Joining Practice Talk this month is AccountingWEB regular and owner of Northeast firm Avery Martin, Glenn Martin.
Glenn Martin is someone who needs little introduction. The cheerful Geordie sole practitioner is a mainstay on AccountingWEB and is probably better known under his nom de plume of Glennzy.
Away from the site, Martin was recognised as a top five client service firm at last year’s Accounting Excellence awards and even took home Xero’s UK best sole practitioner accolade at the software company’s annual Xerocon extravaganza.
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But even Martin would admit that his prized possession was a Casio calculator named Ralph. Ever since the day his co-workers whipped round and bought him Ralph after he passed his CIMA exams in 1995, his number machine friend never left his side. That was until 28 June 2013. It was on that fateful Friday that Ralph flickered its last sum.
Martin wrote movingly about Ralph’s demise on Any Answers, which spawned a trip down memory lane by many AccountingWEB members who reminisced about their first calculator.
Although Ralph’s solar panel dimmed out long before, it’s legend never did. Ralph’s memory lives on every week in this very feature, inspiring accountants to remember their first calculator.
It’s only fitting then that we welcome Martin to this week’s Practice Talk to talk about his working day and, of course, to hold a candle in the wind for Ralph.
What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
I normally get a coffee. When I get up in the morning before I leave I usually check any emails from the day before. I get in the office, have a cup of coffee, and then look what's on for that day.
How do you plan out your day? Do you use any practice management software, for example?
I tried a lot of these apps and found the biggest problem is keeping them updated and all in sync. My wife bought me the BestSelf weekly planning journal. You list your tasks for the week and assign each one with the E.N.D code: the D is a drain - so it's a chore, N is neutral, and E is empowerment. I try and balance the day out by getting the drain tasks out of the way and then finish the week on a couple of positive ones. It's old school and it's ticking your tasks off, but it works easily.
What does your workspace look like?
I got a nice office. I'm in a larger building and I've got a glass-fronted office which overlooks onto another company but it means you have interaction with other people, and I have access to a boardroom.
Do you eat your lunch at your desk or do you make sure you escape the office?
Lunchtime I will try to clear the emails from the last three-to-four hours. Emails are taking over your life, so I am trying to get into a system where I open them first thing, lunchtime and then at the end of the day. You could spend the whole day on your emails. It eats up your day. You're responding to loads of emails but you haven't actually produced anything.
What time do you usually finish the day?
About 5.30pm. I only live about two miles away from my office, so I'm always home before 6pm. If I'm working on a project I might once I've spent time with the family pick that up again later on in the evening and do a bit of preparation for the next day. But I always keep my weekends free.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?
I love spending time at our holiday lodge in Northumberland every weekend with the family - there is no work and no emails. We do a lot of fishing up there. I find that fishing is opposite to what I do. You get a lot of stress 9-to-5 but going fishing you haven't got a care in the world. It's a good balance.
It's always been a big thing for me not working weekends. You can get dragged into work during January when you're busy. But you need that boundary for your clients because once people have your mobile number it's easy for them to call you anytime. You need to have some restrictions. You don't want to be taking calls on a Sunday when you're sitting down with your family having your Sunday lunch.
You need to make those boundaries clear. A lot of people in their early days would overcommit, and then they'd get 100 clients and they're getting caught on the weekend.
Now you actually inspired this final question. You once told a moving story about the demise of your first calculator, Ralph. Can you remind us of your fallen friend?
When I passed my exams the people in my team had a whip round and bought me a calculator, which I named Ralph. I got that in 1990 and it had been with me, man and boy. It was great until that one day when it fell out of my bag and tumbled down the stairs and shattered into several pieces. Since that day I've never got a replacement for Ralph. I've tried loads. I even tried getting an identical replacement off eBay, but I couldn’t get one. These days I don't use a calculator so much, but when I do I use my phone. Ralph was irreplaceable.