a jaffa cake**

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