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.
Not every accountant gets messages from their clients saying "I love your dog, she's so pretty". But sole practitioner Rachel Balchin’s bulldog Esme (pictured below) is far from just an office pet. She’s the inspiration behind the firm’s name – Bulldog Accounting.
Being such an integral part of the business, the pooch accompanies Balchin to the occasional dog-friendly business meeting.
So when the small business Saturday bus came to Stevenage last year, Balchin grabbed the lead and took along her furry business partner. Esme’s networking magic worked: Balchin was remembered by one of the attendees as the “girl with the dog”.
“Being memorable is a real challenge for an accountant,” said Balchin. “It's all a bit grey and bland and we do the same stuff. So it's nice to stand out by having a beautiful dog.”
But Esme was left manning the office when Balchin spoke with the Small Change team. Topics up for consideration this week include dog walks, pink calculators and working from home.
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What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?
Because I work at home, I start the day early in my pyjamas with a coffee. I get up, feed the dog and sit down with a coffee and work out what I need to do for the day.
Do you find it's more difficult to get yourself motivated when you work from home?
I've always been good at focussing so it's not been as much of a challenge as some people find. I go out to see people and clients and do things during the day.
At the moment it is great as I am sitting by the back door and the garden looks glorious in the sunshine and I've got the dog snoring next to me.
Do you check your emails outside office hours?
I do. I only have one mobile phone and WhatsApp my clients regularly as well, so it's all completely integrated, which can be a challenge. So I have to be disciplined not to respond if I am trying to take some time off. We tried to take a week off a couple of weeks ago and I had to work a day and a half of it. But I thought that was reasonable...
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounting?
I take the dog out for walks, especially around leafy Hertfordshire. I'm running at the moment - I am doing a half marathon in October for Arthritis research - and I bake. I've managed to increase my partner's weight by about three stone.
What's been the biggest change in the profession since you qualified?
I think it's the software. There are some great things out there. I've got AutoEntry and I've looked at Receipt Bank and all the integrations that are coming through so quickly now. It's making things easier for everybody.
You can really deliver something without too much fiddling, whereas before I had to get it into Excel and do it all manually. That's all really exciting.
Sounds like you're prepared for the upcoming compliance changes. What's your take on Making Tax Digital? Good for the profession or is it going to make things more difficult?
It's going to be interesting. I think there is going to be a lot of people who realise they need support they haven't had to have before. That's difficult for a small business when you're trying to keep track of all the pennies and keep your costs down, and then suddenly you've got to pay someone.
It's a massive opportunity for the profession, but it's also quite an inevasive initiative. I don't know why HMRC necessarily needs access to that level of data. Obviously, if they need to do an inspection, they need access but to have everybody's data all the time feels a bit big brother.
Moving away from the modern technology, do you remember your first calculator?
I don't remember my first one, but I did maths A Levels and I had one for that. I got bought a very fetching pink scientific Casio calculator when I left a couple of jobs ago. That's always on me and always in my handbag. I quite often go to the pub and find my calculator in my handbag which is obviously thrilling for everybody else.
I went to an audit meeting and the auditor had the same calculator, but in grey. So I don't know if there is an audit edition.
Balchin will be speaking at the ICAEW practice annual conference on 15 November 2018.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.