The end of Australia’s financial year is both a marathon and a sprint for accountants: a marathon in the amount of work, and a sprint to finish by the tax deadline.
Mark Lawry has worked for 25 years as an accountant. His firm Suntax, just outside Melbourne, will process over 9,000 tax returns over the next 12 months.
This is Mark’s typical day:
6 a.m.: Wake up and throw on the runners
I get out before dawn for a 30-40 minute jog. This is “me time” – a chance to focus on the 12-hour workday ahead, let off steam and keep fit. A jogging path winds through hills of my neighborhood, and I sometimes catch a glimpse of a kangaroo or other nocturnal animals finishing their day. Back home, I sit down to a quick breakfast while checking the sharemarket and doing a 3-minute run through general and business news to catch anything that might affect my clients.
8 a.m. Heads down
I receive over 100 emails a day, and they can quickly get out of control. I spend the first hour of my workday with no one around, responding to messages while enjoying my first latte of the day (three max!). Even if I’m away from my desk, I’ll continue answering e-mails. Our firm operates 100% in the cloud: what we do on our phones is reflected on our PCs and vice versa, whether it’s a tax return in Xero or a document on Google Drive.
9 a.m. I get bossed around
I manage 32 staff, but I can’t do it alone. My brilliant PA sits me down for a half-hour and reminds me which clients we need to focus on today and which staff might need advice on a tricky tax return. She’ll jump into my e-mail, get rid of things that don’t need my action, or even respond herself if it’s just copies of a tax return that are needed. She’s worth her weight in gold.
9:30 a.m. Face to face
This is when I sit down with clients and work directly with them, face to face. Many people think accounting is about numbers. It’s actually about relationships. We have a laugh and chat about family and our lives outside of business. Along the way I pick up clues for questions to ask later — if they’ve bought a new car or a factory, that might mean a new loan. A client visit that once took several hours and reams of paper takes just 30 minutes and is paperless with Xero Tax software.
1 p.m. Team time
I meet with my accountants to review their work. I encourage them to come to me with possible answers to their queries, to make our meetings efficient. They’ll usually offer me one or two solutions so I can make a quick decision without having to do any research. Outside of work, we encourage sharing and creating amazing life experiences. Some of our employees have done skydiving and caving, and I ran the Great Wall of China marathon in 2015. I’m always inspired to get out of bed on Monday mornings and see what our team has been up to.
2 p.m. The race to 9,000
We’ll process over 9,000 tax returns this year. It’s the most demanding time but also the most fun; there’s a buzz in the air. We’re generally helping people get bigger refunds or save tax. Last financial year, we got back more than $9 million for our clients. Sometimes I feel like Santa Claus behind a desk. For sheer job satisfaction, nothing beats tax season.
7:30 or 8 p.m. Quitting time
My partner, Melanie, runs a hairdressing business and will usually have dinner cooked because she’s a champion. We have four girls, ages 8 to 12, and thankfully they’re old enough to put on their own pajamas and brush their own teeth. For mum and dad, it’s chill time. We grab a glass of wine, and sit down for some TV — maybe Suits or Homeland. Our youngest daughter will sometimes sneak out of bed for a final cuddle. That’s fine. I know before long we’ll be missing these visits.
One last check of the e-mails, and it’s lights out and ready to do it all over again!
Mark Lawry is an accountant at Suntax.
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