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Now she’s been an accountant for 32 years with Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Tauranga and its predecessors. Fiona is a Business Advisory Services director, who’s also raised two children, paved the way for other working mums, and established business relationships across the Bay of Plenty. She’s captivated by the variety in her career and loves hearing clients talk about their lives and work so that she can help tailor paths to their goals.
Fellow Tauranga director Ian Renner says she’s futuristic – a good communicator and strategic thinker who gets to the crux of complex issues and simplifies them for everyone.
This ability is also helpful when issues weigh on clients’ minds, making it harder for them to see the bigger picture. “Sometimes people concentrate on a small problem, but their intended ‘fixes’ can create a bigger problem,” says Fiona. “So it’s important to consider the wider impact.”
Earlier in her career, she went on secondment as Chief Financial Officer for two Tauranga companies and the experiences were invaluable. Fiona saw the “other side” of business (including an internal audit) and also absorbed lessons from the CEOs: The importance of being “even” and kind with staff, and how to not sweat the small stuff. With the latter, she says it helps to look beyond the little things to the bigger issues that often sit behind those feelings.
It’s why her business advisory sessions are generally conducted like a friendly interview – her ongoing questions get to the core of matters to enable more meaningful conversations. “There's nothing I like better than having a big chat and as we’re doing it, I'm trying to work out exactly how clients operate, where they see themselves and what their goals are.
“For accountants to really do our magic, we have to build a relationship with clients and know what’s important to them. It’s important that clients feel comfortable with telling me everything because I need to know all their pressures so that I can assess the best way to fix them.”
The other side of her work is the valuations that she and fellow director Brent Rogers provide to clients who are selling or buying a business or selling shares to employees (often to encourage long-term retention).
Fiona says these are typically very interesting. She and Brent look at income streams and use history to help predict future performance. This process involves drilling down into where the value sits and the risks attached to each business.
The valuations and business advisory work bring days filled with variety and enjoyment, from diversity in clients to the types, sizes and stages of their businesses. “That's the thing that keeps me buzzing – you don't know what any day will give you,” says Fiona. “I also like being on the strategic and marketing committees of our organisation. Setting direction for the betterment of everyone really floats my boat – and helping people achieve their financial goals.”
Fiona sees business owners as generally being optimists, and she comes in with realism “in the nicest way possible”.
Ian says that Fiona tends to be very positive, even while being direct, and is a hard worker and good communicator… and then there’s another thing that charms him: “One of the most endearing things is her laugh, which is quite loud.”
She brings that positivity to one of her other great loves – cooking. Fiona doesn’t take the safe route of familiar dishes when entertaining guests, “because for me, the fun is in making something new and I’ll do so even if it's important that it doesn't fail. I just see a recipe and go, ‘ooh, that might be interesting’. I've had a couple of disasters, but I just serve a glass of wine before my guests eat it, and then it should be alright.”
Outside of work, she also enjoys watching movies and reading, and on a fine day you might see her riding her e-bike, walking or boating at sea with her husband.
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