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Real Business : Winter 2008
REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 2, 2008 19 randy larcombe What do you look for when you’re hiring someone out of uni? DaviD: Good people and communication skills are essential – I can deal with the grades not being there. I’m after someone with an inquisitive mind; when everyone else is going right they go left, I love that. I want people who can look beyond their salary. If they’re good at their job I don’t care what I pay them, it’s secondary. Probably the most attractive thing is loyalty – loyalty, integrity and a touch of humility. An imagination doesn’t hurt either. It costs around $75,000 for us to train somebody, so when we’re hiring someone we can’t afford to say, “OK, we’re probably only going to have you for a year.” By the time that person is making their first dollar for the firm it’s probably year two or year three. Maja: What sort of things would you expect a graduate to be able to perform? DaviD: Not a lot, actually. I think the best you can hope for as an employer is that they’re enthusiastic and they turn up for work on time. I had one guy here who always turned up late, and his excuse was that he’d been at uni for so long. Sometimes you feel like a parent. Every new employee is given three-month and six-month targets they have to meet. And new employees are told they have to do small jobs and they have to do them in bite-sized pieces; you can’t eat the elephant in one go. As cool as being thrown in at the deep end sounds you can end up with some expensive mistakes. Maja: Do you have any tips for graduates? DaviD: Once you leave uni you have a core understanding of accounting but what really needs to be worked on is personal discipline and professionalism. It’s also important to know what you want out of your career. You can’t leave it up to your employer to determine one for you. And it’s important when you’re applying for a job to work out what your goals are and whether they marry up with the goals of the company you’re going to work for. n probably the most attractive thing is loyalty – loyalty, integrity and a touch of humility. an imagination doesn’t hurt either ‘Why don’t you just do the lot?’ Then we set ourselves up as an accounting and practice management firm. I’m proud of being an accountant. Because accountants work with a client’s figures all the time they can move from being a bookkeeper to someone who can actually give advice, and the advice is actually based on evidence which gives it credibility. You can then start driving those people’s businesses. Maja: I don’t want to get mixed up with a big accounting team in a major company. That’s because I think you often get put into a little corner and forgotten about. You don’t get to work across the various facets of accounting. I’d rather work for a smaller firm and get to see all of the different areas. Why should you settle for being put inside a little box? DaviD: It’s important not to be impatient. If you really want to learn more you can head off to the library and read up on stuff. Your time will come but you have to understand that there’s a time frame. We, for a short time, put employees into menial roles because you have to understand a business from A to Z, not just your area of expertise. To understand the total client experience you’ve got to understand the basics of a business. Now, do you spend six months on it? No, of course not. But you have to do it so you understand you’re not working in a box. Doing it like this makes a more confident and well-rounded employee. In bigger organisations it doesn’t work like that. In a lot of cases you’ll end up in one area and you’ll get stuck there for the next 20 years. The key to being a fulfilled employee is knowing what the end point is. You don’t mind doing the little jobs if you know that you’re contributing to something bigger – that you are part of that exciting process. Maja: When I go to an interview I try very hard to get across that I’m different from other Gen Yers – that I’m a really hard worker. I mean, I’ve been working since I was a teenager. When you’re studying you’re just so busy, and I’ve had to spend most of my spare time working, so it’s very hard to fit in anything extra-curricular – which I know employers are looking for. the debit and credit side of things can be a little bland, I think, but the big picture stuff, helping with strategy is really interesting. DaviD: I started out running a practice management consultancy rather than just straight accounting. And I guess it was because there was this tag about accountants being boring; they wear the brown suits. They’re also seen as being very reactionary and I didn’t want to have that label. And for a good 10 years I didn’t tell anyone I was an accountant. I used to sit there and teach accountants how to do things and then one client said to me:
Issue 3 2008