Why smaller job sites are not always best for smaller, one-off jobs
WHILE AUSTRALIA HAS NO shortage of jobs sites, only one of them dominates the Australian job market: Seek. It’s the largest and most profitable job board in the country — and the operator of leading sites around the world, in China, Southeast Asia and Latin America.
In Australia, Seek controls 85 percent of the online recruitment market, with 173,000 job listings and average monthly traffic of 19.2 million visitors; nearest competing job board Indeed, the aggregator owned by Japan-based Recruit Holdings, has 106,000 listings and average monthly traffic of 9.3 million visitors.
But there are many smaller websites where accounting jobs can be found.
IT’S NEVER REALLY a good idea to work for new client or potential new clients for free, particularly if you’re an established business. But it’s also difficult getting a client to feel comfortable that you’ll do a good job for them, when they don’t know you from the proverbial bar of soap.
Aside from making you look professional and organised, it’ll also make your job easier because you’ve clearly outlined how you operate, what’s expected from the client in order for you to do your job, and what happens after you’ve finished your work.
For example, is BAS lodgement included in your fees, or is that additional? Do you follow up late payers on your client’s behalf or is that additional?
It’s a good idea to look at how much knowledge your new clients have of bookkeeping and the software you’ll be using (Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks, etc). Carry out some quick needs analysis during your consultation, so that if there are any areas they are unfamiliar with you’re both prepared and able to give them a quick overview. Further, in-depth training is a potential source of additional revenue, so be careful not to spend too much time here. All of this will help you form your bookkeeping business strategy and, in particular, ensure your rates are competitive, yet sustainable.
If you’d like to start a bookkeeping business, then visit our online bookkeeping directory, National Bookkeeping. You can find information about how to start your own bookkeeping business, promote yourself through our directory or become a licensee.
In the past, most industry associations would refer BAS agents to a number of partner training organisations that provided relevant training courses. However, industry associations, such as the ICB, have increasingly started running their own training courses, both online and in-person.
CPA’s conflict of interest
Although the TPB provides guidelines for the types of training courses that will be accepted as evidence of CPD, industry associations still possess a considerable amount of oversight. If a BAS agent is a member of an industry association, the TPB doesn’t question their CPD training because it’s supposedly been approved by the industry association.
Recently, questions have been raised about CPA Australia’s potential conflict of interest as the organisation also operates a financial planning business, CPA Advice, as an affiliate of the industry body.
But new rules that will come into effect in 2024 stipulate that to provide financial advice, you must be a member of a monitoring body or professional association (such as CPA Australia), but that the professional association cannot be an Australian Financial Services licensee or an affiliate of a licensee.
Is providing and overseeing CPD training a conflict?
EzyLearn, until very recently, used to be an ICB partner. When the ICB started offering their own training courses, their promotion of partner training providers, like EzyLearn, reduced considerably in favour of promoting their own training courses and seminars.
In other words, in many ways, the ICB started competing with their partner organisations. Our return on investment (ROI) had never been great anyway, so EzyLearn decided to cancel our corporate sponsorship as it seemed the ICB had a conflict of interest. Although the TPB may not see it that way.
What about the Business Support Program?
For $396 a year, the ICB also offers businesses that do not have a bookkeeper doing their books, access to training materials and information on how they can manage their own bookkeeping on their own without a bookkeeper.
That’s despite charging BAS agents and bookkeepers as much as $480 annually in membership fees, which they promise will help them to get clients — and the sponsorship fees to partner training providers that provide the same or similar services.
Membership with an industry association is not compulsory
Joining an industry association can be incredibly useful, but membership is not compulsory. And as industry associations try to find new ways to extract revenue from the industry — through paid memberships, sponsorships, training courses and even undercutting their members and sponsors by directly offering services which help businesses do their own bookkeeping — they stop being a critical resource for professional bookkeepers and BAS agents working in the industry.
Instead, bookkeepers and BAS agents can complete their CPD training anywhere. For $175 a year (or $15 per month), EzyLearn offers a membership called the Bookkeeping Academy, which gives members access to a complete library of content, including instructional videos, on how to carry out common bookkeeping tasks in MYOB, QuickBooks and Xero. Visit the Bookkeeping Academy website for more information.
NOT SO LONG AGO, bookkeepers and accountants only had to learn to work with one accounting program. That was back when MYOB, the market leader, had a strangle-hold on the industry, and though a few alternatives – Reckon, Quickbooks – tried to squeeze out a space for themselves, MYOB was too embedded in the accounting industry.
But the rise of cloud accounting has changed all that. Besides the reinvention of a couple of old brands (QuickBooks and Reckon – though the latter has exited the market again), it’s also birthed a new market leader in Xero, which now has more paid member accounts in Australia and New Zealand than arch rival MYOB.
A number of smaller players to have entered market, too. There’s Zoho, which has built an entire suite of productivity apps; and straightforward cloud accounting programs, such as Saasu and Freshbooks – to name only a few.
There was no big, expensive outlay to buy the software – Xero offers a free trial, after all – and for the most part, setting up a Xero account, creating invoices, estimates and recording expenses was remarkably easy.
Many bookkeepers, who had been working with MYOB, quickly started offering bookkeeping services in Xero, and there are many more who work exclusively in Xero.
These bookkeepers are usually part of the Xero Partner program, but there are some that just prefer using Xero because it’s cheaper and easier for their clients to use, which makes their job a lot easier.
Most bookkeepers are diversifying, not just in the services they offer (from only providing daily reconciliations services to providing BAS, payroll and credit management services) but also the programs they work with.
Many highly skilled bookkeepers not only work in MYOB and Xero, but some also work in larger enterprise reporting systems, such as Oracle and SAP.
Doing so enables, predominantly contract bookkeepers, to work with a range of different businesses and increase their income.
Even bookkeepers who don’t work with large enterprise reporting systems, but who do work with the major accounting programs Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks, are still able to increase their earning potential.
Learn the major accounting programs for one low price!
We are constantly updating our Special Offers page to include a variety of combination deals on our online training courses to provide established bookkeepers and would-be bookkeepers with the most training material for the lowest price.
In one of our current special offers, students who enrol in our MYOB AccountRight and Xero online courses will also receive QuickBooks Online and MYOB Essentials online courses FOR FREE.
Remember, becoming proficient in a number of different software packages takes you a long way towards being able to offer diverse services to your clients. Then you only have to decide which services to offer — BAS, payroll, credit management — or perhaps all three and more? One you know what you can offer your clients, you’re well on your way to operating a successful bookkeeping business.
A “recognised employer” is an organisation that’s partnered with an industry association and made a commitment to the professional development of their employees. The CPA, for example, says on its website that becoming a recognised employer will help firms attract top talent and provide training to their staff.
A mutually beneficial relationship
Organisations partner with industry associations to become recognised employers because it gives them access to the association’s members, the majority of which are often looking for work.
In turn, the organisation is attractive to members because it has the association’s endorsement. And the industry association usually gives its recognised employer partners access to discounted training for their staff.
Because of this relationship between organisations and industry associations, members will often hear or see the term “employer recognised” used by their industry association. It’s basically the inverse of “recognised employer,” and it’s not unique to industry associations.
This gives students and employers the flexibility to choose when training will take place, rather than being restricted to a specific time and place, as occurs with face-to-face training.
It also means, we’re able to deliver lots of different courses, simply by making them available to each organisation and their staff, who can then study multiple courses successively or concurrently. This would prove quite difficult to organise if training was being delivered in person.
EzyLearn is the preferred choice for dozens of companies because our courses are structured to let students choose when to study and the pace at which they’ll complete the coursework. Students can jump back and forth between the modules, studying the most relevant portions first before going on to complete the rest of the course.
Thousands of students study with EzyLearn to find work
Besides working with employers to help maintain their employees’ professional development, EzyLearn is also the training organisation of choice for thousands of students who wanted to refresh their skills to find work. Nearly all of those students went on to find employment, while many others either started their own businesses or added to their skills while already running a business. Our website has an abundance of testimonials you can view which show how people of all ages, from all backgrounds, have used the EzyLearn online training courses as a springboard to find work, start their own businesses, refresh their training and many other applications.
For students looking to start their own bookkeeping business, it is worthwhile taking a look at EzyLearn’s partnership with National Bookkeeping. Individuals who join National Bookkeeping as a bookkeeper receive help starting their own business — through lead generation, marketing and promotion — in addition to software and digital marketing training to ensure their business’s longevity in the marketplace.
An industry association membership may be just what you need
IF YOU LIKE BOOKKEEPING, but you’d like to provide additional services to your clients, the next step is to become a BAS agent. BAS agents provide businesses with a range of services, including the lodgement of business activity statements, registering and advice on all GST matters, assistance with PAYG, and a number of other services.
Association of Accounting Technicians — affiliate members must have Certificate IV in Financial Services or at least two years experience and no formal qualifications; membership fees: $295 for three months ($1,180 per year).
Australian Bookkeepers Network — no requirements to join; membership fees: $462 annually.
Institute of Certified Bookkeepers — Affiliate members must have Certificate IV in Financial Services or complete an ICB assessment; membership fees: $264 annually. (After achieving 12 months experience Affiliates can become Associate members; membership fees for contractors $432 annually.)
Other industry associations BAS agents can join, include:
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants ANZ
Chartered Accountants ANZ
Institute of Public Accountants
New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA)
Many associations run their own webinars and in-person seminars (for an additional fee), which count towards your CPD hours. (BAS agents must complete 45 hours of CPD over a three year period.) Some of them will help you with the running of your own bookkeeping business, while others will take you through new trends in bookkeeping (single touch payroll) or changes to the Act and relevant legislation.
Each time you complete a webinar or some other form of approved CPD training, it’ll be counted towards your CPD hours. You can also complete CPD training through an accredited training organisation. (Check with your industry organisation to see which training institutions you can learn with.)
Choosing an industry association
Not all industry associations are the same. Some are geared more towards the accounting industry (CPA, Chartered Accountants ANZ, etcetera) and accountants; others cater specifically to bookkeepers. Even within the group of associations that cater only to bookkeepers, some provide a range of services (updates on the industry, CPD training), while others offer very little (discounts on professional indemnity, a newsletter).
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you want to pay very little, you’ll get very little in return from your industry association. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot either. Have a look at a few of the associations we’ve listed above, and see which one suits you best.
The Association of Accounting Technicians offers affiliate memberships, which provides affiliates with access to a number of discounted fees on training courses to help them develop their skills and progress to a “member” level membership — and then register as a BAS agent with the TPB at the reduced 1,000 hours of experience concession.
They also offer discounts on professional indemnity insurance and bookkeeping journals and publications. And they offer a range of online webinars to help members get their CPD hours up.
EzyLearn’s online training courses are accredited by BAS agents, accountants and bookkeepers — those we deem to be the industry’s “high water mark” for bookkeeping work. These people are the highest qualified individuals operating in the accounting and bookkeeping space. If they believe the content of our courses is genuinely of high quality and relevant to the bookkeeping world, then this is the accreditation that should give our students peace of mind.
I found the EzyLearn Xero course great — a comprehensive step-by-step learning tool to add to my resume and a new tool to use in my Bookkeeping Practice.”
— Patricia Darby Registered BAS Agent and Bookkeeper, High Quality Bookkeeping
WE HAVE TALKED about lifelong learning in a previous post; lifelong learning being the concept of learning as an ongoing exercise that individuals should undertake throughout their lifetimes, in order to remain productive and engaged members of society. In other words, learning never stops.
Lifelong learning is particularly important in the workplace, where the rates of technological advancement threaten to wipe out entire professions and replace them with new ones. We’ve talked about Xero’s newly announced lifelong learning platform, which launched in November 2017, in partnership with Swinburne University (for Australia and New Zealand). A full global roll out is expected in 2018.
We are also thrilled to announce our new Lifelong Learning Hub for all EzyLearn students to access. It is part of our Additions and Updates policy and all students who have signed up for Lifetime Access since 2013, and all students within their 12-month access period, can access the following:
Xero’s Lifelong Learning Platform is clever, but it’s a misnomer since “lifelong learning”, as a concept, doesn’t relate to a single pursuit (accounting or finance), but rather an individual’s entire attitude toward learning and how they learn.
Xero’s lifelong learning platform offers just one pillar (learning to do) of lifelong learning, not a framework to engaging in lifelong learning, the concept.
Lifetime Access is what it says it is
Have you ever gone to re-watch a movie or TV show on Netflix and discovered that it’s been removed from the Netflix library to make way for other titles? Good thing, you’ve seen it already.
The same happens at educational institutions that have to update or make way for a new course, and so they purge their content and course offerings. (Just try and find a TAFE that teaches shorthand nowadays, even though it remains a sought-after skill in a lot of professions.)
If you’ve already taken a now-deleted course, the good news is that you’ve learned those skills already. The bad news is that you can’t go back and brush up on them. The ever worse news is that you have to start a new course from scratch if you want to build on your existing skills with the update content.
That’s where EzyLearn’s Lifetime Access training courses are different. When you enrol in a training course with lifetime access, you have access to every version of that training course for life. When we update our course content, we continue to provide you with access to previous content (which includes older versions of the software), so you can go back and refresh your skills.
If you join the EzyLearn Beta Club, you get access to our courses that are still in development, giving you the opportunity to learn new skills before other students, and provide feedback on the types of exercises and scenarios you’d like to see in our courses.
Our Beta Club courses are important to us because we get to hone our course content based on feedback from students while the courses are still in development. This saves us lots of time, particularly if the feedback from students means we take the course in a substantially different direction.
It also benefits our students and partners who get the content before it’s officially launched, and can request content that covers areas of business relevant to them and their clients. This helps students and partners stay ahead of industry trends, and become experts before the courses are officially rolled out.
EzyLearn already has a number of training courses currently in beta and available to our Beta Club members. Visit our website for more information on Lifetime Access training courses and our Beta Club.
Video, Video, Video. Everyone tells me you need to do it
I’M NO STRANGER TO NETWORKING, no stranger to making speeches, doing presentations and so forth. But creating a video is still NERVE WRACKING!
We all have issues about how we look, how we sound, how well we present ourselves and I went through all of these emotions before creating this video — SO I hope you like it.
It’s only short and covers all the topics I was hoping to convey and I’d love to hear your feedback. It’s so easy to create videos and publish them on your own website these days and we show you how to do this in our WordPress courses.
EzyLearn is a small business and we’ve been teaching students how to use software to:
find a job
do better at their current job and
start and manage their own business
And,we’ve been doing it for over 20 years.
When we created the training courses for MYOB in the late 1990’s I decided that we, as a company, need to create our own training materials so that we could define the learning stories that take students from epiphany to epiphany — that is one of the most rewarding aspects of training.
We’ve also worked with registered BAS agents, accountants and corporate accounting staff to continue to add to and refine our courses so we can keep providing the BEST VALUE FOR MONEY COURSES in Xero & MYOB.
Working with the Best People
Having a good track record, great training courses and satisfied students is a great reward for running EzyLearn, but the best part — and the part that I could not do without — is the team of people I’m fortunate enough to work with, and part of this message is to thank YOU for helping me grow and manage the EzyLearn experience. Those people are:
Ange: For doing the research, putting new technology into perspective and writing many of the words that people read in our blogs and other training content over the last 6 years
Iroshini: For managing the technical end of our multiple Learning Management Systems
Brian: For helping to automate our Enrolment Voucher System that enables thousands of students to access low cost courses automatically
Tracey: For providing the last word in what is correct and incorrect in regards to anything BAS-related
Helen: For helping to co-ordinate the mammoth task of creating, version control and design of training materials
Luke: For consistently great customer service so that every student can get through their courses quickly and efficiently and new students understand all the information on our websites
Richard: For making sure that all of our procedures are followed meticulously and changed where needed
Rosie: For making sure that our accounts are something that I don’t need to worry too much about
Yvette: For coordinating and editing content and helping with marketing for all various aspects of the business
Linus: For the deep level coding and hosting advice you have provided when we need it
Plus there are the various smaller tasks which our international workers and virtual assistants have helped with as well, so thanks too to you all!
We’re going DEEP in 2018
As a training course content creator EzyLearn focuses on our niche markets of
and in 2018 we’re going to give existing students more (watch out for an announcement about our LIFELONG Learning Platform — which will include MYOB and QuickBooks courses, not just Xero).
We’ve also beefed up the success programs for employees working through their careers and the sales success program to help our students upskill and reskill to earn more in 2018.
I’ve spent a lot of time learning more about property investment, renovation and the real estate industry and we’ll have some new courses in 2018 to help you improve your retirement and wealth by investing in property. Stay tuned for that!
I WAS BROWSING THROUGH my contacts on LinkedIn and found an advertisement by a company that was looking to hire people.
They were in the AI (Artificial Intelligence) space and their headquarters were in Europe.
However, the ad looked like it could be for any company including trades, professional services etc.
Here’s what the ad contained:
Executive Assistant / Office Manager
The Executive Assistant / Office Manager will be primarily responsible for helping to keep everyone (and everything) working at peak performance. We’re a growing company, and there will be new and interesting challenges every day. Ideal candidates are curious and interested in learning more about what we do, and always interested in learning new skills and taking on new challenges.
Manage all aspects of office administration
Coordinate team schedules and events
Manage executive schedules
Handle payment of invoices and associated bookkeeping
Order supplies and equipment
Excellent verbal and written English communication skills
Strong organizational and time management skills
Ability to work with minimum supervision, prioritizing work as needed
Strong knowledge of office applications, including Word, Powerpoint, and Excel
The training you need
Apart from the soft skills like good time management, communications, speaking and writing the software skills you can learn to apply for this job are:
Why I’m sharing this ad is that I reckon it encapsulates “the perfect” administrative or executive assistant, or office manager. What I mean is that anybody possessing all the skills and capabilities listed above would be well qualified for almost any job in this area — for pretty much any type of company.
And they wouldn’t be limited to any particular industry either. Any intelligent person who is a quick learner would be able to pick up the nuances for various different industries and apply their skills as necessary.
And the truth about being a freelancer or contractor is that you’ll most likely spend the rest of your working life applying for work. If you don’t like the idea of this, well then maybe being self-employed isn’t for you! Why? Because in order to find the best work; the kind that you’ll love, you need to be always looking for it — or always be closing, if there any fans of Glengarry Glen Ross in the house tonight.
The truth about being a freelancer or contractor is that you’ll most likely spend the rest of your working life applying for work.
Do pay attention to design
I’m choosing to exclude the “grammar, spelling and punctuation” portion of this list, because if you don’t already know that’s important by now, then oh boy, I can’t help you. But formatting and design are important, whether you’re looking for work in a creative industry or not.
The key is to grab attention in less than half a minute. You can use different fonts, for instance, a larger plain font for headings and a smaller (perhaps serif) font for the body text. You can type your resume up in Word or use PowerPoint or some other design tool. But just don’t get ahead of yourself and use something too fancy that you don’t have a proper grasp of and end up with a resume that is hotchpotch and messy.
These days, some recruiters will even upload your resume into their own “system” which “parses” your content and basically re-formats it all into plain text. If this happens, your gorgeous CV will look very different on the screen of the employer. The simpler the design and layout of the original resume, the easier it will be for them to read if they indeed use this system for getting through the applications of hundreds of job applicants. But don’t feel disheartened, there are others ways to get spotted amongst the crowd.
Don’t use jargon
The next hurdle, once you’ve got the recruiter or hiring manager reading your resume or cover letter, is to urge them to call you. Do not, I repeat, do not use jargon of any kind in either your resume or cover letter. The minute someone reads a sentence that starts with or contains “experienced in”, “team player”, “responsible for”, etc, etc, they switch off.
These phrases mean literally nothing. Nothing. Telling someone you’re a team player: redundant. Everyone should be a team player, and there is no one, not a single person ever, who has written on their resume that they’re not one. Instead, tell the employer what you like about working in a team. (On a similar note, also avoid the term “able to work autonomously” by explaining the times you’ve had to and how that’s gone.)
When you go to use the words “experienced in” try to remind yourself that this is something that happens to you — not something you proactively go out and do. Instead refer to your background in terms of achievements. Search “typical jargon to avoid on a resume” for more.
Do show your personality
Remember that employers are people too. Work culture is important to lots of businesses, so they need to know that any potential new hire, freelance or otherwise, will be able to fit in and work with them. And if you can make the person reading your resume laugh, oftentimes you’ll get a call back.
Don’t list silly interests
I should add a qualifier to that, which says that it’s okay to list a really silly interest if you know and make a point of noting that it’s a silly interest. This makes you seem thoughtful, and definitely not as dumb as a person who says they like reading or sports on their resume. Reading what? It implies novels, but it could also mean signposts, Aldi catalogues, Post It Notes. And if you like playing cricket more than once a year on Boxing Day, then for the love of all that is holy (cricket on Boxing Day), say that. Otherwise, put down interests that you actually are interested in — they reveal a lot about the type of person you are, which again, goes to help with the point above.
We show you how to carry out market research and competitive analysis in our Business Start Up Course and this blog post will tell you the steps you should take to start deriving income from your business idea.
Have an income on the side
It’s unwise to plunge headfirst into self-employment. You need to have some income behind you while you’re getting your business off the ground. That may even mean leaving full time employment and taking up part time work in a cafe or retail shop. You have bills to pay and it’s neither fun nor productive being unable to. You do, however, need time to work on your business, so you can’t be so time poor and stressed that you can’t devote the necessary time to organising it.
You need to have some income behind you while you’re getting your business off the ground. That may even mean leaving full time employment and taking up part time work in a cafe or retail shop.
Start working as a contractor for other businesses
Getting that first job or client is always the hardest part of starting any business. But it’s easier when your business is providing a service and you’re working as a contractor or freelancer.
Whether you’re a bookkeeper, virtual assistant, even a tradesperson, you can apply for jobs working with other businesses, rather than spending money you probably don’t have to market your business, while you wait for clients to find you.
Look for part time, contract or casual jobs you can apply to. If you see a company has been advertising for a full time employee for a while and it appears they’re having trouble filling the position, get in touch with them. Find out if there’s an opportunity for you to work with them on an ongoing freelance or part-time basis, or until they fill the position.
There are many businesses that would like to hire freelancers or contractors but don’t know where to find them, so they continue to employ by traditional means. If you can show them you’re capable, and that there are benefits to using a contractor or freelancer, then the job might just be yours.
Find a recruitment agency
The businesses that do like to hire contractors and freelancers, but don’t want to manage it themselves, go to recruitment agencies. If you’re in any kind of specialised or creative industry — IT, finance, business management, advertising, marketing, etc — then it’s a good idea to get a recruiter, maybe two. It won’t cost you anything, and it’s the best referral marketing a person can get. Plus, it’s always good to have someone in your corner when you’re just starting out, to ensure you’re getting fair market rates, conditions, and the like.
“Packaging” your services
Before approaching businesses or recruiters, you need to understand the value you bring. Sometimes this means combining a number of your skills and gaining other ones, to ensure you’re always in demand.
Are you in business as a bookkeeper, tradesperson, retailer, trainer or real estate agent and want to stand out from the crowd? We can teach you the online marketing techniques to help you do just this! Check out what’s included in our comprehensive Social Media and Digital Marketing online training courses.
Documenting procedures helps keep your bookkeeping up to speed
IN A PREVIOUS POST we talked about how to tell when you need rescue bookkeeping, which is basically when a business is behind on its bookkeeping by three months or more and the deadline is looming to lodge their activity statements.
Rescue bookkeeping work costs more than having your bookkeeping taken care of regularly, because it’s often messy and there are no procedures in place to manage the bookkeeping efficiently.
What’s a bookkeeping procedures manual?
A bookkeeping procedures manual clearly identifies the regular tasks and activities your bookkeeper needs to take each week, fortnight, month or quarter to ensure your bookkeeping is kept up-to-date. This not only gives you the peace of mind that your bookkeeper is staying on top of your books, but it also helps you to understand what’s going on with your business.
If you require regular P&L statements or balance sheets, having a procedures manual to clearly outline how frequently they’ll be created helps you to stay on top of your business’ financials.
A typical procedures manual will include:
Simple steps that are easy-to-understand and succinct
Tasks are written up in a step-by-step style, so they can be followed logically
References, links or examples are included to help readers understand
Contain a number of formats — written steps, flow charts or checklists.
Rather than leaving your bookkeeping to the last minute, so you’re always operating your business in dark, organise to have bookkeeper create a procedures manual to regularly take care of your business’s bookkeeping.
We Can Help You Find a Good Local Bookkeeper
We have bookkeepers, BAS agents and accountants located across Australia, available to help businesses in need of rescue bookkeeping work. Visit our online bookkeeping directory, National Bookkeeping, to find a suitable and experienced person available to work in your area, or able to work anywhere in the cloud. Alternatively, if you are a bookkeeper looking to expand your client list or find contract work, you can register and become part of our network for free.
Why It Pays to Call the Switchboard When Doing a Reference Check
I recently had a conversation with a colleague who said she’d never once been asked to produce a copy of her university degree or her transcripts, despite stating on her resume that she’d graduated with a high distinction average.
Gee, I thought, not once? Not a single recruiter or employer had ever requested a copy of her degree? I found this fact astonishing, particularly since more professions require, by law, certain qualifications — as BAS agents are, for example. So how people know my friend wasn’t fibbing in her credentials? Fact is, they didn’t.
Check, even if you use a recruiter
I wrote a blog some time ago about recruiting on LinkedIn and why it’s so important to check references for yourself. People often underestimate the importance of checking a person’s credentials, so long as they get a reference from their last employer. Often, though, most people only provide a mobile number for their references, so whether you’re speaking to the candidate’s former employer, a co-worker, or their mum is sometimes anyone’s guess.
I was reminded of how important reference-checking is again, when I was reading a couple of articles on Longreads, and I found myself utterly fascinated by two of the biggest cases of journalistic fraud ever committed (though I admit to having never heard of them before the weekend, despite one occurring more than 30 years ago).
Sometimes people don’t just lie on their resume
In the first instance, a journalist named Janet Cooke fabricated a story for TheWashington Post about an 8-year-old heroin addict. She won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1981, and then had to give it back when it came out that there was no such 8-year-old. In the second case, Jayson Blair, a journalist for The New York Times, was found to have fabricated or plagiarised 36 out of 73 stories written over a 6-month period, in what turned out to be the biggest scandal in the newspaper’s hundred-plus year history.
What I found most intriguing, though, was that neither Cooke nor Blair had been properly vetted before their employers hired them. In fact, it was Cooke’s falsified resume that was ultimately her undoing when, after receiving the highest honour in the field of writing, a former employer noticed something was amiss with her Pulitzer biography — her education and professional achievements had been grossly overstated. (Rather ironically it was Bob Woodward, of Woodward and Bernstein — the journalists who uncovered the Watergate Scandal — who signed off on hiring Cooke.)
The same would prove true for Blair, who, it turned out, never graduated from university, and had a murky work history with the Times’ sister publication, The Boston Globe, where his superiors had been less than impressed with his less-than-high standard of work.
(Of course, the equally interesting case of Australian author, Helen Demidenko, who won the Miles Franklin Award in the early 1990s, only to later be dubbed by the Sydney Morning Herald as a ‘literary hoax’ also springs to mind.)
Benders-of-truth almost always get caught
Plenty of people lie or embellish on their resumes, and while a good majority of them go unnoticed, others are caught out — sometimes very publicly, and often only after the organisation has been very publicly embarrassed, as in the case of Cooke and Blair.
My advice, then, is to always check the references of new hires meticulously. Rather than calling the mobile numbers or direct lines of the candidate’s references, call the main switchboard and ask to speak to that person’s manager or superior.
And always ensure to ask for a copy of any credentials, like university degrees. If you’re employing someone where, by law, they’re required to hold a certain qualification — as is the case for BAS agents, for instance — it’s imperative you can verify the person’s credentials.
Even though bank feeds can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent coding transactions in your accounting software, if your business has a lot of transactions each month, it’s a good idea to perform weekly — or even twice weekly — reconciliations. You’ll not only further reduce the potential for errors, but it’ll also help to give you a clearer picture of your finances.
Improved cashflow management
Even though internet banking allows you to look at how much money you have in the bank, this is an imprecise way of managing your cashflow. By reconciling your accounts on a weekly basis, you’ll be able to see what money’s gone out of your account, and what’s due to be coming in. If you have staff, this will eliminate a lot of the stress of wondering whether you’ll have enough money in the bank to make payroll, because you’ll know in advance if there’ll be any cash shortfalls.
With weekly bank reconciliations, you’ll also find that your financial reports are greatly improved. This will enable you to make more correct sales forecasts, and to plan for machinery or equipment upgrades with a greater sense of accuracy. It’ll also help you to identify late paying clients and peak business cycles, so you can better manage your business operations — limit credit to late payers, hire more staff, etc. This type of financial information is the lifeblood of every successful business, so it has to be accurate.
If you’re hiring a bookkeeper to manage this for you, it’s worthwhile discussing whether they will perform this work once a week, or a couple of times each week. If your bookkeeper is contracted to perform a certain number of hours each week, they may decide to perform a few tasks a few times a week, so they’re more available to their other clients during the week. This is a bonus to the business owner, because it improves the accuracy of your reporting even further.
Cloud accounting software’s greatest innovation was not putting the software in the cloud; it was introducing bank feeds. You’ll learn how to set up bank feeds in the latest version of Xero in our Xero Bank Reconciliations and Journal Entries course. For now however, we’re going to explain why you should — whether you’re a business owner doing your own bookkeeping or whether you’re a bookkeeper employed to do it for your clients — be using bank feeds.
Bank feeds in brief
A bank feed is an automatically created list of the transactions (spent and received) in your bank account that is imported into your Xero accounting software. For this to occur, you have to give Xero permission to access your account. Some people feel funny about this, but bank feeds have been around for so long now that, just like online shopping, there’s really nothing to worry about. I won’t go into how the technology works, but I will say that no one looks at your account data; you’re just allowing the free flow of information between your bank and Xero.
Direct bank feeds save time (and indirectly, money)
There was a time when you or your bookkeeper had to wait until your bank statement arrived before any transactions could be reconciled in your accounting software, usually at the end of the month. For businesses with a lot of transactions, either in the form of receivables or payables or both, reconciling a month’s worth is a finicky job that’s prone to errors.
With bank feeds, transactions will show up in your accounting software as soon as the payment leaves your account or credit card. If you (or your bookkeeper) get in the habit of reconciling your account on a daily, twice weekly or weekly basis, it makes it easier to accurately code each transaction because you’re only dealing with a few at a time. This results in fewer errors and fewer hours spent fixing them, and that saves money (read: time = money).