Episode #048 Discovering Your True Value In The Accountant-Bookkeeper Relationship With Lielette Calleja
Accountant Bookkeeper Relationship
In this refreshing episode, Lielette Calleja, Director of All That Counts, speaks to Amy Hooke about overcoming the animosity between bookkeepers and accountants.
Lielette shows us how, as bookkeepers, we can turn one of our biggest pain-points into a solution. Her perspective is grounded her intense love of small business, which started back in her youth, growing up in a family business; a passion that has been solidified during her 15 years as a Sydney-based bookkeeping practice.
In the past decade we've seen massive changes in the world of SMEs, and there's been a shift in the dynamics between business owners, and their bookkeepers and accountants. Lielette shares her insights on how you can bring out the very best in your relationship with your clients' accountants.
The real story of this episode is “Enough is enough with bookkeeper vs accountant debate. We can each find our value by shifting our focus away from ‘the power struggle’ and onto serving and educating the clients.”
Host: Amy Hooke
Guest speaker: Lielette Calleja
Topic: Accountant vs Bookkeeper Relationship
Amy Hooke: G'day, everyone. Thank you for joining me again. And today I have the lovely Lielette Calleja with me. So Lielette is from All That Counts, in Sydney. And so, today we're going to be talking about finding where your value is in the client, accountant, bookkeeper relationship. Thank you for joining me today, Lielette.
Lielette Calleja: Hi. How are you, Amy?
Amy Hooke: I am great, thank you. How are you? And good morning.
Lielette Calleja: I was just going to say good morning, or should I just say nothing to keep it evergreen?
Amy Hooke: No, it's morning. I always joke about… Sometimes I joke about the time difference between the podcast and everything, but yes. It is a morning.
Lielette Calleja: It is, I know. I'm on my second cup of coffee. So, it's great to be here and I met you in real life for the first time at Accountech a couple of weeks ago. So it was an absolute privilege to meet you.
Amy Hooke: Thank you.
Lielette Calleja: So as you said, I am from All That Counts. I have been operating a bookkeeping business now for 15 years in Sydney, and I've seen so many changes in those 15 years. I've even gone from having a full team of up to eight staff, all local as well in Australia, to now having a mix where I'm down to four staff, and all because of the efficiencies we've managed to bring in. So I have a team in the Philippines and a team here in Australia as well. So the business and the bookkeeping world has evolved so much in that time. And I think, yeah. I think the next five years will be interesting as well. So…
Amy Hooke: Definitely. Definitely. That's great. For me, I've been bookkeeping just as long as you, but I haven't been out in the bookkeeping community or running my own business for that long. So it's great to hear your perspective on the things that have changed, and also from that perspective, looking at what you're seeing in the future and some of the current issues that are happening as well, at the moment. And also not just issues but also things that we can encourage other bookkeepers about. And…
Lielette Calleja: Yes.
Amy Hooke: And one of the reasons I really wanted to get you on the show is because you have a real client focus, which I absolutely love. Our listeners will know, I'm always banging on every week, it's not about you. We need to make it about the client. We need to make it about the bigger picture. How many small businesses are there in Australia? It's like 6 million or something like that.
Lielette Calleja: Oh, I have no idea.
Amy Hooke: We've got a lot of small businesses, they're employing a lot of people and they contribute so much to our country in terms of services that they offer, employing people, and I'm always trying to say, “Look. Yes, we need to look at our own businesses, but let's also keep the focus on the business owner and remember that, as we're having these little battles amongst ourselves or with accountants and things like that, that the client is really at the center of this.”
Lielette Calleja: I think if you've always remained client centric, the dollars will follow. But if you only go after the dollars and everything in your mind is about the dollars and how can we bring other sources of income, and how can we sell for the services to our client, things that clients don't even need. You'll probably find that… Small businesses are becoming a lot more savvy, more intelligent. They see through it all. They know what thing. Most of them know what they need, and most of them also know where their weak… Where their strengths are and their weaknesses. And I think as long as… I mean for me, in 15 years I have always had the client ethical forefront. And I think my purpose and my passion is still exactly what it was from day one. Things might change in how you go about doing the work changes.
Lielette Calleja: But if you deviate from why you started, then you'll probably find that you will come across some roadblocks. And that's where I see a lot of other bookkeepers or even accountants who are losing clients every week, and you're not able to replace them. It's because they… And I think the real call of why you went into business sometimes changes, and we all see the dollar signs and yeah. I was guilty of that a few years ago as well, thinking, “Oh, this is great. Clients are coming through the door.” But as soon as you stop that customer service and that focus, clients won't tolerate it. They don't care how brilliant the tech is that you've installed for them. It comes down to that customer service. So, that's something we've always believed in. People say to us, how can you be available five days a week for every client. I said, “That's what we sell.” We sell that. We do value based pricing, and part of that is, you have access to us five days a week.
Amy Hooke: And you can't do value based pricing unless you understand the value and you've spotted one thing that is a value there. Having that availability for the client, giving that seamless experience like they feel that they're your only client.
Lielette Calleja: That's it. That no matter how small. I have some clients who say, “We're probably too small for you, but you give us so much attention.” No client is too small. This is your livelihood, this is your life. So if I don't take that seriously, what am I doing here? And things evolve. You don't know where a connection is going to take you, either.
Amy Hooke: You don't. That's so true. That's so true. And just to contrast in a way, I do want to know where you kind of got this mindset from, how it developed for you. But before I do that, I just want to contrast for a little bit because, we're going to have all sorts of listeners on the podcast and so, I want everybody to be able to take away something positive from this. And so for me, I guess I want to contrast myself. So I totally subscribed to the way that you're describing it now. But for me, I haven't always been that way. I sunk into a period where I had an extremely bad attitude about my clients, and I sort of felt like…
Amy Hooke: I have shared this on another episode where… When I first started out I was fine. I just charged 100 bucks an hour because that's what someone told me to do. And nobody seemed to have a problem with it. I had these clients and I was fairly happy. And then I joined these online communities. I didn't know that existed. And I joined these Facebook groups and I found out all these things that I should be offended about that the clients were doing. And so what I did, I didn't realise that I'd done it, but I absorbed all of this kind of mindset that you can find in online groups. And I actually became somebody that I'm not proud of with my clients. And what it turned me into was sort of, it was sort of like a, “I'm a registered BASS agent and I have this many years experience”. I sort of felt like the value that they got out of working with me, was the fact that they got to work with me.
Lielette Calleja: You can get cocky.
Amy Hooke: It's such a privilege to work with me. It sounds funny admitting this now, but if someone had confronted me on this at the time, I would have been so defensive and all that kind of thing. But for me, the way that I changed my mindset was when the shoe came on the other foot. I closed my bookkeeping business and I started running what is now known as Savvy. It had a different name back then. I was doing websites and a whole bunch of different services that weren't bookkeeping, and I had to hire my own bookkeeper, and I went through the experience of looking for a bookkeeper. I went through quite a number of bookkeepers. I didn't have a good experience, even just looking online and trying to see who else is out there and how to compare.
Amy Hooke: And for me, because I'm in a funny position because I'm in the industry, I was like, how am I going to navigate this? Because obviously I want confidentiality in my business, so I was looking outside of my network to see if I could find a bookkeeper who didn't know me. And the experience I had, it made me realise how I made my clients feel from so many different angles, and I just had a massive heart change. And I thought, “Oh, my gosh. I've made this all about me.” I made it about making the client feel that they can't survive without me, sort of like a fear approach, and you're using a lot of jargon on them to try and make them feel… I'll admit this, I actually purposely made my clients feel stupid, by using jargon, made them feel a bit stupid that they need to rely on me, because I'm so smart.
Lielette Calleja: I think you're only human. I think that's okay. I think the fact that you went through that and were able to come out on the other side, and how does that position you now to be that coach and mentor to other bookkeepers?
Amy Hooke: It's so different. The approach I take now is, I mention to the client I'm a business owner just like you, and I've been through all those stages, and so when we're working together… I mean, for me, that's the value that I bring, that I've been in those different seasons and levels of growth and I've been through working with bookkeepers. And I kind of know, for example, not to give them too much of a hard time, you know what I mean? Let them get on with it, without trying to always put myself into their attention. Just kind of be in the background, do my job in the background and not really have to kind of… and be okay with that.
Lielette Calleja: And what you've just summed up then, Amy, is really that bookkeepers today, it's not just good enough to have the technical experience.
Amy Hooke: Not anymore.
Lielette Calleja: You have to have the empathy, that people skill. They talk about soft skills, but I think that's just…
Amy Hooke: Human skills.
Lielette Calleja: Human skills. Being client facing. Gone are those days where even if you had a team of bookkeepers working for you, or if you were that kind of bookkeeper just wanted to do data processing and only deal with the client when it came to, “Here ya go. Sign your BASS.” Those days are gone. If you're not client facing with your client and if you're not giving them some real insights into their business… Now there's two different… Insights and advisory and two different things and bookkeepers are placed to get insights. Okay? Now, not every bookkeeper is at that advisory level. It depends on your background, where you've come from. So, my background's different. I've come from corporate. I've worked as a financial controller, business analyst. So my management account, business insights is quite up there when it comes to working with small business. Can I do CFO and advisory and that kind of stuff? I don't think I can honestly, because I've never been a true CFO. But I can certainly be an advisor on the management counter. I think we need to know where our value is with small business.
Amy Hooke: That's right. And it's going to be different for different bookkeepers. Depending on their background and their skillset, their time in business. So many factors.
Lielette Calleja: Correct. So that the days where you would go and do your Cert four, become a registered BASS agent, get your experience, tick all the boxes in the technical…yes you've done this, and we've done that… doesn't make you the bookkeeper of tomorrow. So unless you're going to invest in yourself more and work on those other human skills that gets you in front of the client and differentiates you from the other bookkeeper… Price will always come down to it as well. I won't discount it. I've lost clients where we've given even the best human element services and we've done the right thing, but when it comes down to it, if someone else's quite in half the price then, you know?
Amy Hooke: There is a tendency to believe that a client, and I've been guilty of believing this myself, but a client leaving just because the price is cheaper, that somehow there's something wrong with that. But I now know as a business owner, sometimes… getting a good price is a smart business owner. If you can get a good price but still receive the same level of service. And also some clients don't really want… You'll have clients who will say… They don't even want to speak to you. They just want it done. They want everything accurate. They want it done by certain times, so perhaps they can get a VCFO or they can get another person in their business to use the reports. But they might say, “I don't care what you do in the background. You get your bit done.” And then you have the others who want that kind of availability, conversation, brainstorming.
Lielette Calleja: They want that hand holding.
Lielette Calleja: Sometimes the smaller the client, the more questions they ask. There's also something I've been saying a lot lately about master your finances, master your SCO, master this you, and I kind of figure, it's not about mastering. If you don't do the studies and you don't have the years of experience, no matter what you do, you can come to my six hour or six week programme. You're never going to master anything, because it's not your profession. And I think we need to also… It's not about mastering, it's about understanding. So what I do with my clients is, this is what I do for you. This is how we do it. We take them through so that they can at least. So it's about appreciation. Not so much mastering your finances. It's about finance appreciation, appreciate what the bookkeeper does. Appreciate what your accountant does. Appreciate what everyone does and where the value is, as well. So that's something I'm seeing a lot of lately is, all these ‘mastering your finances'.
Lielette Calleja: How can you really master your finances in six weeks? As a business owner… it could be a tradie. You can't, nor do you want to.
Amy Hooke: Master finances is probably a lifelong journey. It's such a complex area.
Lielette Calleja: It is. It's like, can I go master my own plumbing in six weeks? Master your plumbing. Even ‘master your SCO', really? No thanks. I'd like to have an appreciation of it, but I'd rather pay for someone to do that.
Amy Hooke: That's right. You can understand the kind of fundamentals that would help you to provide the correct information to the bookkeeper, for example. Make sure that things are in order so that it's not chaotic, but…
Lielette Calleja: And that's where the appreciation comes in.
Amy Hooke: Yeah. I love it.
Lielette Calleja: We'd probably go off on a tangent.
Amy Hooke: Oh, my gosh, seriously. I can talk to you for ages about this. So before we kind of dive a bit more deeply into the specific topic about bookkeeper accountants and clients and the dynamics there, I really want to know, where did you get your passion for small business? Where did it come from? How did it evolve?
Lielette Calleja: Okay. Well, my father was a small business owner. He ran a carpentry business, and then my brothers went out into their own businesses as well. And it just seemed to be that none of my family members actually ever worked for anyone. They went and set up their own businesses. So being the youngest of five kids, I got to see everything that comes with small business, even the GFC. And I think I just had this passion that I just wanted to make things right. You know? My dad got very sick. He had a stroke when he was in his early fifties, died 57 from a heart attack. And it was all the pressures of work. And I think for me it was a real personal… Although it was a real personal journey and I didn't realise that until after I did the whole corporate… Using corporate then went to a small business.
Lielette Calleja: And then I decided after that, that I wanted to take all my corporate years of learning, and pass that on to small business, because I didn't want to happened to my father to happen to anyone else. And yes, he was a tradie, and ironically I don't work a lot in the tradie space and we have clients that are tradies, but to me, any small business person who goes out there and puts their life on the line, their finances, their house, their family. And I just wanted to make that better for them. And I wanted to give every small business a financial controller, which was why… So when I started 15 years ago, I never…
Lielette Calleja: Even the term bookkeeper, because I was never a bookkeeper. I was an accountant in the commercial world. I'm not a chartered accountant, I've never worked in public practise. So it was like, “Well, I can't call myself an accountant”, when you go out on your own, because that's someone who does tax. So, that's how I fell into the bookkeeping space. But yet I was always providing that management, that high level service. So my clients weren't micro, there were always big tough clients and they loved it. They were just like, “Wow, we're getting all these insights from you, when our previous bookkeeper was only doing processing work.” So for me the processing was just something that had to be done. But where I got excited was, at the end of each month, sitting down with them, going through their numbers. And back then, excel was a big thing as well. So building out macros and building out all these great tools that we could do all these ‘what if' scenarios, what if you did this? And what if you did that?
Lielette Calleja: And this was even before we had all these apps like Fathom and Spotlight and Futurely. I was doing this stuff with them and it was a game changer for me when I could see what I could add to small business. And that's when we grew and hired more people to take on the smaller clients, so then I could focus on the high end. But as the years have evolved, you get to a stage where the high end requires a lot of capacity. So let's do the high end using the tools and the tech. And so, that's why we were early adapters of cloud technology as well. But that's where my passion is, and that's why it's still, even till this day, I think when things… And like you were saying, you get really shirty with clients, you get shitty with them.
Lielette Calleja: God knows, I've sacked clients because I won't tolerate rudeness. You'll tolerate it once or twice, but then if it's just a habit and they think they can get away with it. Well, I surprise them when I tell them that I've terminated my services. So I did that. I started doing that about three years ago. Terminating clients. I went in this to help business, and if businesses can't see that and they want to have a go at their bookkeeper, the one who's there for them, by their side all the time, then I had no issues. I slept at night knowing that I have no more, can I say this? No more dickheads as clients.
Lielette Calleja: If you can bip that out. And I think bookkeepers need to back themselves and bookkeepers need to be able to go, “Right. I came into this business to do…”. Whatever your reason was. I don't know if there's a lot of bookkeepers still in the industry who came into it because they were doing the books of their husband or their friends and they thought, “Oh this is a great way to make a living out of it.” If they haven't up-skilled, then I don't know if they're still in the industry. I mean, love to hear if they are and how it's going for them because that would be interesting. Just see, yeah. It'd be interesting to see what the numbers are made up of now with bookkeepers, because I know we've even got people who are leaving the public practise and starting up their own bookkeeping businesses.
Lielette Calleja: And do they make the best bookkeepers? No, not necessarily because they have no real life commercial experience working in the SME space. I once… I remember I had a client who asked me to recruit them a bookkeeper, because they got too busy and they needed a full time one. So anyway, they recruited one who was a CPA and he was first week on the job and he goes, “Oh, why can't this company afford to pay their bills?” And I'm like, “What do you mean?” The guy went, “Well, this isn't good. They need to be paying all their bills.” And I go, “Welcome to small business.” You've come from chartered and you've clearly dealt with big clients.
Amy Hooke: Idealistic.
Lielette Calleja: You need to change the way you think and whatever you learned in the charter world, what it's like to work with business owners. I was like, “You need to reset and think again, because this is what it's like in the real world. You need to juggle that cashflow for that client. You are the one who needs to tell them what can be paid and what can't be paid.” And I don't if he lasted because I don't think it was what he signed up for. But that's what I see a lot of the times.
Amy Hooke: It is very easy to do that, to get an idea. I remember when I first started out, because I came from a tax background working in a public practise. I'm not a CPA or anything like that, but I have a business degree and I was heading towards doing my CA but I decided not to, because I started doing bookkeeping within the practise they started, an in-house bookkeeping. I ended up being the manager of that, and I just fell in love with bookkeeping. I loved getting out of the office, being in the client offices, getting to meet all these different people. And I just felt like I was providing much more than what I was doing when I was just doing tax returns.
Lielette Calleja: That's' why people are doing it, now. And I think, you know –
Amy Hooke: I was like, “This is the life.” At that point, I was like, “I'm not even going to finish my degree at that point.” I was like, “Don't tell me accountants for bookkeeper is more fun.” It's more fun. It's better money. It's more flexible. I can work from home.
Lielette Calleja: I think it was less stressful before we had cloud. I honestly think bookkeeping was less stressful before we had clients on the cloud.
Amy Hooke: Interesting. Yes, that's right. Well, the expectations weren't as full-on. It wasn't expected that you could do it yesterday. And I've said this a couple of times on other episodes that, the software companies really promised things that are not actually true. And so, I find that every tag line of the software companies is something along the lines of how easy bookkeeping is and you can basically do everything yourself. And so, I think there has been a shift there with what clients think they can and can't do, or what they think we can and how quickly we can get it done and that kind of thing.
Lielette Calleja: It comes down to how the client values us, and what they see. And where the accountancy fits in, where a bookkeeper fits in. Because as accountants and bookkeepers, we all know where each others value is. We know that a good accountant is worth its weight in gold, for any client. And a good bookkeeper should be just as valued if the client needs it. I guess that's the key message here. If the client needs it, because not every client needs a bookkeeper. Some clients can get their bookkeeping, their tax, their compliant, all their compliant stuff. And their basic financials done by the accountant. If they're small enough and the accountant's got capacity. So understanding where we fit in with the SME market is really important to guarantee where our future is.
Amy Hooke: Yeah, I absolutely love it. And I guess we've kind of covered a few topics here already, but I just love. I love hearing your backstory. Obviously we give lots of tips and ideas and we talk about relevant topics and things, but I think what our listeners love to hear as well is about real people. One of the biggest comments I get from bookkeepers is, “I feel like you keep me company while I'm working.” And the other comment is that they feel, especially when I have a guest on, they feel like they're just sitting in a conversation with a couple of friends and they're talking about something they just really love to talk about, like topics that they're really interested in.
Lielette Calleja: That's nice. Because it gets lonely. It gets really lonely. Even though a lot of people think I've got my shit together, whatever, I'm just sometimes all over the place as anyone else. There are days where I just want to throw it all in as well because it's getting harder. And you're not alone. I feel that when I lose a client now, I don't take it personally. I look at it as, “Okay, this happened for a reason.” And let's move on. If it was something we did wrong, let's learn from it and let's not make that same mistake again. But when you lose a client for no reasonable, that can kind of like hover over you for a while, and it's really important that you don't get depressed about it. Talk to someone.
Lielette Calleja: So your community is great for that, because people can feel isolated. Even though I've got staff, they're not always around me. And that's my choice though. So it's a business by design that I decided that I no longer wanted to have a full blown commercial office. I wanted to have flexibility, I wanted to do things, other things that I wanted to do. And I like the idea that I can have the day to day stuff being done by my team in the Philippines, the high end stuff being done here. So I'm still, I guess, keeping the Australian economy going. I would never completely go 100% overseas. But I think it would be remiss of me not to read the writing on the wall and to know or that SME's don't want to be paying top dollar.
Amy Hooke: They don't. I've mentioned this in other episodes, because business owners are more savvy and there's so much access to online platforms, a lot of business owners are just going directly by Upwork or different platforms. They're just hiring Philippines staff. I feel that, least when you put yourself in the position where you're managing that team overseas, you're still giving that local value, which really is a thing. Something as simple as understanding the names of local suppliers. You can see the name and I know what that is because they're local suppliers and just little things like that. There's still that value there. But business owners, they're smart enough to recruit their own overseas team. They just don't have time to do it, and they don't have time to manage it.
Lielette Calleja: So there's not enough to recruit. But they're not smart enough to know if their accounts don't look right.
Amy Hooke: That's right. That's right.
Lielette Calleja: And I think that you'll always need. I don't encourage business owners to go direct. I think you do need to have a bookkeeping firm as an intermediary or accounting firm, to check the quality of the work. Whilst they can get 80% of it done, it's that 20% where… I mean, I spend all my time base quarter just reviewing and checking work. And the more experience they get, the less errors I find. But it's no different to having staff here. So it's still got a quality control that you need to.
Amy Hooke: Yeah. So, okay. great. It's lovely hearing your backstory and hearing where your passion comes from, and also to just hear the realness behind the story because, obviously we all know each other from social media and it's very easy to get the surface level impression of, you know you think me, this person looks like they have it all together and that kind of thing. So it's good to hear.
Lielette Calleja: So your audience got a scoop, that I don't have it all together.
Amy Hooke: I love it. I love it. So I guess now we can start to get into our topic a little bit more. So we're talking about, obviously another thing that I've heard you say, which I also really love and identify with is wanting to have a healthy, productive relationship with accountants. Given the fact that there are issues there, it's not denying the fact that there are issues between accounts and bookkeepers, and we'll talk a little bit more about them in a minute.
Amy Hooke: But also the fact that you're looking forward to the future for the best interest of the client and able to go, “Okay, we have our differences, but it's not about us, it's about the client. Let's see how we can make these accountant bookkeeper relationships work better.” I really love that, also because of the fact that I've come from quite an anti accountant background, because I worked in an accounting firm for 12 years. You get to see everything and for me, getting over that mindset has been, it has been a hurdle. But the only way to do is to keep that focus on the client. And then you can go, “Okay. This accountant's doing this or these ones are doing this” and not take it personally but kind of keep moving forward.
Lielette Calleja: Correct. And that's the key, not to take it personally. And some days it's easier than others. It depends on how the accountant has approached things. But for me, and I think before we started recording, I mentioned to you that I probably have a different outlook because when I started 15 years ago, I did a lot of my learnings and I'm so grateful for the accountants took the time to show me things where… but it was me showing initiative because I wanted to do more, I wanted to be able to… But the only reason I wanted to do more was to be able to give my clients a set of accounts every month that was 95% accurate. I didn't want the client to wait for the end of financial years, for the accountant to run depreciation, for the accountant to make adjustments to any high purchases or Chateu mortgages, or to make any adjustments to disposals or to make any adjustments to inventory.
Lielette Calleja: I wanted a complete set of management accounts for my clients. So I worked with the accountants to make sure, “Right, explain to me why you did these adjustments at the end of the year?” Can you give me the HP leases? Can you give me your work papers as to how you did this for end of the year, so we could do this monthly for the client? And it was great. We worked together. Clients had accurate management accounts. For some of my clients who ran trusts, I was able to even do their trust distribution throughout months so all the profits were distributed. So all these things I learned from asking questions with the accountant. Now, that was 15 years ago. Fast forward to now, and from what I'm reading on the social platforms, bookkeepers been getting year end journals from the accountants.
Amy Hooke: Yes. That is a big one.
Lielette Calleja: So have the bookkeepers changed? No, but I think accountants are starting to hold this information closer to their chest and not wanting to disclose it. And that's what I've noticed now. I don't ask accountants for anything else, because I know my stuff. I did all my learning 15 years ago, and that's probably, why, some of us who are more advanced in our career, because we had those amazing accountants, our journey and encourage us to be the best. Because the more we did for their client, the better they looked.
Amy Hooke: I totally agree with that.
Lielette Calleja: And the more money they made, because that could still charge their premium pricing, but everything was done for them. So that was how I evolved. Today's world is a little bit different and I would hate to be able to be a bookkeeper starting out who doesn't know how to do these things, and doesn't have an accountant they can go to.
Lielette Calleja: So I think it's really important to leverage off a really good relationship, even if you have to pay them for some mentoring or coaching, if you want to take your bookkeeping career to the next level. Now if you don't, that's fine, but there's nothing wrong with accountants wanting to do it all either. Because if I looked at them as a business, they're a businesses as well.
Amy Hooke: That's right, and that's where the power struggle comes in?
Lielette Calleja: Tax work is seasonal, bookkeeping's all year round, so it's an improved cashflow models thing. But where I do get really, I guess, annoyed, is that if they're only doing it, like I said, If you're only doing it and chasing the money, then that's not right. If you're doing it because you feel as an accountant, you can provide a bit of bookkeeping service than an independent bookkeeper, then go for it because they're not our ideal client anyway.
Lielette Calleja: So I think there's a place for all of us, but I think what's really, really important, and I can't emphasise this enough, is that the clients need to understand where, you know… Who is responsible for what and where the value is. By having a bookkeeper, independent bookkeeper, or having an accountant who either is doing the bookkeeping or has an internal bookkeeping team, whatever it may be. Because some clients, their accountant… Some of our clients, their accountants are too small to do the bookkeeping. So we do it. Some of our clients' accountants are too big, they're not interested in bookkeeping. So we do the bookkeeping, but it's also more than bookkeeping. We find we get a lot of the referrals because there's a lot of setups to be done. There's a lot of integrations, there's a lot of mapping and accountants aren't in that space.
Lielette Calleja: Not all of them. But the ones that are then that's great. Let them do their thing. Let them do their accounting and their bookkeeping. But there's also going to be accountants that don't do that. So we all have a space in the SME market. We just need to figure out where our space is, and is our space adding value to the client. Because if it's not, and again, I have probably also transitioned several clients over to their accountants, purely because it was just a cash coding type of client for us. Receipt bank in, code off the bank rules or the bank fees. It was really simple. I couldn't justify charging our fees while the accountant for also justifying. So we kind of said, “You know what? Your accountant can do this bookkeeping for you. And we made that call because we know it's not our market.
Lielette Calleja: For us, we feel that our bookkeeping market is for those who have staff, who need payroll done, who have accounts payable, needs their bills managed and all that stuff. Or have receivables, need dedders. Need journals done for accrual and prepayments. Those types of things. The payrolls are big things as well.
Amy Hooke: Exactly.
Lielette Calleja: And also integration. If you need to take a client… If a client needs to re-engineer their whole processes, that's something else bookkeepers are really good at. Being able to visualise how things work from start to finish, and putting those processes in place, and understanding what that data flow looks like. We tend to take our time with that as well, and we add value in that. So again, understanding what the client needs and what the client values is… Once you know that, I'm not going to say you'll never lose a client, but you've got a very good chance of keeping them for a long time before, you know?
Amy Hooke: What I'm hearing in what you just said. I mean, the thing that really stood out to me was, it actually takes humility to be able to say, “Hey, I actually think that it's going to be better in this situation for the client to go to the accountant to do all of this.” To give up that stream of income for yourself. To me that's a big step.
Lielette Calleja: Financially it was a big hole for me, as well. Even sacking clients who I didn't like anymore because they were rude. It was a massive black hole. And I'm telling them, I'll be honest, I went backwards financially. But I was happier. I was so happier.
Amy Hooke: I know exactly what you mean.
Lielette Calleja: I was like the elephant… The monkey on my shoulder was gone. I had a different kind of monkey, but it was okay. I was in control. But again, it was a very bold move on my part. Would I encourage everyone to do that? Probably not. But if your mental health is affected, absolutely, and for me it was about my mental health and I had to do it. So yeah, you need to be willing to make some bold decisions.
Amy Hooke: Well, that's right. And also, it's a bit of a trust thing. I feel like over the years I've had these situations where the client that I've had to move on, it's almost like the dollar amount has gotten bigger and bigger, and I've had to go… And I've been tested in these moments where I'm like, “Am I going to actually hang onto this income?” Thinking, you know? And making that move and moving that client on, even when it's big clients, you're actually creating a new space for a different client, a better client to come in. The income will be replaced.
Lielette Calleja: And it was replaced. It was replaced with nicer clients.
Amy Hooke: That's good.
Lielette Calleja: You've got to believe in that. But it doesn't look good. It could've gone the other way as well. It was just me. And I think a lot of it just comes from being in the industry for so long, you kind of get to a point where you go, “I can't take this crap anymore.”
Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's right. And so, I mean obviously you only need to look… you don't have to look very far, especially on social media to see battles going on between bookkeepers and accountants. And to see people getting… Well I think, I mean it's not just… I don't know. When you kind of peel it back and you think about the fact that you know everyone in these debates are actually humans with feelings, and that kind of thing. And how stressful it can actually be. I know I've been in situations where an accountant has done something and it's affected me emotionally, and to be able… And you look out there and you can see these debates going on and they can get pretty fiery.
Lielette Calleja: They do. But it's interesting though. What I've come to realise is, not all accountants, I wouldn't tarnish all the accountants in that same boat, but it does happen in firms. You do see it. There was one firm where every accountant we worked with, did the dodgy on us, every single one. So it was kind of like, “Well, that came from the top.” That doesn't just happen.
Amy Hooke: It's a cultural…
Lielette Calleja: It's a cultural thing. So I think you'll find that some accounting firms, it's just what's breeded in them from the top. So, you'll never win with these people. No matter what. So we actually had this accountant refer us work and I refused. I said, “Sorry, we're not working with you guys anymore. We've been through three clients with you. We've invested a lot of time, we've done all the set up, we've got it to a point where it's really easy for you guys to take over, and you've actually take over from us.” So we put our foot… Well, I put my foot down and said, “No, we will not work with you anymore.” So you need to understand, I guess as well, like where are your leads? Where are your fellows coming from?
Amy Hooke: Yes, absolutely. And I was actually thinking that. I always say to bookkeepers, “If you get one bad client who gives you a hard time, it's going to really steal from you in so many ways you and your team, but if you hook up with a bad accountant, you aren't going to get…” Because what I find is that accountants, if they're a certain way, they'll attract a certain type of client and you'll get a stream of these bad clients filtering into your business. So you've got to be really careful who you partner with.
Lielette Calleja: You are spot on. Accountants do attract certain types of clients. I've noticed that as well. That's a massive insight…
Amy Hooke: I knew that from few years ago. When I was working in the accounting practise that I was working in, what happened was, so the accountant got together with a bookkeeper and they created… it was under a new name, so it wasn't the same name. They sort of created this new brand within the business. And I remember, years down the track when the two of them, they split, they had a falling out and they went their own ways, and I used to take clients.
Amy Hooke: The both of them used to refer me clients, and I noticed the difference in the quality of the clients that came from one to the other. And from then it really struck out to me, and I would have been…This was more than 10 years ago, kind of thing. It's really stuck in my mind that these clients were filtering, and I thought, “Hang on a second. All the clients that come from that accountant seem to be a problem for me.” So, it's actually cut the accountant out of the picture, and then you don't have to have these clients anymore. I've been really selective in the accountants that I'll work with. Obviously you can't completely avoid it because you're going to have clients… clients come to you and you have to work with their accountant.
Lielette Calleja: But that's the key. I mean, we want to work with their accountant. We want to work with them, because if we can work with them and be seen that we're all on the same page and we're all client-centric and there's no overlap. We don't want the accountants fixing any of our errors, so we want them to tell us if we're making an error. Let us know. We're not trying to take any work away from you, but what we're trying to do is give the clients accurate financials on a month to month basis. We don't want to be giving them false figures, if we've done something wrong. We want accountants to work with us more. Particularly, if they don't have the resources, the client has to wait for year end to have all those year end adjustments done. Well, that's not on. In today's world, that should not be happening with any small business. They should not wait for 12 months to see their results. That's too little, too late.
Amy Hooke: Too dangerous.
Lielette Calleja: Too dangerous. Again, when we do BASS, bookkeepers, what we do, we look at the PNL, we look at the results and we'll email the client. I had one client, he was losing money the last six months and this one, I just said to him, “Look, your reserves are going to run out because you've made huge profits in the previous financial years. What's going on? We need to address it.” And do you think the accountant has logged in and done that?
Amy Hooke: No.
Lielette Calleja: No, but the accountant is selling advisory services. That's where I get annoyed. It's not that the accountant shouldn't do it, or can't it, but they say that they're going to do it and they'll charge for it, but they don't do it. And then they get upset with us because we're doing something that they should be doing.
Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's right. And this exactly comes down to really what we said that this episode was going to be about. It's about understanding the roles and the boundaries, and I think what you've hit there is, this is where the conflict actually arises. When the bookkeeper sees something… Like, when they see an accountant charging for a service that they're not delivering, and then the bookkeeper's the one delivering it and then sometimes feeling bad even to charge the client for it because they know that they're going above and beyond. So, there's this…
Lielette Calleja: We go… Because it's a fixed price, it was over and it was beyond. But because, again, I always put the client first, I didn't care about the dollars, I didn't care about charging extra. I wanted to see the client succeed. And I figured if the client succeeds, I succeed because I keep him longer and he doesn't close his doors. Right or wrong, probably not the best business decision as a business owner, but unfortunately I still go back to why I do what I do. And it's because –
Amy Hooke: I love it, I love it. But I was thinking, the word that came to my mind is, even though you take a cut financially in that situation, you walk away with your integrity intact.
Lielette Calleja: I do. I do.
Amy Hooke: And you walk away knowing that you… I just loved that. When you said that, I just thought, I'm just going to focus on the client here. And I just thought, “Oh my gosh, I want to give you a hug right now.” I love it. I absolutely love it. But on the flip side, this is how some bookkeepers, we get ourselves into a bit of trouble here in that, sometimes we go too far in working for the client, not charging. Being too scared to have the conversation and that kind of thing. So I guess we can probably talk a little bit about… Obviously we've talked a bit about how there is an overlap, and the overlap can be the accountant wanting to offer the service and the bookkeeper wanting to offer the service, and working out who should actually offer it.
Amy Hooke: I'm just thinking of a specific example. One of my clients, their accountant does their BASS, and I think to myself, “We could do their BASS way cheaper”. But then I think to myself, hang on a second. This client and accountant have been in a relationship with each other a lot longer than I've been on the scene. And so for me, I go, “Do you know what? For now, let's just leave it”.
Lielette Calleja: You respect it. And we have clients who say, “I want my accountant to oversee it, the BASS.” I go, “Yep. That's fine. Our price isn't any cheaper”.
Amy Hooke: That's right. Then it's their call. Then it's the clients call.
Lielette Calleja: It's their call, and the client knows it's not cheaper, but… And the reason why they do it is because some accountants are quite creative and… I've seen it, they'll just flip some figures. I mean, it's all within the law, but they just changed things. Whereas as BASS agents, it's not within our scope of services to do that. I had this morning, a client say to me, “Oh look, I don't want to pay the PAYGM instalment.” And I'm like, “Well, it's the first one of the quarter. So, maybe not.” And the accountants just lodge the 2019 tax return, so I think if we change that, that's going to trigger an HEO inquiry, probably. So it's not huge. I said, “Just let it go, but by all means, run it past your accountant.
Amy Hooke: Yes.
Lielette Calleja: I said that. I said, “Here's the BASS, here are all the reports, and this client was never using any form of computerised accounting.
Amy Hooke: Yeah.
Lielette Calleja: It was all… They're turning over about 10 mil. So… and the accountant was doing their BASS off their bank statement. And now they've got it all. They've got it all there and I guarantee you, we'll get asked all these questions now, because we've exposed the data to them.
Amy Hooke: Yeah. And you've just hit on another one. So this is the other thing. So you've got the accountants and the bookkeeper trying to both wanting to offer the same service. Then you've got the, I don't know… It's like a little light comes in and shines into potentially… So, for example, you walk into a new file and this is where I advise bookkeepers to tread really carefully, when you come in and you do…
Amy Hooke: When I scope a job, I will be able to look in that file, and sometimes you uncover the fact that maybe an accountant hasn't been doing a very good job at all. And then you've got this situation where, I don't know, sometimes… So for example… You've got to then look at that. So for example, if the accountant was the clients brother, for example, I'm might actually decide not to take on that client once I've scoped the job, because I think, what's going to happen is you're going to have to come into the situation, and you're going to have to shine a bit of a light in there, but you're not just shining the light onto the inaccuracy of the accountants, you're shining a light into a relationship between the client and their accountant, that was a trusted relationship, and the client's now discovering that for maybe many years, that the work hasn't been done correctly.
Amy Hooke: And that puts you in a position where, I think what some bookkeepers do… I used to do this, is you just go gung-ho in there, you expose everything to the client. It breaches their trust with the accountants, so they go to the accountant and say, “This is what this bookkeeper's found”, and the accountant's like, “Well who are you going to trust, me or them? You don't even know this person.” And then the discrediting can happen.
Lielette Calleja: No. See, you can't do those. No, you really need to try and work with the accountant. Even if the accountant is a friend of the business owner, I would say, “Look, can we catch up? I'd like to go through some stuff with you. Can you explain to me a bit more about the business? Tell me how it operates. Just go through some of the finances with me.” And then you can go through the balance sheet stuff and you can start cleaning it up together. So if you do it together, because a lot of the… I think that's what we try and do is, we really do try and work with the accountants. And look, we're not always successful because a lot of the times we get this, you know? But, if that's the case and you've tried, you've tried, then you can go to the client. But I would never ever expose an accountant.
Lielette Calleja: Treat people how you want to be treated. I wouldn't want an accountant to… If I've had a bookkeeper work on a file and they've made a mess of it. You know what? That happens. Because I haven't had time to intercept and fix it, or they've gone in. And I've seen accountants, I've seen it. They've gone and they've copied the client, and they've gone, “This is wrong, this is wrong.” Bang, bang, bang. And it's just like, “Wow, really?”. Did you have to do that? It could have been a better way to do it. Just send the email to us and we could have dealt with it. And if we make that same mistake again next month or next quarter, I get it.
Amy Hooke: That's a great example. And just to give our listeners an idea of how to handle things like this, because obviously as seasoned pros, you get used to how to handle certain conversations. But what would you say to somebody who hasn't figured out how to handle that yet? So let's say an accountant sends a list… Perhaps they frame it in quite a negative way, where it looks like that they're blaming a lot of things on the bookkeeper, and the bookkeeper's like, “Wow, this is the first I've… You've not even spoken to me.” How would you personally respond as the bookkeeper in that situation?
Lielette Calleja: Me personally? Okay. I would reply to the client directly first, and I would go, “Hey, I've just gone through all these issues that the accountant has identified. I want to reassure you…” Because nine out of 10 times, they're probably something we've inherited, and we haven't had a chance to look at. I'd like to think that it's not bookkeepers making these silly mistakes, but there are some. We try and, I guess, calm the client down. And we also say to them, ‘We're going to work with the accountant to ensure that this is all fixed. And also let me assure you, if it's found that these are our errors, there will be no further charges from us.” And if you're billing, you could even offer a discount of some kind. So you're showing that, if it's something you've done wrong, that you'd go directly to the client. But you don't copy the accountant on it. Then your second response is to everyone.
Amy Hooke: Everybody.
Lielette Calleja: And you go, “Hey, Mr Accountant. Thanks so much. I've also been in touch with the client, and I've assured them that we'll get to the bottom of this.” So you're layering it again with another, but you've got to, I guess, redeem yourself directly with the client.
Amy Hooke: I love it. So what I'm hearing is, don't… I mean, because obviously you're likely potentially to have an emotional response to that. The worst thing you can do is hit reply on the second that you read it.
Lielette Calleja: No, do not hit, because that'll just turn into a nasty email war, and the client will start thinking, “Oh my God, my accountant and bookkeeper are…”
Amy Hooke: Are arguing with each other.
Lielette Calleja: Yeah. And the response you'll get back from a client is, “Thank you, so much. I'll trust you with this.” And that's it. You've just got to reassure them and give them that peace of mind that you will work with the accountant to get to the bottom of it. And also tell them, these things happen. As bookkeepers as well, don't forget, we work across multiple industries, multiple clients. And chances are that you'll come across something you've never come across before. You may have made a mistake because you've never come across with that treatment. But, our role is to investigate and research.
Amy Hooke: Yes.
Lielette Calleja: And I remember from my NYB certification days, it wasn't about… and I used to think, “Oh, open a book. That's easy.” Why don't people give us open bookings ads, and why is there so much ambiguity in tests? And I realise that they wanted to make us the best consultants we could be, because we needed to go research the stuff. And I don't think we see enough of that today.
Amy Hooke: Yeah. That's a good point, because in real life, you do get the information in a bit of an open book, but you've got to figure out how to research it. Also, how to pull the information together, how to interpret it, add it, identify what assumptions that you've made that might not be correct.
Lielette Calleja: And how to do it and test it. And how to know if it works. How to know if it balances, all those things. And I think sometimes, I think sometimes we can all get lazy, and I come across accountants and bookkeepers, and it's just so easy to ask questions of each other on social media. Rather than go out and research.
Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's right. It is easy to get the… If you don't reply all to the accountant and the client, the next step might be to go into a Facebook group and have a vent about what a jerk this accountant, and then have a hundred bookkeepers all respond to you, telling you how you're right and the accountant's wrong.
Lielette Calleja: Can I just say, stop that? That's my advice to everyone.
Amy Hooke: I agree.
Lielette Calleja: Stop venting on social media. Because you're only venting to the people who feel the same way. The people who –
Amy Hooke: But, they're the only people who will respond, because the other people would be a bit scared to, but then you're going to have –
Lielette Calleja: Go with your gut feeling.
Amy Hooke: It's just going to, for me… Because back in the day when I used to take that response, I just remember it just reinforced the feelings and it stopped me from actually moving beyond that and maturing as a business owner to the point where… Because I was thinking, in that same situation. So I was actually thinking of a specific… It wasn't a condemning email but an email coming through from the accountant to the client, listing things that they'd found were incorrect. And so, I remember what I did was contact… I just gave the accountant a call. I wouldn't have done this back in the day. I just gave the accountant a call, and just said, “Oh, thank you so much for giving me that feedback. I really appreciate that.”
Amy Hooke: And I just said, “Look, if you've got any other errors or any other ways that you prefer things done, please don't hesitate.” I said, “Look, I'm going to give you permission to contact the bookkeeper directly.” I'm happy for you to communicate with her. Any mistakes that she makes, we will never charge the client for that. So I'm just letting you know, if you find mistakes, please feel free. Just email her directly.” And so I'm subtly just saying, “Hey, you don't need to loop the client in.” But just give her feedback. Look, if you see anything that's recurring, please come to me and let me know, because maybe there's something that I need to explain on our end, but please feel free to… We love getting feedback because what we want is the best for our mutual client, and we're always open to learning how you want things done. If you have preferences and things like that.
Amy Hooke: And then from there, put the accountant in touch with the bookkeeper. They sorted things out. And it was really great actually, because the bookkeeper was able to say, “Look, some of the things you're asking for, I'm actually not willing to do that.” The accountant… It's like an MIB file, and the accountant wants some very specific things done, which for us, it's way out of scope on what the client's, time wise of what the client's paying for. So we just explained to the client, “Look, this is the way the software works these days. There's a couple of things that are going to be different for you.” And we sort of worked it out just through having that conversation with the bookkeeper and the accountant and the…
Lielette Calleja: Yeah, that's interesting because what you did was, you did the reverse, but you still only contacted one party.
Amy Hooke: One party. That's right.
Lielette Calleja: And sometimes that works, too. So, sometimes it does just take that cooler demeanour, depending… Yeah, that's right. And what your relationship is like with the accountant, because sometimes accountants have bad days too.
Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's right. And sometimes they might… You don't know how many bad experiences they've had with bookkeepers. That's the approach I've taken. I remember this specific accountant. From the start, I remember when I first engaged the client, I knew that it was a longterm relationship with the clients in a bit of a place where, even though it's a family friend, they would actually like to potentially move accountants if they can get better results for their business, and that kind of thing. And so I've just sort of had that in mind, but just really respected the relationship, assuming that this is going to continue on as a long term relationship. And to speak to… Get on the phone, and I remember the first call, it was really awkward. So I got on the phone, and I always just call and introduce myself.
Amy Hooke: I say, “Hey, this is what we do, this is what the client's engaged us to do.” Give them a chance to share a little bit about himself. And it was sort of a little bit like, as I was telling them certain things, just sort of this silence on the other end of the phone. And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” But over time, it's warmed up. And now when we get on the phone to each other, there's more of a warm friendliness there, less suspicion. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time to nurture out those… Because you don't know.
Amy Hooke: If you've had an accountant who's had bookkeepers come along and rip the rug out from under them in terms of telling the client to leave, and things like that. Or to go with them for specific service, say BASS service. I think for me it's… I think the word that comes to my mind is actually, it's not even respect. It's honour. Honouring that existing relationship. Even if you don't like every dynamic of it. And so, with this particular client, this is our… We were wanting to actually move the client across on to Xero, but the accountant wants to stay on MYOB, and even… What we've been doing is always helping the client to be able to –
Lielette Calleja: Have that conversation with the accountant?
Amy Hooke: Have that conversation with the account. Even just that. Just managing, how can we manage this software chain that's going to be the best outcome for everyone, and it's not going to end up in a conflict?
Lielette Calleja: But that's what we're doing a lot more of these days, as bookkeepers as well.
Amy Hooke: That's your soft skills that you're talking about, isn't it?
Lielette Calleja: That's right. Yeah.
Amy Hooke: Communication skills.
Lielette Calleja: I had something I wanted to say, but it's escaped me now.
Amy Hooke: That's all right. I'm sure it might come back. And so, I guess what we can finish up on is, because you mentioned a quadrant. You mentioned that you've got an article, which is a quadrant? And it's talking about four different overlapping relationships. Do you want to say a little bit more about that?
Lielette Calleja: Yeah. So, I saw something the other day. It was probably in the medical space, where it's got where the patient fits, and where the GP fits, where the specialist fits, and the nurse. I kind of went, “Wow, that's relatable to our industry.”
Amy Hooke: Yes. Absolutely.
Lielette Calleja: So, I've started. So I'm just going to list it… So, what it is, this is the best way, when I'm sitting down with a client, because a lot of the times, people don't… The term bookkeeper is still associated with the old school of what a bookkeeper did. And it's like what I said, we need to pause and reset our minds at how we are communicating what we do to the outside world. There's so much noise going on with accountants and bookkeepers. If you're on social, there's a lot of noise about it.
Lielette Calleja: So I'm kind of going, “Okay, let's not focus on the names. Let's focus on what we all do. What are the outputs that we all bring to the business owner?” And where are the crossovers? If I have this quadrant, then I can share that [inaudible 01:06:26], and go, “Right, this is what we do, and this is what I suspect your accountant will do.” Now, there's also the CFO and advisor, okay? You might need that. You might need that for a couple of months. You might have some strategies, some planning you want done, and your accountant isn't skilled in that space, doesn't have a resource in house. Your accountant might not have a resource of bookkeeping in house. So this is what we do in the bookkeeping space for you, but yes, there is a crossover because your accountant can do BASS lodgments as we. Your accountant can do… But it's also, I guess, identify… So accountants can do lots of things because, if they had a department for that.
Lielette Calleja: But I think I need to list that in there as well. So it comes down to, this is what we do and this is what we do really well. Can accountants do a lot of cloud integration and consulting and that kind of stuff? So I think the accountant will be broken down into probably two sections, which is, those that have a bookkeeping division and those that don't. So if they have a bookkeeping division, then yeah, they can do a lot so. But some clients also want to have a segregation of duties, don't want to deal, don't want their bookkeeping. And I've got clients like that. They've categorically stated that they want to keep their bookkeeping separate to the accounting firm, because they feel we keep each other honest.
Amy Hooke: Yes.
Lielette Calleja: And I get that. And then you've got the other types that go, “Well, no. I actually would like to keep it all under one roof.” And I respect or honour that, to use your word. So it's just understanding… And also where the CFO advisor fits in, as well. Some CFOs can be doing some high level bookkeeping as well. So again, do they need that? So it's understanding where we all fit in, so the SME can kind of pick and choose what they want. But the SME also needs to understand what their role is, as well. So it's not just about, “This is our role.” SMEs need to know, “Right, as a business owner, you would be responsible for your own invoicing.” Because us bookkeepers, do you know what? For what we get paid, we don't want to be sitting there doing your invoicing. You're responsible for all client facing.
Lielette Calleja: And I encourage that with every single client, that they need to be responsible for that. If I want a bookkeeper to chase their debtors, that's fine. We can do that. So keeps an arms length of those uncomfortable conversations. But anything that's facing is the business owner, or if they have an admin person, DA, whatever. So I think that's really important that they know what their role is, because too many of our clients start using our services, and not realising that we can only do what we can do if they provide us with the necessary information in the format we've requested it in. And if they don't do that, then chances are that their BASS won't get lodged on time. There'll be anomalies in their accounts. We'll all get frustrated and we'll go our separate ways. So that's kind of what I'm working on, because I'm getting a little bit… I don't know what's the right word. I'm trying to channel my frustration into something good.
Amy Hooke: I love it.
Lielette Calleja: So, that's what I'm trying to do, because I don't want to be the bookkeeper who's always talking about accountants, because I love a good accountant. And businesses can live without a bookkeeper, but they can't live without an accountant. And we need to wake up and realise that, as well, that… But some clients also can't live without a good bookkeeper.
Amy Hooke: That's right.
Lielette Calleja: But can have an average accountant.
Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's right. Exactly.
Lielette Calleja: It depends on the business.
Amy Hooke: I love that. I love that. And the fact that you've got this… to have this quadrant where you can just sit down… The quadrants going to look different for every client.
Lielette Calleja: Yes, totally.
Amy Hooke: So, you can totally tailor it to any client.
Lielette Calleja: Any could you imagine if you had the conversation with the accountant before you go out and see the client and go, “Hey, just checking in. Just want to see what kind of services you offer.” And if you can have that quadrant listed and go, “Hey, your accountant doesn't provide services. Your accountant does do bookkeeping, but doesn't have a dedicated person. This is why we are the perfect fit for you.”
Amy Hooke: Oh, I love it. If they don't have a virtual CFO, for example, you could actually put the VA in there, the virtual assistant in there. Or you could put, if they have an in-house staff member, they could be the fourth quadrant. And I'm also thinking… I mean, you can use this as a diagnostic tool. You can have a look and see, there's a quadrant that doesn't have a person in it taking care of that thing that you need. And you could recommend to them, “Hey, what don't you think about getting a virtual CFO or a VA.” Or whatever that missing role is in the quadrant.
Lielette Calleja: Correct. If you've sat with the business side… Because I always asked my potential new clients, what are your plans? What are your plans for the next two years, five years? And if their plans are to grow and open up more branches or franchise or do whatever, I know they're going to need a CFO of some kind, or they're going to need a growth specialist or a franchise specialist. So ask the questions that will fill up your quadrant, that you have done your due diligence. And that's, as a bookkeeper, is where you show your value before you've even started working on a set of accounts.
Amy Hooke: Yes. Oh, I absolutely love this. I'm just thinking there's a lot that you could –
Lielette Calleja: The world is our oyster.
Amy Hooke: Oh, my god. Yes.
Lielette Calleja: The bookkeepers can do so much more, and just know that you don't have to be limited to bookkeeping only. So go out there and up-skill and just be prepared. Be open to learn new things. God knows I am. Next year is going to be interesting for me.
Amy Hooke: Yeah? What's happening?
Lielette Calleja: I can't say too much. But yeah, it'll be interesting because I will hopefully venture out of my comfort zone a little bit. But we have to.
Amy Hooke: Yes.
Lielette Calleja: We have to. If we don't venture outside of our comfort zone, we're not going to evolve.
Amy Hooke: And what you just said before as well, with the quadrant. You've taken your frustration and you've chanelled it into something positive that provides a solution. I love that.
Lielette Calleja: That's something I –
Amy Hooke: I think more of us need to learn how to do that.
Lielette Calleja: I got good advice from someone. I got really good advice from someone. He said to me, “I'm hearing a lot of frustration.” And I went, “Yeah. And?” And I went, “Oh, okay. Yeah, righto.” And I posted this on LinkedIn last week. I went, “Okay. Yep. All right, I get it. Yes, you're right. I am.” And so now, everything that frustrates me, I'm just going to turn it around and see if I can come up with a solution, rather than complain.
Amy Hooke: Oh, I love it, and I love a good quadrant as well. There's so many different things that you can put into a quadrant that can help you in decision making or explaining things. Just really cool.
Lielette Calleja: We might collaborate on it.
Amy Hooke: Yes. Yeah. So, very cool. Very cool.
Lielette Calleja: I'm sure your audience would love it.
Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's right. Well, I'm hoping that… We'll put the link to your quadrant in the podcast, if it's completed by the time this goes live. And if not, we can share it in the future. I'm really looking to seeing it.
Lielette Calleja: Sounds wonderful.
Amy Hooke: Well, thank you so much for your time. Honestly, you are a breath of fresh air this discussion.
Lielette Calleja: We're on the same page, which makes it, I guess, easier. But we're at different chapters.
Amy Hooke: Different chapters. That's right.
Lielette Calleja: And I love what you're doing, and I think it's great that you've evolved from… Gone from practise to bookkeeping to coaching and yeah. If I was starting out, I guess you'd be someone I'd want to work with.
Amy Hooke: Yes, definitely. No, I think it's great. And I guess what I'm hoping that will come from this is for this to catch on, you know? Whichever level bookkeepers are at, to be able to… I'm really hoping that this will become –
Lielette Calleja: We can fast track their mind, the way they're thinking.
Amy Hooke: That's right. Because for me, obviously the business owners are one thing to really focus on and say, “Hey.” I want the best for business owners, which for me, that is what it is. But if you peel back from that, for me, I look at the bookkeeping community, and I'm just like… I love our community of bookkeepers, and I want to see good outcomes for bookkeepers, whatever that looks like. And so for me, I'm just like, “yes.” I hope for those of you listening to this, that you really take this on board and look for ways that you can channel your frustrations into something that actually offers a solution and helps to unite us as a bookkeeping community. Helps to… Oh, what's the word I'm looking for? To actually bring down that wall of hostility that's happened between bookkeepers and accountants, and to keep client focused no matter what happens.
Lielette Calleja: Yeah. But the hostility has also not… Accountants aren't to blame. The hostility has come from the SME market. They've created it.
Amy Hooke: Ooh.
Lielette Calleja: Let's remember this. Because you know, you said it too. I know, I've unravelled another layer.
Amy Hooke: Another episode.
Lielette Calleja: But yeah, the SME market needs to be educated on where the accountant fits, and where the bookkeeper fits. So, accountants aren't to blame. Accountants are running a business, they need to earn money. And you know what? If we could do tax returns, we would be in there.
Amy Hooke: We probably would be trying to do it, as well.
Lielette Calleja: We probably would be doing the same thing. It just so happens that they can do bookkeeping as well as tax.
Amy Hooke: Yes, that's right. And as soon as you said that, I thought, and I think that's where some of the hostility comes from in that, maybe as bookkeepers, we feel vulnerable in that position, knowing that we're actually… Not to say an accountant's better than a bookkeeper, but there is a hierarchy in that sense, in that the accountant can do… Legally they can do everything that we can do, but legally we cannot do what they can do. And so, it can feel vulnerable to me in that position.
Lielette Calleja: Correct. Correct. I think professionally, they have the documents. But anyway…
Amy Hooke: Great. It's just so nice to hear your views and to really take your perspective on this. And personally, I feel very encouraged by it and so I just wanted to say thank you for coming along today to speak to our audience and to me.
Lielette Calleja: It's been a pleasure. It's been a pleasure.
Amy Hooke: Really?
Lielette Calleja: Sorry for rambling on.
Amy Hooke: No, not at all.
Lielette Calleja: But I guess it's more like a conversation, with us. Hopefully, people can feel like they've been part of this whole group discussion.
Amy Hooke: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thank you, and thank you to everybody else who's listening. Thank you again for checking out the podcast, and I really look forward to seeing you next Friday or, not seeing you, but you'll hear me, and next week we'll be talking about the bookkeeping project, which is very exciting. I'll have an update for you there, and I will speak to you then. Have a great weekend, all the best and see you soon.
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