When he set up his new company, Kyle White knew a lot about fixing and maintaining locomotive engines. But he didn’t know anything about running a business. Fast forward 18 months and Kyle has been on a huge learning journey and, with a helping hand from RfM Accountants, is on track to take his business, Heritage Rail, a very long way.
Old trains, new opportunities
In spring 2022, with 15 years’ experience in his sector, Kyle saw an opportunity to offer his skills directly to the heritage rail industry as an independent contractor.
“The locomotive engines I work on were designed in the 1960s, so repairing and maintaining them is a specialist skill,” Kyle tells us. “The work is typically carried out by large companies at their own facilities, which requires the trains to be transported to a set location. This adds time and cost to the job. I saw that there was a gap in the market for someone that could do the repairs and maintenance wherever the train happens to be – even if it’s part way through a journey.
“So that’s what Heritage Rail does, and what makes us unique.”
After just 18 months of trading, Morecambe-based Heritage Rail now has the contract for all repairs and running maintenance for the Northern Belle charter train as well as carrying out ad hoc work on many other trains.
Kyle’s wife, Jennifer, is also involved with the company, helping Kyle with back-office tasks and promoting the business on social media.
Someone to do things properly
Kyle had never been self-employed before, but did understand the importance doing the financial side of things properly.
“Maths is not a strong point for me and I knew I needed to find someone to do our accounts right, who could do everything from start to finish,” says Kyle.
“I found RfM via a Google search, read good reviews and got in contact. Then I met with Sam (Client Relationship Manager, Sam Hargreaves) who explained what RfM could do to help a small business like Heritage Rail.
“I liked that Sam gave us a fixed price that covered everything we needed – so I always know what’s coming. She explained everything upfront and has been transparent about any additional costs if they have come up.”
Surprised by the numbers
During the first year of trading, Heritage Rail attracted a wide range of work, turning over far more than Kyle had predicted.
“Our turnover in the first 12 months was double what we expected – which meant we hit the VAT threshold. So this was something else I needed help with.
“The first time I attempted a VAT return myself, I did it all wrong because as I didn’t know about the different rates of VAT for different goods. Fortunately, RfM were there to put things right, and Linda (Head of Bookkeeping, Linda Bates) has been training me so that I’ll be able to do the VAT in the future.”
VAT-registered businesses must also sign up for Making Tax Digital (MTD), which requires them to keep VAT records and submit VAT returns using MTD-compatible software.
“We had set Kyle up on Xero (cloud-based accounting software) right from the start as he wanted to keep track of his figures and be fully prepared for when his Corporation Tax bill came,” explains Sam.
“When Heritage Rail became VAT-registered, using Xero meant that the company was already MTD-compliant, and Kyle could access a customised report to see his Corporation Tax liability.”
After 18 months of trading, Kyle describes year two as “a telling year”: the boom of year one has settled and the end-of-year figures will give him and Jennifer a much clearer picture of what to expect in year three, and beyond. They are focusing on building awareness of the company, securing some longer-term contracts, and developing new ideas to generate regular revenue.
+ more to support young businesses
Kyle has been on a steep learning journey since becoming self-employed and is very appreciative of the support and guidance he gets from RfM.
“I have a very trusting relationship with Sam and Linda. I know what I’m doing with train engines, while they are the experts at what they do.
“They have been there at every step to make sure I do things properly and show me how the business can save money and be tax-efficient. When things crop up unexpectedly – like having to deal with imports and exports – it’s good to know they are there to show me what to do.
“They are always monitoring how we are doing. I feel like they are invested in the success of the business, helping to raise the company with us.”
Whether you’re looking for an accountant who can “do everything from start to finish” like Kyle, or need support at a particular stage in your new business journey, we can help.
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