Matthew has wanted to be an accountant for as long as he can remember. He joined Burgess Hodgson in 2001 and now is a partner at the same firm.
Why did you choose a career in this industry?
In all honesty, and sad though it may be, it’s the industry I’ve wanted to go into since I can remember. My father was (and still is) a partner at Burgess Hodgson and I always remember discussing fundamental business issues around the kitchen table.
These could be anything from how to structure a fair deal, how do you incentivise people to work hard, how do you calculate fair pay or how should an individual fairly split their assets in their will. Undoubtedly these questions were simplified, but were borne out of a wide range of commercial decisions facing clients on a daily basis. The issues we discussed were always generic and focused on how to manage businesses; I always found the way in which the family and the business interacted fascinating.
The way an accountant can help people shape their business within their life-plan and family situation, appeared more valuable than simply preparing accounts or undertaking audits. Taking the information from accounts, combining this with an individual’s vision, and translating it into something tangible, meaningful, and workable that could make a positive difference to them is what first caught my imagination.
If you provide this service for enough individuals, you really have the opportunity to make a positive difference to the local community. It’s an industry where you can become your client’s most trusted adviser.
What is a typical day like for you?
In a very clichéd way, there is really no such thing as a typical day. I check my emails every day but, other than that, everything else, while not exactly unscripted, will certainly be different from day to day. For instance, today I’m dictating an interview for a careers magazine but, a couple of days ago, I received an email from a client asking me if he should spend £1 million – and he wanted an answer that evening. Consequently, I had to spend the day writing an investment report for him, something I could not have anticipated.
Tomorrow will start with a conference with the bank; then I’ll come back to the office to work on one audit and plan another. In the evening I will be attending a networking event. I guess throughout a week I will tend to have one trip to London where I’ll try to visit at least two clients and maybe meet up with a potential client or a business contact. I’ll have a few meetings with clients with regards to their accounts and the advice that comes from them and then, when I’m lucky, I’ll be able to shut my door and actually do some accounts or audit work myself.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I most enjoy about the job is really getting involved with clients who are running their own business. To me, it is eye-opening and stimulating to go and see a factory working or a busy garage mending vehicles or a buzzing sales team constantly on the phones. But, more than that, from an accountant’s point of view, seeing how that translates into accounts is quite a satisfying process. And, if you can improve the internal accounting procedures, that in itself is a reward.
However, for me, the best bit is taking those accounts and translating the meaning of them for your client to help them make decisions that will hopefully result in them both improving profits and, in many cases, improving their lifestyle as well.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I’m afraid I don’t have wild dreams of worldwide fame and boundless wealth. What can I say – I’m an accountant! Most important to me is to be a good dad and husband. It may seem a long way away as you step out of university, but such life-changing events can come around quick and, clichéd though it is, they have a massive bearing on your outlook on life.
Professionally, my main aim is to enjoy my partnership for the next 40 years and help my clients reach the work/life balance they are looking for. This could include:
- Assisting them in making their businesses more successful, profitable and well-run.
- Identifying and making the most of gaps in the market.
- Planning tax affairs.
- Helping them structure the business so it works the way they want.
- Making sure that their assets are inherited as desired.
In short, I would like to give the best possible complete advice to my clients. Of course anyone would hope that good work would be recognised, but I would hope that any growth in the firm was based on a client focused approach and an appreciation of this within the local community. There’s no longevity in growth for growth’s sake.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
The first thing I would say is ‘be realistic’. Much of what I’ve said I like about the industry and my career aren’t things that happen on day one. There is a lot of learning to do, not just in academic terms with regards to the accounting standards and how they work but also in learning how to deal with clients, how to run your own business, how to deal with staff both junior and senior to you, how to work within a team, how to win work, how to market yourself in your business, and how to make sure people are actually willing to pay for what you’re doing. As I say, this doesn’t happen on day one.
There is a lot of hard work and undoubtedly some dull moments throughout the training process, but if you think you can get to that goal, then I would say the pain’s worthwhile.