Yesterday, I spent time with AccountingWEB’s Class of 2019 – a group of accountants whose firms launched in the past year. I was there not only to offer PracticeWeb’s expertise on digital marketing for accountants as part of a panel discussion, but also to listen.

The group is made up of four sole practitioners AccountingWEB has chosen to follow through their startup journey, from setup to navigating the pressures and responsibilities of running a practice. The members are Ria-Jain Lincoln, Debbie Hancock, Matthew Goude and Andy Sullivan.

It follows on from The Class of 2009, which followed a similar group of new firms a decade ago in the wake of the global financial crisis. Della Hudson, a member of The Class of 2009, was also present yesterday offering wisdom accumulated over the course of the past decade.

Back then, accountancy firms had scaled back recruitment and training programmes at the same time as technology took leaps forward, prompting a new breed of accountant to go it alone.

Sitting on the panel, chaired by AccountingWEB’s Practice Editor Richard Hattersley, I heard some really inspiring stories about how The Class of 2019 got started, the challenges they face, how they found their niche and (this is when my ears really pricked up) how they’re approaching marketing.

What struck me primarily is just how ambitious they all are, driven not purely by profit but by a passion to help businesses in the sectors they’ve chosen to focus on.

To quote one of the startup founders, “I’ve found my dream job – it’s a sector I’m passionate about and they really need my help.”

In terms of their marketing journey, they all had slightly different approaches, but one common thread was furious networking.

It wasn’t necessarily undertaken in person but increasingly via social media – on LinkedIn in particular, as well as through groups related to their industry niche and discussion forums.

They were all keen to offer advice wherever they could, getting themselves out there and making connections.

Notably, some had a keen eye for opportunities for speaking at events, and all showed a knack for identifying the questions and challenges in their chosen niche and providing answers and solutions through both written content and video.

They’re tech savvy digital natives – they’ve never known a time without the Internet – who understand the power of social networks and digital marketing and are using these to their advantage.

These are young, ambitious future leaders whose new firms already seem impressively well established. They’re the ones to watch, in short, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their journey develops.

And, of course, I also hope we’ll get the chance to support them in achieving their bold ambitions. As it happens, we’re already working with Matthew Goude having designed a new website for his firm ZincBooks, running on our Horizon platform.