Michael Davidson, regional managing partner and national board member of Haines Watts, is Slough born and bred. He says the town deserves more recognition for the enduring success of its owner-managed businesses.
Top 15 national chartered accountants Haines Watts was founded in Slough 80 years ago. Michael Davidson has worked his way through the ranks in a 27-year career with the firm. He has always lived and worked in the SL postcode and is a proud Slough Town FC season ticket holder.
What changes have you seen and how have they impacted Haines Watts and your business clients?
The industrial and manufacturing base of the Slough Trading Estate, which is the second largest in Europe, gave rise to a plethora of other businesses supporting it. Haines Watts was founded on supporting these owner-managed businesses.
As the trading estate’s supply chain moved to a worldwide basis, its make-up changed, particularly with the arrival of large corporate head offices and service-based businesses. We stayed committed to supporting privately owned businesses.
The 2008 recession was tough but, interestingly, many of our clients managed to navigate through this. I think Slough-based businesses have a real tenacity and ability to deal with change. In part, this could be attributed to Slough’s long history of embracing diverse populations and evolving with a constantly changing demographic.
What benefits does diversity bring to your business?
We’ve always focused on merit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our people come from the usual channels one would expect for an advisory or accounting firm. We look for raw talent – ambition, a real desire to embrace opportunity and make it your own.
I didn’t have a degree or come via the traditional route – but was given an opportunity to show what I could do. I’ve worked my way up and now sit on the national board of Haines Watts.
Spotting talent, taking a chance on someone, is something we’re very passionate about as an employer. It makes our business stronger and brings a broader range of skills that match the diverse business owners we advise. There’s an entrepreneurial, determined, unconventional approach in the Haines Watts DNA that I think is present in many business owners in Slough.
What challenges does the town face?
The infrastructure investments and location of Slough with its rail, air and road links, make a compelling argument for doing business here. But we also can’t deny that there is a problem with having a ‘transient’ work force. Slough has a high number of people working in the town but living outside the area.
For SMEs and the local economy to flourish, we need to back businesses that are committed to Slough. Initiatives like the borough council’s making Slough for the people of Slough will help attract and retain the workforce that the town needs for future growth.
What’s the outlook for Slough?
There’s been a lot of discussion and debate over the years about what investment and development was needed to harness the town’s potential. I think we now have development and regeneration plans that are fully supported by local government and councils. We believe Slough’s ambitions will be realised.
What initiatives do you find the most exciting?
There is huge potential here. We welcome initiatives like nurturing small technology businesses. We’re excited about supporting the next generation of progressive business owners as they start tackling the challenges of getting over the £1 million annual turnover mark.
There are also many innovative initiatives and encouraging plans for education. I think this proves the creativity and adaptability born out of the diversity in Slough. It’s these qualities that the SMEs of the future will need to compete.
We have Crossrail coming next year and there is the proposed overground rail link to Heathrow airport, along with town-centre regeneration. Haines Watts will continue to commit to Slough and its successful local owner managed businesses as part of its national strategy.