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**Special podcast** The workplace issues every employer needs to action

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
15 September 2017 30 minute readShare
Andrew Conway

One of Australia’s chief accountants, Andrew Conway, reveals accounting changes and workplace trends every business owner needs to keep abreast of in our rapidly changing world.


Andrew ConwayIn this special edition of the My Business Podcast, Andrew Conway, head of the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), joins My Business owner Phil Tarrant to share his insights on the ‘evolving’ conditions facing modern SMEs.

In a wide-ranging discussion on topics as varied as mental health and wellbeing to cyber security and tax reforms, Andrew reveals:

  • The differences between various types of accountants, and how to choose the right one for your business
  • Tax changes that are now, and will soon, impact business operators
  • Common pain points for SMEs and the role accountants can play in resolving them
  • Why mental health is a growing concern for employers

Plus lots more!

Full transcript:

Phil: Right, Phil Tarrant here. I'm the Director of My Business standing in for a very special podcast with a special guest that's here today. I haven't been on air for My Business for a little while now. It's been looked after by my colleagues and very capable hands, Andrew Scott and Adam Zuchetti who are doing a great job connecting with small business owners right across Australia, SME business owners across Australia, sharing their stories. What I hope to do today is get into the minds of someone who's tatted intimately to the small business sector in Australia. It's Andrew Conway, he's the CEO of the Institute of Public Accountants. Now Andrew's job is to steer his association, and he's been doing it now for eight years, through rapid changes, not only in which businesses operate from account perspective, but rapid evolution to the SME space in Australia, which now represents well over two million businesses. Andrew, how's it going?

Andrew: Good, Phil, good to be with you, and good to be with My Business.

Phil: Thank you. So, there's a couple ways we can tackle this podcast today, Andrew. And I want to really understand, I think, your passion for the SME space. So you steer the Institute of Public Accountants. The Institute of Public Accountants, for our listeners, is the body that represents the top accountants in Australia who service the SME sector. So, these are the guys who were really supporting Aussie business owners, Moms and Dads all across the country, do what they do better. Now, that's probably not a very good description, Andrew, so I'm going to pass over to you, and you can actually give us a really good idea what the IPA does.

Andrew: I'll give you the glossy view, Phil. The IPA, the Institute of Public Accountants, we've been around for over 90 years. But our principle market is the SME space. And more than 75 per cent of our members work with small business every day. That's either as an SME accountant that's working in that businesses and accountant, or working in practise serving SME clients. So for us, the small business space is what we do, it's what we know, and what we do best. I think for us, in a sense, a few years ago we've had that coming of age moment, thinking, you know what, we'd almost tried to be all things to all accountants, be involved in all things to do with hedge fund transactions, all the top into town stuff. And we turned around and said, that's not actually our core market. Our core market is small businesses, small practise, let's put that stake in the ground and own it.

Phil: And for our listeners, Momentum Media, we have a really good relation with the IPA, we work very closely, and I feel as if we have a really good understanding and appreciation as a culture of the association and what you guys are trying to achieve. And what stood out for me when I first connected with the association and subsequent to that was, you guys actually care about the smaller accountant, the accountant who's in the suburban streets right across Australia, and what they do for their clients. Because it's often a lonely job at SME.

Andrew: It is. And that is your loneliness and separation has really, has come at a range of the initiatives we've been working on. But that sense of caring and knowing the connection, that small business accountant, the business themselves is critical. And that really laid our organisation in the last 12 months to re-articulate our why, and some of the listeners might have done this in our own businesses, but we actually stand back from your business and say, "Why do we fundamentally exist as an organisation? What would happen if we stopped doing what we do?" And we came to the realisation that when you keep thinking that process up and escalating it up, the real way of the IPA is to improve the quality of life of small business. So that when somebody engages in local IPA member as their accountant and their special accountant as a specialist small business advisor, they're actually doing that to improve their own quality of life. So if they're losing sleep, if they've got stresses with the business, they go to the accountant because they know how to manage those situations. So, that quality of life aspect is very key to us.

Phil: That's good. And I want to touch on that today, and I really want to get your insights into the top work accountants are doing at SMEs today. But also I'd like to get your insights on small businesses. It's amazing in Australia today, because as I've mentioned beforehand, it is an evolving sector. More and more Australians want to own a business for themselves, and that's great. We know the statistics around failure rates of small businesses, and when they do get off the ground, they likely last a couple of years, I think about 50% or so. So, if we can cover those two things today, I'd be pretty happy. So, onto the first side. I know yourself and your colleagues have been very busy over the last couple of weeks on a roadshow, visiting all the capital cities, but also rural regions in Australia on your roadshows. This is connecting with SMEs, and this is part of some research that the IPA does, which you released the last time around, 2015 whitepaper, which was a real benchmark for really establishing the key triggers and the key points identifying small businesses in Australia. So, you're doing that process now again, you're travelling across the country, you're talking to SMEs. Are SMEs happy?

Andrew: Yeah, that's a good question. I'll take it back a little bit, Phil, because our organisation has been evolving in the small business space for a little while. Like some others, and maybe some of the listeners might have come to realise as well, there are a lot of people who claim to represent small business, and very few people actually do. So we got a little bit sick and tired of people who trotted their policy positions, shooting from the hip and shooting from the lip. Because I think that actually sets the small business sector backwards. So we said, let's stop that, change the dynamic and change that whole paradigm, and move down the path of a conversation with small business, and actually back up with evidence.

So went to a University, we went to Deakin, based in Victoria, but has a reach right across Australia. We said, we actually fund a research partnership on small business issues. They jumped at is because they're in the same band as us. And then we blossomed that research partnership up into a full research centre. So it's now a whole panel of academics. So that's the pointy-head side of things, in terms of the research combined with the theory. But we wanted to couple that with the practise. So we said, it's fine to send out a survey, or to ask small businesses to complete something attached to their bass or whatever from a government point of view. We actually wanted to go out and ask them directly. To get some field evidence. So this is the second time we've done the whitepaper, back in 2015 we published the first ever Australian small business whitepaper. Again, that's public sector speak for a guiding policy document. There'd never before been a small business whitepaper for Australia charting the direction of small business. So we took that metal on.

And these are all the issues that we think government should be fixing, these are issues we think the industry should be fixing and providing those solutions to the government. So, we did that in 2015, we actually did it with the inputs of around 500 small businesses. And we echo that again this time around. So we've been from Western Australia right through to regional Victoria, up through Northern Territory, into Queensland. And we culminate in a summon in Parliament House in Canberra, where we present those findings to the minister, and that really provides a check-in to see how small business is going.

So getting back to your original question, are they happy? I think generally speaking small business sector is reasonably buoyant, but there's a growing sense of cynicism, Phil, we've noticed around the country, of small businesses saying to government broadly, governments of all persuasions at all levels, there's some key things we want you to do, just get on and do it. Taxes are a good example. So, I think generally speaking small businesses will get on and do what they have to do, they're happy, they're content. But there's a huge opportunity to seize a productivity dividend in Australia if governments get onto this.

Phil: And your initial findings, when you went through this process last time and developed the 2015 whitepaper, and you can find that on your website, is that right?

Andrew: Yes, that's right. It's on our website, yeah.

Phil: Just google Institute of Public Accountants and you'll find it. Is there any size mixed shifts that you've seen from two years ago to today?

Andrew: Yeah. The big one that we've noticed is, the big two, really around mental health and wellbeing. Small business owners sticking their hand up for the first time saying, "You know what, it's tough." So whilst small business be going, okay, even if business is going well, I'm under the pump personally, and I'm willing to stick my hand up and say that. So there's that aspect, the relation of mental health and wellbeing. The other thing that's crept in is data and cyber security, which we didn't cover off in our whitepaper last time, which has crept in as a key issue. And if I'm allowed a third, it's probably that sense of trust and cynicism that's crept in, where small businesses again just saying, "We've over the talk. We want to see some action. We want to see action on big things like fundamental tax reform, like pulling the pin on backward workplace relations as well." So there has been that side that makes you think, the way I characterise it is to say that small businesses just saying, "Enough of the talk, just get on and do it."

Phil: And on that basis, and being someone that runs an SME myself, you often feel like you don't really have much of a voice down in the halls of Canberra, irrespective of who's sitting in the chair it doesn't really matter that much. Is that a sentiment being shared by a lot of SME business owners? Do they think that the people down in Canberra actually care around this trust issue?

Andrew: I think it's a growing issue. And we actually track some data out of the US that does this, and there's a global trust barometer as only the US possibly could produce, but it's produced by a company called Edelman. And they track trust in institutions. And the most alarming thing is that trust in institutions in the US reached a record low before the US presidential election, probably unsurprisingly. But the alarming thing for Australia is that Australia's trust in institutions is following the same path, we're lagging about eight months. And the message, I think, that Edelman provided, some representatives from Australia, is, get on to his. Because this trust issue is a real social shift that's taking place, unless you harness, it poses some real challenges. So I think from a small business point of view, saying, that sense of isolation, do I have a voice, who's representing me, we've taken it up as an organisation. We've got the reach through our members, 4,500 accounting practises across the country, we've could be up to one or two million clients in that network. We say, the accountant knows the client best. And they know what those issues are, and we've got to try and provide a forum to bring those issue to the small business through the accountant, and up in to Canberra on their behalf. That's what the whitepaper is all about.

Phil: So I want to get on to how you can do more for your accountant for SMEs just in a moment. But just staying on these three key points that you brought out, the change between 2015 and today, and this mental health piece is something which is really to grouse for behind us right now. I think it's long overdue, the understanding and appreciation of the challenges that a SME business owner has to see the ship. So whether it's cash flow or compliance or whatever it is, but then it's your whole business growth side, your financing side, or there's so many headaches they need to worry about. What have you seen the good SME owners do to either be conscious of their own mental health, or actions that can take place to do that better?

Andrew: Well, the first thing is to talk about it. And we've found the conversations the SME owners are having with their accountants is improving. Which then poses a challenge to the accountant. Because when you do your accounting degree and you go into your professional programme, there's not a one-on-one course in crisis counselling that's building in the programme. So that creates a training need and an education gap for the accountant. But yeah, primarily talk about those issues with the accountant. Engage the advisor early. Yes, there's a lot of research about small business pressures and stresses and anxiety, but what there's very little research on is what role, what impact does engaging a professional advisor have on the levels of stress and anxiety of the small business owner. So we're out to test that with some research which will be similar research as never been done before. We're putting it out there, getting some thoughts and inputs from small businesses. Very early days, just on the surveys we've done on the roadshows is about 90% of small business owners say that their levels of stress and anxiety are lower when they engage an accountant and engage them early. So we need to understand that and unpack that.

And what that feeds into to us as an organisation preparing accountants for today and tomorrow, is customising our education product. So our Masters of Business Administration, which is our professional programme, has within it a special unit on SME advice, which will have, again, built within that unit, components on how to deal with the client in crosses. So we're trying to customise the way we do that from our own members, so they're not just being pushed out into the profession, and then suddenly their client's coming in the door with all the troubles that being a small business owner brings with it, and the accountant doesn't have the skill to deal with it. So we're doing that ourselves. We've had some harrowing stories from small business owners about their experiences, certainly similar some of the stories that some listeners of the podcast will have as well, but issues about people being at the brink, and they go and see the accountant, and the accountant says, "Look, don't worry, I'll take care of it." That changes the course of that person's life. And we just need to understand that a bit more to realise that the work that our members are doing day to day has a profound impact, and they just need it recognised and be resourced with it.

Phil: And in your member base, I imagine, you've got some accountants who are really in tune with these type of things, and can proactively identify when someone might be going down a path where they're going to either increase their stresses or issues around it. Then you would have members on the other side of the spectrum who might not have the EQ or those capabilities. But your message to small business owners is, just ask for help if you need it. Accountants are really good places to start, but there's other people who can help you as well.

Andrew: That's right. And there won't be an accountant in the country that would not be prepared to have a conversation with the person who walks in the door saying, "I'm in trouble. I've got an issue here." Might be the ATO, might be a client, whatever it is. The minute the client walks into the door, or a person, that doesn't have to be a client, they walk in the door and they say to the accountant, "I've got a real issue here. My back's against the wall." And the accountant says, "I'll have a cup of tea with you." Every single accountant will do that across the country. Now, the challenge I feel is when we haven't produced accountants with those skills. We haven't provided those resources. So we're just hoping that they have skills.

And genuinely speaking, you're relying on the human interaction and the empathy you have as a human being. But in a professional setting, when you've got a person who walks in the door without the knowledge that you have as an advisor, and they look to you as the expert, you're going to have all the answers technically, but also have all the answers emotionally. So we're trying to customise our programme just to play a bit of catch up there. So, I'd say, yes, there are plenty of our members who do it well, but not enough, and we need to actually do that better.

Phil: Interesting. So what do you think the role today is of the accountant? So most SME business owners' relationship with the accountant would be, “Oh that’s GST, I've got to do my interview financials”, if they want to get some finance in, they might need to use them to assist them putting up an application together. It's a little bit more sophisticated than one might help them through an acquisition or a merge. What's the role of today's modern accountant? Because there's a lot more than that now, isn't it?

Andrew: That's right, I was going to say it's all of the above. And then some, in a sense. There's a lot of doomsayers that say the compliance world is drying up. You can see why they hold that view. We don't necessarily have that view per se at the moment, because in Australia, more than 70% of taxpayers use a tax agent to launch their returns. Now, that's the highest amongst the developed world, and that's not going to change overnight. But it will change progressively as the tax system becomes more efficient, eventually. That's a whole other topic for discussion, in terms of reliability of the systems. But I think the issue around the changing nature of the engagement with the accountant, the accountant now is seen as the first port of call for all matters related to compliance, just general advise relating the business. So when the clients walks in the door and says, "Here's my tax return." That's fine. And the accountant says, "That's fine, we'll sort that out" has business. That's really where those discussions are going.

Now, they've always had those in a sense, but we're finding more and more push or pull towards the strategic business advisory discussion as well. Sure, there's still the focus on financial advice, and that has its own life and its own structure, but many accountants are still coming to terms with which model they want to use in their business. We will hope that arrival will be earlier than now, but yeah, the notion of engaging the accountant is very much the broad base business advisor with compliance thrown in.

Phil: I imagine most of our listeners are quite aware of or familiar with some of the winds of changes that have swept through the accounting industry landscape recently. CPA for example.

Andrew: Who'd thought accounting's boring?

Phil: I know. I thought you guys were just bean counters and numbers and calculators. But from a media perspective, it's been quite entertaining watching that what I call, the CPA Train Wreck – I don’t want to go to that space. The point I want to make is that every single small business owner will have a different need for a different type of accountant. So, when you think of the CPO, CA, I think the guys who PriceWaterhouseCooper are advising, ASAX listed businesses etc. Then you have the IPA. So my read on the IPA is that you guys actually like the idea that members are small businesses themselves and they service small businesses. And this is something that you've been evolved overtime, and you're quite comfortable in that situation right now. If I'm a SME business owner, which I am, why would I look to use an IPA accountant vs. a CPA or CA type of accountant?

Andrew: Well, the example you gave around, big four firm type of approach or even mid-tier firm approach is interesting, because the essence of our brand in a sense is, rather than the client going to pursue to accountant, it's the other way around. The essence of the IPA brand is the IPA member will be the one on the road going out to see the client. Because I recognise, if you step away from your business, running your business is a sole proprietor, in the suburbs around Australia, that time away from your business is going to cost you real money. That the IPA member, the accountant, will be the one going to see you, and have a coffee with you. So it's that notion of having a true partnership. So it's not just a compliance based relationship, it is a real partnership. A partnership around growing a business and looking at the opportunities or the organisation of that small business.

And that might just be the small business owner says, "I'm happy where I'm at. I'm happy being a sole proprietor. I don't want to grow, I'm happy where I am." But it's having that facilitated conversation with them. So we see that very much as an outbound based activity. So rather than the traditional model of going, making the appointment with the accountant, then you go every quarter or every six months or 12 months for your tax return, you actually have an ongoing conversation. So that when you are pushing the shopping trolley down Willy's on a Sunday afternoon, you bump into the accountant, and you say, "Good day, John, I meant to mention to you last week, I'm thinking of buying some new plant." And the accountant says, "Okay, that sounds like a good idea for you. Let's talk it through." The IPM is not going to send a bill for that. So it's a different relationship in the sense, now, our members might not be very happy with that, they'd probably prefer to be billing some time, but it's a very different engagement model. It's very much based on valuing the relationship, perhaps more than just the billable hour.

Phil: On that basis, why does someone chose to be an IPA accountant rather than a CA or CPA?

Andrew: What we're seeing ... Clearly, it's around the small business focus. And we're seeing trends in graduates that are coming through the University now who are considering SMEs and in our space, small-medium practise, SMP, as a viable first step in their career. Historically, normally, you go off as an accountant, you go your what was once your cadetship or your PUY, and you go and do a year with one of the big four firms. And that's still a viable pathway, that's the path you want to take. What we say to graduates coming through is, you come into a small practise, you get to touch and feel a whole raft of issues within the client base. It might me a large or a medium sized business within the SMP, you can then go off and have an individual conversation with the client who's walked in.

So you're getting a wider range of skills and experiences to actually throw into the kit bag. So it's fastly developing as a critical first career step for graduates coming through courses. So we say, if you are interested in small business, if you find that you want to be that small business partner, advisor, then this is the path for you. It's a really exciting time. There's about 2.3 million small businesses in Australia who are now thinking about export markets. I'll use an example of my mother-in-law who started a little hobby based business on Facebook, and then she started selling product to New Zealand, and I said, "You're now an exporter!" To her it's just a hobby. But there's businesses popping up all over the place that need accountants. And our view through the whitepaper and through the policy platforms we have is that Australia faces a huge productivity challenge. That if we don't grasp this issue, our real quality of life, our prosperity is at risk. One of the great levers Australia has is to unleash the productivity capital of small business. And you need to do that in a structured way with good quality advice, and that's what we think our members provide.

Phil: I know your answer to this will be very diplomatic, because you don't like to take sides politically, but you're going the path right now of delivering the next whitepaper. I was down in Canberra, 2015 when you released that whitepaper, and Bruce Billson, at that time Small Business Minister, was very happy to stand up and fly the flag for it, which was great. Obviously, we have the Turnbull government now. How do you think the Turnbull government compares with previous government in terms of attitudes towards supporting SME space?

Andrew: I think, we would prefer, as an organisation, as a small business sector, we'd rather have a Small Business Minister in cabinet. Now there is a Small Business Minister within Treasure, which is a good thing. But I think when the cabinet position was lost, that was a big hit to the small business space. So I think, how does a government get small business? Well, our Prime Minister's response is being, "Well, every minister at the cabinet table is a minister for small business." Well, that's probably a fairly typical response. I think they've demonstrated a reasonable commitment to small business into the sector. They've delivered some tax cuts to the sector. Probably haven't gone far enough in some areas. They've taken on some really difficult issues like the competition reform around Section 46 of the Australian Competition Law, which probably isn't the front page story that the governor might want it to be. But when you're strengthening protections to small business to ensure it's a more levelled playing field with big business, I think it's a big reform. That faced a lot of pressure from a number of corners on that topic.

So I think, generally speaking, I'll probably give it a better 6.5 out of 10. As in terms of its contribution. And that's been in more recent times. We came of the back of the Bruce Billson budget in 2015, 5.4 billion dollar small business package. So when you group all that together, the 5.4 billion and some of the initiatives around the small asset write-offs and the intent asset write-offs and so on, there's been a reasonable continuum of progress. But it's just some big ticket items, Phil, we're just waiting to see progress on. And again, tax reform is one of those, just hobbling entrepreneurship.

Phil: And a big part of the IPA is to support skill sets of your members, we've talked about that, whether it's mental health or skills and capabilities. But you're also representing Canberra, and you look to, by lack of a better word, lobby government to support them in their best interest. What would be those two or three things that you're most vocal about right now, down in Canberra?

Andrew: So one of the big things at the moment is the ATO. So, just generally, but the ATO systems, IT systems, have been a huge dilemma for primarily for tax agents. Now, again, you're not going to read about this on the front page of the daily paper, but tax agent's been faced with the dilemma of repeated IT system adages from the ATO. And it's all a one-way street in the sense that there's accountability from the tax agents to the ATO, but not the other way around. So when the systems go down, basically agents have to cop it. So we've been saying to the ATO that the time has come for some accountability measures to be kicked in, because it's not okay. Fundamentally, tax agents keep the tax system rolling, and there's got to be a little bit of recognition for that. So we've been lobbying for some accountability measures and standards for tax agents with the ATO.

Other issues, again, are also on tax front around tax reform, remainders fundamental tax reform, tackling big issues, having a discussion in Canberra about what government's going to do. Remember those times when you tune into the budget agent to find out what your tax cut will be? And that seems like such a long time ago. It's amazing how things have changed. And the discussion is now about what government's not going to do, or what an opposition won't do. So we're lobbying broadly for just a policy based discussion in a plan, an action plan for particularly the small business space. Which why the whitepaper's so important.

And the other thing we're lobbying heavily on is just mental health and awareness around small business issues. Which is just so critical, and it's becoming more and more important. And some might say, this is in a sense the small business sector wrapped up in a broader discussion on mental health, well, then that's fantastic. Because I think to de-stigmatize mental health, whether it's in the small business space or more generally, is a good thing. We've had some harrowing stories from some of our members who talked about their clients who have literally walked in the door with bandages on, just harrowing stuff. I've had directly had accountants contact me, both members and non-members, who've been facing similar situations. And they just say, what do we do. And so you stick through the process of engaging with the services around Lifeline and Beyond Blue. And it's such a raw topic, and raw emotion that needs to be called out. And the more and more our members have the skill to deal with some of these issues and identify them early, I think the better as a community we'll be.

Phil: And I think, to your point, Andrew, just started talking about it, that's why we're doing it right now. If people are sitting there and there is a stigma associated with it, who don't want to talk about it, it's okay to talk about it. And there's plenty of organisations out there right now like Beyond Blue you mentioned, who can support this way. And we're going to keep that message on as well, so it's very very important.

So, transitioning our chat then to how business owners can work more effectively with their accountant, so often it's the other way. It's what your accountant can do for you rather than what you can do for an accountant. And I know I work with a couple different accountants across our business, and sort of personal and corporately. I'm always thinking about, what can I do to either make their jobs easier or give them the skills and capabilities provide me with a better outcome for what I'm looking for. So, a lot of SMEs don't really like catching up with their accountant sometimes. They'll say that, "I don't want to hear the bad news." Or just "I hate paperwork, I hate numbers, etc., etc." So, how can SMEs better change their mindset so they can be a better client for their accountant?

Andrew: Well, there wouldn't be an accountant in the country who says, "Ways of capturing data better would be a good start." But that probably goes back to the clients being open to change and technological change. Now there are a range of tools and resources. You can google accounting software or business software, and there are range of apps and tools. We've gone through those and done a bit of a rating system or identify which of those we think are rock solid. And then there's some apps out there that will provide you a real time snapchat about your wealth. Now, for example, My Prosperity is a good example, which is out there. And that's developed into an app based solution that will allow the client to map in there the wealth that's being generated out of their business, their personal wealth, and it takes into account their entire wealth position. And the push a button on their iPhone, they can actually see how their wealth is tracking in real time. Now that plugs into all the accounting, from the accountant's point of view all the compliance talks they plug back in, so that when you go and have the discussion with the accountant, it's not a discussion about, "How is the last quarter?" It's "I know how the last quarter was going. How are we going to forecast into the next half or next year?"

Best way to describe it, it's like, you're now going to see GP, and if some GPs have adapted plugging in wearing devices. So you walk into the GPs clinic, and they'll say, "I asked you to walk half an hour a day for the last month, and I know that you haven't done that." It's a similar conversation that now we're seeing accountants having with their clients coming in with the amount of data that's available.

So, being open from a client's point of view, being open to allowing that data to be effectively sucked up and then used. And they identify why, but being able to generate reports and provide the accountant with a much richer base of content actually enriches the discussion you have with the client. So the first thing I'd say is just be open to change.

Phil: And where do you see the SME or business owner and accountant relationship in the future, what's it going to look like in 10 years time?

Andrew: Well, if you go crystal balling around, artificial intelligence, cognitive technologies, who knows, in a sense? I look at the impact. I think one of the profound impacts will be, based on the rate of it now, is block chain, and what it does. And it is a number of good pieces out there from some experts just trying to articulate what block chain really means. And for a small business owner who might not have heard of the term block chain, probably the easiest way I could describe it, is you pick up a five dollar note, and I'll pass you that five dollar note, Phil, it'll have all the fingerprints of everyone and every company that's had it before me. And it gives you in real time a sense of where that money has come from. So that's emerged out of things like anti-money laundering and counter terrorism finance, which is actually where it came from, but it provides a real time audit trail. It's called a hyper-ledger that tracks that currency all the way back up the chain. So then it raises the question, what role will auditors play in the future? If you've got that amount of data sitting there, surely the role of the auditors is going to be to verify what's in front of them is true and fair, but the source data, that's already there.

So I think block chain's going to have a massive impact on the way we operate as accountant, and certainly in terms of the conversation we'll be able to have with our clients.

Phil: Interesting. We've run out of time, Andrew. We could chat about this stuff all day, but a couple of things I take away from this particular podcast, and that is now only how you can be a better client for an accountant and work with him to really realise your business goals, and if you're not yet thinking about how else deepen your relationship with your accountant, I suggest you do, because accountants, they like to be called, and many speak, the trusted advisor, so for many SME business owners, it's the first and perhaps only connectivity they might have with a external advisor. So lean on your accountant, understand what they can do for you, and just ask questions, because they'll be very happy to have a chat with you. And remember, not all accountant are created equal, so you need to understand yourself as a business, what you need and want from your accountant and make sure that you match yourself with the right type of accountant. And as Andrew has said, accountants are IPM members typically connected in with the SME space, so have a chat with them. Ask them if they're an IPM member. I'm sure you wouldn't mind, Andrew?

Andrew: No. If they're not, send them away.

Phil: But on the other side, this issue with mental health, I think we've done it pretty reasonable justice. We could keep talking about it, the IPA will as well. But the whitepaper, Andrew, so 2015 is when you released the last one, and you can download that on the IPA site. But you're in the process right now of speaking to some SMEs, and then you're going to go away and probably apply some hard data there and you're going to deliver something to the market. When's that going to happen?

Andrew: It'll happen about the end of this calendar year we'll have the first draught if you like, and then early in 2018 we'll actually have the final presented in Canberra. And then we present actually to all levels of government. But if there are any listeners to this podcast who want to have some input into that, feel free to jump on to publicaccountants.org.au. It's an open submission process. If you've got some thoughts, if I pose you this one question, as a small business owner, what's keeping you awake at night? And that will give us some great policy input in terms of the whitepaper process.

Phil: That's good. And there you go, you've got the word travelling to the CEO, so if you do write it, I'm sure it'll be acknowledged and recognised, and hopefully you'll make a difference, because everyone has a voice, and it's by having SME advocates like the IPA and many others supporting SMEs and myself included, are trying to shape the way in which our government chooses to approach this very very important part and the heartbeat of Australian economy. 2.3 million SME business owners who employ the lion share of Australian workers. So, we have a big voice, so let's keep vocal about it. Andrew, I appreciate you coming on.

Andrew: Thanks, Phil.

Phil: Let's get you back in on to the My Business podcast again soon.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely.

Phil: There's plenty of issues we can chat about here, and I like to fly the flag for accountants. I think accountants do an essential job for SME business owners, and as an SME owner myself, don't be scared of your accountant. They're your friend. They're an ally. And if you have an problems, ask them, that's why there here for you. Remember to check out mybusiness.com.au, if you've got any questions for the My Business team, you can write them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you want to connect in to Andrew or the IPA, send a note there as well, and we'll pass you on to them. And I'm sure they'll get back to you. For all the social stuff, just search My Business, and we guys will be back again next week. So, until then, see you later. Bye-bye.


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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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