What is your business doing to prepare for an ageing workforce?
While “The Great Resignation” became a focus in 2022, less attention has been given to what is now...
Jerome O’Sullivan, who graduated the University of Canterbury with accounting and marketing degrees, got into accounting because he’s always been interested in financial literacy and business, and how people create value. He loves the variety in his work, which has thus far spanned everything from helping farmers and forestry partnerships to hairdressers and restaurateurs.
He's a born and bred Cantabrian who began working at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Christchurch last year with three other accounting graduates. They were initially nervous, but the process was very welcoming, he says.
“When you’re working in an office of about 50 people like ours, you're going to find cool people with similar interests. Most of the accountants here are outgoing and sociable. We even have a netball team. It’s fun to see your workmates in a new light – seeing people who are generally quiet at the office on the netball court.”
Jerome has enjoyed the on-the-job training from managers and says some of the people who are helping them have only been accountants for a few years, which shows the rate of progression. “You do grow and evolve as a worker and a leader, and someone who can be relied on. There are always opportunities to grow and step up as an accountant and a person, even if it's just leadership within the social aspect of work life.
He also likes the hours, which enable him to go tramping and escape the city. In his downtime, he also enjoys music and is also a keen pianist. “Mid-tier accounting firms like Baker Tilly do care about you having work-life balance. I feel they know that they're not going to get the best out of you if you're working 12-hour days. If you just do your nine to five, you'll be happier and more productive, and you'll be much more valuable to the office.”
Angela Zhong had three main priorities when she was looking for an accounting role: To find an enjoyable workplace with good work-life balance and to utilise both her degrees. Her wishes were granted at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Auckland, where she’s been able to use her degrees in Commerce and Arts (majoring in Japanese and Asian studies), first as a summer intern and now as a Business Advisory graduate who regularly works with Team Japan.
“When we (the interns) got to know the teams, we realised everyone is very welcoming. Everyone's kind and while you have directors and managers, everyone communicates on the same level.”
Angela also quickly became an asset to the wider office, starting a Diversity and Inclusivity committee. It began with a Pink Shirt Day event and snowballed in size. They’ve since celebrated Matariki, Obon, Diwali and the Lunar New Year. “The feedback has been really good. It is special to be able to share your culture and traditions… and it's a nice feeling because you can tell people are genuinely interested.”
What she likes most about the job is working with supportive people. She can go straight to her manager or director if she has questions or feedback – and she’s been thriving on the variety of work, which has so far included compliance, financial reporting, crypto work and due diligence.
Angela says she’s loved solving problems and getting good outcomes, along with the feeling of team collaboration and ability to enjoy her day. “Learning how business works is fascinating,” she says. “Accounting really builds your business acumen. People might think it's quite manual work or you're just sitting at your desk all day, but it's not. It’s quite relationship-based and we’re constantly working on those skills, so if you like helping people it's a good role for you.
“When I started as an intern, one of the directors said ‘business advisors are like the GPs of the business world. We understand a bit of everything’. When deciding if you like accounting, it’s a good idea to find what you most enjoy about it. If you like travelling and being present with clients, then audit’s a great role. If you prefer working with clients and building strategies, business advisory or tax are great roles. There are many different opportunities and roles, just make sure it's the right one for you.”
Deanne Macdonald planned her career when she was just a wee blonde child. Having grown up on a farm, she wanted to marry a farmer and continue that lifestyle.
Instead she had a succession of other roles then, with encouragement from her husband Bruce, did a part-time accounting paper at a local polytechnic, achieving an “A+” to her surprise and excitement.
They also raised their two children while she completed her accounting diploma and degree. “Getting my degree then qualifying as a chartered accountant was a really big thing,” she says. “It was something I never thought I could do, but the more I learned the more I enjoyed it and I’m forever grateful to all the people whose support allowed me to achieve those milestones.”
She began her career at a Big Four accounting firm, but a chance meeting with a director from what was then Staples Rodway Taranaki led to her joining the firm in 2000. “I came to work here and I've never left and never want to leave.”
There are many things she quickly became enamoured with: Being exposed to numerous industries early in her career, the privilege of being someone who could help people succeed in business, and the warm feeling of being trusted when clients opened up about their lives and family
Deanne is one of those people who are universally loved – warm, enthusiastic, trustworthy and all-embracing. So when the team expanded to 50 staff and six directors in the mid-2000s, it was an easy decision to create a new position for her of Office General Manager. After 22 years with the firm, she loves her work as much as ever.
“I've built some incredible relationships with clients. I always thought accounting wasn't about people, but as advisors we become an important part of their lives. I've also seen young grads come through and love watching their progress. You see them grow and develop and think, ‘gosh, look at where you're at now’.
“We’ve got the best of both worlds. Our national and global network provides opportunity, expertise and reach. We’re big enough to have the benefits of the Big Four (accounting firms), but small enough to be friendly, personal and agile. The directors really care about our staff. It’s also an interesting company. You can’t begin to imagine how much you learn. It's not just doing the numbers – there's a very big ‘people’ side to it. We have good exposure to different industries, interesting clients and diverse projects, and no two days are the same.”
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