It becomes so easy to gloss over achievements, but I have chosen not to only reflect on this for my journey, but for my team to pause and take stock of all we have achieved together with a whopping 10 awards in 18 months. With our client's support, we have been able to game plan our 2020, but feel a sense of gratitude for every accolade and every new client who has now become part of our story. So, with this blog, I'm taking a minute to pause, reflect and really let what we have done sink in.
I started my firm HA Accounting on a whim as a sole trader from my mum's kitchen table in Tocumwal. I was 24 & a newly registered tax agent, with the faith that my clients would support me. Deep down, I knew that I wanted to make a difference by taking my multi-service approach to business & wealth and shape my approach to my clients in a holistic way. Everything that I envisioned was about helping my clients work to their own purpose and measuring success by helping people to create their goals and achieve results.
People ask me how I did it - and I can honestly say that it was about achieving my own goal of providing a holistic service through accounting, financial planning, business advisory, and development. By looking at all the businesses and the wealth hats a person wears, we were able to form goals and become the accountability coach to get them there.
Rewind back to 2016 - my client base started with 30. I grew it to 300 in the space of just 9 months, purely based on social media amplifying the word of mouth process and my clients referring and helping me share my message. HA Accounting Pty Ltd was born and commenced with Laura coming on board to run our Tocumwal office, while I moved to the Albury office - which was all still operating within our homes. The loyalty and belief Laura had in me and my vision back then, to leave stable employment to join a start-up with next to no systems has never been forgotten. Laura has become the backbone of the HA Accounting team and the reason our Tocumwal office has continued to grow.
After just one year, we launched a financial planning division, to offer a holistic business and wealth service, which started our vision of creating the business and wealth collective. With our progress and growth to over 900 clients by the start of June 2018, we won our first award at the local level for New Outstanding Business 2018 at the Albury/Wodonga Business Awards. This award was so special to our team as it meant we had not only been delivering results and bringing about change in regional Australia but also in a holistic, genuine manner. Laura remembers my speech with the team, and it was an emotional, special and a genuinely rewarding experience for all of us.
With connecting with industry leaders with the Xero community, we were pushed to not only keep progressing with our levels of innovation and purpose, as it propelled us to go after industry award with over 100 clients and a team of 7. We were fortunate enough to win the New Firm and Fastest Growing Firm of the Year for Victoria at the SMSF and Accounting Awards. Winning these two awards with starting from kitchen tables in a town of just 2000 people, to running the most progressive, new and fastest-growing firm in the state was a sign of championing the industry - and was showing everyone that the next generation of young guns that the world is your oyster. By having a clearly identified purpose and community mindset, you will be supported, and anything is possible.
I was personally awarded SMSF & Accounting Professional of the Year (Regional) and that meant our impact on local regional Australian lives with start-ups and farmers with complex SMSF and or CGT, tax and business development issues were finally able to have a local professional solution other than a Top 10 firm or traveling to metropolitan Australia. To win this award at the age of 26 was huge amongst peers with over 20 years’ experience at top tier firms and has really further motivated me to continue making my impact now not only to my small local region but to challenge, change and grow my industry to enable a community over competition mindset.
We moved into our new offices just before the awards and were able to celebrate our wins with our community. The next week we had a drunk driver crash through our building - so it was instantly into recovery-mode leading into Christmas. The reality check of needing to get back to client-centric results was evident pretty quickly and we thank all our clients in our Albury office for sticking by us and being patient through the renovations again and challenges the next few months presented.
Our first award for 2019 was the Berrigan Shire Business Awards for our Tocumwal office and this was a real win for us as the category was People's Choice and Best Customer Service. We were so proud that an accounting firm can inspire and create a movement in a traditional region for innovation and community engagement. We like to think we make accounting fun and that this is the reason that our community voted us the most popular business for the shire.
My partner and I founded The Travelling Podiatrist in late 2018 and we couldn’t be prouder of the growth of the practice. It was nominated for the New Business award but unfortunately missed out on the title. TTP has remained an incredible start-up concept and I’m proud to say we are now in 11 locations with a team of 4 and I am heading up the company as its CEO. I couldn't be prouder of the team at TTP and I'm looking forward to working with them more during further expansion in 2020.
2019 brought us to our first Australian Accounting Awards and we were to the most nominated firm in the country with 7 awards at the national level. We were fortunate enough to win the Start-up Firm of the Year and we couldn’t be prouder of the community and client support that lead us to taking out the national award.
With the changes and challenges in the financial planning industry we had to make some hard decisions and it has not been smooth sailing for us. We made the decision to cease our financial planning license and joint venture with Broadland due to the increased costs and we just couldn’t justify charging our regional clients up to 10% of their annual pay for advice. We are still involved with strategies for our clients but are proud to partner with Broadland Financial Planning to help our clients look at their wealth creation strategies in an affordable client-centric goal approach.
The Albury Wodonga Business Awards were next up, and it was great that this year I was able to win Young Business Entrepreneur of the Year. This was my first step since the merger of financial planning and significant team change but also as leading The Travelling Podiatrist through its enormous growth much the same as the accounting. My team and Scott really enabled me to take some self-care initiatives but also supported me through all the changes in my leadership and I feel so humbled by their continued faith in my leadership and that to me means the world as a young business leader.
The SMSF Advisor’s Editor awarded HA Accounting the Editor's Choice award for SMSF & Accounting Firm of the Year for Victoria. To be fortunate enough to win back to back at the awards but for it to be the choice of the industry was quite humbling and has changed our direction into 2020 to not only be client-centric but be the voice for change and representation of regional Australia whilst there is significant changes in the accounting and financial planning industries. We govern for the people and we don't want to lose our regional voice throughout the process.
The team has changed so much since the start but Laura stepping into the director role as of 2020 and Jessica taking over the Albury office having a consistent purpose and shared values internally and with our clients and work day in and day out has enabled me to be the leader I am growing into. I love my team like family and cannot wait for them to challenge and grow the firm and clients even further in 2020. Jess’s skills in multi-entity and a CFO role, with a consistently personable approach, gives the team the strongest holistic approach from strategy to implementation in all facets of business across the border and can't wait for her to lead our people and product.
The national My Business Awards in Sydney in November were a special moment for me, as my mentor Shannon Smit was up for the same award of Regional Business Leader of the Year as I was. Shannon went on to win the award for all her contributions to the industry, and I was honoured with Young Business Leader of the Year under 10 employees. This was a huge step for me as a leader of small businesses in accounting, finance, and podiatry but also as someone who is leading the industry as a young regional millennial leader. I was just so humbled to be on the leadership board twice but to walk away with a national award for leadership has been a huge feat one that I do not take lightly and I couldn’t do it or be the person I am today without the level of support the TTP and BWC team provide me.
Last but not least was the Accountants Daily MYOB 30 Under 30 Awards. I was fortunate enough to win the Multi-Service Award, which sums up my approach to the accounting industry perfectly. To be in the room of inspirational young future industry leaders was amazing to be a part of and help foster a sense of community to keep challenging the industry to grow and be better. To see my bestie in the industry Sarah Lawrence support mentor and encourage so many of the finalists and winners and the support from finalists to winners and a sense of community over rivalry made me incredibly proud of the industry and where it's headed.
Each award for the team and I have means different things and represents us on our ever-growing journey. I do hope that we are always growing to be a better version of ourselves then the day before but this story goes on to inspire the little guy, the regional business owner or the future dreamer to own their fear and vulnerability to go forth and create an impact on the world as you can be a young millennial regional kid with a grand vision and with sticking to a plan sharing your vision and purpose you can obtain support from a thriving community and make an impact. So future leaders go forth take charge of your plan and share with the world your unique gifts as I have and will continue to do so with the team here at the Business & Wealth Collective in 2020 and beyond.