Where did you start your working life and where are you at now?
My very first cash job was as a builder’s labourer, but after nailing in a few decks realised I was better suited to non-manual labour jobs, that was very hard work!
For most of my uni days, I was a promoter for Johnny Walker scotch and actually sold perfume at David Jones! But I was always an accountant.
My dad just celebrated 40 years in public practice and I always was around his office helping to code bank statements into Solution 6.
I founded Sequel CFO in 2014 after a stint as a banker, because I could see a huge opportunity to be inside growing businesses as their financial mentor, helping them make better decisions. In 2017, Sequel CFO started franchising to give more accountants an opportunity to become financial mentors. Last year, I brought on a CEO and business partner, Maria Robinson, to grow the business further with me moving to an MD role. The change from trusted professional to a business owner has been huge and really challenged me and how I view my purpose in the business.
Why did you become an accountant?
I probably wasn’t going to be anything else. Dad is such a proud accountant, it’s in the blood.
The CA program was the hardest thing I have ever done and I am so proud of getting through it. Last year, I became an FCA and I literally wear my badge to industry events. We all should. We should be proud of what we achieved, the mental discipline and the intellectual challenge.
As my role has changed in Sequel CFO, I now need to lead my franchisees to be their own business owners. Our franchisees get that accounting is about helping business owners make better commercial decisions. This is a long way from what accounting was when I started my career.
What personal wins and struggles have impacted your career?
If you want to start your own business, support comes from home. Your family have to be 100 per cent behind your decision, because sometimes you make decisions for your employees, clients or your vision of the future that isn’t always the best for your family. This could be the unusual hours you work or accepting that the cushy monthly pay cheque isn’t coming in, and you have to fight for what you earn.
I have always had mentors, too. Paid and unpaid. People who have done what I want to do or who I respect for the way they handled a tough situation. My mentors have had a huge impact through both highs and lows. From Marco Carlei at Moore Stephens early in my career, who made me feel comfortable about being a square peg in a round hole (definitely an early struggle and now a strength), to people who have come along to join the Sequel CFO journey.
Most recently, bringing in our CEO and a business partner has been a huge win for the business and me personally because, if you want your business to grow, you have to grow, too.
Do you have work/life balance?
It needs to be redefined. Work/life balance used to be hours you worked and hours you played. Now it’s more integrated and we are always connected, always on.
Work/life balance is about having the control to be in the moment of whatever you’re doing and satisfying all your needs. This includes work, social, family, spiritual, mental and emotional health. No one ever has it completely, because every day you need to make a decision about what you do with your time.
We have built a business that lets everyone in our team enjoy the balance if they want. For example, our first franchisee, Michael Little’s granddaughter, lives overseas with her family and he hasn’t seen them in two years. He will spend next month in Germany with them on a workcation and we have spent months educating his clients and his global team (who work for his clients) in the Philippines on service levels and using video meetings instead of physical ones. He has the support of his clients and our field support team to do this. So it’s not just about me having balance, but having a business model where all our franchisees can, too.
Were your salary expectations realistic when you started out?
2004 was pre-mining boom and literally the best time to start your career. The big four were offering sign-on bonuses and graduate jobs were in abundance. Now is different though, but it was great to see recent data saying accounting jobs are in high demand. It’s just that staff want more than just great pay. Work conditions, career progression and the type of work (and how it’s done, usually using technology) are conversations employers need to be ready to have.
What advice would you give your graduate self?
The same advice I was given later in my career. Listen with the intent to learn, not with the intent to respond.
If you could change one thing about the accounting profession, what would it be?
We need to get more engaged with our professional bodies and we need to re-enter the public debate. Recently, Bill Shorten spoke disparagingly about accounting services, and I couldn’t help but think [that if] we were more public with our business insights, we could have avoided it.
For years, we have been frustrated with professional bodies, but they are what keeps us as a profession; even if they don’t always act as professionally as we want, the only way we can influence them is to get involved.
For example, I am working with the CA Catalyst. It’s their innovation agenda and designed to help accountants get ready for the future by moving up the value chain. But if as members we don’t engage with it, we aren’t really helping solve the problem of feeling like we don’t get value.
Is your job fun?
Love it. I’ve been exposed to brilliant minds and brilliant people. In fact, this month I have been the CA in residence at Stone & Chalk, a fintech hub. Working with well-organised start-ups has been a great experience. These are people who think that everything is on the table and they just need to show up, work hard, learn, and combined with some luck, take complete control of their futures. I never in a million years thought that being an accountant would enable me to do this. Being a chartered accountant has opened a lot of doors for me.
What frustrates you the most about your job?
We are going through massive change. To work, to business practices, everything. And for me, moving from a technical accounting role to business leadership has been very challenging.
Does your job look like what you expected it to?
I chose to make my job. To start my own business so I get a say in what my job is. Bringing on a business partner to help shape that to create the most value to my business has helped a lot. So whilst I didn’t expect to be doing this 10 years ago, at the same time, I was always going to end up doing something like this.
What is your favourite part of your work?
Meeting brilliant people. Our CFOs have run multibillion-dollar companies, grown businesses from five to 500 staff and our clients are just taking the world on. Through the podcasts I do, I have met the most inspirational Australians and I get so much energy from them and seeing how people respond to their stories.
Any parting words?
Whatever you are thinking: go do it. Find the strength to make a plan and get started. What you are doing now doesn’t have to be what you do for ever, but the future of work will favour those who take control of their careers.