Tradie WAGS: transforming the tradie biz one wife at a time

Jigsaw Tax and Advisory founder Joanne McCauley knows better than most the issues many tradies face in keeping their businesses afloat. As the wife and mother of a family of tradies, she’s done her fair share of bookkeeping in her time as a Tradie WAG.

In fact, her experience has prompted McCauley to start her own newsletter and website. offering useful tips for the women behind the men, who are keeping the nation’s trade services up and running.

McCauley’s background in tax and finance and her experience as the wife of a man with a flourishing trade business has seen her well-equipped to advise on the cashflow and accounting issues of many tradies.

Despite an early interest in mathematics, McCauley says she had little notion that she would eventually have a career as an accountant and financial adviser.

“I started working in tax in 2002 which is quite a long time after leaving school in 1986. It was a little like starting all over again. Tax is quite different to traditional accounting, and it has its unique set of skills. It is very closely aligned with law and you need to be able to read and interpret legislation,” McCauley said. “I realised I didn’t know that much at all so I started my Master of Taxation.”

McCauley admits it was tough to combine a career and study with raising a young family, but tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) that ultimately the learning was incredible.

“The skills I developed at understanding tax law have made me a much more knowledgeable accountant.”

Her biggest learning?

“Probably that tax is always evolving and you can never know everything. You need to keep up to date with your reading and you will spend a lot of time researching. The challenge is being able to speak to your clients in a simple language they understand. Quoting legislation to your clients will only confuse them. Explaining in plain English is a much better approach.”

It is this plain English tactic that has seen her blog ‘Jigsaw Jo’, do so well and given her the inspiration for Tradie WAGS.

“I deal with a number of tradies and I feel like I am always repeating myself, explaining what they need to do and how they can be compliant.”

“Some tradies are very receptive to this advice, but often they find it difficult to execute the solutions. Others are just not interested. It is getting more and more important to be compliant as information is shared between government agencies, reporting requirement for tradies increase, and the focus on the cash economy naturally will increase the focus on our Tradies. I had been toying with the idea of a Tradie forum to share information, but I wasn’t sure how to make this work. Something in my model didn’t feel quite right.

McCauley tells KBB then she had a light bulb moment.

“It is not the tradies we need to target, it is the Tradie WAG.  The wives, girlfriends and mothers are often the ones left with the paperwork but they are not always the ones talking to the tax advisors. The Tradie WAGS need information to empower them to help their family business be successful.”

McCauley will officially launch Tradie WAGS at the Your Money & Your Life expo event at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on November 9.

“Tradie WAGS will be a website that contains information and informative blogs tailored to the needs to the WAGS. We will have a monthly newsletter that highlights the important elements so that the WAGS can be updated on a regular basis. We also plan to host networking events such as Tradie WAGS lunches. The WAGS can enjoy a lunch with some inspirational speakers while gaining tips for their family business. We will run training sessions on products such as Xero and have some fun merchandise down the track, such as a Tradie calendar.”

McCauley believes with compliance becoming vital and the introduction of Single Touch Payroll looming as compulsory, the time for a service such as Tradie WAGS is rife.

“There is a genuine lack of understanding in the tax obligations for small business and it is just plain difficult.

“If my firm is getting asked questions repeatedly, and seeing a lack of understanding among our clientele, chances are so are other accounting firms. I don’t know that there is anything quite like this in the market and I think there is a need to get this information across in a simple and fun way.”

McCauley advises anyone doing the books, whether for themselves or their partner, needs to invest in a cloud accounting solution.

“There are plenty of solutions out there including Xero, QBO and MYOB. Get some tailored training and then start to make a habit of keeping it up to date. Once you have bank feeds attached to your product it should become a daily process that takes only a few minutes, and your bank reconciliation will be done.

“Link it to something else that you do every day. For example, when you have that cup of coffee first thing in the morning, or that first cuppa after you have dropped the kids at school, mark off the transactions from the day before. By the time you have finished your cuppa you will have it all done.”

McCauley suggests sometimes the biggest challenge a tradie WAG faces is communication.

“Men are not always the best communicators when it comes to business and sometimes they don’t want to share what is happening with their WAGS. This is a challenge and one that each couple needs to discuss so that the business can move forward. Assuming the WAG is involved in the business, I think one of the biggest challenge can be a lack of organisation.

“Tradies are not always the best at keeping their receipts and legally you need to be keeping this information. There are apps out there that can help with that, where the Tradie takes a photo of the receipt so they are all stored in the one central place. Each WAG would have her own challenges but there are solutions out there to make life easier, it’s just a case on knowing about it.”

Helping Tradie WAGS find these solutions is the impetus behind the newsletter and website.

“I would hope that we can provide a fun and interesting service to this group of women that will empower them to be a knowledgeable resource in their family business,” McCauley said.

“Accounting and tax is boring, but we intend to put a humorous spin on it. We will engage with the WAGS to find out what they want. It is for them after all. Together we can build a community of like-minded women who can share their experiences, learn some new skills and support each other.”

Joanne McCauley will be a guest speaker at the Your Money & Your Life (YMYL) expo event. YMYL is a free personal finance expo for every day Aussies. Find out more.

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Cec is the managing editor of KBB. She is a multimedia professional with over fifteen years experience as an editor on titles as diverse as SX, CULT, Better Pictures, Total Rock, MTV, fasterlouder, mynikonlife and Fantastic Living. She has spent the past four years working as a news journalist covering all the issues that matter in the political, health and LGBTIQ arena. She is the Head of Content at Pinstripe Media and a recent convert to the world of small business.

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