Christine Kincaid may not be a name you've heard of, but when this Scottish bookkeeper gave birth to her son, Gary, 50 years ago this month, she had a profound effect on the bookkeeping profession...
In honour of the 50th birthday of Xero's UK MD, Gary Turner, we interviewed his Mum, Christine Kincaid; the successful career bookkeeper who inspired him to transform the way bookkeepers work.
Having survived a recent battle with cancer, Christine is now retired, but still helping with the books of her second husband’s wedding-film company.
“I was in hospital last year for five months, but I could still log in to the accounts to see how everything was going. I can use Xero on my iPad so it’s absolutely fabulous. Everything has changed so much.”
Christine began her working life at Imperial Tobacco, one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturing companies. “It was huge, and I had various positions but I wasn’t doing out and out bookkeeping at that time. It was back when a woman had to leave work when she got married, which I did in 1967. It shows you just how much society has changed!”
A bookkeeper’s work is never going out of fashion!
Christine took ten years out to raise her children, Gary, and his younger sister Deborah. “Roundabout 1978 I went back to college and did a refresher course in business studies and bookkeeping. I’d recommend it to any stay-at-home parent going back into the workforce; to get you out of the house and meeting people, and to build your confidence.
“I’ll always remember one of my tutors on that course saying ‘don’t think you’ll be able to iron your sheets if you want to pass this course!’ As soon as you’re studying or working, you have to change your work ethic at home. And for me, I always ensured that housework came second, not the kids. Or you can get a cleaner to take the pressure off, just don’t try to do it all.”
Christine initially took a part time job that fitted in around her children, and was also doing the books for her first husband, Gary’s Dad’s, business.
“Bookkeeping is not always easy; you’re given a load of accounts and you have to sort them out. It involves a lot of problem-solving. I always enjoyed it though, like that moment when you notice someone’s P45 hasn’t been input properly.
“A bookkeeper has to be organised and methodical. I could never sit at a desk with oozing paperwork. I like everything to be in its right place and know exactly where the relevant paperwork is for the accountant, client, or my manager at the time.
I’m like that at home too, it’s not just work. It’s in my make up. Everything’s got to be just so so. I don’t like a mess.
“At work I was well known for my clean ledgers – it was all manual work in the late 70s when Gary was younger. He remembers the books in the house and typewriters. Gary’s Dad was a motor mechanic, and we’d be talking about the business at the dinner table every night and Gary would hear the conversation going on and he’d see how busy I was. It definitely influenced him.
“When he started his first job with a computer company he rang me up and asked ‘Mum, what’s a nominal ledger?’ and from then on he became even more interested.”
Gary Turner speaking at the Bookkeepers Summit
Christine has worked in and for many companies, both large and small over the years, including the British Printing Corporation where she was instrumental in designing and deploying a custom build of a new accounting software system. “We were the only printing plant in Scotland and in the 1990s we had £30m turnover, so it was a very big company at the time. When I joined, their computer system was in Watford and it took up a huge room. Three years in, they decided to move to a new system which actually wrote the accrual account for you. I worked to custom build the system and became a Site Champion, helping to deploy the system across various sites.”
“The workplace has changed; all the inputting and writing up ledgers has gone, but now it’s automated you’re being asked for more information and generating more reports. A bookkeeper’s work is never going out of fashion!
There will always be work for a bookkeeper, because businesses will always need someone to oversee what’s going on and give them information they can use.
"I’m 70 years old and still bookkeeping. It will keep my brain active!"