CheapAccounting MD Elaine Clark talks to Accounting Insight News Editor Ian Moss about the highs and lows of her career and what she likes to do in her spare time…
The here and now…
How did you get into this business?
It’s a typical “mid life crisis” story. Just over 11 years ago I was sitting in yet another mind-numbingly boring meeting and just thought I can’t do this any more. I quit, went on holiday to New Zealand to clear my head of corporate nonsense … and there the idea for CheapAccounting.co.uk was born. The rest, as they say, is history. I certainly have never looked back and do not miss the corporate world one bit.
What’s the deal with CheapAccounting.co.uk?
It’s quite simple, really, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. We offer competitive fees for those with straightforward accounting needs by using technology to assist in the compliance process. It’s not rocket science. The business is built around a network of independent fully-qualified sole-practitioner accountants working under the CheapAccounting.co.uk brand; a franchise for want of any other word.
What have accountants got to learn about survival?
Like any business, you have to constantly change and evolve; it’s not enough to rely on the fact that you’ve always done it that way. Never before has the speed of technological change been so fast. It’s exciting and exhausting but it’s the way of the world in all sectors, not just accounting.
And what can you teach them?
Well you can only ever teach someone if they are willing to listen and learn. Not everyone wants to learn from others.
All I can do is show what works for the CheapAccounting.co.uk network of franchisee accountants, what we do and why we do it that way based upon experience. Of course, our model doesn’t suit everyone. Like most things, there are not any right and wrong answers, just differences, but I am a great believer in looking at what works for others,. Not just in the accounting profession, and, more importantly, looking at things that don’t work and avoiding them at all costs!
Does the idea of information overload concern you?
To a certain extent, especially as there’s not much room left in my brain to fill it up with more “stuff”. I find that I am selective about what I look at, read and retain. I can’t possibly know everything. The key is to have the ability to research something if and when the need arises.
What’s on the horizon for you and the sector?
For the profession there’s a lot of technological and legislative change hitting at fast speed if the last few year are anything to go by. For me personal my role constantly evolves with it now moving into that of a writer, coach, mentor and speaker mix in the Sole Practitioner and Women in Accountancy space; all skills which I have acquired as part of CheapAccounting.co.uk and helping circa thirty Sole Practitioners set up successful accountancy firms.
Do you think women are well-represented in the industry?
At entry level, yes, but at senior managerial and board level, definitely not. You’ve only to look at the partner pages at some of the larger accountancy firms to see that women are not well represented. In particular there are parts of the accountancy profession still dominated by old-school misogynistic-type chaps. The good news is that they will retire at some point.
As an influential voice, what impact do you want to have on the profession this year?
Goodness that’s a tough one. I’m not sure that I’m influential enough to have any impact whatsoever. All I can do is to keep beating the drum for high standard in the profession and to further equality. And, of course, to out HMRC when they cock up, which they seem to do on many an occasion!
Where did you grow up?
In Essex and Suffolk.
Were you any good at maths at school?
Not especially good, but then I wasn’t very good at most things in school and left at the age of 16.
What’s your favourite film?
Mamma Mia for a jolly good sing-a-long and The Way We Were with Robert Redford phwoah.
What’s your favourite book?
It’s a set of books, which is what you’d expect from an accountant tee hee …. anything by Peter James and his Roy James detective books.
What’s your favourite type of music?
Mainly ‘80s stuff; it’s my era but I must admit to loving Ed Sheeran and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.
What’s your ideal day out?
A walk in the hills followed by a pint at the end.
What’s your ideal holiday?
Sailing in the Caribbean, away from all technology.
Is money the root of all evil?
No … a lot of good things can be done with money. It makes the world go around but, in the wrong hands, it can be destructive.
Do you support a football team?
No … much prefer rugby.
Do you have a heroine or hero?
Not especially and not one person. I like straight talking, selfmade people who take the bull by the horns and just get on with things without moaning or blaming the world for things.
Elaine Clark will be hosting round table discussions on Women in Accountancy and Sole Practitioners at Accountex on May 23-24.