The Power of Starting With ‘Why”
Listen to this episode here: RThe Power of Starting With ‘Why”
Welcome to our podcast TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz, where Paul interviews stars from the accounting industry, sharing all the important numbers and measurements.
In this episode we are lucky to have Aly Garrett, the founder of All In Advisory, winner of ‘Australian Accounting Awards 2020’. She shared her stories of how to reset mindset, build resilience, and find joy in the very challenging accounting industry.
As the winner of the ‘2019 Women in Finance’, ‘Small Business Adviser & Principal of the Year’, ‘Top 50 Women in Accounting’, ‘2018 SA SMSF & Accounting Professional of the Year’, ‘Partner of the Year’, ‘Overall Excellence Awards’, Founder of one of the ‘Top 50 Cloud Accountants in Australia’ and winner of the ‘2020 Accountants Daily Start Up Firm of the Year’- All In Advisory; Aly has definitely achieved a lot. We unpacked some of her suggestions and advices in this blog.
The awards you and your team had won are very impressive, how do you feel about it?
Our General Manager also won the ‘2018 Accountant of the Year’ and the ‘Women in Finance’ awards. It sounds like a lot. I think it is an accumulation of 25 years of investment into our profession, our clients, ourselves as individuals, and the team that we bring forward. For us, it was about blowing your own horn and saying, these are all of the things that we have contributed to the profession and to our clients, these are the things that we try and do differently and backing that up with client testimonials. We’re really proud of that.
What’s the ultimate success driver for you? How did you get into the accounting industry?
I think it’s the fact that I absolutely love my job, love my clients and I love my team. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have always wanted to be an accountant.
It was either being a trainer or an accountant. I chose accountant. My dad is also an accountant, I think it runs in the genes. As a kid, I used to go into businesses and count the number of people and try to calculate revenue. I think I was always leaning towards the business side.
I was lucky to land my first role straight out of high school, where I worked full time and studied part-time. I started in admin, went through to junior accountant, intermediate senior – every single layer of an accountant in a professional firm. Thanks to that, I was able to know and understand each of those levels and I’ve been able to have the benefit to work with some amazing clients. I have had some of my clients for over 25 years. They are incredibly loyal and concrete and incredibly successful.
My passion really comes from just loving what I do, feeling like I’m contributing value, and helping others by lifting them up and supporting them. At the same time, supporting my family and friends brings me the greatest joy. I feel like I’m just lucky because I’ve found something that I love and that I’m good at.
I’ve worked in this profession that has changed so much, but I’ve loved the change. I love where it’s going. I love the tech, I love the innovation, I love the advisory. Over that period of time, it actually feels like I’m working in a completely different business. What this industry has been through over the last five years in terms of cloud and tech is an opportunity. I work a lot in change management, helping a lot of clients move their desktop systems to cloud and a lot of the tech is really easy. It’s actually the changing of mindset and behaviours that are the most difficult part. But that’s also the part that brings the greatest joy to me because we’re changing and bringing efficiency and value. If you see that as an opportunity rather than a problem, it has this real shift in dynamic.
Can you share some stories about your firm?
We won ‘Start Up Firm of the Year 2020’. This team award is important to me because we have been recognised as a whole, and it’s something that the team can hold on to and really feel valued for. The way that I described is we’re a 25-year start-up because, between us, we have over 50 years of experience that we bring into the table as a start-up.
We were able to develop these cloud ecosystems that work, integrate, and automate. We’ve reduced admin, reengineered processes, and challenged the status quo.
One of the best things we ever did was we brought in a guy called Mark, who isn’t an accountant. We said to him, challenge everything that we’re doing because if it doesn’t make sense to you, we’re just doing it because we’ve always done it that way. He would challenge us, and we would literally sit there and say, “We’re doing it this way, but there’s got to be a better way”.
It was really nice to have it done. We were able to challenge all of these preconceived ideas.
Has this team award somehow affected the team?
My team is engaged and positive. They’re all superstars, and I appreciate the effort that they give above and beyond this business. When they love what they do as well, they feel like they have a purpose, and that we’re delivering value. They also see the difference we made. The environment we create for us is quite agile and very flexible. The award is a sign of recognition that we’re on the right path.
It drives the vision, passion, and engagement. I think engagement is a really big one. With engagement, we can actually do things proactively rather than reactively.
In your experience, what are the important principles?
In my career, there were many times during a client meeting, when it really gets to the point that decisions need to be made, and hard decisions need to be made, I tell my clients all the time “You’re either all in or you’re all out.”
Why? We started All In so it can make sense. That’s how I want to run – all in. That’s how I want our clients to run their businesses, make that choice, be passionate about it, find out your why, and drive for it. Go all in, do what you need to do, because you’re going to see the biggest success from that. Hence, the saying “All in, or all-out”, there’s no halfway.
Also, resilience is one of those words that has an enormous amount of meaning to me. I have had moments in my career where I could have made choices either way, to either go hard or to just literally walk away. When I make a decision, it is like putting a stick in the sand and saying “This is mine, I’m owning it. I’m going to work through it, it doesn’t matter what comes my way, I can work through these, I can rise above it, I can succeed”.
During my career as a director at Deloitte, my first marriage literally imploded overnight, and I didn’t see it coming. I had two little children, I became a single mum and I was trying to still go through this pathway to partnership at Deloitte, and I had to make choices.
I had to make some really conscious choices and to be resilient. My dad said to me at the time – the best advice I’ve ever got: “You can’t control everything, but you can control yourself.” So, that gave me this feeling of “I can do this”.
What are the important figures you’re measuring or tracking in your firm? Is there anything that you’re doing a little differently that you can share with our listeners?
I think we focus a lot on the outcome, and we track time.
We focus on profits; we have revenue goals for the team. One of the big ones, which I don’t think a lot of people focus on, is actually cash. Getting the cash in the door when we are very tight on our data days and payment terms.
We use products like Practice Ignition. In Xero, we use the auto-reminders and we’re very upfront with our clients around the cost, and fixing fees and the out of scope cost. In fact, we probably over-communicate, because we want to make sure that the revenue that we’re making is returning into profit, and then getting cash in the door.
I’ve worked in the micro, small, medium, large, the Big Four firms, and the data days could range from 30 to 90, and we’re sitting at around 14. That’s amazing. We have a 12-week plan system, where we work through business goals and personal goals. We ask each other, “How can I help you with it?” and “How can I support you?” It’s a really good post check to see where they’re at, do they need support, and what are the things that we’re going to help work through.
Can you share a piece of advice with our audience?
On a daily basis, find a little bit of joy in your day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it makes every day good.
There are many moments of joy for me, such as a cuddle with my 2-year-old or enjoy the gym. When I go to bed I think about these moments of joy for that day. It puts my head in a really good headspace even during COVID-19. If you just take a moment to be present and be engaged, you will get something from it.