Choosing numbers over art
Martine Hoosen took out the Bookkeeper of the Year award at this year’s Australian Accounting Awards. She has over 20 years of experience as a bookkeeper and over 25 years of experience running a successful business. But she actually came close to choosing art over numbers.
It might have been the logical choice, but Ms Hoosen didn’t always plan to be a bookkeeper. She ran a sign writing company with her first husband in her early 20s, which propelled her into bookkeeping.
But, when that marriage didn’t work out, Ms Hoosen found herself at a crossroads with two young boys to care for.
In her early 20s, Ms Hoosen did several MYOB courses and was quite the wiz at digitising bookkeeping processes. So, following her divorce, which also saw her part ways with her ex-husband’s business, Ms Hoosen began to teach others the ins and outs of MYOB.
“After about a year of helping people out, setting them up and customising things, I thought this could actually be a business,” says Ms Hoosen.
But besides helping others progress their businesses, Ms Hoosen was finding her feet. She was now a single mum and in a desperate need to secure her future.
Initially, she advised businesses as a sole practitioner, before launching Bookwiz in her late 20s.
But prior to making the decision to pursue a career in bookkeeping, Ms Hoosen actually considered launching a nursery design business.
“I actually did art on the side. I had the idea about a nursery design business. It was really quite accidental that I ended up doing what I am doing, and it was purely from people coming to me and asking me to set up their MYOB,” she says.
“Then GST came along and it really tipped a few people into moving towards using solutions such as MYOB. Suddenly I was really inundated with people approaching me, so I knew this was the way to go.”
And with Bookwiz’s rapid growth, her art fell by the wayside.
“I actually took part in art exhibitions when I was younger,” Ms Hoosen recalls, before revealing her early days as a potential musician.
“I read music from the age of six. And I have heard that reading music works from the same side of the brain as numbers.”
Small business focus
Today, Bookwiz employs about 10 people. Six years ago, it also became a franchise. As for Ms Hoosen, she is happily married and a mother to three boys and one girl. Her new main goal is to help small businesses succeed.
“I am now working with the Small Business Development Corporation, a local government initiative in Western Australia, where we run free business workshops for small business, all based around understanding cash flow and budgeting, GST, BAS, bookkeeping and recordkeeping,” explains Ms Hoosen.
She is also involved with the Franchise Council of Australia and has been on its WA committee for three years.
“I have a very strong focus on helping business owners actually understand the numbers,” Ms Hoosen says, before explaining that for her bookkeeping has always been more than just plugging numbers into a program.
“It’s really about helping business owners understand the numbers and what they mean. How to look at those numbers and work out the ratios, how to understand where they should be benchmarking things such as wage and purchases costs,” she clarifies.
Having spent years interacting daily with small businesses, Ms Hoosen has arrived at the conclusion that many small business owners don’t appreciate change.
“That’s what I see and what I feel. They think ‘oh well, I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ll just keep doing what I have always done’,” she says.
So, Ms Hoosen’s mission is to present the endless possibilities of digitised solutions to such owners.
“I get really excited when I go out to businesses, and often I’m approached by the accountant whose client is stuck on desktop and refuses to go to the cloud and use document management solutions,” Ms Hoosen explains.
“I present to them how much time and money they can save. We had one client in particular, that had an almost full-time outsourced bookkeeper. By implementing an automation software, that job was cut to a couple of days a week, and it’s saving the business thousands of dollars a year.”
Motherhood v business
Sitting comfortably in her office today, with several awards under her belt, including the most recent Bookkeeper of the Year award and Bookkeeping Firm of the Year, Ms Hoosen also recalls her beginnings and the hardships she faced as a woman in business.
“It was hard. Following my separation, I didn’t have any support. My family were in New Zealand. I also had no financial support from anybody. I remember going through a phase where we literally lived on rice and sausages, because that was all I could afford,” recalls Ms Hoosen.
“I was determined not to be a welfare parent. I didn’t want to set that example for my kids, so it was a sort of no-brainer for me to work for myself. Especially coming out of a marriage where I was left with very little, I thought to myself I don’t ever want to be in that situation again.”
Back then, she explains, childcare was a real problem. There were no rebates or support for working parents. And because Ms Hoosen could not report a steady income, her only choice was to pay the full fee upfront.
But apart from her struggles as a single mother, Ms Hoosen also recalls the stigma surrounding bookkeepers 20 years ago.
“The relationship with accountants and business owners that we have now wasn’t around back then. There wasn’t a lot of respect at the time,” she says.
Today, she admits things have changed.
“I have worked really hard to nurture that relationship. But in saying that, we have gone in this almost full circle where we were miles apart 20 years ago and have since slowly come together,” Ms Hoosen says.
She believes that with the changing nature of the industry, accountants and bookkeepers’ services will come closer together as they both morph into the advisory space.
As for juggling family life and business, Ms Hoosen admits to needing a day entirely for herself, at least once in a while for down time.
“I still have two primary school children, as well as having the two older sons. They are all very active with sport. We have multiple nights of training, we have swimming, we have tennis, netball and soccer. So, there is literally no day off,” she says.
“And both my husband and I work full-time, so it’s a juggle. I know there are some people that are critical of that. People have said that I’m missing out on doing things with the kids, and bestowed on me that mother guilt that a lot of working women get. But I also see my career as a great example for the kids,” Ms Hoosen says.
She admits that she owes her endurance to her mother, who was always a hard worker.
“If I wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be happy, and if I am not happy, my kids wouldn’t be getting the best of me. It does get hectic some days, and you do go through days where you want to pull a blanket over your head. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ms Hoosen concludes.