On the 13th March 2020, Practice Ignition named Admin Army’s CEO, Irene Bennetts, one of the Top 50 Women in Accounting. This global award recognizes women who are leading the charge when it comes to advocacy, change and community within the Accounting and Bookkeeping industry.
“We received such a large and diverse range of entries from women in, and around the accounting industry, it was amazing to see.” says Guy Pearson, CEO at Practice Ignition, and one of this year’s Women in Accounting judges.
“As a result, we’ve had to hold a much higher bar on the applicants and looked at those genuinely going above and beyond – helping the accounting community, their own team and clients, and the greater external community to improve the world of financial literacy and the impact the numbers can make.”
Practice Ignition first launched the ‘Women in Accounting’ initiative on International Women’s Day in 2018 as a way to honor and recognize women who are driving change and creating opportunities for the next generation of young leaders.
Irene shares her answers to the questions asked by the judging panel
What are you doing to drive change and promote inclusivity in your workplace?
“I am committed to developing innovative systems both internally and for our clients that see our clients included in their business outcomes.
From an internal Admin Army perspective, from day one the business has been developed with a remote-working style in mind. All team members operate remotely, which gives them flexibility around their lifestyle (for example, Mum’s who need to be home outside of school hours) and the ability to be on a larger team and to feel included in a bigger business.
It is a basic human need for people to feel secure and have regular contact, this is something that was missing for many stay at home Mum’s or those who may be too unwell to leave the house. Operating in this manner has allowed them to rejoin the workforce, gain a steady income and feel as though they are contributing beyond their “Mum” or other duties.
As the business has been built on a remote-working model and includes team members from all over the country (and soon to be globe), I am always working on ways to bring the team together and build a culture. This is much more difficult in a fully remote team, but not unachievable.
We are constantly looking at new systems that will further this particular goal and as each new system is trialled the team members are included in the decision around whether it enhances or creates additional barriers to our working style.”
How are you investing in the future of accounting and advocating for the next generation of leaders?
“One of my key drivers is to get people (business as a whole) excited about bookkeeping. So many people have the perception that it is “just data entry”, but it is so much more than that. It’s time to change the way this vital role is viewed. Many bookkeepers don’t believe they can be leaders and prefer to sit in the back office, but I’m on a mission to build them up to operate from an advisory space (starting with my own team).
Bookkeepers are often the first to notice changes in trends and business behaviour as they are in their client’s accounts on a more day to day basis.
Bookkeepers have a responsibility to take ownership of our key role within businesses and communicate our value, rather than simply react to tech-driven change. It’s up to us to question the ‘rules of accounting/bookkeeping’ and look clearly at why things are done in certain ways (hint: if the answer is it’s always been done that way, it’s the wrong answer).
One of the ways I am proactively addressing this is through the merge of Admin Army with Streamline Business Group which was worked on in 2019. By joining forces with a company that is actively working to develop accounting system add-ons, I have taken the role of ‘voice of the bookkeeper’. This is from both a delivering the best outcome to their clients from a software perspective, but also ensuring that their systems are developed with bookkeeping best practice in mind.”
Please provide an example of a cause, initiative or community you’re involved in within the accounting industry. Why is it important to you?
“I am a member of the Institute of Certified NZ Bookkeepers. While I do not have a particularly active role from an involvement perspective (i.e. I’m not on the Executive or providing any of my time to directly assist with the Association), I am a huge advocate of the Association to anyone who will listen to me.
When I first set up Admin Army in 2016, I knew I didn’t ‘need’ the Association to get up and running. In fact, as one of the first expenses in my business, I saw it as an investment.
Why did I think this was an important investment to make? Because I recognised the hard work the Association had achieved in raising the bar for what people could expect from a bookkeeper. I saw this membership as an opportunity to provide validation for the services I was offering.
To me, if you’re invested enough to take voluntary membership in an industry group, you take what you do seriously. You’re committed to staying at the top of your game (through education and CPD requirements) and you’re ready to be held to account for providing the best outcomes possible for your client. It was an honour in 2019 to be awarded the ‘Bookkeeping Business of the Year’ award by ICNZB in recognition of Admin Army’s commitment to these tenants.”