Seventeen years ago this week I began providing bookkeeping and payroll support to a few local businesses. Three and a half years later I needed to move out of home to an office because work had increased, the files were taking over what little space we had and I needed someone to help. I started looking for a small office for 3 but ended up with a large light industrial unit with an upstairs and downstairs which I had converted into working and meeting spaces.
We will have been in this office space 13 years at the end of this year and taking on something bigger than we needed was daunting but proved worthwhile. At the time all I could think was that this was something I needed to do and reassured myself that if it didn't work I would get a job which paid enough to cover the rent and other overheads until I reached the break clause in my lease.
I needn't have worried. The business continued to grow, the team gradually expanded to 6 and the space we have has enabled the team to work together in an open plan environment with separate rooms for meetings, for providing training to clients and even a staff room.
For several months this year, though, our large workspace was almost empty. I worked in it alone for 3 months before the payroll team returned in the middle of June. Our bookkeepers returned two weeks ago and our team are once again complete. They are glad to be back and I am really pleased to have everyone back together again. It was strange not to be working together for so long as we are very supportive of each other and as an employer not being able to physically see how people were coping with the situation was hard.
A week before lock down one of our bookkeepers left to take up an amazing job opportunity but, of course, for us it made completing recruitment of a replacement impossible and the vacancy was put on hold. Now though I am delighted to be welcoming not one, but two new bookkeepers to our team this week - the beginning of our 18th year in business. By the end of this week we will be a team of 7!
With so much talk in the media of employees wanting to continue to work from home it has to be said that there are lots who do want to return to the office. All the candidates I interviewed wanted to work in an office and be with colleagues. Of course it helps that no-one has to travel by public transport to get here and that parking is free. I am also flexible in that I accept that some people can only work in school hours and whilst I try to be as flexible as I can I do have to be sure that there isn't a mass exodus every day part way through the afternoon and therefore do have some people who work full days. And non-one except for me works 5 days a week!
Our business has almost always recruited newly qualified bookkeepers to give them the opportunity to develop their skills through training and sharing of knowledge so, for us, working from home is not a viable option. The more experienced among us need to be in the office to help the trainees and the trainees need to be in the office to learn from the experienced team members.
We are very lucky that our bookkeeping and payroll services, along with our one to one bespoke Xero training, continued to be needed through lock down and none of our clients has ceased trading during this difficult time. Whilst it has been very challenging and we have worked long hours, particularly with payroll, I am proud of the fact that we could continue to support our clients with information and advice throughout this time.
I am looking forward to our 18th year to see what that brings. New clients, more new staff, perhaps enhanced or new services.
Thank you to all my team, past and present and to all my clients, particularly those who have been with me from the start. You have all enabled me to reach this fairly significant milestone.