The holiday season is ramping up and the end of 2020 is in sight (something we can all be thankful for!). This period is perfect for reviewing your business, getting organised and maybe updating your financial goals for a shiny new year ahead. Finance and business admin are a couple of those things many small business owners and creatives let slide, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In our December Seminar Session, Lauren Thiel from boutique accounting and financial advisory firm The Real Thiel will talk about the best bookkeeping practices and how to build your financial foundations.
We thought you might like to get to know her a little better, so we asked her to give us the skinny on all things Real Thiel prior to our Seminar Session next week.
Find out more about our upcoming Seminar Session with Lauren HERE.
TDC: Thanks for chatting with us, Lauren. What does an average day look like for you?
LT: No day is average! We sort of have two ‘seasons’ in this business—it’s busy from April to October and quieter through summer. My day starts with attempting to make my bed in the busy season, is jam-packed with tax returns, and usually ends with me answering emails from my couch with a glass of wine.
I do my best to look after myself and my team through the busy season with decent sleep, good food and some exercise, but it’s tough. There are a lot of clients to help and some deadlines to meet.
During the quieter months, my days are much more flexible. I try to have Fridays to myself—I do ballroom dance classes in the afternoons to keep my creative brain active. I dance a few times a week actually, try to go for a hike, sleep in, and all those fun self-care things.
I think of my week with themes to each day when I can. Mondays are business development/sales/strategy focused. Tuesdays are for meetings, Wednesdays and Thursdays are spent doing client work. And Fridays are for self-development (training, seminars, readings). That’s the plan anyway. It never works out perfectly, but it keeps me focused, motivated, and helps me not let any part of the business fall.
TDC: You seem a bit more “rock chick” than chartered accountant! How did you end up going down the numbers path rather than following your creative calling?
LT: I feel I was born onto the stage. I’ve been dancing since I was three. I’ve wanted to be a dancer, a singer and actor. However, I guess I made the call that creative work was too risky for me, but later I learned that running a business is probably just as risky! I wasn’t ready to throw myself at dance or acting full time at that stage in my life. So I started studying tourism and event management at uni. I wanted to be a wedding coordinator, and I think that would have ticked some of those creative boxes.
I was doing the last mandatory management subject—accounting for business. And I hated it! I called my dad and said it was awful. He’s an accountant, so I thought he could help. He just said, read the textbook, maybe for this one we just go for a pass if it’s not your thing. You don’t have to be good at everything. And so I read the textbook, cried a bit more and then went, Oh! I get it! This is the language of money. How much more powerful and successful can we be if we speak the global language of money? I knew I needed to help my creative community better understand their businesses and finances. Hence, The Real Thiel was born.
TDC: What do you do personally to quench your passions?
LT: Dance gives me life. I go to ballroom dance classes at the moment, once or twice a week, and I also teach commercial/hip hop classes too. I hope to develop a burlesque act for Adelaide Fringe 2021—I haven’t performed in a few years now (I ‘retired’ when I was previously working a big four accounting firm). Now that I work for myself, and my clients all ‘get it’, I am more comfortable freely expressing my creative side again. I also knit! It must be the patterns, numbers and productive nature of the hobby.
TDC: Everything about your brand screams creativity. How important do you think it is to make financial services appealing to creative people?
LT: I guess there’s two sides to it. One is actually understanding of the ins and outs of tax law for my specific clients, which technically any accountant could do, but you obviously have an advantage and can offer a better service by knowing your industry better. And, personally, I think the other side is just understanding how creative brains work.
Way too many people in my community—the creatives, the artists—they are running wonderful businesses but sometimes just don’t understand or prioritise the numbers. So, I saw there was a gap. The people and work that I cared about needed someone to show them how. “Brilliant, my two lives combined – the arts, and finance. I’ll do it,” I said to myself. And I guess, as they say, the rest is history.
TDC: Many small business operators push finances to the bottom of the priority pile, doing the bare minimum just to survive. How do you make it more appealing for your customers to not only stay on top of things but learn to love managing their finances?
LT: I think it’s about connecting to what they’re interested in or what their problems are, but then making it a safe space as well. I don’t expect you to come with all the answers. If you want people to take you seriously as a business or as a working professional performer, designer, whatever, you need to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a business.
I think the biggest thing would be encouraging creatives or, more broadly, micro and small business owners, to think beyond just tax compliance. Often clients will reach out just to get their tax return done and might not know we can help with budgeting and personal money management, or that we’re available on retainer to answer random questions like: “Should I buy this car? How does this loan work? Can I deduct this?”.
And what I really want to push is that we can actually help you forecast for your business, look at cash-flow management, chat about bookkeeping teach you how to do bookkeeping act as an advisory committee, offer accountability services and much more. There are so many things that accountants can do.
TDC: What are some of the biggest mistakes that small business owners make regarding managing their finances?
LT: Not putting money aside for tax. It’s not legally required, but if you’re a sole trader, I recommend having a separate bank account for your business. It just keeps everything mentally and physically separated. It helps you keep better records.
Another thing would be not meeting with an accountant at the start. I think that’s one of the best things you could do for your business. Book an hour’s meeting with an accountant, any accountant, just to pick their brain. You’ll probably get a year’s worth of hot tips. They can probably put you on the right path in one hour.
Lastly, know what you actually want your business to be. Our brains tell us we want our business to be big. We want to earn lots of money from it. Think about what you want. You get to design your life. What do you want it to look like?
TDC: What are the services you offer to help designers avoid these mistakes?
LT: The most popular is just a one-on-one consult. We book an hour together via video or in-person, and basically, you come armed with questions or themes you want to learn about. Or maybe you just don’t know what you don’t know. I’ll throw information at you, or you might go, okay, I have these 10 specific questions.
Number two is representing you as a tax agent. I do your tax with you and represent you to the ATO. I’ve got resources, templates, spreadsheets, and clear checklists for clients to follow. I like to provide the support you need, be available for questions and advice along the way, and of course, teach you what I’m looking for and what builds best practice.
I also set up accounting software for my clients when they are ready. I want you to be organised enough to see the benefit of having it and doing well enough that the subscription cost is a no-brainer.
Number three is regular or once-off advisory sessions. We might create a living business plan, but not a 32-page document you give to no one and never use. That makes no sense to me – like, it is a good process, but the actual document never gets referred to again. My strategy docs become a part of your monthly, quarterly and annual business review process.
TDC: How do you support creative people regarding managing the growth of their business?
LT: It depends what they’ve engaged us for, but if we’re working with them regularly, maybe doing their BAS compliance or their income tax, we’re seeing their information and looking at whether they need to register for GST. We’re available to help them figure out what they should put aside each week for tax.
We can make recommendations and provide templates with all the formulas already done for you. Some of it is offering resources. Some is being available for questions as they come up. And then the other part is extra advice.
TDC: Can you describe your ideal client? What would they say about you and the Real Thiel experience?
LT: My ideal client is one with a creative small or micro business, eager to learn about money management, maybe not be a natural with numbers but is willing to give it a go and ask for help. I love working with the weird, the wonderful and the wandering. You’ll have to check our Google Reviews to see what they say about us!
TDC: 2020 has been a difficult year for many of our members, and we all look forward to next year! What are your plans for The Real Thiel in 2021?
LT: If we can travel, I’d love to go to Japan or the Philippines. Or both!
In terms of the business, I’m really tossing up whether I push for another big round of growth, or if I just want to sustain, maintain and slowly grow in 2021. We had massive growth this year, and it’s been excellent, but it’s been a lot. So, I need to check in with myself and the team and ask, “What do we really want?”
I’m going to sign up to study psychology and counselling part-time, too. I want to add an extra arm to our business one day because so much of what we do is counselling, coaching and we want to develop longer-term working relationships with our clients. And the psychology of money interests me. The more I work with clients, particularly in this space, the more I see the strong ties between emotion, family, upbringing, and general anxiety around money.
You know, a dollar figure might be one of your goals, but I want to know about you holistically and how I can help you be what you want to be. Because that’s ultimately what I’m here for.
About Lauren and The Real Thiel
The Real Thiel is NOT your average accountant. You can access Lauren and her team’s expertise in person, or online from wherever you are in the world.
Lauren gets to know you and your business so she can help you achieve your goals and build a sustainable creative career. She has extensive experience in the arts sector and a great network of lawyers, financial advisors and other professionals to recommend if you need it.
With The Real Thiel you can feel comfortable to ask any question and know the answer will be explained clearly by someone who cares. Lauren and the team’s personal touch is what sets them apart – with The Real Thiel you get an accountant with accountability.
You can find out more our December Seminar Session with Lauren here and discover how to build your financial foundations in 2021.
If you have any topics that you’d like covered by our Seminar Series, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make it happen!
Limited tickets for the Seminar Series: Book Keeping for Designers are available here.
Time & Location
Seminar Session: Book Keeping for Designers
Date: Thursday 10th December 2020
Time: 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Location: Live online seminar
Cost: $60 (includes e-book summary)