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My Journey - Part 4 from Bookkeeper Debra Anderson

Australian Bookkeepers Network hears from member and author Debra Anderson. This is the final installment in the four part series as Debra shares her journey in the industry.

Today I am very different person to the one you’ve been reading about.  Different, but the same. Older and wiser. My journey has taken quite a few twists and turns – some business, some personal. Some good, some bad, some just horrible. But all have made me into the person and the business that I have today.

My path started with being a secretary, accounts assistant, corporate accountant and meandered to bookkeeper, then MYOB Certified Consultant, pivoted to tax agent and now I am also an author, blogger and industry advisor.  These days when I’m asked to describe myself I struggle to articulate what I am or what I do because ‘it’s complicated’.

Late last year I realised that I had outgrown Legally BAS. I had evolved personally and my company needed to catch up.  In November 2015 I changed my company name to Anderson Tax & Consulting so as to better reflect who I am now, what I am doing and where I am headed…. wherever that might end up being – because as I sit here writing this I am pondering my future as I have realised my passion, my addiction, is small business.  So where to now?

Over the past few years I have tried a few things which I’d like to share and hopefully you can get some gold nuggets out of it.

Some of the things I tried that perhaps didn’t go so well –

  • The very minute cloud was available I moved all my clients to the cloud back in 2010 or 2011. I should have maybe moved myself first and maybe a couple of smaller clients but I jumped in the deep end and this cost me dearly. In fact, it almost sent me broke because I was having to fight fires, over-service clients (I got them into the situation and I felt responsible to help them free of charge) and it cost me time and efficiencies which ultimately impacted on my profit.
  • I saw an opportunity so I started a company with other consultants from around the country to try and build a national consulting business but our business models were all so vastly different it was doomed before it began.
  • I hired a couple of tax agents to take some of the day-to-day work off my plate – but realised they might be good at tax but couldn’t use MYOB and their bookkeeping skills were atrocious – everything was done via general journal – argh!!!
  • I merged my business with another bookkeeping company to try and get economies of scale and fast track the growth process without clearly defining the legal, operational and financial parameters first.
  • I have made some horrible hiring decisions based on pure emotion. I have hired because I felt sorry for people or wanted to give them a break e.g. I hired an 82 year old lady because she cried in the interview that she couldn’t get a job…. then had to sack her 3 weeks later and there were a lot more tears.
  • I hired a very expensive business coach. Given I don’t have a business partner or life partner I felt that getting a business coach would give me someone who I could talk to and would push me. When I looked for a business coach I went with someone who I liked as a person but who was in a different city to me and whose coaching style doesn’t work for me – and I signed an 18 month contract. In hindsight what I really needed was a mentor.

But there are some things I’ve tried that have been really cool –

  • Moving from my home office to a real office. This change has been so good for me because although it was hard to adjust to in the beginning it means that now I have segregation of work and home. My home is where I don’t work unless I’m desperate. My office is where I work – I wear a suit or nice dress everyday just like I would if I worked for someone else…. except Fridays when it’s jeans day.
  • Actively engaging and participating in the bookkeepers/CC/Accountants communities. The people I have met, the friends I have made have been a priceless source of support, encouragement and knowledge. I have given a lot over the years but I can honestly say I have received back ten-fold.
  • Go to everything I possibly can – I mean conferences, coffee clubs, networking (including BNI especially when I started my business), seminars, workshops. You can never know or learn too much.
  • I made a decision in 2013 to say yes to every opportunity that was given to me and worry about how to do it later. This has resulted in me having opportunities I never even dreamed about such as the opportunity to go on live TV for Sky Business News when MYOB’s CEO Tim Reed couldn’t do an interview. I was terrified – but I said yes and just did it. Here’s the link if you’re interested.
  • As a direct result of me chasing that Assistant Commissioner out from that bookkeeper’s seminar back in 2012, I now sit on a variety of ATO advisory boards and consultation groups. I don’t get paid for any of this work but I am making a real difference to BAS agents, tax agents and small business people by giving the ATO real, sage feedback and experiences from the frontline.  The added benefit of this is that I know what is happening within our industry, what is coming up and I get to influence how things are being designed for our future.
  • I’ve written a book. I wrote a book called ‘Taking Care of Small Business’because working with small businesses has really opened my eyes to just how lucky I am that I am a bookkeeper/accountant. The majority of small business people are just good at doing their thing or passionate about something – they didn’t realise how hard bookkeeping and compliance and cash-flow are. I wrote my book because I wanted to give them practical help that I felt they weren’t getting from their traditional accountant.

If I had my time again would I do things differently? I’m not sure. Probably not – except I would have stayed out of trouble at school and not married husband number 1. However, had I not had that experience I wouldn’t have looked up the TAFE handbook and thought ACCOUNTANT looked smart –  but the rest of it has been a journey whereby each layer has built upon itself to give me a solid foundation. I am grateful that I ‘fell into bookkeeping’, I am grateful that I went to that MYOB seminar back in 2006, I am grateful that Sue encouraged me to do tax, I am grateful that the very spiritedness that caused me (and my parents) so much grief as a teenager has been a driving force in me continuously trying new things – often jumping without actually thinking first!

I am grateful that it all just seems to work itself out.

27 Apr 2017
NEXT My Journey - Part 3 From Bookkeeper to Tax Agent by Debra Anderson
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