The following article featured in the FT, focuses on the battle on Crunch’s hands. Why so many consistent attacks from every part of the industry? Are the traditionalists in small accountancy practices, large contractor accountancy firms and even competing online software firms running scared?
We’d like to think we’ve delivered a service that was so right for the customer and at such a good price we were inevitably going to cause a few ripples. You make your own mind up. When disruption causes this big a fight it can only mean one thing – the customer (you) is going to benefit. Benefit with a better service, a much better price and most importantly a price that doesn’t escalate.
“Don’t be fooled by the grey, stuffy exterior of the accountancy profession. If you start to challenge their livelihoods, bean counters can turn quite aggressive.
This is what Darren Fell discovered when he launched Crunch – an online business offering basic professional services, such as invoice tracking and the filing of year-end tax returns, for a flat monthly fee of £59.50.
One rival firm ran a search on the Companies House database to find all the businesses that used Crunch. It then targeted each of these companies with a mailshot promoting its own service, in an attempt to poach their custom.
None of the companies signed up with Crunch switched, according to Fell, who runs the business with a team of 17 accountants and software experts from an office near his home in Brighton. However, he has clearly been rattled by the experience.
“It was a really weird feeling to be attacked like this,” he says. “Down here in Brighton, I help a lot of other entrepreneurs. I hadn’t really grasped that I was going to be incredibly disruptive.”
In some instances, Fell had no one but himself to blame – such as the time when one of his freelance marketers made a mistake answering a question on an accountancy blog. The marketer had not checked the answer with any of Crunch’s accountants or tax experts, and quickly issued a retraction.
But news of the mistake quickly spread across other business chat rooms, leading to a noticeable drop in businesses signing up to Crunch’s service.
Fell was on holiday in Majorca at the time, trying to take his first real holiday since launching the business three years earlier. However, he was soon back on his Blackberry trying to stem the bad PR.
“We had a massive dent in new customers seeking our services,” he recalls. “All that they could find on the internet was that Crunch gives bad advice.”
Although Fell might have expected a hostile reception from established accountancy firms, he has clearly been shaken by the experience.
His first start-up – an e-mail marketing company called Pure, which he sold for $7.8m two years ago – had created no such ill will, despite shaking up that market.
“Never in seven years did I receive one snide comment,” he says. “It makes you frightened to read anything on the internet.”
Rubbing competitors up the wrong way, however, is an occupational hazard for the innovative entrepreneur…”
The full Financial Times article can be found here