20 in 2020… The Journey so far…
As we reach the 20-year milestone in business, I have taken a moment to reflect on the journey. Wow! T.W.E.N.T.Y Y.E.A.R.S….!
Let that sink in. That is a fairly significant milestone for any small business. That is 20 years of grit, determination and pure stubbornness.
I grew up in a small country town in rural South Australia and came to the city at the age of 14 to finish my schooling. I graduated from high school with straight As but found myself in the “recession we had to have” where youth unemployment was close to 20%. Finding a job with no actual employable skills was tricky and added to that was the necessity to quickly find a way to support myself in the city with family being 500km away. I convinced my parents to help me with tuition for a secretarial course where I learned how to touch type, write shorthand, use appropriate phone etiquette, and general administrative duties. This thankfully provided enough foundation to then land a traineeship in a legal firm as their rounds clerk where I remained for five years, working my way up through the secretarial pool to become the accounts person managing the trust account, payroll, and the firm’s bookkeeping in addition to being their internal IT manager.
Natasha grew up in Kimba, a small country town in rural SA
Whilst working full-time I put myself through University part-time, attending lectures and tutorials in the evenings on campus. After five long years, I finally graduated with my Bachelor in Accounting. With my degree in hand, I decided it was time to get a job in an accounting firm but quickly found that I didn’t enjoy the environment I found myself in. Predominantly stuck in the back office, I found myself dissatisfied at work and desiring a more meaningful role and moved to one of South Australia’s leading wineries to work in the management accounting team. During this time I started my CPA studies and found it challenging juggling long-distance travelling each day for work plus the study load on top of full-time employment, but I was determined to finish what I started. As much as I quite enjoyed working in the winery (and it’s associated wine allowance), there was limited scope for career advancement. Most of the senior staff had been there for decades, and unlikely to move on, providing little room for internal promotion.
Graduation Day 28th April 1999 – Bachelor of Accounting
It was around this time I started reading ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kyosaki. In his book, Robert talks about the difference between assets and liabilities and opened my mindset to a different view of financial security. The seed of entrepreneurship was planted. The more I read, the more I felt that I needed to do something more meaningful with my life. At that time, the government was also implementing the New Tax System which included the GST and quarterly reporting for businesses. I thought this could be my opportunity to get out and help business owners. I was great with numbers and I was a very organised person. The new tax system made sense to me, however, I could see many business owners feeling overwhelmed – no longer being able to drop a shoebox of receipts off to the accountant once a year as they may have traditionally done.
On October 24th, 2000, I walked into the Office of Business & Consumer Affairs and registered Cura Consulting – my shiny new business. What an exciting time. The next hurdle… how to get clients?! I was one of the shyest people you could meet. I was exceptionally competent at processing numbers into an orderly and organised manner and reconciling accounts to the cent, but the idea of getting out and talking to people positively terrified me. It was almost my undoing. I plucked up the courage to speak to a couple of local accountants I had come to know, and when one offered me a job (offering more money than I had ever earned before), I almost caved.
The humble beginnings - Cura Consulting, 24th October 2000
I remember sitting with my boyfriend at the time and shared my fears, but he encouraged me to continue to follow my dreams and not give in so easily. To this day, that boyfriend was my greatest advocate and ambassador, my sounding board and confidant and eventually became my husband and father to my two children. I am grateful for his nudge to keep me going.
Family Holiday Oct 2018 - Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA.
I remember the very first bookkeeping client referred to me by another accountant. I walked into their business premises expecting to be laughed out the door. They were an engineering firm – a couple of lads not many years older than myself. The imposter syndrome was strong, and I was waiting any moment for them to see me as a fraud. But then I remember sitting down in front of their computer and looking at the numbers and I realised I could really add some value and help them sort out the mess they had got themselves into trying to DIY their own bookkeeping. The path became very clear and I continued to help that very first client with fortnightly bookkeeping consultations, and still do their bookkeeping today – twenty years later. In fact, we still have quite a handful of clients from those very early days – they have taken the journey with me these past couple of decades.
Early on, I worked hard to get the MYOB Certified Consultant accreditation which was the beginning of 16+ years of consultancy and bookkeeping support using that platform. MYOB was a desktop accounting program, so my role was to travel from client site to client site to process their bookkeeping and assist with the BAS preparation. I could generally assist 2-4 clients maximum per day, and it was virtually impossible to provide much support outside their allotted appointment times.
MYOB Certified Consultant accreditation
The business grew gradually, but it was still providing only a very basic living with many days of long hours. I enjoyed the work – rolling up my sleeves and working side-by-side with business owners in their businesses, on their finances, but struggled to really grow and be able to delegate work to others to work onsite without me there for support. I incorporated the business in 2006 and changed the name to Tashly Consulting, shortly before the arrival of our first child. Our second child arrived two and a half years later, and trying to juggle a small business (which was our family’s sole source of income) and two small children without much external support was immensely challenging.
2006 - Cura Consulting to Tashly Consulting
Around 2013 I had a client who wanted to use a new accounting platform called Xero. I had heard of it, but my previous reviews of it revealed it was a fairly basic cashbook. Initially, it didn’t have debtors, creditors or payroll modules – Xero was not a good fit for the majority of my clients. However, over time Xero developed their product and once they introduced these modules, and at the client’s request, I upskilled on this new platform and migrated their data over. After a while, I really began to see the benefits of using an online accounting platform – it was accessible anywhere, anytime on any device (with an internet connection). I started to speak with the Xero partner support team and decided to join their partner program to enable me to assist more clients in migrating to, or using this online product.
In 2015, Rod Drury, CEO of Xero launched a “Grow Your Practice” program, with the intention to support bookkeepers and accountants to nurture and grow their business. This became a pivotal point in my business. Between this, and reading the E-Myth by Michael Gerber, I was evolving from purely being a technician and worked on developing my entrepreneurial skills – but the journey was long. Around this time, I lost one of my biggest clients that represented around 1/3 of our turnover. They had wanted to have their bookkeeping managed internally, rather than by an external contractor, and initially approached me to do it. It was a generous offer, however, I couldn’t walk away from my other loyal clients. Ultimately, they ended up employing a Chartered Accountant full-time to replace me – and I found myself with a big hole in my business.
Natasha & Xero CEO Rod Drury - 2015 Grow Your Practice program
This became the catalyst for me to really push myself and see what this business could potentially become, or I would have to go and find a job. In fact, I actually put in an application for a full-time government position but felt ill immediately knowing I didn’t really want it. Receiving a rejection letter provided immense relief. It solidified that my purpose was to continue to help business owners with their bookkeeping and compliance, and so I decided to move forward and throw 110% of my energy into the Xero platform. They had been amazing in the support they were providing with their “Grow Your Practice” program, and I learned so many new and amazing things. I completely changed the way I managed my business, and I moved to a fixed-fee pricing model that would provide my clients with greater clarity around their bookkeeping fees and pushed me to become more focused on the work, rather than tracking billable-hours. My husband Andy became more involved in the business from a marketing and branding perspective, and we completely overhauled our business – focusing on being #notyouraveragebeancounter.
Xero Training Group Workshop – Sass Place
The more I continued to promote and use Xero, I identified a real opportunity in the market. Where could others go to learn about how to use this software? I had started as an Hourly Paid Instructor (HPI) through TAFE teaching some of the bookkeeping modules, but that was all MYOB based. There was nowhere really for anyone to go if they wanted to learn Xero face-to-face – so in 2016 I invested a significant amount of time and energy into writing a 1-day Xero Training program together with a 160-page training manual and began delivering group-workshop training. I also provided shorter, more affordable presentations for women in the Sass Place community and also for members of the Eastside BEC. I was passionate about being able to teach and empower others on how to use the software, and this resulted in recognition through winning the SA/NT Bookkeeper of the Year 2016 Award through Xero.
XERO 2016 SA/NT Bookkeeper of the Year Award
This award provided a significant boost to the profile of our business and things began to grow. As the business began to evolve from an onsite based business and started changing to a service being delivered remotely online, I needed to find a professional place to meet with clients and to employ staff. Traditionally, the business was very much one I could operate out the boot of the car, but moving to Xero enabled me to work remotely from my clients’ premises. It was daunting to make the commitment of a monthly rent, but Sass Place (a co-working space for women) was a fantastic first step. I was able to rent a private room to ensure confidentiality, but not have the long-term commitment of a permanent lease. I was able to employ my first permanent employee and have them work from a collaborative space surrounded by like-minded women – many who have gone on to become friends, clients and colleagues.
One of the great benefits of working with Xero was that the software enabled ‘add-on’ solutions which provided businesses with flexibility in using software solutions that were better suited to their business requirements but still have a connection back to their accounting software. We quickly became advocates of Receipt Bank – software that automates the collection and processing of supplier receipts and bills – and in 2020, we became a finalist in Receipt Bank’s first-ever award in the Most Efficient Bookkeeper category.
2020 Receipt Bank's Finalist award – Most Efficient Bookkeeper
So, as we turn 20 in 2020, I reflect on how far the business has come and how much our service has evolved. We now offer customised 1:1 Xero training, consultancy and support services to many clients as well as ongoing bookkeeping and payroll support for those who wish to outsource. Where we traditionally started as a mobile bookkeeping service, we now have an office in Vale Park where we have an amazing team of bookkeepers who service our clients. Once upon a time, the bookkeeping was done on desktop computers, and now we are a 100% cloud-based business using automation tools to assist us and our clients operate as efficiently as possible. Traditionally, I was able to service 2-3 clients per day, but through the adoption of technology, we can work more efficiently and service anywhere from 6-10 clients per day. As many businesses experienced this year, the pandemic caused a shift in the way businesses operated, however for us, we were simply able to pick up our computers, take them home, connect into the internet and continue working. Being a cloud-based business meant we could work from anywhere. We were able to adapt our training to online via Zoom and all the tools we use for the business were already in the cloud.
Team Tashly – Celebrating Christmas 2019
As challenging as 2020 has been for many people, I was glad to be in a position to help business owners. We provided support through the JobKeeper and Cashflow Boost schemes as well as timely and reliable bookkeeping and reporting. I am grateful for each and every one of my team and clients who have helped build Tashly Consulting into the business it is today.
Tashly Consulting - IPA SA/NT + National Practice of the Year 2020
Our commitment to our clients was realised this year in not only winning the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) SA/NT Practice of the Year 2020 but also the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) National Practice of the Year 2020 which was predominantly awarded from the amazing endorsements our clients provided about our service. I was deeply humbled to receive such recognition for the efforts we as a team have put in, and yet, we are only just getting started ツ
IPA SA/NT + National Practice of the Year 2020 – Our Trophies
Tashly Consulting Xero Bookkeepers Adelaide are Registered BAS Agents #86318001 and we are dedicated to providing seamless, high-quality, transparent bookkeeping services – If you would like any further information please contact us via telephone (08) 7078 0808 or via email.
Tashly Consulting Xero Bookkeepers Adelaide – Not your average Bean Counter!
Disclaimer: All or any advice contained in this blog/newsletter is of a general nature only & may not apply to your individual business circumstances. For specific advice relating to your specific situation, please contact your accountant or other professional adviser for further discussion.