Tag Archives: Management

Unleashing Your Potential

Throughout my time at university, I found myself constantly looking forward to when I would have a career. The very nature of university is such that a student sacrifices several years of earning potential to better themselves academically in the long run. Whilst I had accepted this from the off, I couldn’t wait to get started on my career.

Over the last two years with Grant Thornton, I miss certain aspects of my student life, but the current focus, challenge and structure to my days are something I would struggle to live without now. Something I have learnt about myself recently is that this focus and structure may have had a detrimental effect on who I am.

Doing the job, the exams and the hours can make it easy to lose track of the big picture. With less time to think about where I’m going to be in a few years time I found that I had started to bury my head in the sand and just get on with the number crunching of being a tax adviser – I had lost my view of the future.

So a recent conference for me was well timed. Once trainees are nearing the end of their training contracts the firm welcomes them to a conference to see what is next in their careers. As a trainee who is some six months away from qualifying, I was invited to the conference – Unleashing Your Potential – which was held in a fancy hotel in Windsor.

The event itself was run by our national leadership board, who gave their insight into what they did and how they did it to get to where they are now. Some guest speakers and other rising stars gave us a few tricks of the trade on how to get on in the firm. Getting these kind of hints are invaluable and, if used wisely, I’m convinced can be the key to unlocking the potential we all have, but don’t necessarily always access.

Leading up to the event, my expectation was that I would be able to get all my questions on the future answered – three days later and I just have more questions and a lot of food for thought.

I took a number of key points away with me and have reaffirmed my eyes forward approach to my career. A significant lesson to learn was that at Grant Thornton we must all take responsibility for our own careers. Hearing the stories of the firm’s brightest and best showed clearly that nothing is given; it’s all earned through hard graft, desire and vision.

I guess this is an important lesson for anyone, whether they be in the firm, aspiring to join Grant Thornton or just aiming to get good grades in their A Levels or degree.

I often speak with people who are looking to join the firm and my best advice to them (that’s probably you) is to make the decision and throw everything and the kitchen sink at it. In the current economic climate, sitting on the fence just won’t do, and at every moment it’s imperative you can prove to the employer, examiner or interviewer that you want the next opportunity more than the next person.

For me, I still need to digest the information I have received and firm up my ideas for what I will do post-qualification. It’s easy to put it off until I have actually finished the exams, but anything that’s easy isn’t worth writing home about…

Watch this space!

The Grant Thornton U-Turn

I left my compliance role at Grant Thornton several years ago, following the closure and relocation of the Poole Office. Keen to apply my scientific research expertise, I accepted a specialist post with a larger firm, advising large corporates on Research and Development (R&D) expenditure tax relief. Within six months, I was back.

I like getting involved in everything. By moving to a larger firm, I felt I could apply my rounded experience gained at Grant Thornton, combining this with my scientific expertise in R&D. What became really apparent was how much the competition really values the breadth of experience that Grant Thornton employees have.

One new challenge I had in my new role was hotdesking. However, I often found myself adjacent to people in completely different teams. Conversations were interesting but I felt increasingly frustrated at the lack of opportunity to get involved in work outside my specialist team. Although I had gained some valuable experience with the firm, I decided that I would prefer to work in a firm offering a greater variety of work and client type. I looked around and quickly found another job, approaching Grant Thornton for a reference.

Having left on good terms, Grant Thornton invited me back. Since returning the firm has grown and increased its market profile considerably, winning higher-profile clients.

Now as a manager, I get the opportunity to advise businesses of all shapes and sizes. By seeking out the opportunities available at Grant Thornton, I have been able to apply all the positive experiences gained during my six months away, as a member of Oxfords R&D team. Since joining, this team has grown significantly, seizing a larger slice of market share, and we were recently shortlisted for the “Best Tax Team in a Large Firm” at the esteemed Lexis Nexis Taxation Awards.

From my experience, I would recommend that people think carefully about the variety of work they would be doing in their desired role when applying. I believe working for the larger firm in London was a great experience and I feel it is important to take yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things as a way to develop. I have learnt it is important to always stay on good terms and maintain contact with those who have supported your early career.

The Secret Life of an Audit Manager

I joined Grant Thornton in 1984 as a trainee, studying for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators exams (which focuses on Company Law, but also includes accountancy, audit and tax). I passed the exams and was admitted as an associate member of ICSA in February 1987.

Later that year I started the ACA training, and passed the first 8 exams. Sadly, just before I sat my final 4 exams my father died – and although I went ahead and sat the exams my mind was not ‘in gear’, and I was unsuccessful in one of the four papers. The credit system did not exist back then, which meant I had to re-sit all 4 papers, which I did, but again was unsuccessful in the same paper. I tried for a third time, but got the same result.

The firm was very supportive, allowing me to continue my career with my ICSA qualification and by that time knowing the work I was capable of carrying out. By then I was an audit senior and shortly afterwards was promoted to assistant manager and then manager.

I have always been a strong believer in personal development, and working as a line manager, training manager and assessor at the Development Centres I have taken a keen interest over the years in the development of the firm’s trainees. However, I felt there was something missing for me in not having an accountancy qualification, and I was sad that the qualification had eluded me earlier in my career.

In 2006 I made the decision that I wanted to gain an accountancy qualification. I recognised that it would be hard work and challenging, but it felt an important step in my own professional development. It also felt important to honour the work that I do, and my career that, even after many years, remains stimulating, motivating and very rewarding. With the support and encouragement of my office assurance partners and Office Managing Partner, I registered with the ACCA. I would have to take 9 exams to enable me to qualify. I was surprised that they had granted me some exemptions because of my ICSA qualification – after all I had taken these exams more than 20 years earlier!

I decided to do the studying by distance learning, and the books for the first 2 exams arrived in January 2010. It has been hard work since then, keeping up with the demands of the ‘day job’ as a senior assurance manager, studying in the evenings and weekends (for all the trainees – I really do understand what trainees face!) and trying to maintain my home and social life!!

The subjects have been wide-ranging: the audit and financial & corporate reporting have been based on international standards (which has been good to learn), and I have also taken exams in financial and business management, business strategy and analysis and tax. I have enjoyed the learning, up-dating my knowledge, and reading some really interesting and informative articles (especially around business analysis).

I sat my first exams in June 2010, and was so happy when I passed them. I sat a further 2 in December 2010 (and passed), 3 in June 2011 (and passed) and the final 2 in December 2011. I got the results on Monday (13 February) and was over the moon when I read the words “pass” against both papers. In fact, I think I’m still smiling!

Life as a Senior Audit Manager

Each day is different. Over the last year I have found myself in a number of situations which I wouldn’t have expected to be in: presenting to the Board of Directors of a large company, becoming part of a national initiative to improve the quality and efficiency of our small and medium entity (SME) audits, playing mini golf in the park in Southampton, overloading the free wifi in Times Square whilst trying to send an audit file to the Tulsa office and critically reviewing other audit software programs as a potential replacement for our current software and seeing my face on two massive screens at the Assurance conference as I explain the results of this on a video. These aren’t necessarily the best moments of the last year, but they are definitely the ones that stick out in my mind the most.

Being an auditor is hard work, whatever stage of your career you are at, and what never ceases to amaze me is the hard working, motivated and fun loving spirit of the people that I work with. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not impressed with someone for something that they have done, be it getting a tough piece of work finished, putting in the extra hours, taking the time to give feedback, supporting someone in their career or even just telling a great joke. Simply put, I get to work with great people.

I also get to work with great clients. One of the most motivating things for me is listening to some of our clients talk about their business with a clear passion. I find it infectious and it makes me want to help them achieve their goals in any way I can.

Grant Thornton has offered me a fantastic career path. If you drive your career forward, and grasp the chances which come your way then there are opportunities everywhere you look, and due to a bit of luck, (and a bit of grasping), I have been offered a new opportunity recently which will help me develop my career over the next two years in ways which I didn’t imagine were possible this time last year. I will be doing this through a secondment to National Audit Services in London for the next two years of Head of Assurance, to help develop the strategy for the Assurance practice moving forward. This will give me a great opportunity to develop a new skill set so that I can come back to Southampton stronger than ever – and what is great about this firm is that there are plenty of opportunities like this both in Southampton and nationally that you can become involved in.

I will admit that when asked my job when I meet new people I do hesitate to say the word ‘auditor’ as I don’t want them to lose interest in me straight away – but that is the outside view of our profession from people with little knowledge of what we actually do – the list I put above didn’t mention the use of a calculator once!

It is a much more exciting, engaging and fulfilling career then anyone who isn’t part of it can imagine. And, within audit, the opportunities are endless.