The 10 year anniversary of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers New Zealand (ICBNZ) incorporating the NZ Bookkeepers Association brings back so many memories of the phenomenal journey that our bookkeeping industry has been on. From coming up with a name for the association back in December 2009, to forming the founding committee, Melanie Morris shares her reflections 10 years on now as Head of Bookkeeping for Xero.
Rolling back time to 2010, bookkeeping was essentially desktop-based, going onsite to deliver services to clients that could be incorporated into the working week. Believe it or not, many of us started our bookkeeping careers by accident. Often, we happened to be working on reception with a computer so we were asked to do the GST return. Or we had young families and needed to work around the rhythm of family life, which bookkeeping allowed us to do. Back in those days there was no bookkeeping course or qualification.
It also wasn’t a recognised profession. We were called accounts payable clerks, accounts receivable clerks, payroll clerks or simply accounts clerks. For one of the oldest professions in the world this was a loophole that many of us found ourselves in.
We did not have a concept necessarily of running a professional bookkeeping business and only had our time to sell. Essentially, we worked in a silo and made ends meet.
When I started my bookkeeping career in 2006, it was by circumstance rather than intention. I had a young family to look after and financially support, the one thing I knew how to do (so I thought) was a GST return. By chance a colleague suggested to one of their clients that I would be able to help with bookkeeping. And that’s how I started my business! Back in those days the office set up was a fax machine (ancient, I know) an old Mac computer and a dot matrix printer with dial up internet. I will never forget that noise!
Some time and more clients later, I found an office and employed staff. Then one of my clients was served a section 17 from Inland Revenue. I found myself in a terrible situation of working in a silo without a professional body to support me. This was really what planted the seed of the association and motivated me to build a support network.
In January 2010, I went through the phone book and contacted any type of bookkeeping service I could find. And I invited them all to a meeting at the Inland Revenue office in Christchurch. Out of that meeting, we formed a founding committee to research starting an association that would act as a professional body for bookkeepers in New Zealand.
This founding committee wrote the original constitution and membership rules, fixed a membership price and sent a tender out to software companies looking for a founding sponsor. Xero has always been a big believer in the bookkeeping profession and wanted to support the industry to grow. So Xero became the founding sponsor, and we are proud to have a strong relationship with ICBNZ.
The gratitude to the founding sponsor and founding members is real. They gave the association seed funding to pay for legal bills and other start up expenses. We ran on a shoestring budget, reskinning the website I had and paying for our own travel costs.
Thinking about how far the association has come in a relatively short time frame is amazing. Now we have an annual conference, regional directors, a smooth running website, and more recently a joint venture with ICB Global which put the association on the global stage. The leadership and committee have evolved over the years – moving the association from strength to strength.
Inland Revenue told us back in 2010 that it would take five to eight years for the Government to acknowledge bookkeepers as agents. And they were right! We worked hard for eight years, and eventually the industry recognised bookkeepers as a profession.
Happy birthday ICNZB. It’s been a real pleasure to watch you grow and become the professional body we envisaged all those years ago. Most of all, I am so proud of the members who have supported the association and the voluntary committee who gave it everything – sometimes at the cost of their own business – to make this happen.
Founding committee members:
Leeyan Stephens – Regional Director
Lisa Martin – Regional Director