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How I lead my regional practice with a ‘fire in my belly’

Women in Finance Awards Regional Professional of the Year winner Cheryl Mallett shares how she went from losing $10 a week to managing and steering an accounting firm after its founding principal passed away unexpectedly.

My Story Reporter 07 August 2019
— 2 minute read

Where did you start your working life and where are you at now? 

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I started my working life as a shop assistant at what was then Katies Vogue — now known as Katies. I had a natural flair for numbers and ended up being in charge of stock controls. Where have I ended up now? As managing director of a small accountancy firm, Vita Gustafson & Associates, with 16 team members, and trying to spread the passion for helping people get their tax affairs correct.

What personal wins and struggles have impacted your career? 

I found my passion as a tax accountant after I had my kids and applied for a casual position at H&R Block. I did their exam and aced it! That prompted me to take my education further; however, studying, raising two babies and a school-age boy and holding down a part-time accounting position was a very large struggle! My biggest win was moving our firm forward as a successful accounting practice after the founding principal passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

Were your salary expectations realistic when you started out? 

I moved to the accounting firm I now own with no expectations regarding salary. I was just grateful that someone would hire me on my terms, including allowing me to work school hours and give time off to attend classes and for exams. In July school holidays of each year when I had to put my kids into all day care, I would actually earn negative $10 per week!

What advice would you give your graduate self? 

Stay passionate and don’t lose the “fire in your belly”; it’s what sets you apart from other accountants.

If you could change one thing about the accounting profession, what would it be? 

The “chest thumping” that goes on where accountants (and lawyers for that matter) think they are some kind of hero for working 15-plus hours per day. It doesn’t make a good professional, and contributes to being a lousy human.

Is your job fun? 

Absolutely! You should see the entrance to my office at the moment to celebrate my win in the Women in Finance Award. Each client has to walk through an archway full of balloons! The staff were concerned that our clients wouldn’t notice.

Does your job look like what you expected it to? 

Yes, and more. Because income tax is such an emotional subject, I get a lot of satisfaction making it “easy” for our clients. I love running a business and dragging my staff along for the ride — it’s not just me that is successful; my team get to climb the mountain of success as well.

What is your favourite part of your work? 

The clients, and my workday family. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them!

How I lead my regional practice with a ‘fire in my belly’
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