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Practice Talk: Eriona Bajrakurtaj from Major's Accounts & Coby
Eriona Bajrakurtaj talks to AccountingWEB about her plans since becoming the new managing director at Major's Accounts and what a typical day looks like in her office.
Earlier this year, 15-year-old Ranveer Singh Sandhu proclaimed himself UK’s youngest accountant. However, Bajrakurtaj may just oust young Ranveer from his throne. But unlike Ranveer, she didn’t have a choice.
When her father started Major’s Accounts & Co in 2006, a 13-year-old Bajrakurtaj was the practice’s part-time bookkeeper. Although she’d protest that she had homework, Eriona would spend every Saturday, Sunday and half-term working for her dad.
Her early start in the profession has paid off. Not only has she continued working at the firm since finishing A Levels, but it’s also instilled a strong work ethic. Instead of taking up her place at university, she decided to go straight into ACCA while working at the firm.
This work ethic continues to this day. She completed her masters in accounting and finance at the same time she finished her ACCA – all while having a then 18-month-old daughter. Bajrakurtaj didn’t stop there, she went on to get another masters in international banking and finance and she’s currently finishing off a post-graduate diploma at Oxford in strategic finance.
After that, she says she’s done. Whether Bajrakurtaj can stick to that pledge is another thing. These days though she’s busy in her new role as the firm’s managing director. She credits her drive to her ex-army major dad. “Nothing was ever good enough for my dad,” she said. She’d come home from school after getting 97% in a French exam expecting him to say well done. But instead, he’d say “what happened to the other 3%?”.
“He did it on purpose to make sure we always strived for better,” said Bajrakurtaj. “And that's what I've always had inside me, which has pushed me to do everything I have done. To always be self-critical and saying this is not good enough, how can I change it? And this is being reflected in the business with the changes I'm trying to do.”
However, the tables have turned: she's now telling her dad that things need to change…
Eriona Bajrakurtaj's typical working day
"As soon as my alarm goes off at 6am, I go through my emails while still in bed and see what I have to expect for the day. Then I get my daughter ready and take her to school. Then I make my way to the office. I will usually have a couple of clients waiting for me.
In the morning I have a quick team huddle. Even if it is 10 minutes just to find out what we are doing today. Ideally, I would like to share success stories – so what's gone well and what hasn't gone well, and how we can either celebrate or highlight and fix.
I spend around 80% of my time in meetings with clients. The other 20% is reviewing work and speaking to staff and making sure we've got everything on track. In terms of practice management and the future of the company, I usually do that from home in the evening. Making sure things are answered and finishing up any work.
I have a to-do list but I usually don't get any of it done because a million other things get added to the list throughout the day. Most of the day now is spent on meetings or answering quick questions from staff if they need help on things they're not sure on. But the majority is meetings and HMRC investigations.
I don't usually have lunch. Sometimes I won't eat until I go home. It's not great but that's the nature of it at the moment because we're going through so many changes that I don't have time.
The upside is that I leave at 3 pm to pick up my daughter. I want her to know that I was always there. So she doesn't come one day and say: I never saw you, you were always at work. Once home I get out my laptop. I've got everything set up so I can log into the office from home and carry on working usually until quite late. But at least she sees me. She's usually on her iPad or playing with her toys but I am right next to her. If she wants anything, she's got me there.
I shut the laptop down at around 5.30 pm to cook dinner for my daughter and get her ready for bed and read to her. She's usually in bed by 8.30 pm. From 3.30 pm - 5.30 pm I am working. I give her dinner. 8.30 she's in bed. Then from 8.30 pm, I’ll continue responding to emails, clients, HMRC and then getting things ready for the next day. Last night, for example, I finished at 11.30 pm.
It's working on the business rather than in the business. It's having that time to think about what can be improved, what I want to tell the staff tomorrow and get there view on what can be improved.
Towards the end of my working day, I like to leave time to brainstorm and thinking of ideas for the business. How we can improve or even add services.
I work on the weekends, it's part of the fun. Usually, Sundays are working days to get ready for the week ahead. Saturdays I spend time with my daughter and my family and going to different places, like a farm or watching a film. I also find time to study my post-grad at the weekends.
I've always had a passion for learning. Growing up, I was one of those girls who wanted to be a successful career woman, rather than a singer or an actor. I always wanted to have a great business and see myself as going to meetings. I might also take a couple of days off before the exam. And that's where 90% of my studying is done because I don't have much time otherwise."
Eriona was a recent guest on AccountingWEB's No Accounting for Taste podcast. Click the play button below to hear Eriona and Alastair Barlow talk about what drives them and how having a growth mindset has contributed to their individual success.