Business Leader and Accidental Accountant
Mitchell bit the bullet at a young age. He studied full time while working in his first full-time role. Here he shares insights from that time and how North Sydney Accounting firm, BridgePoint Group, is set to continue its growth.
I don’t know if I chose accounting, I actually fell into it to be honest. Having started studying commerce, my auntie was working at the same company as Neil Parker (BridgePoint Group’s MD). She mentioned the company had an opportunity, so with very little background preparation, I attended the job interview. I was keen to see what the role and the company was all about. They offered me the role, so I thought I’d give it a crack.
I was studying full time doing a Bachelor of Commerce via correspondence. Looking at part-time study of six years to get my degree was not appealing at all. So, I put my social life on hold, put my head down and got stuck into my new role and the degree. By studying full time I knocked the degree over in 3 and a half years. I’m glad it worked out that way as I made the most of my time with no big gaps of downtime, like year-end at university. The correspondence course was broken into trimesters, so that worked out really well.
It was really beneficial to be working and studying at the same time. In a lot of cases, I had practical knowledge and experience before learning theoretical knowledge. It made studying easier as there were elements in the course that I’d come across in my role. The studying and experiences at work meshed really well together.
Straight outta high school
It was pretty much straight from school to full-time study and a full-time job.
Neil was a partner of the team I was working in. Around five years later we set up BridgePoint Group. I became a partner at 24 years of age, which obviously was super young. I didn’t understand the significance of becoming a partner and was working in the role before I had the experience. It definitely helped me accelerate my career, skills and leadership. I’d bitten off a lot but just chewed like hell to get through!
Day to day, I spend most of my time with staff. I’m responsible for the professional development and mentorship of our management team at BridgePoint Group. The development process is about reviewing work, ensuring that technical competencies are being met. This allows me to identify any areas where managers may need development or coaching.
We’re a growing organisation so that means you need to look internally to make sure the wheels are turning and turning in the same direction! Reviewing staff capabilities and getting the resourcing piece right takes time. Though 2020 threw up some unique challenges. Earlier this year with COVID, we went from managing a business in one location to managing a business in 18 locations. Within one week we had our staff working from home, fully resourced and supported, with no interference to the service received by our clients. It was a hectic week getting that all sorted out! (Read “How to Manage in a Crisis here).
My key learnings?
I’ve had to learn a lot about being a business leader. When we started BridgePoint Group we had no employees. As we have grown I have had to learn how to lead. Not that we’re massive with 20 people on staff but I hadn’t come from a position where I had extensive management experience. Continuing to develop business leadership skills keeps me very motivated.
In terms of leaders, I’m a sports nut and draw from inspirational leaders in sport. Whereas I enjoy business, I don’t idolise captains of industry.
I look at what Craig Bellamy’s done at the Melbourne Storm NRL club. He’s been the head coach for 15 years and has the propensity to get the best from players. He works really hard at developing them into great players. Players that know what their role is and what is expected from them. He almost churns out robots who are super focused on doing what he needs them to do.
As a long time Liverpool FC fan, I look at what Jurgen Klopp has done at the club. I love that he is a passionate, confident manager and leads with authority. You can tell the players trust him as their leader.
Every single person, in both Liverpool FC and the Melbourne Storm organisations, understands their job and wants to run through brick walls for the coaches. They strive to create an environment that gives everybody the chance to succeed. They’ve created an encouraging environment, giving everybody plenty of opportunity to learn and grow. It’s leading from behind where you encourage rather than dictate with an iron fist. These are the leadership qualities I admire.
The future of the business and my own professional growth will be shaped more in the business advisory space. Being able to get involved, help clients and their businesses is what I find really interesting, challenging and fulfilling. For me, it’s continuing to develop my skillset in that space.
Working with clients where the objective isn’t to implement things but to support and guide. You’re really there to facilitate their thinking rather than actually doing it for them. It’s effectively business coaching. We are helping them to understand their problems at a deeper level and make suggestions of things that could be implemented in the business. Similarly, it’s a facilitation role, rather than telling them what they need to do. At the end of the day, a plan is only as good as the implementation of the plan, so the client needs to buy into it and implement it, for it to be successful.
The communication piece with clients is vitally important to the business. That involves talking to clients about their challenges, helping them to overcome those challenges and maintaining ongoing, consistent client engagement. I really enjoy that aspect of my role, being involved in the operation of clients’ business. We’re all about helping clients grow their business.
To contact Mitchell call 1300 656 141 or email him here.
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