Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Practitioner's Diary: Quietly optimistic
Our West Country general practitioner is quietly optimistic that January 2006 won't be a repeat of 2005.
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29 November - Final 31 January 2005 accounts despatched to Companies ouse this morning, another month done and dusted. Thankfully we don't have any 28 February company year ends - but of course there are still a few 31 March 2005 jobs to finish, so the corporate team won't be idle while everyone else is flat out on SA Returns.
Talking of tax returns, I get the impression we are ahead of where we were this time last year. There seem to be fewer major cases which haven't yet been started - that's not to say there aren't plenty to finish though! Still, two whole months to go.
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28 November - All is well - she turned up for work again this morning, seems to be settled in fine!
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25 November - A good week. New secretary must have thought it strange that everyone said "Goodnight - you WILL come back next week won't you" as she left. Must think we're a strange lot. Little does she know ...
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23 November - The new secretarial team has got all the professional fees insurance renewal mailing out now. It will be interesting to see whether we can persuade more clients to join this year, we don't seem to give it such a hard sell as the other offices. Perhaps rural clients are just more laid back.
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21 November - New secretary turned up today, on time, and has made a great start. Good (second!) choice. The odd thing is that she is far better qualified and experienced than the girl who only lasted four days. I reckon the "not demanding enough" line was just her attempt at a plausible reason that wouldn't cause offence. My guess is she either didn't want to travel 12 miles to work every day, or she found a better job elsewhere and didn't want to say so.
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18 November - No amount of interviewing, vetting of CVs and personality profiling can weed out the perverse candidate it seems! Had an email this morning from our new secretary to say sorry but the job wasn't demanding enough for her, so she was quitting. Just what I needed.
Luckily, my second choice candidate has had a week off and is still available, so the recruitment agency has fixed us up for Monday. Her profile and work experience we nowhere near as good as the girl we chose - and who has now left - so maybe she'll prove us all wrong. Anyway, as a former model she'll brighten up reception, even if her typing's not great.
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15 November - One of the features of professional life seems to be that we are all doing more than ever, ideally in less time. Seems that we're not the only ones.
According to my local adult education college prospectus, St Matthew is the patron saint of "accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, customs officers, financial officers, guards, money managers, security forces, security guards, stock brokers and tax collectors." Phew! Strikes me as a bit excessive.
However, this useful tome also reveals that a certain St Isidore of Seville is the patron saint of "computer technicians, computer users(!), computers (!!), the Internet (!!!), schoolchildren and students"! Some might say she hasn't been doing a very good job, but she looks like she's spreading herself a bit thinly. On the other hand, her jod description has grown somewhat in the last 50 years. A bit like the average practicing accountant's.
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11 November - We defied my secretary's threats to keep it low key and put up banners, bought flowers and generally made a fuss of her yesterday and today. I think she secretly liked it! A fairly tearful end of the week for her, although after a few too many glasses of wine at lunch time I could see she wasn't going to get much done today, but thankfully she had already worked hard to pass on all her technical know-how to her colleague, so I'm hopeful that the professional fees insurance renewals will go out OK next week.
Meanwhile the best candidate (from first impressions, on paper and according to her computer-produced profile) has accepted the vacant position from next week so there should be a minimum of disruption. I just hope she'll be a little less demanding than her predecessor.
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8 November - Despite leaving at the end of the week, my secretary insisted recently that she had to have three days off this week - her last week with us. All I can say is that this request wasn't made in a way that required any response from me except passive acceptance, that being the way she always operated, and how we managed to co-exist peaceably with her all these years. Basically, provided she was happy everyone else was!
I hadn't thought much more of this until today when she phoned our junior secretary to announce that she'd just got (re-)married this morning!
This week is just getting stranger and stranger.
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4 November - Next week marks the end of an era as my long time secretary is leaving and moving away from the area with her new bloke. The trouble is, she's so efficient, so dedicated, and of course knows her way around all our systems - in fact she invented most of them. I just hope she will have passed on her accumulated wisdom to our more junior secretary by the end of next week or we're in trouble.
The local recruitment agencies have not been entirely outstanding in their selection of candidates. I think I have a couple who will fit the bill, a little younger and less experienced than the lady we're losing, but I'm hoping out junior secretary will see this as an opportunity to take on more responsibility.
Have experimented with some personality profiling reports from a recruitment consultant I met recently. The job profile generated by her software is amazingly accurate, as is the profile of our remaining secretary, so I'm hoping these reports will make a useful contribution in the process of selecting the right person.
Should have the final profile reports on Monday, then it's decision time.
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Last month our practitioner tangled with late tax returns and the virtues of hourly billing - catch up with all this in his October diary.