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Small Change: Lucy Cohen, Mazuma Accountantsby
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 Lucy Cohen from Mazuma Accountants. She talks about powerlifting, work-life balance and her favourite fictional accountant.
Cohen speaks with AccountingWEB shortly after publishing the Millennial Renaissance, a guide for millennials to living well and realistically planning for retirement.
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Hi Lucy, how are you? I'm good, thank you.
What’s the first thing you do when you get in the office? The first thing I do is make a cup of tea - that's number one. And then it is checking through and responding to emails.
Making tax digital or making tax difficult? I understand where HMRC is going with it, I understand the theory behind it and I think what has happened is that HMRC is trying to make tax easier for themselves, but they've not thought through the implications for your average taxpayer.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts? In my spare time, I am a powerlifter and I've competed on the British powerlifting team. Because the work we do is very desk-based you get that big endorphin rush through having something physical to do, and keeping healthy in your own body and mind is really important. I also think there are transferable skills in the precision, dedication and perseverance of powerlifting, and that also applies to running a business or being in a career.
The biggest change since you started in accountancy? We started in 2006 which seems like a million years ago. The biggest change has been the advent of things going online and how people interact with websites. I wish I still had a copy of our first business website somewhere because it was hilarious. Websites were kind of like an online leaflet for accountants, like an online pamphlet that said what we did. Now it is a way of getting new business, interacting and signing people up and using the tools on it.
What KPIs do you obsess about? I'm always obsessed with staff happiness ratings. We poll our staff every week and ask how their week has been. I am always keen to know how they are doing because they feed into client satisfaction ratings. The two things are two intrinsically linked; happy staff means happy clients.
Do you check your emails outside office hours? Yes, always. I am always on my emails. It never ends!
How many unread emails have you got? None, I respond to all my emails.
What are you doing to improve your work-life balance? Currently, work-life balance is one of the big trends with millennials. You are always a little bit in work and a little bit at home. For me, work-life balance is just life. My work is part of my life and my life is part of work. It is all about having tools at my disposal that makes that process as pleasant as possible. There is no point doing what you do if you don't enjoy it.
That's why I have no problem checking my emails at 11pm or even responding then. If I have to look at my emails and I know the answer I may as well answer there and then - why on earth would I leave it eight hours until the next morning? It's about having tools at your disposal. Things like smartphones, remote working and apps make that way of working really easy.
The Ralph memorial question: Can you remember your first calculator? Yes, I can. I worked at Jurys hotel group and I asked for one of those giant calculators. I was really excited because it was the first thing I got to order in my first real job. Looking back now, tragic, but it made me really happy at the time. It was one with really big buttons on it because I used to be in charge of adding up the accruals report which had to be done manually back in 2002. And the calculator made sure I didn't make mistakes because the buttons were big so I didn't make typos.
Who is your favourite fictional accountant? Oooh, are there any? Like, famous ones? Well, I really like the character of Vesper in the Casino Royale James Bond film. She was an accountant, wasn't she? I think she was. I am saying that now, but I might be wrong now you’ve put me on the spot! I am pretty sure she was – yes, she describes herself as being “the money”… You've also got that film, The Accountant with Ben Affleck.
How similar is the film The Accountant to your day-to-day job? (Laughs) Literally nothing like it. It couldn't be more different...