Nik George is Spotlight Reporting’s longest-standing employee, and he’s come a long way since his first job with Richard and Julie as a Junior Accountant. He was there for the transition of Francis Consulting, a boutique accounting firm, to Spotlight Reporting, a global SaaS company with offices in five different territories and growing. In this time, he’s worn more hats and had more roles than an extra in the Lord of the Rings (which he’d like you to know he never auditioned for). Here, Nik shares his story, and his experiences working through the GFC.
Nik George: the man, the myth, the legend.
What inspired me to become an accountant
I first encountered the world of accounting near the end of high school. I participated in a program called the Young Enterprise Scheme—a competition in which a team of students would set up a business, and compete against other student businesses. And it was quite exciting actually, creating a product, trying to make sales, and building it all from scratch, but through the experience I learned one fundamental lesson: in business, accounting knowledge is essential.
My team ended up winning the regional competition, and placed fifth nationally. But we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were without our two mentors, a local Chartered Accountant, and our school’s accounting teacher. Their advice grounded us, gave us direction and purpose, and that’s what inspired me to become an accountant myself.
My early days with Richard and Julie
In 2008, during the last year of my BCA, I joined Richard and Julie Francis (CEO and CFO of Spotlight Reporting respectively) at their boutique accounting firm. It was small back then, just Richard, Julie, me, and two other uni students. I was brought onboard as a junior accountant, preparing financial statements, tax returns, GST, Xero accounting system setup and training, and analytical reviews. Because our focus was more on advisory than compliance, I also assisted in the preparation of Spotlight Reports, only back then it was done using Excel. These reports were heavily time-intensive—one report would take three to four hours of my time to put together—but we knew the benefits were worth it.
Not long after, New Zealand began feeling the effects of the GFC. We started to see clients who were previously very profitable, who had been in business for many years, suddenly go into the red. It highlighted how important it was for businesses to not just stick their head in the sand, to not assume that the economy would bounce back quickly and put them back on track. They needed to take action. And working with a trusted advisor was the first crucial step.
My top tips for working through a economic crisis
- First and foremost, businesses need to manage their cash flow—ensuring money is coming in, and watching what goes out. For some right now, incoming money might be scarce because of lockdown restrictions, and even after the lockdown is lifted, they likely will encounter reduced customer demand for a period of time. The key is knowing this will happen, and planning ahead. The last thing a client needs is to make it through to July, only to realise that they’ve run out of money. If accounting firms haven’t been doing cash flow forecasts for their clients before this, now is the time to start.
- Next, businesses need to maximise their sales, by focussing on selling products and services with the highest margins, or looking for ways to improve margins on products and services that are in demand. A number of small variations such as price increases, quality or quantity reductions, bundling of products or services, additional services, and cost reductions can make a significant difference.
- Finally, marketing is going to be important—businesses should not go quiet. Even if there was a steady demand for their products and services before the crisis, there’s no guarantee that customers will resume spending after. Businesses need to let their customer base know why they should keep investing, and clear communication is going to be fundamental.
- But, in my experience, it’s also important that businesses don’t panic, and trade opportunities for increased revenue for lower overheads. For example, it can be easy to think about cancelling a subscription, such as to Spotlight during this time. However, Spotlight Reporting enables accountants to provide advisory services at a fraction of a cost, compared to using traditional methods such as Excel. Better still, a Spotlight subscription generates revenue for the business. So rather than just going through a cost cutting exercise, seriously evaluate whether your technologies and subscriptions enable you to drive revenue and improve margins before cutting them.
I know the amount of effort people pour into their businesses—the time, the blood, the sweat, the tears, their mortgages, their houses, their families. People make huge sacrifices to set up businesses. And it’s such a shame when they fail, just because they didn’t have good advice. It robs them of years of their lives, and the negative effects of a failed business are exponential.
That’s why I do what I do. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of Spotlight Reporting for over 12 years. I've worked in Support, Testing, Training, Sales, Customer Experience, and Product, and I've seen firsthand how we're working to revolutionise the accounting industry. If my work at Spotlight Reporting helps people set up successful businesses that lets them pay the bills, and spend time with their families, then I consider that a win.
This piece is part of our series, “Designed By Accountants, For Accountants”, highlighting some of the key players that make up the accounting DNA of Spotlight Reporting. Their experiences have created and influenced the only reporting and forecasting tool in the ecosystem, created by accountants