Growth Story: Learn Michael Murray’s Secrets to Winning 20 New Clients Every Month

Continuing with our Growth Stories series, our next featured AGC member is Michael Murray of M Squared Accountants in Aberdeenshire. Michael’s growth journey has inspired many members, particularly as the M Squared team signs around 20 new clients per month! 

Heather sat down for a virtual interview with Michael Murray in early 2023, where they chatted about:

  • Michael's key critical moves which have enabled him to grow his Aberdeenshire practice from zero to £500k in five years
  • The secrets to winning approximately 20 new clients a month
  • How he has managed to go from all the clients wanting to speak to him to most clients now speaking to the team.
  • The small but incremental changes Michael is making to wean himself off working long hours, and what he is doing to move to a four-day week

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


From fish auctioneer to accountancy practice owner

Michael Murray didn’t start out his working career as the owner of a thriving accountancy practice. But swimming competitively for Scotland as a teen and rising through the ranks from vessel worker to fish auctioneer to Chairman at one of the United Kingdom’s busiest fishing ports certainly gave him the work ethic to become one!

Michael eventually retrained as an accountant for a change of pace and spent several years in practice. In 2017 he opened M Squared Accountants in his hometown of Fraserburgh and recently opened a second office in nearby Peterhead.


Setting up the business to succeed in any climate

While the practice grew steadily enough in the first couple of years, little did Michael know how rapidly some old-fashioned customer service would speed things up — despite, or rather because the world turned upside down in 2020.

The pandemic was a difficult time for many businesses, but two things went in Michael’s favour: he was actually answering the phone and was one of the first adopters of cloud accounting software in his area.

Client service & community engagement to build trust

By 2020, Michael had gone from just himself to employing four people. And as lockdown continued, his closest competitors' customer service levels dropped significantly or they closed down. Knowing their community needed them, Michael and the team focused on delivering amazing customer service. They met and continue to meet each and every client with a proper chat on the phone or on Zoom (and now in person). The clock is not ticking, and customers know they are being listened to.

The M Squared client roster encompasses tradespeople, oil and gas contractors, fishermen, farmers and owner-managed businesses in the marine, agricultural and hospitality industries. To best service this broad range of clients, and knowing his team’s backgrounds, Michael developed specialisms within the team. One of the M Squared team is even a farmer herself, and half of the current team come from one of the local specialist practices that closed in 2020.

Empowering clients with the cloud

Michael knew early on that cloud accounting was the way to go and this was obviously to his advantage at a time when in-person communication was difficult. As an early adopter, he developed key relationships with vendors, in particular with Xero — who came all the way up to Fraserburgh to deliver a workshop for current and potential clients so they could better understand the value of digitising their businesses with the cloud.

All of this, combined with Michael’s strong community ties, helped build the firm’s local profile. They were signing 20 new clients per month towards the end of 2022 and continue to add £2000 - £3000 of monthly recurring revenue in 2023.


Committing to growth

Knowing that he couldn’t manage the growing levels of work with just himself and a small team, Michael continued to grow the M Squared team. But he quickly realised that despite a larger team and growing profit, there was still a bottleneck: him.

New and current clients were still going only to him and everyone was reporting to him. It was not efficient for the team or sustainable for him to work 70-80 hour weeks (even as a self-confessed workaholic). Michael trusts his team implicitly, and he did three things in 2022 to enable them and to free up his time:

  • A senior leadership team is in place - Michael no longer meets with new clients, supervises the more junior staff or manages the day-to-day running of the practice.
  • Systematic delegation - The M Squared team implemented Pixie as their practice management software, and tasks are allocated and tracked accordingly.
  • Hire a PA- While a bit sceptical about this, having a PA to manage his diary and emails has been brilliant and kept him focused on the work that needs doing.

These three tweaks in the business have empowered the team, freed up Michael’s time, and provided a solid foundation and reputation for the business. So much so that Michael has no problem recruiting. His staff has recruited past colleagues, he keeps CVs on file, and he doesn’t hire purely on skillset. He values his team, which has enabled him to hire well and as needed, offering flexible working, no timesheets and regular office hours — no one works overtime. Except for Michael… but we’re working on that.


Getting through the tough times

In January 2023, Heather and Michael were chatting, and Michael went quiet and white as a sheet. Heather immediately asked what was wrong. Did something happen?

His response:

“How did I get this level of growth? It's more than I thought.”

Michael was by no means complaining about his growth. But when he really looked at the numbers, where he was at the time (fantastic) and how things were looking (outstanding) was a shock. For perspective, Michael’s practice went from nought in 2017 to a projected £600k+ for 2023 — with over 100% growth in 2022 alone.

But the bottleneck was back. Until that meeting, the business plan, forecast and budget lived in his head. And there were so many tax returns to do… and he was trying to work fewer hours. (And had also not taken a vacation in five years!) Here is what Michael has done to create some breathing room:

  • Capacity planning - Monthly capacity planning with the senior team has now been implemented to have a better view of what’s going on now and coming up. The forecast, budget and business plan are now documented.
  • Delegate and build the team - Michael increased his resources by 30% to enable the senior team to make decisions and free time for Michael; he also hired a PA and delegates quarterly to free up his time further. The team has grown to 20 people.
  • Find alternatives to working - Though he truly loves his work, it’s become a habit to work too much (and he has the same office setup at home!). To break things up a bit, Michael’s wife books up Friday and Sunday afternoons.
  • Structure - Michael likes to work Saturdays, so he has added a strictly enforced three hours on Saturday mornings into his default diary.
  • Daily Power Ups - Attending the Daily Power Ups gives community and reminds Michael that he’s not alone on his growth journey. The calls also provide some accountability in working towards a four-day workweek.
  • Coaching - Quarterly reviews and weekly accountability calls with Heather give a review of what can be delegated and how. And some good-natured ribbing to make sure Michael isn’t working too much. (He loves his work!)


Lessons learned: What would you do differently?

Michael Murray photographLooking back at his journey so far, Michael feels he has not only grown his business but also as a person. His ingrained discipline has embraced where his role as an accountancy business owner needs to go, all while sticking decades of mental conditioning on how to achieve a goal. His personal growth has been a key mindset shift about where and how he spends his time — until he joined the club, he didn’t realise that working so long and hard wasn’t normal.

These are Michael’s key takeaways as he moves forward into his next phase of growth:

  • Delegate sooner
  • Forecasting makes things much easier
  • If he can enable his staff to work regular hours, he can do that for himself
  • Big change starts small
  • Time off is a good thing


What’s next?

No surprise to those who know Michael is that M Squared Accountants continues to grow, with a new Peterhead office opening soon and another satellite office opening towards the end of 2023. Outstanding customer service, treating the team well, and cloud accountancy will always remain part of the formula for success, and Michael is looking forward to watching his business and team thrive. (And more time off.)


** M Squared Accountants is an award-winning accountancy firm with offices in Fraserburgh and Peterhead. If you want to contact Michael to learn more about his journey and/or to pick his brains, 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 do for you 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.