Tuesday 2¢: Reassurance and finding the tasty bugs

Tuesday 2¢: where once a week I try to write something short and often fail. On a positive note, it is Tuesday, I made the deadline.


In the UK, it is becoming easier and easier to do your taxes online, whether it’s your personal taxes or company taxes. I have a limited company; I can plug the process directly into my online accounting system to do my VAT return (UK sales tax), providing I have entered all my invoices and expenses, at a click of a button. It’s a cinch.

And yet, I hired an accountant, who does that for me.

Why? For the reassurance that my company finances would be correct and I would not fall foul of the law – and that I don’t trust myself to do it.

That’s why we choose a lot of our business relationships and hire services for our companies. Not to do the thing – I can file my taxes – but for some reassurance in the expertise around the process of doing the work.

On April 1st, a week into the UK lockdown, the office of my accountant reminded me that the VAT for the period ending March 31st (the day before) is due to be filed, deadline in a month. And then a week later it was followed up with a similar email. These emails have been their only communication. The accounts assistant I work with is very keen to do the thing.

Meanwhile, I have an inbox full of emails from a diverse range of organizations with COV-19 advice. 99% of which is entirely irrelevant, either their ‘letter from the CEO’ is banal, the advice is unhelpful, or I transacted with them so long ago, I forgot they had my email address.

Yet, ironically I have no unsolicited advice from the folks I am paying for advice from, just a reminder email, or two. (Or, you could argue empathy for the situation and the plight I imagine many of their small business clients are in).

I’m not meaning to ding the lovely people at my accountant’s office, the person I am dealing with is just doing their job and I need reminding to do my admin. It’s just an example of focusing on the work and not the reason we hire people, agencies, and services (or why we get hired).

I didn’t hire my accountant to just submit a VAT return, while it’s true that’s what they do, they might think it’s what they get paid for or indeed the job of the person contacting me. I hired them for this moment to be a reassuring voice when the bit of my world they got hired into is changing or gets uncertain.

And, I don’t mean ‘reassure’ as in a dull platitude that everything is going to be alright. I mean, how you’d be reassured by a tap on the shoulder by a passing Bear Grylls if you took a wrong turn in the wilderness. There is no certainty you’ll get out alive, or that it will be pleasant, but this dude can show you where the tasty insects are, you might survive, and life feels better.

That’s why organizations hire our agencies, us as freelancers, into full-time roles or buy from the vendors we work for. We have an empathy and understanding of the problem, and someone picked us because our expertise, experience, skills (or whatever they saw in us) gave them confidence, and it’s reassuring to know that when called upon, we will lean in with them to solve the problem.

Yes, I’m writing this during a crisis, but this should always be true; we buy into relationships, not just services, or someone to press the submit button on an online tax return.

Whatever we do, whoever we serve, it’s time to move on from empathy, we need to lean in and be the reassuring voice that helps figure out what’s next.

Or at least where the tasty bugs are…