As we emerge from the latest and, we hope, the last lockdown, it is time for us all to take stock of where we are and what we have achieved

We have survived an unexpected and quite nasty shock to our system: A hidden enemy that we hope has gone away or that we are at least able to keep at bay.

Through it all, ICB bookkeepers have been professional, supportive, and have carried on. Always ahead of the game, ICB bookkeepers had already embraced technology and were ready to meet the challenges head-on. Like the retailers who rapidly changed their structures and product range to offer an online shopping experience, ICB bookkeepers seamlessly embraced online client contact and continued to provide peace of mind that whatever problems their clients would face, getting their accounts in order would not be one of them. 

But ICB bookkeepers went far beyond just providing bookkeeping: Furlough, SEISS and CBILS were rapidly digested and became just another string to their bow. Whether it was foresight or just coincidence, at the ICB Bookkeepers Summit, Sage’s Jennifer Warawa said bookkeepers had to move from being relevant to being indispensable. Well, you certainly did that and everyone at ICB is immensely proud of you.

So, what next? 

Nobody is sure whether we shall return to the old normal or, if not, what exactly the new normal will look like. The High Streets are certainly going to look different. Not only have major household brands, such as Debenhams and Top Shop, disappeared to become online brands, but huge swathes of consumers have got used to online shopping, next day delivery, and not having to go backwards and forwards between shops trying to find a bargain or that last-minute outfit. 

How many times have we heard “no, I think I preferred the one in the first shop; you know”. Will retail therapy ever be the same again?

Will offices ever be the same again? My guess is that for most, and it certainly looks this way for ICB, there will be some kind of hybrid solution. The best talent is not always to be found on the doorstep or within commuting distance of the office, of which you are very proud, but which is rarely seen by anyone other than the team who work in it. I believe that the one big change will be that people everyone will gain from the increased flexibility that is now more accepted than pre-COVID. Against this idea is the thought that many people need the direct peer interaction that only an office can offer. After all, and as I have said on ICBTV many times, some of us met the love of our life at the office and many others have made long and enduring friendships. I think the jury is out and it is probably asking too much to expect a unanimous verdict.

So, where does this change of working practice and expectation put ICB bookkeepers? 

Obviously in a strong place, but you all need to remind your clients, in the nicest possible way, how you were there for them, otherwise your stoic support and shoulder in their times of panic and near devastation, will be forgotten faster than their expenses receipts. 

We all must use the past year to build on what we have achieved and to take another giant leap forward. We must understand our worth and begin to be more professional, more business-like, and more appreciated. It will not be easy, but the next step is in our hands. Never have ICB bookkeepers been in such a commanding position and never have they been so ideally placed to show the difference they have made and to receive recognition. As your clients hopefully emerge with renewed vigour, determined to grasp the new and challenging opportunities in the post-COVID world, they need to see that you deserve to be paid what you deserve. 

Having just had to pay someone £35.00 per hour to jet wash my driveway, I was reminded that one of the roles of ICB is to continue to spread the word about the ICB difference. ICB bookkeepers are the best of the best. 

The problem is that people can look at their lovely driveway, knowing what was required and how well it has been done; it is more difficult to place a value on something about which they have no idea at all. We must find new and ingenious ways to explain what it is that bookkeepers do and why ICB bookkeepers are the best to do it. This must be a collective effort. You all have direct contact with clients, and you need to make sure they know how important what you do for them is.  

There has never been a better time to unlock your potential. There has never been a better time to be an ICB bookkeeper.

Death of a devoted man

I was very disappointed to hear of the sad passing of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and I am sure, whatever your views on the Royal family, that you will join with me in sending sincerest condolences and best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen and her family at this very sad time.  

I was fortunate to meet the Duke on two, very brief occasions when I found him to be interested and engaging. On the second occasion we met, he recalled that we had discussed ICB bookkeepers at our previous meeting, something which I find particularly remarkable, as I often cannot remember what I spoke to someone about earlier the same day. The Duke of Edinburgh Award will be an enduring legacy as a universally accepted, non-political platform for effecting change and recognising the worth and often hidden talent of youth. And for just doing good.

Above all, as a young and talented man with a promising military career lying ahead of him, he chose instead to devote his life to his wife and future monarch. We should all be grateful that he has always been there for the Queen and our country.