Growth Story: Discover How Graeme Tennick Built a Scalable Accountancy Practice in Less Than Fifteen Months

A rollercoaster tale of entrepreneurial and personal discovery, business scalability, and not being afraid to start again.

From March 2021 to the latter part of 2022, Graeme Tennick of Tennick Accountants took his practice from almost bankrupt to thriving. It’s been a rickety roller coaster ride with intense highs and equally dramatic lows, but along the way, he found clarity to build a stronger foundation to target hitting the £ 1 million mark before 2025. Last year, Graeme logged on to Zoom to share his Growth Story.

In this Growth Story, you’ll discover:

  • How Graeme went from poster boy for the profession to a business that focuses on clients and community
  • The big changes Graeme made to achieve record profits and create a scalable business in less than 15 months
  • How Graeme and his team found clarity with marketing and went from £250 per month top-end fees up to £2000 per month with some clients

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

Graeme Tennick is the founder and Chief Legacy Maker at Tennick Accountants, the firm he started in 2012 near Newcastle. Before starting his practice, Graeme trained for five years with a small firm and subsequently (and quickly) climbed the ladder at PWC and in the public sector. Passionate about learning and helping people, he comes from an entrepreneurial family and spent his early years watching his father run and sell a successful family business. To say he is driven would be an understatement. As you’ll read, his drive has both helped and hindered his business growth along the way — with some important lessons learned.


Setting up the business

Graeme TennickWanting to make a bigger difference for clients, Graeme left employee life in 2012 to set up Tennick Accountants. Five years into the business, he had the epiphany that he had inadvertently replicated the small firm where he cut his accountancy teeth. (Not a good thing.) Things were still being done manually, and he was behind with the new (now standard) cloud software trend. Margins were shrinking with a growing team, and they lost a top client.

Keen to right the ship, Graeme adopted Xero and Sage’s cloud platforms in 2017. He also went to Xerocon and, to use his words, “got software drunk.” (Which many tech-loving accountants can empathise with!) Lured by the software siren’s call, he committed to many a licence with many providers, including reporting software that would enable the provision of advisory services.

Initially, the software spree created some efficiencies and restored some profitability, but this was short-lived when things stagnated considerably in 2019. Diving into business development books, Graeme saw he didn’t have the right structure, processes, or team in place to make things truly work—even with all the software. A Myers-Briggs exercise revealed the needed mindset switch, which led to trimming some software fat. Graeme then committed to what was actually needed to get things running smoothly.

In adopting the right technology and streamlining his processes, Graeme saw his second-best year and felt well-equipped to offer advisory services to grow the practice. Despite the pandemic, the cloud gave the team a leg up, and Tennick Accountants won Digital Accountant of the Year in late 2020! But then the wheels came off again...


Committing to growth

In March 2021, Graeme realised that the 2020/2021 fiscal year had sowed far less profit than he’d thought. In fact, it was the worst year the firm had ever had. It was time to take things apart and (re)rebuild. Now, you might think: wait a moment, he embraced technology, got it working and won an award for it. What went wrong? In his conversation with Heather, Graeme highlighted a few things that contributed to the challenges:

  • The highest fee was only around £250 per month.
  • Pulling back from advisory services in 2020 (as it didn’t seem like the thing to push at that time) meant losing momentum and money with software licences sitting idle.
  • Winning the award raised his and the firm’s profile with software companies which was fantastic, but over-commitment to attending events and webinars with those companies took his eye off the ball of his own.
  • There was no clarity in his vision for the firm.

At this point, Graeme was taking part in the AGC Certified Growth Advisor programme, which added fuel to the fire to refocus and recommit to growth.


Getting through the hard times

Graeme credits his positive family upbringing, support network, and resilience with helping him get through tough times. While flipping the business from unprofitable to in-the-black, there were times when it all felt a bit much. But when Graeme sets his mind to something, it happens.

Sorting out who, what, where and why

a group of people holding lego figures to represent how to get your team to step upImportant reflection and discussions with his Growth Specialist brought the realisation of a serious lack of clarity in his vision for Tennick Accountants. Yes, he wanted to provide business support services, but what did that mean? Graeme needed to properly establish his brand internally with strong values and culture so the messages could be replicated externally to attract the right clients. After all, like attracts like.

To do this, Graeme took these four steps:

  1. Client portfolio analysis - A powerful and often under-estimated exercise that helped Graeme identify what the firm wasn’t to see what it is and can be (and what it should charge).
  2. Vision - What is the purpose of the firm? Graeme wrote the vision, which led to the…
  3. Niche - Who does the firm support? Which led to…
  4. Values - What does the firm stand for?

With every step, Graeme had sessions with the team for their insight and input into the process. This has created not just clarity, but team cohesion and a positive domino effect with the marketing. Graeme has also committed to one advisory software (Clarity), which has proven a fruitful decision.

Whilst the highest monthly recurring fee was once £250, the average fee now runs around £500 per month. The highest fees at the time of his Growth Story conversation with Heather were clients at £2000 per month.


Pulling together the team

With his firm growing and stalling at various points, it’s taken a few years for Graeme to find the right equation of efficiency and profitability with software and people power. From staff members being unhappy with the use of offshore resources to illness and family tragedies across the team, it was mentally straining for all at various points. Particularly in 2020 and the beginning of 2021.

Frank and empathetic discussions were held, and the team pulled together. January is a very hectic time in the accountancy world, but the team smashed through the 2021 self-assessment tax return season with flying colours. After careful assessment, Graeme has since adjusted the team from 15 to 10 people, considering skills/personality fit and what is best for the team and business. Also part of the team is their offshore resource, who is treated as, and for all intents and purposes, a member of staff.


Lessons learned: key takeaways from the journey so far

steam train to represent tennick accountants moving full steam aheadGraeme addressed the purpose of the firm, raised his prices and recognised (and implemented) key mindset shifts he and his team needed to make. But this came with its challenges and lessons.

In not being afraid to take stock when things went awry, Graeme was able to navigate the intense highs and lows of business ownership. When he got the right team working the right way with the right processes for marketing, tech and data, things were full steam ahead.

“No clients buy software; they buy solutions.”


Graeme feels like he's learned 10-15 major life and business lessons in 15 months. The takeaways that stand out the most for him are:

  • Identify what you don’t want to be first
  • Structure things well the first time and spend
  • Slow down
  • Involve the team members more from the beginning
  • 1% gains are the best gains
  • Clients buy solutions, not software


What’s next?

With a stronger foundation ready to accommodate scaling to and reaching the £ 1 million mark before 2025, Graeme looks forward to smashing his goals at a slower and more sustainable pace. He and the team’s hard work has paid off with Tennick Accountants recently winning big at, respectively, the Xero and Accountancy Excellence awards.

**  Tennick Accountants is an award-winning, cloud-based accounting practice in Greater Newcastle. 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. **

Why not book a call with one of our Growth Specialists to talk about how you could benefit from joining the Club?

We're here to support our members to grow their accountancy practice.

With private coaching for our accountant members, exclusive masterclasses and a great community of accountants who help and support each other every step of the way, why not book a call to find out more?

It's not a magic bullet, but if you are willing to take action, then joining the AGC could be the very best thing you can do for yourself and your practice. You don't have to want to grow a £1million firm, just have the ambition to grow your firm in a way that works for you.