This week I caught up with two inspirational women that through the forces of technology and social media have created something truly special and unique for the first time in Australian culture for their industry. They were able to create an open space for professionals to connect, learn and assist one another in easy to use way using one of the biggest platforms in the world: Facebook.
Both Kelly Berger and Jenifar Hathaway run their own small business bookkeeping firm. Early in 2015 they decided that they wanted to create a group on Facebook in which they could share ideas on their profession. A place they could seek help from their peers when needed. We all know working in small business can be very lonely sometimes, especially if you are the sole trader of a bookkeeping business.
Today the Bookkeeper Support Group Australia page stands at 1607 members varying across experienced professionals, students, software vendors and new to the industry hopefuls.
I spent some time with Kelly and Jen to find out a little more about the women behind this hugely successful group.
Tell us a little about why you started this group in the first place?
Kelly: I wanted a space where I could collaborate with other bookkeepers. To be able to vent and ask questions. Use it as a virtual water cooler so to speak so we didn’t feel so isolated.
Jen: Bookkeeping for myself was extremely isolating, and the group was created to overcome that hurdle. I had no idea that this is what it would become!
What was your experience with social media prior to starting The Bookkeepers Support Group Australia?
Kelly: I was always connecting with friends via Facebook and getting more and more involved with groups. I started my business page which quickly grew a following as did my LinkedIn profile. I’ve found it’s been great for employers to find me with job opportunities as well.
Jen: I only advertised my services on Facebook through my business and personal Facebook page. I have a LinkedIn profile but yet to use it to its full potential. I have received most of my referrals and organic queries using Facebook. Facebook has been my go to platform for marketing and connecting with people both personal and work related.
How has starting an online social media group affected your day to day business?
Kelly: It is very time consuming so I am aware of how much time I spend in the group. In the beginning I was in there almost 75% of my day until we managed to get it to a point that people understood the rules and followed the guidelines.
Jen: It is extremely time consuming to administer, and does eat away at time previously allocated to clients. I have learnt so much from conversations that have started in our group, privy to new software, others software preferences and extremely quick answers to my tricky questions when I am at a clients and can’t find the answer elsewhere! All this information I previously wasn’t exposed to filters straight to my clients and benefits them tremendously.
What have been the highlights of this journey so far?
Kelly: Being able to work with some amazing people in the industry. Working with the awesome Jen and learning more and more about the industry and where we can help other bookkeepers.
Jen: The highlights so far would be gaining an awesome friend and colleague in Kelly. Also meeting such passionate people in the industry. Bookkeepers, Business Development Managers, trainers, association directors, the list goes on!
Tell us about the challenges you’ve faced setting up the group on Facebook?
Kelly: Trying to be fair, compassionate, understanding and working together in collaboration not competition. Finding time to run my business and the support page has been challenging on time management. Family is important so trying to make plenty of time for them and what they need from me as a mum and wife is difficult at times too.
Jen: Trying to please everyone has been one of the major battles we face. We try to be fair to all in the group, after all we are about collaboration not competition. Family challenges also play a part for me, dedicating time to my business, my husband and kids, and our new partnership is a great big balancing act.
Are you ladies working on any other projects at the moment?
Kelly: We started a new project called ‘The Bookkeepers Collective’ this year. We are extremely excited and putting all of our leftover energy into this at the moment. We’ve also got Workshops, events and LOTS of collaboration coming. Definitely stay tuned 🙂
Jen: Workshops, Webinars and collaborations with software companies to get the awareness out there! We are also working on a major event – hush hush! Top secret stuff.
What’s the vision for The Bookkeepers Collective?
Kelly: Collaborate with others to collate the information in one spot with links to everyone that will help you along your journey. A place in which people can learn about bookkeeping, where they can confide in others. A safe place to ask questions and connect with other people just like them.
Jen: A space to collate all the information and resources you need to become not just a bookkeeper but to become a GREAT bookkeeper! There is so much information out there and it is impossible to find a place that holds all that information in one place. We aim to become that resource! The way the industry is changing so quickly, we want all of these resources and opportunities to be available to anyone who wants to learn about it.
What does the future look like for the Bookkeepers Support Group?
Jen: Alongside the mission of the Bookkeepers Collective, we are trying to create a space where students, recent graduates, BAS agents and employed bookkeepers feel free to ask and share any questions or issues they face, and even successes! We feel there is a great gap between students and becoming a BAS agent, this is one area we are working on as a result of conversations had in the group.
Where do you see for the future of Bookkeeping in Australia?
Kelly: More of a consultancy role and a teaching role for our clients, encouraging them to embrace technology as opposed to fighting it. The bookkeeping role will not just be about consulting but actually looking at how we can impact a business and make a difference using the technology available to them.
Jen: More and more my clients are expecting more from me, and my role as a traditional bookkeeper(accountability and compliance) is transforming more into a consulting role, and somewhat a technology nerd, to try and get the most out of what is available for my clients.
What advice would you give to other bookkeepers that are either new or experienced on their journey?
Kelly: Take the opportunity to learn off others, don’t jump straight into your own business without getting the experience from others first. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because there is no way one person can know it all. Learn and lean on others for support.
Jen: Don’t be afraid! Ask the silly questions, all of them! I only knew of one bookkeeper when I started working for myself, I wish we had this group back then to bounce ideas off, learn from and socialise with!
If anyone wants to get in touch with either the Bookkeepers Support Group or the Bookkeepers Collective how should they go about it?
Kelly: Happy to chat on Facebook any time.
Jen: Contact us privately on Facebook:
- Through our bookkeepers support group
- Message us on the bookkeepers collective
- If you don’t have Facebook, you can email myself at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kelly at businesssimplicity@outlook.
What’s coming up next in the calendar?
Jen: T sheets Takes Sydney – Sponsored by The Bookkeepers Collective and Intuit.
Any other thoughts or comments you’d like to leave us with today?
Kelly: Looking forward to hitting full throttle on The Bookkeepers Collective and helping more and more Bookkeepers around Australia.
Jen: I am extremely excited and look forward to working with others in the industry!
Thank you so much ladies, for your time today and for giving us a little insight into this world that you’ve created. It’s exciting to see how far the group has come and we’re really excited to see what the next stage of your careers and business venture leads too.
In closing I would recommend all bookkeepers review and have a look at both The Bookkeepers Support Group Australia and The Bookkeepers Collective. Whether you are new to the profession, existing, or a student learning about the industry this is a group full of people just like you. Come and see what all the fuss is about.
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