Every small business needs a Ken, says Fabian Hamilton, president of the International Association of Book-Keepers.
The MP for Leeds North East is one of few Labour members who have run a business. This experience makes him ideal for the honorary role he has held for six years.
In the late 1970s, he set up a graphic design enterprise. It was an era of drawing boards and scalpels that would soon be swept away by Apple Macs. Mr Hamilton’s enterprise became an Apple consultancy and authorised dealership.
Close to the University of Leeds, it specialised in student publications and conferences.
Early on, but perhaps not soon enough, Mr Hamilton recognised the importance of bookkeeping.
“I realised that if you are employing people, you’ve got to have proper spread-sheets, proper profit and loss accounts and to chase up people who owe you money,” he said.
“It’s all very well making a profit, but if you don’t get the money in, you’re wasting your time. Chasing up debts, getting debtors to pay us, and making sure we paid our creditors on time was quite hard work.
“That’s when I realised that decent bookkeeping meant not only that you knew where you were but also you were able to chase up money owed to you. You can’t make decisions if you don’t know whether the money in the bank is profit or loss.”
He admits it was quite late – around 1983 – when he took on a part-time bookkeeper called Ken to do double-entry bookkeeping on ledgers.
“He was absolutely critical to the success of the business. He was an utterly reliable lay preacher. He would come in two days a week and make sure the books were up to date. Vat returns, reconciliation, paying PAYE and National Insurance were all part of his job. It was tough but I was very glad I had Ken.
“It’s a false economy not to employ a bookkeeper,” Mr Hamilton adds. “Their skills and qualifications, developed and accredited by the IAB, are the cornerstone of any successful or viable business.
“If you don’t employ people with those qualifications, you’re going to make the same mistakes I made. Every business needs a Ken.”
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