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Alison Edward
Alison Edward

Practice Talk: Alison Edward from Simply Balanced Solutions

15th Apr 2019
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Joining Practice Talk this week is Alison Edward, 'chief balancer' and founder of Simply Balanced Solutions. 

While accountancy was not something originally on her radar, when Edward helped a friend set up a business in 2008 and worked on the accounts she discovered she enjoyed it. Fast-forward ten years, and Edwards is now running her own successful firm.

Like previous Practice Talk alumni Nadia Hossen Mamode, Edward is married into the nomadic nature of military life, which suited the flexibility an accounting and bookkeeping career can provide.

“I didn't set it up with any kind of plan or ambition. It seemed like the right option, rather than finding a job and have to take time off for the kids or fit in around my husband's deployment schedule,” she said.

When her husband was posted to the United States for three years she used the time to gain her qualifications.

In 2013, Edward set up her firm Simply Balanced Solutions. “The bit I love the most about the job is that you meet all sorts of interesting people,” she said.

A client that comes to mind is the business which set up Tudder, the dating app for cattle. “It never fails to fascinate me how on earth  somebody knew that was a viable business.”

As aficionados of the humble calculator, Practice Talk couldn’t pass up the chance to speak with Edward after she shared a picture of her own Casio collection on Twitter. Before Edward shows off her calculator-stack, she talks AccountingWEB through a typical day in her practice life.

* * *

How does a typical working day start?

I get up around 6.45am and we have an hour before I herd the children out of the house. I love how my job affords me the flexibility to take them to and from school when I can because I get to chat with them in the car and they're good company. I drop them at school and I then go and get caffeine from somewhere. Then I head to the office and turn all the heaters on because it is freezing!

Once you've arrived what's the first thing you do?

I usually turn on the computer and put the radio on - I like a bit of music going in the background. Then sit down, and although I flick the email on it's not the first thing I look at. I quite often browse my social channels to get caught up and ease myself into the day while I drink coffee and think about what I am going to get done.

How do you organise your day?

For a long time it has just been me, so it has been a case of working through, but now I've got staff so part of my day is working out what they're going to focus on. We're using Accountancy Manager. It's not fully integrated yet but we're almost there. It's working out how the system works best for us.

How much of the day is dedicated to speaking with clients?

Sadly we don't speak very often because everyone does everything by email these days. One of the things I'm trying to work on at the moment is to move towards picking the phone up rather than using email because you learn stuff when you speak with people rather than pinging backwards and forwards on email.

Tell us about your workspace?

I moved into the office a year and a half ago and I like the fact it gives me separation from home and work. Now that I'm starting to employ staff the office makes that easier because there is a space for them to come into. Initially, I didn't really regularly meet clients but as my client base has grown and changed, I like having a space they can come to. 

Do you have lunch at your desk or do you make a point of getting some space from the work?

If I am finishing early I will usually eat at my desk as it allows me to get away earlier. But quite often I have a pile of stuff that needs to go to the post office sitting on one of the window sills and I use that as an excuse to force me to get out of the office. It's good to get a break.

What time would a typical day finish?

Usually around 4.30pm and then that's it. It varies if other things have eaten into my week or if I know I've got a busy week coming up where I am not going to have as much time in the office. I try not to communicate with clients outside 9 - 5pm because they don't need the emails from me and I'm not expecting them to reply. So there is no point in sending it.

How do you unwind after a day in the office?

At the moment we mostly stand beside a canal because my eldest is doing Devizes to Westminster Canoe challenge over Easter Weekend.

I try to meet up with friends a couple of times a month, pick the kids up from school, we have dinner and I hang out with them. At the weekends we try and get out. Saturdays are aggravated by my husband only being home at weekends. But the four of us try to sit down on a Saturday night and eat something and watch a movie. We make our best efforts to get family time in.

No practice is complete without a calculator. So can you remember your first calculator?

The Short answer is no, I can't, because I had no idea I would end up do anything to do with numbers. However, one of the great joys of owning your own business is that you're in charge of the stationery budget. I'm a sucker for stationery. I like the big number calculator. I've got one at home and one in the office. And then we've got extra ones with children doing GCSEs and A Levels, there just seems to be calculators everywhere!