Can you tell me about your background in business?
When I was 19 I sold advertising on contract, so that gave me a mindset very early on of a person who was self-employed. Over the years I've had a number of businesses - I owned rest homes, and later went into the food industry and had a restaurant in Mt Eden called Flutes, but that was very physical work and hard going.
Then my partner at the time said 'how about flowers?' I went to the flower markets and fell in love with the whole thing and ended up with five flower shops pretty quickly. It was one of my clients who came into one my stores one day and told me about how shopping online was a growing trend. That was back in 1999, and although there were very few ecommerce sites at the time and I knew it wasn't going to happen overnight I made a commitment to go online. I got rid of four shops, and then developed a product range to sell online over a number of years.
Now there are 12 of us in the business and we probably do two or three times the business that we used to do in five shops, so I think that really demonstrates the efficiencies you can get with an online business.
What are the biggest lessons you've learnt from your years in business about tackling the end of financial year?
The number one thing is don't wait until the end of the year. In the old days I used to wait until the end of the year and then start worrying about it, but now I'm always prepared. I think life as a business person is all about trying to do something this year better than you did it the year before, so even if you haven't been up to date this year, I'd say make a list of your pain points and come up with a process for targeting those next year.
Make sure you've got a damned good accountant that you can relate to.
Another point, and it may sound very obvious, is to make sure you've got a damned good accountant that you can relate to. I had lots of accountants over the years that a, I couldn't relate to and b, cost me a small fortune. I now work with an amazing guy from Enable Business, who is so engaged with my business. In this day and age a good accountant is critical to your business, so don't be afraid to change. You have to find someone who you feel has some investment in the success of your business.
Another thing I do is pay my accounting fees as a direct debit every month. That's great not to have a big accounting bill once a year.
What are some of the other things you do as a business owner to spread the load of dealing with the end of the financial year across the calendar?
I think the age old thing with business is managing your staff and managing the sales coming in the door - those things are never going to go away. But if you can manage to streamline all of your other processes then it frees up your mind so you can look after your business better.
When I was first in business we didn't have all these tools and technologies we have now, and it's made it so much easier to be in business. Xero is amazing because everything is at your fingertips, and you can do all your accounting activity in there that you have to provide for end of year. I also use iPayroll, which manages everything around my payroll with a few clicks.
These days we pay pretty much everything by direct credit and I'm a huge fan now of paying things weekly so I always know where we stand. That's another great thing about using technology - you always know what your liabilities are. In the old days you didn't actually know if you'd made money or not until the end of the year when your accountant told you, but with the technology we have now there are no surprises.
Are there still some challenges you face with the end of the financial year?
Stocktaking is probably the big one. I use Google Docs for my stocktake list, so instead of having to write up a new list every year I can open that document and it's templated. It's another example where embracing technology can create some simple efficiencies.
For more insights on how to handle the end of the financial year, you can also check out some tips shared with Your Business from Scott Gardiner, sales manager of MYOB New Zealand's business division, and Grant Anderson, Xero's head of accounting.