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To contract or not to contract?

It’s a question I frequently get asked and given the increasing number of contracting roles in indirect tax over the last twelve months I thought that it would be helpful to talk through the things you should consider before making the jump.

First of all it’s a myth that you need to be a very senior, experienced specialist to go contracting.  We get contracts in at all levels from more compliance focused ones looking for indirect tax specialists with a limited amount of experience through to interim global lead roles.

As a contractor you accept a greater degree of risk and that is the deciding factor for most people.  The worry that your contract could come to an end with little or no notice period and the concern of where your next contract is going to come from may not suit everyone.   It is often suggested that a contractor should keep a few months income in reserve to cover any unexpected periods without work.  In our experience there is still a real skills shortage in the indirect tax market and contractors who are good at what they do usually have a range of options open to them.

Then there is the paperwork side to deal with.   Ideally you will need to set up a limited company – this is more straightforward than it sounds and most people get an accountant to deal with the accounts, regulations, tax, VAT, salary etc.  You will also need to have liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance.  Again this is not as scary as it sounds and there are many policies on the market aimed at independent contractors that are not too expensive.  Some contractors do work through an umbrella company, these act as an employer for contractors and take the admin hassle away, but they do charge a fee. 

One point that is often overlooked is that of independence as opposed to sense of belonging.  Employees feel that they are part of something, have a career path, an employer who will invest in training and develop skills.  As a contractor it is up to you to develop your career and experience and take any qualifications you feel you want/need.  On the point of independence, as a contractor you will have much more control over your lifestyle and you will probably find that you spend your time more effectively.  You can put the hours in when you are in a contract and make the most of your time in between.

So in summary, it’s not for everyone but if you think it through, have confidence in your abilities and want more independence give it a go.  It’s not that scary.



How important is industry sector specialism in the consulting market ?….Catriona takes a look ….

Fiona Czerniawska at Source For Consulting has written an interesting article recently, exploring the importance of deep industry sector knowledge to buyers of consulting services.  Fiona’s research suggests that corporates are increasingly favouring consulting firms who can demonstrate this understanding and knowledge of their industry sector.

This has set me thinking …….What impact might this have on consulting careers? Will consultants become increasingly sector focused at earlier stages of their career to meet the demands of clients when bidding for engagements? What opportunities will there be to transfer across to other sectors? I often meet consultants with experience in a particular industry sector who would like to transfer to alternative industry sectors, or at least extend their existing sector knowledge.

It is always easier to capitalise on your existing industry sector knowledge when making a career move , but it is also possible, particularly at the earlier stages of your career to have some flexibility around this  – is this going to be increasingly difficult even in a buoyant hiring market ? I was recruiting recently for a small FS consultancy which wanted experienced consultants from any industry sector – might this become an unlikely future scenario? What about the impact on smaller consulting firms who may have a functional specialisation and a broader sector focus?

Any thoughts? At the very least, you may need to think more carefully at the earlier stages of your career about committing to an industry sector …….as it may have a longer lasting impact than you might expect!


VAT & Property Conference 2015

BLT were delighted to sponsor this year’s VAT & Property Conference, which took place yesterday at The Bloomsbury Hotel in central London.

Liz and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with so many VAT friends and familiar faces – apologies if you were there and we missed the chance to say hello.

The delegates were entertained throughout the day by the insightful speakers – Ion Fletcher, Justin Whitehouse, Marc Welby, Andrew Hitchmough, Bruno Giordan, Chris Nyland, Louise Speke, Kirsten Prichard Jones and Martin Scammell.

The conference was so popular this year, and by the sounds of things, places sold out super quick – and I suspect it will be exactly the same next year! Do remember to book your place early – you can find out more about the conference and register interest in next year’s conference at

Thanks and congratulations to Martin Scammell and the team of organisers on another successful event.

Women In The Boardroom – what happens next after the Davies Report?

The publication of the Davies Report today shows a significant increase in the number of women on the Boards of biggest businesses, the FTSE 100.  There is no disputing the progress that has been made – in Feb 2011 12.5% of FTSE 100 Board members were women and in October 2015 this has increased to 26.1%, against a target of 25%.

The next challenge is to extend this into the wider FTSE 350 with a target of 33% of women Board members by 2020. How should this be achieved? – through a quota system or through a voluntary target, as over the past four years. Personally, I’m against quotas and more in favour of the voluntary target, which has proven to be a success.  What’s your view?

In amongst all the charts and stats in the report, I was interested to see the Search and Selection industry receiving  some praise too: “The efforts of the Executive Search firms working together with their clients have undoubtedly been a major driver of progress. “

However, there’s plenty more to do ….of the 286 female Board members, 260 of them are Non – Executives, (and there is some duplication with some members serving on more than one Board). As well as extending the reach from the FTSE 100 to FTSE 350, the next step must also be to extend the numbers of senior women in Executive positions too ……..but businesses and recruiters alike can only select from the available talent pool and how to increase that is another challenge. Any thoughts ?


Two business people

What can we learn from Mr Waitrose? Catriona takes a look…….

The press was awash this week with the news that Mark Price, was stepping down as Managing Director of Waitrose and leaving the business to focus on his quest  to be the next Chairman of Channel 4. One line in the article caught my eye – assuming it’s true of course – ”I’m going to consult for a global consultancy business, give lectures and continue writing books”   Which firm is he joining I wondered?  Anyone out there got any ideas?

Now before I go any further I must say I have no vested interest in Waitrose other than as a customer. I don’t know anyone who works there, nor are they a client …but any business which lets me choose my own offers rather than choosing them for me, gets my vote!

Anyway, what a rich seam of knowledge this man must have for a consulting firm to harvest after 33 years and 10 years as MD at Waitrose.  He took over as MD just before the financial crisis hit, yet successfully built a premium business at the same time as many customers were trading down on their grocery spending and Aldi and Lidl were emerging. How did he do it? All his experience of digital, multi-channel , the benefits or challenges of being an early / late adopter of developments, brings a wealth of experience for large and small retailers alike.

And what about his pearls of wisdom on employee engagement …….. in an environment where we hear so much about company culture being key to employees ……what can we learn from his experiences and benefits of the partnership model?

A final thought crossed my mind – he has worked at Waitrose for 33 years, his successor has been there for over 20 years.  In 30 years’ time ….will the “lifer” still exist in our largest corporate businesses? Somehow, I think not …’s crop of graduates are unlikely to stick with one employer all of their working life …but that’s a topic for another day……….

In the meantime, I look forward to Mr Waitrose’s Thought Leadership writings with interest …and to  see which consulting firm he ultimately joins!


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