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A business helping others to start their business

A business helping others to start their businessElemental CoSec is one of the leading company secretarial firms in the UK. We provide company secretarial services (often known as corporate secretarial services in the US) and corporate services including legal advice and corporate governance guidance. You can see the full details at www.elementalcosec.com.

A little simpler please….

For those of you who may not be familiar with all of those terms, Elemental CoSec is a professional services firm. We help our clients set up new companies and partnerships and handle their regulatory compliance matters. So, for example, we deal with the necessary filings at Companies House and provide corporate legal advice as well.

In answer to the question we’ve had a few times, we don’t provide secretaries for typing or filing; just legal matters.

A business helping others to start their business

Nick Lindsay

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started the business

My name is Nick Lindsay and I used to be a corporate lawyer in the City of London. I trained at worked at one of the top city firms (Olswang LLP) and as part of this role I worked with company service providers in the UK and across the world. Yet no matter who I worked with, I generally found the quality and level of service provided was considerably lower than in any other similar industry. It seemed that these companies were still working in the same way they had for the previous 20-30 years and that customer satisfaction was low down their list of priorities.

On the other hand, law firms had changed a lot over the previous 5-10 years. They had adopted innovative ways of working and, in some cases at least, they had embraced new technologies to streamline their processes and deliver a better end product to their client.

Given this, it seemed obvious to take this approach and apply it to company secretarial services. So, along with a colleague, we decided to set up Elemental CoSec to bring a truly professional service to the company secretarial market in the UK.

How did you start the company and finance it?

We didn’t have any external finance and set the company up with our own money. We were therefore very keen to keep the costs down; as all start-ups are. However, a low cost base also fitted with the business model that we were targeting long term. A traditional professional services firm has high fixed costs. They have an expensive office; full time staff;proprietary IT systems; and marketing and back office teams. By getting rid of these costs we are able to provide a high level of service for a much lower fee than our competitors.So keeping the costs down is not just an approach we adopted for the start-up phase but is integral to the way we do business and will continue to do business.

I designed and built the website myself using a WordPress template and as I’m fairly technically minded I was able to do this without any real assistance. On the other hand, graphic design is not something that I have any skill with, so I outsourced this. We used a local freelancer that I knew for the more complex staff and someone based in India for the more straightforward aspects. Using sites such as freelancer.com it is incredibly easy to outsource tasks to lower cost jurisdictions and something that I’d definitely recommend for anyone setting up a business on a shoestring.

For our company secretarial systems we use cloud computing and ‘software as a service’ programs. This means that our IT costs are directly proportional to the level of business we have and, more importantly, to our revenues. This worked well in the early stages, helping to keep our costs down and it has been easy to scale up as well when needed.

As to staff, we use a disbursed operating model whereby qualified lawyers and company secretarial experts can work from home or local premises and log in remotely. They don’t need to work full time and we have people working in the evenings and part time as it suits them. This allows Elemental to gain access to highly skilled staff whom otherwise wouldn’t have many options other than full time work in an office. We do still have a central admin function, but it means that our fee-earners can be matched well to the work that is done.

All this has meant that the business has been cash generating from an early stage and therefore our financing needs have been relatively low.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

In terms of lead generation, our marketing is similar to a lot of businesses. We use online advertising and SEO; we also look to get in front of clients through referrals and recommendations as well as more traditional networking.

However, once a lead has been generated, converting it into a sale is a lot different from a business selling a commodity or a standardised service. We do have standard services that we provide and sometimes clients will approach us and know what it is they want and that we are who they want to provide it.

However, often the conversion process is a lot more involved than that. We need to get to know the client, their needs and how we can work with them. Going through this process takes time, sometimesmonths and it is probably where we spend the majority of our marketing time.

Where is the business now?

Elemental CoSec is now an established business and generating new work through referrals and happy clients which is the best sign for a company secretarial firm. We are still growing fast which leads to its own challenges and we do have to spend a lot of time dealing with the ever changing challenges.

We recently expanded the services that we provide to our clients. Initially we focused just on company secretarial services, but we now provide a much wider set of corporate services to our clients. We provide legal advice and drafting, corporate governance work and accountancy services which allows us to provide a more comprehensive service to our clients but does bring its own challenges.

What has been the highlight of setting up Elemental CoSec?

The highlight has undoubtedly been the freedom I’ve gained to work flexibly and the feeling of immense pride in having built something from scratch. I always knew I wanted to set up my own business at some point and if you have a similar feeling my advice would be to just give it a go.

What was the hardest thing about setting up Elemental CoSec?

Probably leaving the support and the friends I had in the City of London. The people I worked with in London were incredible and the camaraderie you build up with your workmates is not something to be underestimated. Going into business without this support business is a real shock to the system but fortunately I’ve been able to stay in touch with a lot of these people which has helped.

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