Within a complex tax environment and with the number of small businesses growing exponentially, chartered accountant Matthew Addison recognised the need for a professional bookkeeping organisation in Australia, to both support and promote bookkeeping as an integral part of the finance profession. The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (Australia) was established in 2002 and Matthew’s energy, along with a team of passionate bookkeeper advocates, has seen its membership numbers continue to grow.
I often hear people who are just entering the bookkeeping industry ask whether they should join this organisation or that organisation. So I thought I should have a pitter-patter at the keyboard and share the six reasons I think the ICB is a smart investment. For those outside of Australia, it’s likely you have a similar nation-wide organisation, so it’s worth investigating to see if they offer similar benefits to what I outline below.
I’d first like to note that I’m a chartered certified accountant with a commerce degree. I’m a Fellow of the ICB, and a facilitator of the Brisbane South meetings. My endorsement of ICB Australia is in no way a negative reflection on any other organisation.
Now here are my six reasons:
1. The ICB membership fee is relatively low.
Depending on your status, your membership fee will be between $120, for a standard student membership and $480 dollars, for an In Practice member.
The ICB has also negotiated a partnership with insurance firm Insurance Made Easy. This partnership means that, through your membership with the ICB, you can access insurance tailor-made for a BAS Agent and bookkeeper. Prior to joining the ICB, I spent many hours investigating various insurance options. After joining the ICB and moving across to Insurance Made Easy, I actually found I was saving money – the ICB subscription, plus the insurance expense, was less than what I had been paying to an independent insurance body.
For that financial reason alone you should contemplate joining the ICB – but it doesn't stop there!
2. The ICB organises educational network meetings across Australia and online.
I’ve personally facilitated the monthly Brisbane South ICB meetings for many years. The meetings are brimming with educational content mapped out by the ICB, based on current and ‘hot topic’ issues. Many people who attend the meetings say it's their favourite few hours of the week or the month, because they have an opportunity to brainstorm, discuss, vent and share their own bookkeeping world. Bookkeeping can be a lonely profession, but the meetings mean, for a few hours of the week, members are among people who have experienced the sorts of situations that only bookkeepers face and together, as a group, we can navigate through.
‘I thought a group of bookkeepers would be so dull. I was so wrong!‘
- Moana, first-time attendee
3. The ICB membership helps you find work.
Once you become a member, the ICB lists your name and details on their website, meaning small business owners seeking support can contact you directly. This is pretty standard across all similar organisations, but the job opportunities don’t stop there with the ICB, mainly because of the relationships that have developed through the ICB network.
Based on specifics such as job location, expertise required or unavailability, we frequently share jobs opportunities within the group. Just the other day, an ICB member needed someone to fill her regular day job for five weeks and another ICB member stepped up to fill the role. Being a member of the ICB means you've got a support network you can have confidence in to fill roles or ‘locum’ for you – while you can actually go off and enjoy your holiday, for example. This is really important for business, and especially when operating as a sole trader, as many bookkeepers do.
4. The ICB offers straightforward technical support.
If you find yourself perplexed by an unusual scenario, you can always turn to the ICB for assistance. They can normally help or at least point you in the right direction. Using this support has saved me hours of confusion – and probably saves my clients significant hassle as well!
5. The ICB offers conferences, seminars and CPE!
Part of the requirements of maintaining ongoing professional and BAS agent status is undertaking continual professional education. As you’d expect, the ICB run conferences and educational support groups (in addition to the monthly network meetings) which are always well attended.
The ICB also distribute an educational member’s newsletter, and provide online webinars and podcasts. They also have a wealth of resources, including templates and checklists, available on their site.
6. Discounts and cashback – my favourite ICB membership benefit!
The ICB have a relationship with group buying organisation http://www.icbenefits.com.au/. Free membership with this organisation (included in your ICB membership) entitles you to discounts and cashback offers of everything you can imagine. Personally, I love the 13 per cent discount I get at Marks and Spencers webstore and treat myself every so often. This year alone I’ve saved over $100. Again, savings like these make the ICB membership a no-brainer!
I highly value my membership to the ICB. It’s a grassroots movement that really has a deep understanding of and respect for freelance bookkeepers – and I’ve not even mentioned our annual Christmas parties! I unreservedly recommend joining the ICB if you’re operating in any capacity as a BAS agent and feel you would benefit from having a support network around you.