Meet the team: Claire Brown

We’re running a short series of interviews about our team members to help you get to know us better.  Here is more about Claire Brown

_MG_82441. What do you do?

I’m the Assistant Coordinator at Holybrook and provide organisational support to the team. I am currently working on composing a Staff Handbook and helping to advise on HR policies and procedures. I also work with some of our clients offering financial and administrative assistance and am currently undertaking a Diploma in Personal Performance Coaching to be in a position to also offer coaching to clients next year.

2. Why are you a Holybrook Associate?

Having worked within a range of HR & Operational roles for the past 12 years across the Charity, Health & Education sectors I am really keen to extend my skills to the Commercial Sector. Working with a team with such diverse skill sets creates a great environment for learning and development, which is something I’m really passionate about.

3. What do you like most about working/living in and around Reading?

Reading combines great vibrancy and access to London and other major cities whilst also offering some really stunning peaceful green spaces just a short journey away.

4. Who or what would be your ideal client or project?

My ideal client would be someone at the beginning of their journey; a business start-up or new charity brimming with energy and creativity looking to do something that will make a difference to others. I really value the opportunity to help grow and support clients through a range of strategic initiatives, helping to develop individuals and organisations.

5.  What are your favourite things to do outside working with Holybrook?

Alongside my work at Holybrook, I coach individuals privately and really enjoy working with clients to enable them to move forward from where they are now to where they want to be. I also enjoy swimming, Pilates, singing and being creative.

How do you manage your payroll?



It’s National Payroll Week!

National Payroll Week is currently taking place in the UK between 3rd-7th September and was established to raise the profile and awareness of payroll in the UK.  It helps demonstrate the impact payroll has on the UK economy through contributing towards the £4.46bn* collected through Income Tax and National Insurance.

Payroll is the largest expenditure in most organisations and also poses the opportunity for employees to save money through salary sacrifice and other arrangements which, in turn, increases motivation and morale.

With a number of options for managing payroll, whether integrated within internal Finance or HR Software or outsourced externally, we thought we’d share some related resources that we’ve come across that we hope you might find helpful.

* based on income tax and national insurance contributions.

Payroll Factcard 

The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) have produced a helpful payroll factcard that you might find useful for your business or organisation, which you can download a copy of here

Issued at the start of each tax year, it provides quick access to information on:

  • Tax rates and allowances
  • Student loan recovery
  • Mileage rates
  • National Insurance thresholds and rates
  • Statutory payments
  • Automatic enrolment thresholds
  • Plus other key facts and figures that come in handy when processing payroll

Xero Payroll Software

If you are an existing Xero user for your accounting needs and don’t yet have payroll set-up, you can add it to your plan today. It’s only £5 per month to use Payroll for up to five employees, then £1 per month per additional employee. You can also access a free 30-day trial before committing to see if this might be a good fit for you and your organisation. For further details, you might like to take a look here

How We Can Help

At Holybrook, our Virtual Finance Team offers an extensive range of financial management services to help you improve the way your organisation runs.

If you would value some support with setting up or processing your payroll or anything else, then do please get in touch:




Meet the team: Nicky Gentle

We’re running a short series of interviews about our team members to help you get to know us better.  Here is more about Nicky Gentle

_MG_83231. What do you do?

I am a bookkeeper and provide accounts support. I specialise in Quickbooks both online and desk top. I work with a number of limited companies and provide either a fullbookkeeping service or as a back office support, reconciling their accounts.

2. Why are you a Holy Brook Associate

I am a HB Associate because it provides a team environment, support, challenges and accountability. We have fun too!

3. What do you like most about working/living in and around Reading?

I love Reading. I was born and raised here and its my home. I am lucky enough to have been able to buy a home here and I am proud that my business is here. There’s a fantastic business community and  there’s always someone to support or refer someone who can help. Other parts of the country are easy to reach too from Reading for a getaway.

4. Who or what would be your ideal client or project?

Ideal project is a new company wanting to do things right from the start with bookkeeping, needing a little support and advice as well as bookkeeping. Someone looking to grow, someone who is organised and proactive with their accounts, and replies to emails

5.  What are your favourite things to do outside working with Holy Brook?

Away from HB I like the gym, dog walking and occasionally horse riding. I have a young nephew who I adore spending time with!


Meet the team: Aminah Faisal

We’re running a short series of interviews about our team members to help you get to know us better.  Here is more about  Aminah Faisal

_MG_82991. What do you do?

I am an Assistant bookkeeper at Holy Brook Associates, with a long term goal of being a fully qualified chartered accountant.

2. Why are you a Holy Brook Associate?

As in any job, the people that you work with is very important. At Holy Brook, I value the fact that we have very high values and carry across this to the clients we work with. We also have a very diverse team in terms of technical backgrounds, being able to work with such people allows me to pick up knowledge in different areas.

3. What do you like most about working/living in and around Reading?

Living in Reading allows the contrast between being in almost a city environment, with everything that you need and being able to drive 15 minutes outside of the centre to the countryside.

4. Who or what would be your ideal client or project?

I really enjoy problem solving and coming across challenges.

5.  What are your favourite things to do outside working with Holy Brook?

In my spare time, I enjoy listening to music and watching movies. My hobby that I am passionate about is painting landscapes, I aspire in the future to open my own gallery. I also enjoy reading classic and contemporary literature



The relationship between ethics and profits

What does being an ethical business mean? In the modern day, the word ‘ethics’ is thrown around constantly. An ethical business can be defined as one that behaves with morals and acts in the best interests of its stakeholders. However, the question poses, does social corporate responsibility have to be compromised to maximise profits?

Business ethics is something that is very important to us. Here at HolyBrook, we consider ethics every day and make it part of who we are. We pride ourselves in upholding strong ethics and values. For example, when taking on a new client, we will research the client and their values and compare them with our own, if there is significant disparity between the two, we will consider declining an engagement. (you can read more about our values here)

To maximise profits, some believe that a business must cut costs and increase sales. Mathematically, reducing your outgoings and increasing your income will be correct, but this is a very short-term way of thinking. By only focusing on maximising your profits, this will have a ripple effect on all your stakeholders. Businesses trying to maximise profits may pay the minimum amount to employees, which benefits them financially, but by doing so, employees may not feel valued, so may not work as efficiently, and productivity will be lower. By prioritising profits, staff levels will be kept at a minimum, and those working may feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have, this can create a low morale and increase in sickness days, which can potentially cost the business more than extra staffing costs would. Monopolies often exploit suppliers by pressuring them into paying a very little amount for their products and then selling them in their stores at significantly higher mark-up prices by threatening to buy from another supplier. Although, it does decrease outgoings, it creates bad business relationships and can damage your reputation.

However, when businesses operate with a focus of corporate social responsibility they are focused on long-term goals opposed to short-term goals. Rather than being concerned about the sales and profits, they are more concerned about the happiness and welfare of their employees and such the impact upon the stakeholders. Taking this stance over profits will indeed be more expensive in the short-term but have long-term benefits, by taking on clients that share the same values will improve your reputation and have a positive impact on the way your company is run. As a manager, it is important to show this throughout your practice too, as a standard is set by you which follows down the chain of command.

Therefore, there is no trade-off between ethics and profits, it is only one that is perceived. When businesses trade in an ethical manner, the profits and the benefits of this soon follow.


Playing Catch

Holybrook Associates_4412b_resizeAs a communications specialist and trainer, I regularly have cause to explain my playing catch analogy for effective communication. Every time I talk about it, I see people around the room nodding their heads and hear the scribbling of pencils as they make notes to remind themselves. It is a cornerstone of my beliefs about communication, so I love to share it at every opportunity.

I talk about effective communication because I feel strongly that any activity any individual undertakes must be a worthwhile use of their time, especially in busy organisations where everyone already has lots to do. And getting communication right – making a difference, achieving a desired outcome, starting a conversation, changing behaviours, whatever it is – does take time, make no mistake. Of course, the activity that uses up precious time without appearing to have any tangible benefit is always the one that gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, rarely seeing the light of day. Sadly, this is often the lot of communication actions.

So _MG_8044how do you make sure your communication is effective? How do you bring about tangible benefits? (Or intangible ones, for that matter.) My suggestion is to think of effective communication as a game of catch. To be successful in that game, I have to throw the ball AND you have to catch it, and ideally throw it back to me. Then we are playing catch, not just lobbing a ball at each other! So it is with successful communication.

_MG_8048Many times in my career I have heard the cry ‘I don’t understand why they don’t know about my project, I sent the email’. Or ‘They’re complaining they don’t know what actions we took after the staff survey, but we put it in the newsletter’. And so on. But your email means nothing if they didn’t open it; your newsletter piece is pointless if they didn’t have time to read it.

You have to think about how to motivate or engage your audience to catch the ball. That could be through telling a compelling story that they don’t want to miss. Or using an email format that they can view on the bus. Or sending a message from someone they are dying to learn from. There are many options for making that ball as easy to catch as possible, you have to choose the one that’s right for your audience and your message.

If you want some help to make communication in your organisation like a successful game of catch, please get in touch.

Read more from Sarah Browning here  about planning comms over the summer period

My experience as an intern at Holy Brook

A blog post from Samantha Munnelly, studying BA Accounting and Management at the University of Reading, who is completing an internship with HolyBrook Associates over the summer period

ae28677a-8c35-42f8-80bf-09ebc110e01eWith the increasingly competitive job market, it is always a concern that after completing years of education you will fail at obtaining a job. You are constantly told to ‘make yourself stand out’ and ‘put yourself out there’, but it can be hard to know where to start. As someone who has just completed their first year at the University of Reading, it became my mission to search for an internship over the summer period.

Fast forward to now, I was offered the amazing opportunity to experience working at Holy Brook Associates as a student intern through the Reading Internship Scheme. My first couple of days went by so fast, as with starting any new job at first there is so much to learn, but I managed to pick up the speed and get to grips with the work that I was assigned. During my first week, I have been able to get involved with such a diverse range of tasks, from the typical intern roles such as updating client contact details to working on client accounts.

Further into my internship, I was able to train and get certified on Xero, an accounting software and use this to create invoices for Holy Brook, create manual income journals and also add receipts. I also got to take control of the social media posts, scheduling posts and updating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the website. Last week at Holy Brook, we had a team meeting at Ufton Court, which was such an amazing day, it was great to be able to see what the future holds for Holy Brook!

At University we are taught very theoretically, and examined by giving solutions to ‘made up’ problems. Although you do learn the content, it does not give you the best understanding. Being an intern has given me a greater insight into this industry, it has allowed me to apply my theoretical knowledge into the practical field which has been rewarding.

It has been very interesting to be able to understand the amount of diversity that you have to undertake as a small business, the fact that your responsibility does not just amount to one job. Tasks such as IT difficulties, updating social media, and chasing invoices is all tasks that in multinationals would be outsourced and therefore you would never see that side of running a business. However, at HolyBrook Associates you can find yourself doing all three!

It has been such an eye-opening experience and such a privilege to work with such a hard-working team that generally cares about the work that they do and the people they work for. I have had such an amazing time working as part of a team that are so welcoming and made my first experience in working in an office such memorable one! Although I only have a few days left now, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be an intern and I wish that I didn’t have to leave!