For a number of years now I have been thinking of writing a book. I haven’t been short of stories, just the time to write them. Well, the time has come. If I write it as a blog, and I’m committed to the next instalment, I will have to keep going. It worked for Charles Dickens.
One of the things that held me back was the thought that most people will not find an accountant’s stories interesting but writing for accountants might help. I have really enjoyed my career. There have been a few hairy moments, and more than a few dull ones, but it’s been great. I hope yours brings as much fun. Let me share some of highlights with you.
In the beginning
Fifty years is a long time, but I did start young. My father was an accountant, and his father was a bookkeeper, but I don’t remember being influenced towards working with numbers. If anything, I wanted to be a pilot; something really exciting, and later I was but it didn’t become a career.
It started when I was 14, in 1965. I liked money, for what it could buy. The fifties were drab, grey days with little to tempt anyone to spend, even if you did have any spare money. I spent all my free time reading books from the library. The sixties were different – a bright red racing bike, an orange Beatles’ shirt, and Motown singles.
A daily paper-round wasn’t paying enough, so in the holidays I went and worked at my dad’s company in the accounts department. He was the head of one of the very first shared service centres for a FTSE Top 20 company and it was located in a skyscraper in Croydon.
How very modern!
My job was to reconcile a particular bank account that had a balance of more than £1m, and no one else could do it. This challenge strangely inspired me. Strangely, because I knew most people weren’t interested in doing anything like this, and I couldn’t work out why I was. Looking back, I think it was because it was it was a giant puzzle that had to have a right answer. It took me all the summer holiday to do it, and the satisfaction was immense. Getting paid for it was pretty good too.
Every Saturday, I helped run a youth club. It was held in a church hall and when I first went there it was pretty tame, we just stood around chatting. We had a very trendy, leather-clad young curate who encouraged us to enjoy ourselves. I wanted music but that wasn’t so easy. There were no pop radio stations then, except crackly Radio Luxembourg, and singles were quite expensive at 6 shillings and eightpence each (3 for one pound).
Someone told me that they could rig up a microphone to attach to my record player and I worked out that, once we had bought the first Top 10 for £3-6s-8d (that’s three pounds, six shillings and eightpence), it would rarely cost more than £1 a week with only 3 new entries to buy.
And so it was.
We could afford to have music from the members ‘subs’ (probably about 6d each) and dance to the latest music. Music such as: "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by The Supremes, "Winchester Cathedral" by The New Vaudeville Band and "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys, all number ones in late 1966.
Late every Saturday evening I would put the money in a canvas bag (supplied by Midland Bank) and, along with the cash box strapped to my bike rack, cycle home. Sunday morning was for counting, writing it all down, and preparing for next week’s purchases. Within a year we were hiring bands every week, and one memorable night the bag was so full of money it fell off the rack all over the road, and took about half-an hour to collect up in the dark. My reconciliation took a little longer that Sunday!
Being an accountant looked like it might be fun, even though you had serious responsibilities. I was still only 15 though, and far from committed to the idea.
Next time: A career dilemma.
Mike Jones has been a Chartered Accountant since the early 1970s and has been Finance Director of many well-known brands including HMV, Argos, and Southern Water.
His full profile is here: LinkedIn Profile