Meg's Musings – February 2023

02 Feb 2023
Meg Heffron

Meg Heffron

Managing Director

Welcome to our first Heffron Highlights for 2023.

If you were able to have a break with friends and family, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. My only complaint is that one of my secret pleasures over summer is justifying doing absolutely nothing because I “need” to watch the cricket tests. I needed them to last the full 5 days each which clearly didn’t happen this season.

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The one thing I often do over summer is think about the priorities, challenges and “must dos" for our industry and the Heffron business in the coming year. Everything I’m reading suggests that for our industry and many others, 2023 will continue to be a difficult time to find enough talented people. I can see that in our own business and I imagine many others are facing the same issue.

I’ve concluded that at Heffron, we actually face two challenges – we’re a business that practices exclusively in one area (SMSFs), so we have to find a way to attract candidates to both the excitement of specialising in SMSFs as well as the thrill of working for Heffron specifically.

Since many of us face the same hurdles, I thought I’d share some of the ideas we’ve come up with on both fronts – some may well be useful to you in your business.

When it comes to specialising, no-one reading this will be surprised to hear that I’m a full time cheerleader for all things SMSF. I think there are a myriad of reasons (say) an accountant should build up their SMSF expertise.

For a start, there is something deeply satisfying about being an expert – and focussing on SMSFs allows you to do that. Obviously there’s a lot to learn but there are also plenty of firms like ours that are desperate to teach you – these days there is no shortage of great content.

Specialising in SMSFs in particular is extremely rewarding – it’s an area trustees (ultimately, the people we all serve) can find complex and there is some amazing work satisfaction when you see a client understand something that’s important to them. SMSFs are also extremely fertile ground for strategies that genuinely make a difference to people’s retirement savings – your insights at the right time can save them thousands in tax, open their eyes to new saving opportunities and in short, truly impact their lives.

When it comes to attracting people to your (or my) particular workplace, everything I’m seeing suggests that the things we all relied on in the past to attract good candidates aren’t enough any more – good pay, opportunities for development, flexibility etc. We each need to find the things that make our workplaces special and attract the people who want that. In our case, I don’t think Heffron will ever go down the path of ping pong tables in the boardroom or unlimited ice cream on Fridays. But this has forced me to think about what people do like about working here.

In our case, I’m told it’s a few things, and some of them might also be relevant for your business.

The first one is impossible to demonstrate to a candidate – but I would love to hear from anyone who has some good ideas on how we could do it. Apparently we have a very welcoming culture. New starters notice that there are plenty of offers of help, practical support when you need it, welfare checks that are genuine. We’re far from perfect! Not everyone works out and we’re definitely still feeling our way when it comes to having more and more of our teams collaborating online instead of in person (like many of you I expect, many of our people still choose to predominantly work from home). But when anyone starts at Heffron, I meet with them a few months on to see how they’re settling in. The words I hear most often are “welcoming and supportive”. Our way of doing things is to win by all lifting each other rather than by competing with each other.

I’ve always resisted describing our business as “family friendly” because it suggests the ride will be easy with Heffron. It won’t – we’re very committed to what we do. But we also know that to perform at your best it’s important that you can also meet other family and care responsibilities we all have in life. A recent discussion with a new colleague highlighted that we have something right there. For her at least, the lived experience of flexibility at Heffron was very different to her previous workplaces.

Another asset we try to leverage is the educational opportunities we can provide. People coming to us for accounting roles in particular find it exciting to think that this could be the job that takes them from “strong SMSF knowledge” to “undisputed expert”, if for no other reason than they have access to all the CPD Heffron creates at no cost, any time they want it. And who wouldn’t love the idea of having access to Lyn Formica, Leigh Mansell or one of our other experts for any tricky client issue? We also make no secret of the fact that as a firm we want to be getting better at what we do all the time. We have no desire to be the biggest, most profitable, highest revenue business in our space, but we do want to be the firm everyone trusts with any SMSF issue they have. I think there’s something quite exciting about being part of that mission.

And finally, no timesheets. Apparently, that’s very attractive to our accounting team. It wasn’t deliberate but as a business that provides more services at a fixed fee it wasn’t necessary (we have other methods of tracking whether we’re charging the right price).

These are some of the things for us – but I imagine everyone reading this will have a slightly different list for their firm. Perhaps my list will inspire you to think more deeply about what makes your workplace unique because I truly think explaining that message well will be key for all of us in finding the talent we need in 2023.

Like many of you, I will be at the SMSF Association’s National Conference in Melbourne (22 – 24 February). I’ll be part of the Thought Leadership Breakfast on Day 1, delivering a session at the start of Day 2 and will be spending a lot of time on our stand for the whole conference. I hope to see some of you there – and if you have any tips for me on finding good people please let me know!

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