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Raise a cup: Recognising and celebrating our bookkeepers in 2020

Posted 2 months ago in Bookkeepers by Erin Chancellor
Posted by Erin Chancellor

Despite largely working behind the scenes, bookkeepers have long played a crucial part in the success of small businesses across the country. This year, however, they’ve become their clients’ first line of support. Often operating at all hours to come to the aid of struggling small businesses, throughout the pandemic they’ve been called on to provide constant financial and emotional guidance. And they’ve delivered on both counts. 

As Xero’s Head of Community, our community team has watched in awe as our bookies have tirelessly and graciously helped clients with everything from unpacking the latest in government aid (often at lightning speed) to simply helping them stay afloat. Needless to say, the pressure has been relentless. So, as we celebrate Global Bookkeeping Week, the team at Xero is coming together to #RaiseACup to the far too often unsung heroes behind Australia’s small businesses.

In honour of bookkeepers and their integral role together with accountants in keeping our economy moving, we sat down with Michele Grisdale of Rainforest Bookkeeping and Ryan Gollan of CFM Bookkeeping to talk about harnessing future talent, learnings from 2020, and whether the profession is in need of a new name.

How do you think the industry should be working to encourage and empower the next generation of talent?

Michele: We need to teach the bookkeepers of the future how to genuinely communicate with small business owners. Not just on a financial level, but in a way that ensures they understand every aspect of how to make running a business as smooth as possible.

I’m also a huge advocate of mentorship. So many bookkeepers start out working for friends or family, but this isn’t always the best fit or the most conducive to growth. Instead, I feel we should be arranging large-scale mentoring programs that allow new starters to uncover the industries they feel most suited to advising.

Ryan: More than anything, we need to place the human element of bookkeeping front and centre and capture the difference that we stand to make in people’s lives. The sooner that bookkeeping isn’t presented to the new generation of talent as just a glorified data entry job the better because that’s where progress begins.

2020 certainly hasn’t been short on learnings – what’s one thing you’ve learned this year that you’ll apply to your practice moving forward?

Michele: If your processes don’t work now, they’ll never work – especially in this period of uncertainty. This year, I’ve been reminded that it’s a matter of constantly upgrading your processes, engaging in training and doing your best to stay ahead (after all, who knows where we’ll end up next). I’ve always been organised, but I’ve become turbo-charged. 

Ryan: It’s been such a challenging but also rewarding year, and I’ve learned so many things. It’s impossible to put it down to just one take away, but as a team we’ve become so much more resourceful. 

We’ve come to understand that collaboration benefits everyone. This has played out in the relationships we’ve formed throughout the year – we even brought a group of accountants and bookkeepers from different firms together to create a JobKeeper mastermind team. We benefited, our clients benefited, and it was a completely invaluable experience.

Lastly, how do you feel about the term ‘bookkeeper’? Do you think it’s time that it evolved?

Michele: One hundred percent. As there are no qualifications required to become a bookkeeper, the title doesn’t represent the huge amount of work and time that the majority of us put into progressing our careers. What we do in this profession is about so much more than just ‘looking after the books’ – the pandemic has made that clearer than ever. For this reason, I’ve found a new term that I feel truly reflects what I do every day: I’m a financial advocate for businesses.

Ryan: It’s not so much the word I have an issue with, but the perception of what we do. I know the value that our role holds, but outsiders often consider our contribution as basic and that couldn’t be further from the truth – especially considering everything that we’ve taken on this year. Ultimately, if we need to do away with the term ‘bookkeeper’ to change the perception then I’d be happy to do so.


Donna Rickard
November 18, 2020 at 1.02 pm

The Blacksmith and Bookkeeper are two professions that have not changed through centuries. They are two of the most important members of a village, community, city, state, etc.
The origins of a Bookkeeper was the rent collector. Going as far back as the 15th century. The gentleman who did the rounds to collect payment from farmers, tenants in villages. Ledgers were written up to show the exchange of 4 chickens for 2 bags of seeds. The bookkeeper created the system known as single and double entry accounting system.
The worlds has changed, but the bookkeeper has stayed and survived as an important member of the economical society, globally.
Small, mid & top tier accounting firms have evolved in the past 5 years in identifying the importance of creating an in-house bookkeeping division within their practices. There is a real threat to their services declining due to the automation of accounting software systems evolving to easier management of accounting.
I see the comparison to the Doctor and Nurse relationship.
The Doctor is consulted seldom and prescribes what is best for the patient. But, the nurse looks after the daily care of the patient, ensuring they are progressing and improving. Managing patient care so as the Dr is best informed to diagnose and prescribe treatments.
I have worked very as a Bookkeeper for over 30 years. My experiences go well beyond bookkeeping but I am very proud to be referred to as A Bookkeeper.
I am disappointed that this topic is being considered as I sense you are not identifying the importance of the bookkeeper.
If you want to upgrade as an accounting technician, accountant, practitioner, etc, then do so but I feel you are disrespecting the importance and origins of the bookkeeper.
I am, and always will be Donna the Bookkeeper.

Beeny Atherton in reply to Donna Rickard Xero
November 19, 2020 at 10.44 am

Hi Donna – thank you so much for your thoughts on whether the term ‘bookkeeper’ should evolve and for sharing some history about the origins of bookkeeping. You raise a very interesting comparison and I certainly don’t think we want to erase any of the importance or the origins of the bookkeeper – instead we want to highlight the essential role of a bookkeeper for small businesses and the crucial part you play in their success across the country. The aim of the post is to celebrate the amazing work bookkeepers do and help raise the profile of bookkeeping so that more people join the profession to work alongside small business to help them thrive. Thanks again – always great to hear different perspectives.

November 18, 2020 at 3.01 pm

I’d love to see a change in perception to the term “Bookkeeper”. I agree with Ryan and Michele’s comments that it doesn’t reflect the training and effort put into the role as it is perceived as basic work. I’d love to see an advertising campaign like the CPA’s get – as it represents that to be a CPA, you are more than just an account with basic training.

Beeny Atherton in reply to Linda Xero
November 19, 2020 at 9.51 am

Hi Linda, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on how the perception of the term ‘bookkeeper’ needs to change to better reflect the essential work you all do. You’re certainly not alone in your views.

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