Controlling your own destiny. A conversation with Martin Bown from My Management Accountant.
Martin Bown, founder of My Management Accountant, helps small businesses in the UK with a full suite of services, from compliance to management accounting, and forecasting to bookkeeping.
Martin shares the story of how he named his firm and what makes the company name an asset.
My Management Accountant flips the traditional ‘live to work’ mindset by focusing instead on how to control your own destiny. Martin gives employees flexibility and the ability to be more present with their families.
Martin Bown has always had an entrepreneurial itch. Even when he was happy in his accounting work for a festival construction company, he looked for opportunities to be in control of his own destiny.
It wasn’t until one grueling bout of travel for work that he realized he needed a change. Martin recalls being recognized for his hard work—and then being asked to travel even more.
“My boss at the time said, ‘We’re really impressed. We're gonna get you onto the fast track to promotion. But we'll need more weeks with extensive travel’,” Martin shares. “I didn't really want more weeks with travel, certainly not for the shareholders or this big business that I was working for. If I'm gonna do big weeks like that, then they've got to be for me.”
For a while, Martin looked at franchise opportunities with Subway and Papa John’s, searching for something compatible with his family life. The opportunity eventually came not in the form of pizza or sandwiches, but in starting his own accounting firm: My Management Accountant.
In a conversation with Karbon CEO, Stuart McLeod, on episode 42 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, Martin shares how he developed and named My Management Accountant. He also discusses how he works toward work-life balance and what it means to control his own destiny.
The first customer and beyond
When Martin left his job to start My Management Accountant in late 2008, he didn’t have a Rolodex of clients to pull from. So he hit the pavement the good old-fashioned way: through networking.
His first client was a family friend with a hobby business, and it wasn’t long before Martin landed bigger clients needing help with their year-end work. But along the way, Martin realized he wanted to get back to his passion—the advisory role of management accounting. It was also a market need that he observed.
“I quickly learned that actually, what business owners needed was the year-end accounts done, and they needed common sense conversations with an accountant—not something that was kind of high-level,” Martin explains on the podcast.
Selling management accounting services came naturally.
“Along with the compliance, we initiated a nice chat with clients about what was going on in their business. And then from there, I was able to say, ‘Actually, what you might benefit from is management accounting’,” he says of the sales process.
Martin reveled in providing important data projections for small businesses and helping them meet their growth goals. He practiced this even on his first client—the friend with a hobby business. Despite the fact the company seemed too small to benefit from management accounting, Martin proved that growth models and forecasts could support businesses of any size.
Now, My Management Accountant provides a full range of accounting services, from compliance to bookkeeping and credit control to management and advisory.
What’s in a name?
When it came to naming his business, Martin explains why he didn’t want something generic like ‘Bown & Associates’. Admittedly, this wasn’t always the case.
Originally, Martin named his firm ‘Management Accounting Services [Yorkshire Limited]’. But he was inspired to change it after being put on blast at an accounting conference. In a session on marketing, Martin recalls how the speaker presented a slide of all the businesses with different iterations of ‘Management Accounting Services’—including his own.
After the session, Martin approached the speaker and told him about how he found it useful—even if he was called out for being unoriginal. Martin also casually mentioned that he had gotten the web domain name ‘My Management Accountant’.
“[The speaker] said, ‘Have you registered that business name?’ And I said, ‘No, I haven't.’ And he said, ‘That's really interesting.’ And he walked off really quickly. So I raced to my hotel room and about five minutes later, I submitted the application to register the business name,” Martin laughs.
The name ‘My Management Accountant’ works because of its descriptive simplicity. Plus, it’s not bound to Martin—making the business easy to hand off should he ever decide to sell it.
Live to work or work to live?
Martin left his stable yet travel-heavy job in hopes of creating a better work-life balance for his family—so it’s only natural that he extends the same work flexibility to his staff of 13. Since the pandemic, his team has gone fully remote with no plans of returning to the office.
“[It was stressful] when we were in the office thinking, ‘Oh, no, it's my day to pick up the kids.’ And then having to pack up quickly, pick up the kids, then go back to the office to finish off—I don't need it. Nobody needs it,” Martin tells Stuart on the podcast.
Martin has three children, one of whom has cerebral palsy. His experience raising her has shown him how a traditional corporate lifestyle doesn’t support all families. It also led him to develop the philosophy that while professional work should be fulfilling, it should support his personal life rather than interfere with it.
“It's about building a business that allows us to work and do what we do, and do it well. And when life happens, we can step up and help each other out.”
By shaping his own destiny with My Management Accountant, Martin has created a company that also extends flexibility to his employees. But that doesn’t mean it’s time for him to sit back and relax.
“There’s loads more still to be done. We’re still on the journey,” Martin tells Stuart. Looking ahead, Martin plans to learn how My Management Accountant can help other new businesses grow.
Stuart asks Martin if he’d be open to selling his business. According to Martin, not yet—but if the price were right, he’d consider it.
“I'm really happy with the business. I'm happy with how it lets me get on with everything else that I do,” he states.
From tending to his daughter’s needs to running ultramarathons, Martin will surely continue finding ways to grow My Management Accountant and chase his personal goals.