Tax planning is complex and every business needs an expert who is cool, professional and at the top of their game – however, they may not expect someone who morphs into Marvel and Harry Potter characters at the wave of a wand!
It sounds strange, but Wright Vigar likes to bring an extra dimension to its client services and Tax Director Stevie Heafford’s finely-honed expertise and her myriad interests ensure she quickly builds a great rapport with business owners and managers. A consummate professional, she never panics, despite loving live in the fast lane, having a mean competitive streak and being totally starstruck about any opportunity to transform herself into an “out of this world” character!
Readers may already suspect that Stevie’s first career choice wasn’t accountancy. It wasn’t even Plan B. At one point she dreamt of owning a bookshop with its own café. “I studied geography at university, then did a “post-grad” in landscape architecture. I didn’t finish it. It was geared to garden design and I wanted to deal with reclaimed land,” she said.
When it came to finding a job, Stevie fired off a letter to professional services giant PWC. (then Pricewaterhouse Coopers). Shortly afterwards she joined its Leicester office as a trainee accountant. After her first year, Stevie decided auditing “wasn’t for her” and soon found her true niche in taxation. Ten years at Cooper Parry in Derby followed, advising clients on property, income and capital tax, before she returned to PwC, joining its shareholder transaction team. Stevie built on that experience by going on to work for two other major firms before moving to Wright Vigar.
“One career high spot was dealing with the tax affairs of a high profile premiership footballer. I visited him at his home every year. He barely spoke two words of English, so when he phoned me one Friday afternoon, I thought it was one of our audit manager messing about! It wasn’t. That was embarrassing!”
It was Wright Vigar Tax Director Julia Clarke, who Stevie worked with earlier in her career, who said Wright Vigar wanted a private client advisor who could bring something extra to the firm. The job was ideal and an easy commute from her home in Bingham (Notts).
“I prefer dealing with individuals, rather than major PLCs. I particularly enjoy talking to business owners about their personal and family life and any succession plans featuring their children or enquiring whether their employees might want to eventually buy the firm,” said Stevie. “If it’s the latter, I tell them it’s important to incentivise their workers. We explore options from a tax perspective and plan longer-term projects, but it’s vital they consider how to build value in their business ahead of any sale.”
Stevie is based out of Wright Vigar’s Lincoln head office, but also works with clients served by its branches in Sleaford, Gainsborough, Newark, Retford and London. A strong believer in the power of face-to-face meetings, she also does lots of networking.
“Family businesses are so exciting. I love talking to those involved, discovering the internal family dynamics and learning about everyone’s hopes for the future,” she said. “The bottom line is always about providing a quality bespoke service. It’s brilliant to be doing that as part of a well-known firm where a real “family ethos” is key to its DNA.”
Stevie has a highly-responsible job but, even when she gets some downtime, you’re unlikely to catch her with her feet up. “My earliest memory is escaping from our garden on my tricycle and setting off down the road to visit my aunt. As a youngster, I also dreamed of being a motorcycle sidecar racer. That was a result of being brought-up on visits to Cadwell where I loved watching this type of circuit racing,” she said.
“I enjoy every day cycling too, but I share a 750cc Suzuki motorbike with my husband Phil, so learning to ride that is top of my bucket list. Oh yes…I’m also a big Guy Martin fan!”
Stevie also admits to impulse shopping (Christian Louboutin shoes give her a buzz!), visiting junk shops and gardening. But’s the sci-fi world she finds totally irresistible. “My daughter Molly (20) introduced me to Comic and Film Conventions. They’re great fun and we go to several each year. I particularly love slipping on my coat and horned helmet and morphing into Marvel’s Loki or donning my Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter) outfit and waving my magic wand,” said Stevie.
“My most starstruck moment was having my photograph taken with the actual Captain Kirk (Star Trek). If I had the chance, I would love to time travel and take my baby nephew Wilf back in time to meet my parents. They would have adored him! If only I had that Flux Capacitor!”
It comes as no surprise to hear that Stevie’s favourite celebrities include Professor Brian Cox, Chris Hemsworth, David Tennant, Jenson Button and “the man from Poldark!”
Highly-competitive Stevie also loves pub quizzes. Another ambition high on her bucket list, is appearing on the TV game show Pointless! – something looking after your taxes certainly isn’t!