Joining Practice Talk this week is millennial accountant and AccountingWEB columnist Georgia Duffee, who is the founder of Benedetto Accounts and Tax
All Georgia Duffee ever wanted to be was an accountant. She finished school and went straight into studying AAT, then at 17 Duffee got her first accountancy job: not as an apprentice but a full salaried position. Finally, at 21 she took the ultimate leap of faith and started her accountancy firm.
As a trainee, Duffee always felt a bit of an accountancy outlier. Although she is now embracing her wunderkind credentials, that wasn’t always the case. “When I started, I wasn't as confident,” she said. “Typically it is a mature male who is senior in an accountancy firm. So when I started I didn't want to be the face of the company.”
But following encouragement from her clients, she’s realised that being a millennial was actually a selling point. “Because I am a millennial, I can take on the technology. Someone else might look at me and think ‘she must know how to use Xero because she has been brought up with computers’.”
And her firm lives up to its millennial accountant billing. Flexible working? Check. 100% digital? Check. No longer chained to her desk? Check!
In fact, Duffee can rarely be found at her desk. Instead, she’s travelling to see clients and working pretty much wherever she wants. It’s a stark contrast to her headache-inducing former life where the occasional trip to the printer was her only respite.
Although Duffee is often branded as a forward-looking millennial accountant, her love of the profession is driven by her respect of what’s happened in the past. “I am interested in speaking with accountants who started their business a long time ago and are now looking at retiring,” she said. “If anything their skills are higher because they used to do everything manually.”
What time does a typical day start?
For work-life balance reasons, my office hours are 11am to 6pm. If I want to, I can get on with some chores in the morning so it's not all built up over the weekend. I might go to the gym, pop to the shops, or visit a family member for a catch-up. I've gone self-employed so I can have that flexibility. It works for my clients, too.
I do offer emergency appointments from 6pm to 8pm, which is good for initial meetings with new clients.
How do you plan out your working day?
When I am not travelling to see clients and bookkeeping at their premises or meeting new clients, I am completing the accounts. I work on a four-week turnaround. It's quite strict. When the client gives me the information, seven days later they'll get their first query, and seven days after that they'll get their second query.
What is your workspace like? It doesn't sound like you're chained to the office...
I had an office from 2017 until March this year, and then I decided to go digital and get rid of the office as an incentive to go paperless. All of my ‘digital team’ can work from wherever they want. They've got the app on their phone to connect to the drive and access everything to do with the company from anywhere. We want to be by the client's side as business support, so in order to do that we shouldn't be stuck to our desk.
You worked long hours and overtime in your previous job, so do you now put boundaries between finishing work and your personal time?
Naturally, work seems to finish around 6pm. But if there is client work that needs doing I work to deadlines. My whole thing is to provide excellent customer service. If I had promised a client that they will receive work in the next seven days then I will work until the job is done. By all means, my clients may receive emails late because I'd rather get the job done than wait until the next working day and start it then, which will then eat up some more time.
I normally take two days off a month to do business development. If we're business advisers we have to also have a great business. I would want my clients to also do business development and not just work on their business all the time. You need to be constantly analysing where you are, where you want to be and how you're going to get there.
After work finishes what do you do to unwind?
In my personal life, I am not very computer-orientated. I don't sit and watch TV - I would rather read or cook. Most of my friends are business owners so I meet with them, although we often end up talking business.
Can you remember your first calculator?
The first firm I worked at still had the paper roll calculator. An accountant I met last week still uses one of those, and he was shocked when I told him I didn't have one. I have a nice Casio which I got on my birthday.