The Chronicles Of A Failed Businessman: How Not To Deal With Beancounters

Accountants, I've had them all. From cockney wideboys to financial overlords, I'm now stuck with a bloke who wears a pinstripe suit with holes in it...
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Accountants, I've had them all. From cockney wideboys to financial overlords, I'm now stuck with a bloke who wears a pinstripe suit with holes in it...

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At some point in your small business you are going to have to get an accountant. The alternative is to buy an "off the peg" software package like Sage and do it all yourself.  How Sage software works is that you get a giant funnel and glue it  to the back of your computer and you just throw anything financial into it, lunch receipts,  VAT forms, shit from HMRC, more receipts, sausage rolls, anything.  So you chuck it all in there, stuff it in with a stick and it prints out accounts for you and sorts everything out with everyone. Sorry, thats how I thought it would work. In reality, how it works is you sit there, your gaze wandering between the computer screen and a big pile of final VAT demands ,your face looking like someone has just asked you to map the monkey genome. Eventually, you'll just give in and like me you'll hand three Tesco carrier bags containing 18 months of "accounts stuff" to the first accountant you find.

So you need an accountant. You need to get the right one.  I was lucky in my first accountant (the first one I ever met), I nicknamed him "Call me Dave." He was probably the best accountant I've ever had, so naturally I don't use him anymore. He had an office (woo) and in a desperate attempt to appear fun, his office had a jukebox in it and "mood barometers". It was all a bit Brent-ish (hence my nickname) and he was the accounting equivalent of guitar toting teachers who run off with their pupils (topical). I was his financial pupil, but I will say this about him - he never once tried to bum me. When I went into the office, I was shown the large cardboard "mood barometers" of how his staff were feeling. The staff moved arrows depending on their moods. They said things ranging from Having A Great Day to Feeling Like I Need a Boost. I could not help thinking that if I worked there they would need to write a few more along the lines of Having A Ket Comedown or I Am Really Hungry. Always. In reception he had a jukebox and you were encouraged to "put some tunes down". I would look up and down the list at various offerings from The Lighthouse Family, Simply Red & Texas trying to find anything remotely playable before just sitting down again, disappointed. What did I expect to find on an accountant's jukebox? Pyschocandy?

Summary: Call Me Dave was brilliant because he was straight and did everything correctly and if I'd carried on using him I would have been alright.

I only stopped using him because I got a new business partner and she recommended we used Stu in London.  Stu was not just an accountant, he was a cockney runaround Mike Read style fixer. He owned a gold Rolex the size of a bin-lid and his Range Rover sat right outside the huge Queen Anne townhouse just off Savile Row. His Range Rover never got a ticket because despite being fitter than me, he had a Blue Badge. It is almost impossible for mere mortals to get a Coutts bank account; Stu guaranteed me one any time I fancied it (I didn't as the charges seemed steep but my partner got one straight away).  His sole purpose in life was to ensure his hundreds of clients paid absolutely no tax whatsoever. He was glamorous in a Big Verne sort of way.

It was all a bit Brentish (hence my nickname) and he was the accounting equivalent of guitar toting teachers who run off with their pupils

When running a company, you need regular  reliable statements and breakdowns of financial things that have happened. In the business world, we call these "accounts" and you get them from your "accountant." Sorry about the jargon, try to keep up.

Well, Stu was rubbish at this boring day to day stuff which would have told me things I needed to know ie how much I had spent on A4 Paper in March. Instead, he would try to persuade me to convert the business into three entities in the British Virgin Islands run by an Indian with a cover-company who part-owns a forest in Finland sub-let to a Zoo on the Isle of Man.

All accountants have one thing in common. When you need them urgently, they will not be around. Like Keyser Söze, they will be gone.   Once,  the Inland Revenue Bailiffs arrived in my office, leading to me sending Stu's assistant Paul this urgent email -it's worth reading right through:

We parted company shortly after this.

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Summary: If you want glamour, go out with a Redcoat or something. Accountants are not meant to be glamorous.

Which leaves my latest accountant, Roger, in a commanding position. Roger whiffs a bit and his pinstripe suit has holes in it. He drives a 7 series that in 1992 would have been one of the best cars on the road. Roger used to work in a top-six accountancy firm but he left. I'd like to think he was sacked for fraud.

If you want glamour, go out with a Redcoat or something. Accountants are not meant to be glamorous.

The beauty of Roger is that he is based in the same modern business park. This was deliberate, so when I need him I don't need Seal Team Six to find him. I frequently walk straight into his office without knocking. Naturally, he hates this. Disturbingly, this has started tit for tat behaviour and he has started walking straight into my office. This is high risk as I work alone and sometimes piss in an empty fruit bowl. Taking it up a notch, I hope it escalates into the whole Peter Sellars Clueso/Kato thing, that would be great.

Summary: I am not a very good businessman which is why I write business articles for Sabotage Times and why whiffy Roger will no doubt diddle me. I will burst smiling into his office one morning, hands up in a karate stance  and find it empty, along with my bank account. Until then, he seems to be doing all the right stuff for about £140 a month. Keeping HMRC off my back, making sure I pay the right amount of tax, telling me how much we've made or (more likely) lost that month and doing end of year accounts. And that is all you want really. Hope that helps.

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