Carol Tran - My first year with Accounting For Good
“In the commercial sector I was very much just an accountant.”
Carol Tran, one of Accounting For Good’s Account Managers, joined the team in May 2018.
After many years working in commercial finance she wanted a change. She was motivated to find a role in an organisation that had a deeper purpose.
Over the past year, Carol has worked with many of our clients and has forged strong relationships. We talked to her about her experiences and how she is enjoying the dynamics of the not for profit (NFP) sector.
Early career choices
Carol discovered she had an interest for the inner workings of business during her high school years. She was always keen to find out how an organisation operates. She wanted to understand how a business sustains itself and what it had to do to keep growing.
“I wanted to know, ‘How do people make money?’ I didn’t necessarily set out to become an accountant, but the degree was broad enough to help me find a position within the business environment. Once you are there, I thought, you can learn more about how a successful business achieves its goals and continues to be profitable.”
Carol started her career in a small accounting firm. It was the perfect beginner’s employment, as it provided her with the opportunity to learn all the basics.
“That’s where I learnt about tax, financial statements and the core fundamentals of accounting. It was great for someone who was just out of university. It was a good place to start.”
After a while, Carol felt it was time for a change. She realised that she wasn’t developing deep relationships with her clients because there were so many of them. The work she was doing was important for their businesses, but she wasn’t involved in the intricate internal processes. And this is where she wanted to focus her energy.
The commercial world was Carol’s next step. She worked for a few different organisations in various industries, from engineering to information technology.
“I got to experience industries that I had no idea about… that I would never have considered if I wasn’t in accounting. I learnt everything about how the business works… from the moment the truck arrives at the warehouse door, to the moment the final product ships out.”
Learning about business processes was important to Carol, but very quickly she realised that profit was always the number one focus.
Achieving budgets, delivering results and meeting the expectations of shareholders or private equity firms created stressful environments.
“The quarterly or six-monthly reporting periods were always high-pressure points in time. We were expected to deliver the desired results, but if you were in the finance team you really had nothing to do with making the money for the business.
All eyes were still on you. You had to present the results… explain what they did… go through the numbers, even though you didn’t create them yourself. You were just reporting, but all the pressure still sat with you.
I knew that it would be like that, but you never truly know until you are in it yourself. You can’t quite imagine the intensity until you are in the middle of it.”
Accounting For Good
After experiencing the demands of commercial finance, Carol’s motivation shifted.
She wanted to find a way to use her qualifications and extensive accounting skills with businesses that weren’t just focused on profits. But finding a position that matched her abilities within a large charity or NFP organisation was difficult. Roles at that level are few and far between.
“I wondered if I could work with people who do good things… a company that is not just motivated by making money.
I knew there were organisations out there, but I had reached a certain point in my career where to leave the job I was in and go to an NFP, it would have to be quite large. It’s not common for NFPs to have opportunities that would suit my skills.
When I saw the Accounting For Good position, it matched what I was aiming for… I knew the company would be able to support my education and that the role suited where I was in terms of ambition. It all fitted really well.”
When Carol joined Accounting For Good, she immediately felt a difference in the working environment. Money was no longer the primary motivation. In the NFP sector, being sustainable and delivering services to clients is of greater importance.
“For a non-profit organisation the point of their existence is different. The profit, bottom line, growth, share-holder dividends… these are not front and centre. Of course, you still need to stick to a budget and have a good cash flow, but the pressure to perform financially isn’t there. I found that really refreshing.”
Carol no longer experiences the extreme intensity of the commercial sector. She is challenged in her role at Accounting For Good but the constant stress is no longer part of her daily work life.
“This environment is so different… pressure is still there when it matters but it’s not as severe. I’m looking after a group of clients who have certain needs and are quite clear about what they expect and what they want to achieve… I always know where I’m going with them. I’m not just reporting on numbers that I had no part in creating.
But at Accounting For Good I’m less stressed out… if you ask anyone that I worked with previously the first thing they say is, ‘You look so calm and relaxed,’ and I know I am, I totally am.”
Work life balance
Joining the not for profit sector has given Carol a much healthier work life balance. She knows that the people she works with are supportive and considerate.
“NFP is a sector where it’s not all about the business, it’s about the people.
The people in these companies are naturally more compassionate and caring. The expectations and demands that you feel in commercial just don’t exist. If you say to someone, ‘I really need to leave now, but I’ll come back later’… there’s more thoughtfulness… ‘Of course, go, come back when you can.’
People have more understanding… they get that the bigger picture is about helping people.
I love how from the CEO all the way down to the person doing bookkeeping, we all know exactly what we are there for and what we are meant to be doing… the objectives are very clear.
You walk into the office and you know, ‘This is what I’m going to do today’… or into a meeting, ‘This is my purpose here today’… or when you plan something, you know it’s because it’s what the client wants.
There’s no messing around with ego that you can get in a commercial sector. It makes work so much easier!”
Looking to the future
Now that Carol has experienced a year in the NFP world, it is unlikely that she will ever return to commercial. Her focus for the future is to continue working with clients to achieve their goals.
“I have some clients who have clear ambitions and goals. I would love to be here to see them succeed and achieve what they have set out to do.
There’s one who wants to turn the business around and get back to the glory days. I’d love for them get there.
I want to be there when they say, ‘10 years ago we were at our best, and here we are again’… I think that would be so amazing!”
Carol is dedicated to helping her clients. She understands that sometimes governance requirements and funding or regulatory obligations can ‘throw a spanner in the works’, and she is there to support them through their challenges and make sure clients have the right financial information available to inform their decision making so that they can focus on their mission and do what they do best.