A client once told bookkeeper Roberta Segal that a visit to her office was like going to the doctor.
“After they had come to see us, they said they went away feeling wonderful,” she recalls.
Roberta – everyone calls her Bobbie – has been “treating” clients for their paperwork worries for more than 30 years.
She has worked mainly in accounting practices but for the past four years has teamed up with her accountant husband Howard.
They offer clients of all sizes a complete service from start-up advice to set-up, paperwork management, trial balance and year-end accounts.
“We have quite a few big clients but smaller ones are coming to us now as well,” she explains. “They get personal service. As paperwork comes in, it gets done straightaway and turned around.”
Some clients get things wrong when setting up their business so she can help from an early stage. “We do everything for them. We start with the company name and offer the full service from setting it up to sorting out Vat and PAYE. We can tell them what is the right scheme for them.
“Everything comes through us as the registered office and if there’s a problem, it comes to us first. We are the first port of call.”
Many new businesses decide not to use a bookkeeper from the start, believing they can save money by doing the books themselves. But Bobbie says it could cost them in the long run.
When they run into trouble, they often call for a Bobbie. “Then we have to clear up any mess and it can cost them a lot more in the short term. We can take everything off their shoulders, otherwise they can get huge penalties from HM Revenue & Customs.”
Bookkeepers typically charge between £15 and £50 an hour depending on experience and paperwork complexity.
“We charge monthly,” Bobbie explains. “We agree a figure when they decide to use us. It’s worthwhile because HMRC do spot checks and fine people if the books and records are not kept up to date. If HMRC see it all in a box or carrier bag, they are fined. We take it from the box or bag, enter it properly and produce a final set of accounts.”
Bobbie also keeps clients up-to-date with new legislation. After attending an IAB demonstration, she is now advising them about the auto-enrolment pension scheme. “We can be the middle man with auto-enrolment. They can have a free consultation and set it up through us.”
Bobbie also handles RTI – Real Time Information – payroll data that has to be sent online monthly to HMRC. “You have to keep on top of everything all the time.”
A member for four years, Bobbie makes good use of IAB services. “I’m very happy with them. Their courses are excellent, very well run and priced.”
Bobbie, 54, takes a keen interest in local issues and is president of her local Rotary Club. Her husband is treasurer. They have two children and three grandchildren.
With an eye to succession planning, son Mark, 30, works in the business. “He can take over when we retire,“ she says.
But judging from Bobbie’s enduring enthusiasm, don’t expect that to be any time soon.
Her final message to prospective clients is: “Get us in at the start and we can make the journey together.”