Chartered accountancy and IT firm Mullen Stoker was launched in 2010 and now services clients across the country, supported by a team of 15 employees.
In every issue of East Durham Business we look at issues that are topical, issues that are affecting businesses on a daily basis or perhaps enhancing the way they operate.
This time around it’s the turn of Durham-based chartered accountancy and IT firm, Mullen Stoker, as we chat to director Gary Stoker about why home working is here to stay and what his company is doing to support employers across the region to adapt.
Mullen Stoker was launched in 2010 and now services clients across the country supported by a team of 15 staff.
EDB: Firstly, tell us a little bit about Mullen Stoker.
GS: Mullen Stoker was founded 11 years ago by myself and co-director Neil Mullen. We now employ a team of 14 people, including a third director, Stephen Green. We are a specialist chartered accountancy firm, however we also operate a very successful IT division which has grown rapidly in recent years, and particularly in the past 12 months or so since the coronavirus pandemic forced so many employers to review their working policy.
EDB: The pandemic has certainly changed how people work, with many employees now based at home on a full or part-time basis rather than in the office. How has that impacted on your business?
GS: In two ways really. As a business with multiple employees, we have also switched to a hybrid working model, so many of our staff split their time between the office and working from home. To a certain extent it was a system we had in place anyway as with technology these days, you can work from anywhere. But during the pandemic, and especially in the months of lockdown, all of our staff were working from home and only coming into the office when it was necessary. Now, of course, things are gradually getting back to normal, so we have more people in the office and working from home tends to happen only if needed. From an external point of view, our IT division has grown rapidly, as many of our clients made the switch to home working. So we’ve supported them to get their systems and processes fully compliant to enable their staff to work from home in exactly the same way they would were they in the office.
EDB: So, do you think home working is here to stay?
GS: Absolutely yes. I think many businesses will continue with this flexible approach to working well beyond the pandemic being over – several of our clients have reported a rise in productivity levels among their staff as well as savings to their bottom line so why change back if this new way of working suits their business? Ultimately though, it’s about what is best for your business, although it’s absolutely fair to say the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdowns have highlighted that a flexible model can work for businesses of all sizes and from all sectors, and that’s given many food for thought in terms of their future working.
EDB: You’ve mentioned the upward trend of home working. What about accountancy support – has this evolved during the pandemic?
GS: Yes and no. It’s still business as usual in terms of the services we offer but I think what has changed is the way we communicate. During the pandemic there was so many new and different things affecting company finances – things like the furlough scheme, VAT deferrals, grant support etc – and I think our proactive approach to communicating key messages to clients was particularly welcomed. So many of our clients said to us how much they appreciated us keeping them updated, so I think that will continue moving forward.
EDB: With the increased numbers of people working from home and the growth of Mullen Stoker’s IT division, is this a key area for the business as we move through 2021?
GS: Yes, it’s an area we are actively targeting. There’s a team within Mullen Stoker focussed purely on attracting new and servicing existing clients within this area, and we will also proactively looking to raise our profile as a leading provider of IT services.
EDB: You have recently added to your team. Tell us about that?
GS: We have appointed two new people to the team, Cathy Eales who is an accountant and Steve Hutton, who is an expert within auditing and compliance. Cathy has been recruited to drive our growth in Northumberland, specifically within the rural and farming industries which is her specialism, while Steve will support the continued roll out of compliance and auditing services. Both are leading industry figures with over 30 years’ experience and I’m delighted we have been able to secure their services.
EDB: How do you see your industry evolving in the next 10 years?
GS: The next couple of years are going to be very tough as we try and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. However, I think there’s a real resilience among the North East’s business community to bounce back so for Mullen Stoker personally, I see a lot of reasons for optimism. Generally speaking though, there were a lot of businesses hit hard by Covid and it is going to be a long road to recovery. Hopefully, though, in the next few years we will see the signs that things are picking back up.