As EOFY draws closer and the stress levels of business owners rise, just what are bookkeepers doing at this time of year? It may not be what you think, because times are changing and bookkeeping has never been more personal – and especially at EOFY.
It’s not uncommon to hear Sangeeta Bajaj before you see her. The founder of Melbourne-based Thats Right Bookkeeping is the definition of energetic and definitely not afraid to say what she thinks.
When asked what bookkeepers do at this often-crazy time of year, she laughs loudly. “Some people have no idea what bookkeepers do full stop, let alone at EOFY. They think a day in the life of a bookkeeper is all about sitting behind a screen and entering data.
“I think people see bookkeepers as glorified data entry clerks and this just couldn’t be more outdated.”
So just what do bookkeepers do at this busy time of year?
- Work less
- Get personal
- Have tough conversations
- Look ahead
While Sangeeta is quick to point out that her team do still take on a lot of data entry roles, as the owner of her growing business, Sangeeta sees her own role as a delicate balancing act between agony aunt and confessional listener, with a touch of the ‘fun police’ thrown in for good measure.
Transparency through technology
“Now that technology has made bank transactions more visible than before – and make no mistake, this has made our jobs so much easier – bookkeepers know more than they ever did about a business owner’s life.
“This transparency can lead to some pretty interesting conversations, especially at EOFY. Despite this, the transparency through technology is a positive thing. The more we know, the better we can manage our clients’ finances proactively.”
To demonstrate the candid conversations fast-emerging between bookkeeper and client, Sangeeta says a typical day in her life – and that of many bookkeepers – could involve studiously ignoring a client’s Tinder subscription on their bank account, patiently listening to why a client’s BBQ purchase is not for their new home but genuinely intended for their indoor office space, or delicately asking if the recent $2K payment to IVF was a tax deductible donation, or a more personal matter.
“We have to do this though, that’s what I tell my team,” Sangeeta says. “This is our job to ask these tough questions. That’s what people don’t think about when hiring a bookkeeper – you need them to be a good communicator these days, it’s never been more important.”
EOFY reality check
It’s of little surprise, then, that as EOFY draws nearer, Sangeeta is on the phone a lot.
“I believe in picking up the phone and also making sure any clients who are evading members of my team know that if I am calling, it’s because we need to have an urgent conversation if they want their BAS processed on time.”
It turns out that the job of bookkeeping has become more intimate than ever these days. A skilled bookkeeper needs to not just understand the numbers, but have good insights into human psychology.
“And HR,” Sangeeta interjects. “Everyone thinks bookkeepers have a hidden degree in HR,” she says with a verbal roll of the eyes. “While we are always learning about industry awards and allowances, we are not HR Practitioners. And nor are we accountants. If you want to know how much tax you have to pay at the EOFY, call your accountant.”
EOFY for the average bookkeeper
So what else is the average bookkeeper doing at this busy time of year?
“I can tell you they’re more relaxed than they’ve been in a long time,”says Sangeeta.
“We use Xero to automatically do all the hard work for us”. EOFY is actually quite a chilled out affair now, but part of this is because we are really clear about what we expect from our clients at this time of year. It’s that communication piece again.
“I used to work all hours at EOFY and be so stressed,” says Sangeeta reflecting on years ago before she started using Xero in her business. “It was a horrible time of year, but now I have my life back. All I do is use a whiteboard to track our clients and the rest is pretty much automated.”
Don’t underestimate a caring bookkeeper
So while this time of year may be a different experience for once-stressed bookkeepers, Sangeeta offers some advice to business owners who may be feeling the usual EOFY stress right now.
“Get ahead of your affairs so that next EOFY you are in good shape. Have a high interest offset account for your GST and BAS payments. If you pay a lot of super, make sure you pay monthly not quarterly to stay on top of things.
“And make sure you hire a caring bookkeeper. It used to be all about number crunching but bookkeepers are more personally involved in their client’s records – and lives – than ever.
“We are the keepers of tough conversations – not accountants, but bookkeepers. We have to ask the awkward questions and challenge you to stay honest when it comes to claiming deductions.
“So make sure you go into the new financial year with a caring and honest bookkeeper who has your best interests at heart.
“This is more important than anything – the rest can flow from there.”