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Legal & Finance: Mentor with a beautiful philosophy.

Working from a small but friendly office in the Jewellery Quarter's Big Peg building, book-keeper Chris Baker doesn't offer much in the way of glamour.

But fortunately glamour is the last thing his clients need.

Sat firmly at the frontline of the Midland entrepreneur's battle with red tape, his 100 or so regular clients are often as full of passion for their business as they are short on time -and cash.

Chris runs his own four-strong firm -CSS Associates -providing for the tax, payroll and book-keeping needs of Birmingham small businesses. He is not a qualified accountant, but he has not let that stop him offering what he believes is an essential service.

'Small businesses often can't afford huge fees for accounting advice or legal advice. I see myself as something of a mentor, I'll try to help them and tell them not to worry.'

He believes that the small businesses he deals with are often incredibly caught up in their battles with red tape.

'They can get so stressed,' he said. 'One hairdresser I work with employs three people and two of them are on Working Tax Credits. The Revenue pays her money which she then has to add to her payroll. It's a ridiculous amount of bureaucracy for a hairdresser.'

Although Wednesday's Budget promised to look into removing the tax credit burden from employers, Chris is in no doubt that small businesses will continue to struggle with bureaucracy of one sort or another.

Perhaps it is the 49-year old's Buddhist philosophy and frequent retreat into meditation that allows him to offer the calming advice business owners seem to want. His practice has grown largely through word of mouth. But it seems that one day he shall leave the world of receipts and numbers for a quite different challenge.

'My long-term aim is to go and live in a meditation retreat in South Granada,' he said with a smile.

In the sparse building two thirds of a way up a mountain he hopes to study the work of the 13th century Buddhist writer Je Tsongkhapa.

But for now he'll continue putting Tsongkhapa's central teaching into his work by helping firms as much as he can, while making a living.

'Je Tsongkhapa said the wise focus on bringing happiness to others first and the short-sighted who seek their own happiness find that it is elusive. I think that's a beautiful philosophy.'

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Book-keeper Chris Baker at his office in the Jewellery Quarter's Big Peg building
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 19, 2004
Words:416
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