The Business of Bookkeeping – Podcast 2

ROBERT GERRISH: [00:35] Now I’m delighted to be speaking with Niamh Campbell who is based in Wanneroo in the northern suburbs of Perth in Western Australia. So Niamh, thank you so much for joining us. Niamh, could you start off by giving us a little snapshot of the area. What is Wanneroo like?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [00:50] Wanneroo is a big growing area in the northern suburbs of Perth. It’s about 50 kilometers from start to finish. Residential, industrial, retail… so it’s a real growing area.

ROBERT GERRISH: [01:05] A real mix.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [01:06] Yeah, a big ton.

ROBERT GERRISH: [01:08] Okay. And so have you been based there for a long time? Is this a long term home for you?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [01:15] Yeah. I’ve been living out this way for a good while now since myself and my husband bought a house up here.

ROBERT GERRISH: [01:21] Okay. Alright. So how many years roughly have you been there?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [01:24] About seven.

ROBERT GERRISH: [01:26] Okay. Good. Good. Alright. So you know the area really well clearly and you come from that sort of part of the world. Now, I gather that in your business, quite a unique sort of set up. You’re in partnership with your father, Eamon. So just give us a little snapshot there, if you would. How does that work? What made you decide to kind of set your business up in that way?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [01:51] Well, Dad came to me a couple of years ago with the idea of doing this and he’s an accountant. So, you know, it was something for him to be able to do as well. I’ve never done bookkeeping before, but I’ve been, you know, just doing my Cert IV. But I love the technology of it. So I’ve been training.

ROBERT GERRISH: [02:09] Okay.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [02:09] Him knowing the books and the numbers and me knowing the technology, we work quite well together.

ROBERT GERRISH: [02:15] How brilliant. So it was actually Eamon’s idea. He sort of hatched the plan and he said, “Hey Niamh, how about going into business with me?”

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [02:23] That’s it. Yup.

ROBERT GERRISH: [02:24 Okay. I’m not sure if every child and parent would dive into that with such relish, but clearly it’s working okay for you. And how long now have you been running?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [02:36] Just over a year and a half now.

ROBERT GERRISH: [02:38] Okay. So still a pretty new business. And how do you sort of split the roles then between yourself and Eamon? Who does what?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [02:49] We’re still working on that at the moment. I was working in the business full time for the first year up until that November. So Dad’s just come in now in November. So we’re still trying the nuts and things out here and there, but we’re getting there. We’re getting there.

ROBERT GERRISH: [03:04] Okay. Alright. So do you sort of share clients or is the plan… do you think that one of you will be more the sort of client interface and the other is more the back room person or is this very much a kind of a work in progress?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [03:20] It’s definitely a work in progress. I think ultimately it’ll be we have our own individual clients that we, you know, we work on and then just come together if we need help with each other’s clients. Yeah, it’s just one of those things. We’re going to play it by ear and see how it works.

ROBERT GERRISH: [03:38] Yeah. Okay. And I guess the great thing is about, you know, the way that your business is running a lot of times, is you can carry on running your business whilst you work this out and you can sort of… Do you find you can kind of design your business to suit the way the two of you want to work? That’s presumably what the business is allowing you to do.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [03:59] Yeah, exactly. We can do exactly what we want to do. I’m still working on all the plans at the moment while I’m getting Dad up to…

ROBERT GERRISH: [04:08] Getting him up to speed.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [04:09] Up to speed, exactly, because I was doing it longer. It’s all in my head and I’m trying to figure out how to get it from my head on to paper so that he can take it up.

ROBERT GERRISH: [04:17] Good thinking.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [04:18] Yeah.

ROBERT GERRISH: [04:19] Yeah. Okay. So that’s a good learning. Isn’t it? It’s clear that you’ve got the procedures but, you know, we all know it’s a bit risky if the procedures are staying in between your ears. But obviously now, after you know, the shortest time that you’ve been running the business, great time to be, you know, documenting all that and as you say kind of splitting up the roles a bit. Interestingly I know that you have some experience within the sort of franchise industry. So if you were, just for people listening, just take me through this kind of… the thought process about going into a franchise. Was it the fact that you’d kind of had this past experience that made it obvious that was the way you wanted to go? How did you get there?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [05:07] We did a lot of due diligence around it, but you know, the franchise model is… I don’t want to say a no brainer, but they’ve done all the work and they’ve got everything in place for you so when you start your business you’re starting with everything you’d need to move forward and I think in regards to the First Class franchise, everybody we met they just loved it so much as well. We just felt like it was a huge family and that hasn’t changed over the last year and a half either. So having all your compliance up to date, all your CPA hours, all your procedures, your checklists, everything given to you. If you were to start from scratch that would take ages.

ROBERT GERRISH: [05:53] A long time.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [05:54] Yeah.

ROBERT GERRISH: [05:56] It’s so interesting what you say as well about, you know, about the kind of the warmth of the network because, you know, as you know because we met a few times and I’ve been at various conferences. I continue to be amazed by the warmth in the room when you’re with a number of the sort of franchisees there and I have often left those gatherings thinking, “Could I do this? Could I actually set up a bookkeeping business,” and sadly I’m not at all numerate. But what about yourself then? Basically, you know, you had Eamon coming up to you going, “Hey come on. Why don’t we do this?” Presumably you must be somewhat numerate. I mean did it terrify you, the thought of having to kind of learn how to be a bookkeeper and to learn these skills?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [06:46] I do love numbers. I always have done and I should have done accounting when I left school, but I decided to do photography instead and it just sort of traces me back to that. So it was a bit scary to start with because, you know, I didn’t have the qualification, but through First Class Accounts I’ve been able to gain that and get the experience to go along with them, so…

ROBERT GERRISH: [07:11] Yeah. Okay. So how long was it before… I mean do you feel the kind of… the first time you walked into a client’s office or prospective client. Can you remember that day? And how did you feel? Did you think, “Can I do this?” Or did you feel confident? What was the feeling?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [07:28] I felt like I shouldn’t have been there. It was quite scary.

ROBERT GERRISH: [07:32] Did you?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [07:33] Yeah. I didn’t have the confidence in myself when I, you know, when I initially started, but as time has gone on I’ve sort of realised that I do know what I’m talking about.

ROBERT GERRISH: [07:44] Yeah.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [07:44] It’s not as scary anymore. Still a little bit, but not as scary.

ROBERT GERRISH: [07:49] Okay. So I’m just going to hold you there for a second. So it might be… I’ll ask you to cast your mind back to this very first person. So you walked in there and you weren’t feeling necessarily at home, you weren’t as confident, but you clearly delivered and, you know, did the work, are you still in touch with that person?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [08:10] No. That client left us. We parted ways after working for them just over a year.

ROBERT GERRISH: [08:18] Okay.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [08:19] They brought it in house instead of outsourcing it. So that was the reason why. But yeah, I think it was because they were a coffee franchise and I came from a coffee background. So we had that bit in common, so…

ROBERT GERRISH: [08:32] Okay. Good.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [08:33] I think yeah, apart from the bookkeeping side of it, that sort of helped seal the deal for me that day.

ROBERT GERRISH: [08:39] Yeah. Okay. Well that’s good. So interesting that you’re using, you know, other experience in your life to, you know, connect with your customers, your clients. So why don’t we just have a look at that for a moment. I mean ideally do you have… I know it’s still sort of fairly early days, but do you have a sort of a picture or profile of your ideal customer?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [09:00] Yeah. It is a little bit hard at this point because we’re sort of just, you know, trying to fill in the gaps that we have, but sort of the… I do like the café and the coffee businesses and they, you know, it’s because I suppose that’s where my little comfort is as well. But yeah, actually I have to say that because that’s sort of where most of clients sit at the moment.

ROBERT GERRISH: [09:29] Alright. So that’s an area that obviously you feel comfortable in and it’s one that, you know, you have a little bit of experience regardless of which side of the counter you’re at. But when you kind of look forward, when you look to growing your business, is there… now that you’ve been doing it for this amount of time, is there kind of any business that would kind of concern you or does anybody that comes at you, would they be, would you be so confident and comfortable servicing them?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [09:59] Yeah. There’s nothing that’s really scaring me at the moment. We’ve taken on a couple of unusual clients. So that’s sort of given us a bit of a stepping stone and ones we didn’t think we’d have any idea with, we were able to work our way around it and we serviced them the way that they needed. So looking forward, yeah we’re able to take any challenge that comes towards us.

ROBERT GERRISH: [10:25] Yeah, that’s interesting isn’t it and I can tell, you know, just from the way you’re kind of speaking about it, clearly your confidence is growing hugely and I guess when you get to that point that – and it sounds like you’re kind of there now – where almost anybody can kind of approach you or come to you and you kind of know now more and more that well, it doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, we can service that business and then I guess as you get kind of busier, you may determine, “Okay. Well actually we’ll start to get a bit more picky.”

But at this stage are you looking to, you know, have you still got capacity? Are you looking to grow your client base to a large extent at the moment or just a little bit?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [11:10] We’ve got quite a big… because obviously there’s two of us, so the capacity for the two of us and both of us want to be working full time and, you know, working in the business full time, so yeah, we’ve got a fair amount of capacity at the moment.

ROBERT GERRISH: [11:29] Okay. And how do you view that? Is that exciting for you? Is it daunting for you? How do you feel?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [11:38] It’s definitely exciting because you don’t know who is going to walk through the door next, but the daunting part is yeah, because obviously we’ve got bills to pay and stuff like that. So that’s the daunting part. But you know, I see how far we’ve come in a year and a half and thinking back to when we first started, I never thought we’d, you know, the way my head was at that point, I never thought I’d be where I am now. So all I need to do is in my head look forward a year and I can see exactly where we’ll be, so…

ROBERT GERRISH: [12:08] How brilliant. I mean how good is that really to be, you know, into a business just really not very long at all, but to you know, for you to have come from something, very different background, bringing it into a bookkeeping business initially having, you know, a little bit of concern of confidence, “Can I do this,” and then here we are, you know, not long sort of a year and a bit later excited at the prospect of the opportunity to grow the business. I mean that’s great isn’t it?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [12:41] Yeah. It’s really good and I suppose, you know, I’ve got that added bonus that I do have my dad who has got the experience. So for anything I don’t know, I just, you know, lean on him.

ROBERT GERRISH: [12:50] Lean on him.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [12:51] So that is, you know, it does help a lot with my confidence.

ROBERT GERRISH: [12:58] Good. We spoke a few minutes ago about, you know, the kind of… the family feel of First Class Accounts. How does that kind of support you in your work and how do you… do you lean on the family if we can call them that?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [13:13] Ah, without them I don’t think I’d be able to be doing what I’m doing. They’re constantly just giving me support and telling me – and it sounds really big headed – they’re telling how well I’m doing and I’m… [laughter]

ROBERT GERRISH: [13:29] Now that’s kind of nice.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [13:29] Yeah. I know. It is very nice and, you know, telling me how they can see the change in me as well. So knowing that other people outside of my own individual family can see how much I’ve changed in a year and a half definitely, you know, it makes it feel like I’m doing something right, so…

ROBERT GERRISH: [13:47] Yeah. That’s great. I mean, you know, it’s so interesting because, you know, as you know through the work that I’ve done in the past with the Flying Solo community, you know, we do a lot of research with people in business and very small businesses, usually solo businesses and this whole sense of isolation can be a really big issue. You know, “Am I doing this right?” “Could I be doing this better?” “What else could I be doing?” And the lovely thing about the model that First Class Accounts run is you don’t have that sense, do you, because there’s always people there supporting you. You know, you’re kind of your own little group of cheerleaders, if you like, that are nudging you forward and helping you grow your confidence. It’s a wonderful thing.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [14:32] Completely. And just knowing that if you’ve got any sort of question, there’s 190 other people that you can ask that have probably been there and done that. So yeah, everybody is just so helpful and yeah, it’s definitely had a big impact on us.

ROBERT GERRISH: [14:49] Brilliant. Niamh, can I ask you, and we’ve touched on this a little, but what do you see for the future? Imagine, let’s go maybe two, three years ahead, how do you see your business looking then?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [15:03] I see both Dad and I working full time, full capacity. Hopefully. my mum has come on board as well because she does a little bit of work for us, so hopefully we’ll be able to… we need her to come on and yeah, just working and helping as many people within the Wanneroo area as possible. My passion is just helping small business to get their systems automated and spend more time on their own business and less time doing their bookkeeping. So yeah, that’s sort of where I’d like to see myself.

ROBERT GERRISH: [15:40] That’s great. It’s so interesting being a parent myself to hear a child talking about building a business and bringing your parents in. When so often I certainly think with my teenage son, the reverse is true, you know. If I asked him his future, it would certainly be one that is a long, long way away from us. But that’s fascinating.

So we’ve also talked and that’s great that you’ve got that picture, you know, and it’s still clearly taking shape, but the fact that you can look at the years ahead and see, you know, a busier business that’s helping the community, that’s involving the people you want to have involved, in this case your Mother and Father. I mean that’s just fantastic.

So we’ve touched on technology and you mentioned that, you know, in the past you were a photographer and I’ll come back there in a second, but the use of technology… you’re clearly someone who is very comfortable and enjoys technology. Is that again, is that an appeal of the business? Are you using it in ways that you think is different to other members within the franchise group? How does that work?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [16:56] I think when I first started and I did my training, I was like, “This is way too much data entry for me” and in the last year and a half I’ve realised that I don’t have to do as much data entry because of the technology that I’m using. It makes me very happy and I love playing with new technology, so I love, you know, keeping an eye out and seeing what else might be out there and playing around with it… and I’ve forgotten where I was going. [laughter]

ROBERT GERRISH: [17:26] That’s okay. I’m throwing lots of questions at you. But I guess the thing that I’m interested in is that, you know, you’re clearly someone who is embracing technology and I know that within First Class Accounts, you know, all the various providers the supporters, you know, Practice Ignition to name but one, that are constantly looking to make your life easier, more streamlined, simpler. I mean are you finding as a new technology is kind of presented to you, are you… is your sort of view, you know, “Fantastic. Bring it on?” Or do you start to feel any sense of overwhelm with the stuff that’s coming at you?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [18:12] No. No. No. I love it. Give me more. Let me see whatever is out there. So yeah, all the technology that First Class Accounts help, you know, with all the partners and stuff like that. I love all that. I love chatting with them and seeing how I can either implement them in my own business or use it to help other clients that I have. So I always like to know how to use them. Obviously not all of them because there are so many different apps and whatever out there that I’d never be able to know them all. But I like to know a fair few so that if someone comes to me, I’ll be able to help than with it.

ROBERT GERRISH: [18:49] So again is your sort of experience that if you’re noticing things… if you’re noticing a sort of situation where you think technology could help… is your experience that once you kind of notice it that chances are you’ll find a solution to it?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [19:08] Yes. Definitely. That’s how I… that’s what I love doing with the clients is where a pain point might be in their business and seeing if I can find a solution for them.

ROBERT GERRISH: [19:19] Isn’t that great. I mean how satisfying because not only is that clearly reinforcing your relationship with your customers by you doing a lot more than merely doing their books, you’re helping with sort of pain points in their business. But it’s obviously, you know, really ticking a box for you as well because of your love of technology and efficiency. It’s a great thing.

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [19:44] Yeah.

ROBERT GERRISH: [19:46] Yeah. So my final question to you before I let you go to your busy day is… photography. Where is that in your life now? Do you still manage to get the cameras out now and again? How are you doing that?

NIAMH CAMPBELL: [19:58] Yeah. It took a while for me to get back into it after I left Uni, but I have taken it up again and I do it as a little bit of a hobby here and there. We do a lot of four-wheel driving and camping, so the camera always comes on those trips. So yeah, it’s always there and it always will be, but bookkeeping has definitely come in front now.

ROBERT GERRISH: [20:20] Yeah. Fantastic. Alright. Well look, Niamh Campbell, thank you so much for joining us and before we go another big thanks to our podcast sponsors Practice Ignition.

[End of Transcription]

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