Small Change: Elaine Clark from Cheap Accounting
Welcome to Small Change, a weekly catch-up with an accountant in practice to find out their daily routine and ask them about the biggest trends in the profession.
Speaking from the practice trenches this week is the always outspoken Elaine Clark from Cheap Accounting. Clark speaks to the Small Change inquisitors as she prepares for her Accountex North roundtable (tentatively called Fighting talk, Clark quipped).
Running the Small Change gauntlet Clark discussed gender equality in the profession, being a prolific tweeter and why sailing is the perfect escape from the busy world of accounting.
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What's the first thing you do when you get in the office? It is a bit different when you work at home because the working day almost starts as soon as you get up. What I tend to do is get the kettle on, have a cup of Yorkshire tea, go into the office and deal with the emails that have come in overnight, and get the plan ready for the day. Then I'll take a break after an hour or so and actually have some breakfast.
Making tax digital or making tax difficult? I totally understand the need to use technology but I don't think HMRC has a clue about this project at all. They've bitten off more than they can chew. It's ill-defined, it's ill-conceivedand it's a disaster waiting to happen.
I often get criticised for saying that I don't agree with Making Tax Digital, which isn't quite right. I do agree with literally making tax digital but I don't agree with the way they're going about doing it.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts? Oh, walking and sailing.
There's little internet when you're in the middle of the sea. At Christmas I went sailing and luckily enough there was no internet connection for most days.
What's the biggest change in the world of accounting since you qualified? When I started it was pen and paper. We certainly didn't have laptops or mobile phones or anything like that. It's been brilliant watching and being a part of the digital revolution.
Did you ever think when you qualified that you'd be such a prolific tweeter? Not at all. I thought I was it because I had a burgundy attache case (laughs). Now I think I'm it because I've got a red iPhone. It's a different world.
What's the biggest change in the profession that STILL needs to happen? Gosh, well I think women are still marginalised in the world of accounting, which is just dumb.
The second one is the protection of the term accounting. Anybody can call themselves an accountant and yes, of course, there are good and bad accountants in the professional bodies but there are also some howlers out there that we see from unregulated accountants.
How far are we from women being equally represented in accounting? One of the big issues is the embracing of flexible working and I've seen a lot of ladies who go off on maternity leave and then feel it is very difficult to go back into a role and juggle the child care needs because there is not the flexibility there, and I think that is a bit naive to a certain extent.
A flexible role can be created within accountancy if you allow the person flexibility in terms of childcare. Generally, they give the best performance because they appreciate the flexibility that may come.
Accountex North: Elaine Clark discusses women in accountancy and surviving as a sole practitioner.
Do you check your emails outside office hours? Yeah. I wish I didn't (laughs). It's a really bad habit and I wouldn't encourage anybody to do it, but yeah, I do it. I am trying to break the habit at the moment it is a conscious decision to have some digital detox time.
How many unread emails have you got? Oh, none. I have a thing that I only like to have one page of emails. That's because the business I am operating, people expect an instant response, it's not a letter that sits in the in tray for three weeks like the good old days. If you don't they don't give you that instant response, they go somewhere else.
Can you remember your first calculator? We weren't allowed them at school, we had to do them all in our head. So I think my first calculator would have been when I started my first accountancy practice at the age of 16.
I had an adding machine, and it had a handle on it, and it had a till roll, so my right arm developed very good muscles because I was always pulling the handle on the adding machine. I loved it. Oh, those were the days!
What have you got for lunch, and does it cost less than £5.50? Oh yes, it will cost me less than £5.50 and it is whatever is in the fridge, probably left over from the weekend that I haven't managed to eat (laughs).
Elaine Clark is speaking at Accountex North about women in accounting and surviving as a sole practitioner. Find out more about her sessions here.