The fluidity of music may seem worlds apart from the precision of numbers, but Joanne Coetsee has succeeded in bringing together both realms so that she is able to nurture her many diverse interests.
Joanne recalls that she started singing lessons on the very same day she received the news that she had qualified as a CA(SA): ‘I literally got my results at 3 pm and began my singing lesson at 4 pm!’ she laughs.
It’s a juxtaposition that beautifully demonstrates the grace with which Joanne has incorporated one of her greatest passions, singing, into her demanding career. She admits that music was, in fact, her first love, but her father insisted that she study a profession ‘so that I had something to fall back on’. Accounting became her first choice because, and in spite of knowing very little about the industry, she had a natural flair for numbers.
Joanne honed her skill working first in the accounts department of her university, then completing articles in a small firm which was ultimately acquired by PwC. Her career progressed more rapidly than she had anticipated: although she had not intended to study while working, she had already finished her training contract by the time she earned her CTA. From there, she completed her first and second board exams in just six months. ‘It was a busy time,’ she says, ‘but I handled it by being consistent: waking up early to study every day, and studying more when I returned home.’
Connection: the golden thread
Throughout the challenges of her qualification, her love of music remained intact. ‘Ultimately, I think both accounting and music are avenues I use to connect with people. Music is all about communication: it transcends any barrier in language. It’s universal; anyone can understand it, and our differences are not relevant when we listen to music.’
Accounting, meanwhile, is the lifeblood of any business. ‘If you don’t know what’s going on with the numbers, you’ve basically lost sight of the business,’ Joanne maintains. This is often a problem for small-business owners, who may have bright ideas but sometimes are not able to back them with business acumen. ‘Sometimes, they don’t actually know where to start. I receive great joy from helping small business owners grow their business, just as they would raise a child, and helping them build it. That’s where the element of connection comes in.’
Interestingly, many of Joanne’s clients are people from the creative world, whom she has met through her activities as a singer. She is a member of the Capital Singers, a group which performs several times each year, and has taken part in Dancing for Rhinos, an annual fundraiser for rhino conservation. Last year’s event, where she also participated, was a special highlight, as it marked the fundraiser’s tenth anniversary, with all proceeds going towards the purchase of drones to boost conservation efforts on farms in the Eastern Cape. The group also raises funds for care packages, which are distributed amongst disadvantaged communities.
Small business focus
While these performances provide a creative outlet for Joanne, they have also put her in touch with people who are dedicated to pursuing their passion but aren’t quite sure how to turn this into a business. ‘Understanding the creative mindset means that I am able to find common ground with them. At the same time, my understanding of the pitfalls that can cripple a business are a major help for people who don’t get finance.’
Joanne decided to turn her attention to small businesses full-time after working in audit practice for eight years. ‘I felt that I wasn’t able to add much value if I came in after the fact, conducting what felt like a tick-box exercise to show clients where they had gone wrong. My actions could be so much more powerful if I could work with them to prevent those problems in the first place.’
This was the premise on which her practice, Simplistic Accounting, was established. Joanne registered the name in 2018, ‘playing with the idea and trying to decide if it was worth the risk before taking the plunge’.
She decided to focus on Cloud-based services and automation work, believing this to be of most value to small businesses – which is how she became familiar with Xero software. She considers this to be the best option for small businesses, because of its user friendly interface, and has helped a number of clients implement it. ‘We saw an even more pronounced need for such services during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of our clients weren’t able to make sense of what was happening in their business,’ she explains.
Simplistic Accounting’s support of Xero has seen the firm acquire Gold Partner status and has led to outstanding growth. In fact, Joanne reports that it has doubled turnover, year on year, since inception; a trend which she hopes to see continue – so long as this doesn’t compromise the firm’s ability to deliver a personal touch. ‘We know each one of our clients personally. We have seen their struggles and worked with them to help their companies survive and even grow, despite our economic current challenges, and we want to carry on doing this. It’s all about giving back to our clients by adding the value wherever we can and helping them find the best solutions.’
Joanne’s commitment to this sector can be explained by her faith in its strengths. ‘I truly believe that small business is the lifeblood of the economy. We’re fortunate to have seen some of our clients embark on a journey that has led to fantastic growth, and this is one of the greatest rewards we could ask for. When we support small businesses and help them grow, we are laying the foundation for job creation and creating success for our country.’
Joanne’s tips for growing a
- Get involved with networking initiatives to expand your business footprint − then get up, dress up, show up and follow up, and be consistent.
- Always be willing to learn from others, learn from constructive criticism, and invest in your personal development and growth.
- Focus on your strengths and sub-contract or outsource mundane tasks that take your focus away from growing your business.
- Always keep track of your cash flows, because a sale means nothing until the money hits your bank account. Apply the principles of putting away your tax and profits first.
- Make sure you keep on top of your business finances. Ensure you have accurate data available to measure the success of product and service lines, as you cannot manage that which cannot be measured.
Author Lisa Witepski & Lynn Grala | Photographer Theana Breugem