Melissa Browne: Finance Femme
With two best-selling books under her Hermes belt “Fabulous But Broke” and “More Money for Shoes” Melissa has combined her thriving tax accounting business A+TA with her penchant for fashion, business (and shoes!). But underneath the impressive 6-inch stiletto collection is a fabulous finance femme who continually empowers and educates women to create successful and profitable businesses. Her warm nature and savvy entrepreneurialism regularly see her contribute to some of Australia’s most credible finance and fashion pages and it’s no wonder she landed on the list of Australia’s 100 most inspiring women in Madison Magazine.
Fabulous But Broke: www.fabulousbutbroke.com
More Money for Shoes: www.moremoneyforshoes.com.au
Melissa Browne: www.melissabrowne.com.au
WHAT DO YOU DO AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?
I am an accountant, advisor, speaker, author, columnist, multiple business owner and shoe addict. It makes me tired just writing it! I am the founder and CEO of A+TA (Accounting and Taxation Advantage) an award winning, accounting and business advisory firm and the co-founder and Creative Director of Business of Thinkers.inq, which are long day preschools. I’ve written two books, More Money for Shoes and Fabulous but Broke and am a fortnightly columnist for Fairfax in their Money Section. I love pushing boundaries in both industries, harnessing technology for education, training and efficiencies, questioning what is possible, challenging the status quo and creating life-changing results for our clients and customers.
WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER JOURNEY BEEN TO DATE?
I studied law and worked for a couple of major banks straight from school as part of a graduate program. I was obsessed with LA Law and loved arguing so I was certain law was the perfect fit. After about three and a half years I decided it wasn’t quite the same as the TV shows and moved across to study accounting while I worked for a few small to medium sized private firms before starting my own business, A+TA about twelve years ago. At first the only reason I started my business was to give me flexibility with study but as it grew organically I decided about seven years ago to take the reigns back and see what I could do with this business that really had started by default. The last five years have been a time of intense growth and change within my business as I decided to try running an accounting firm that was genuinely different and created real value for my clients.
My second business started over a conversation with a very good friend who is a passionate educator early in 2014. He was telling me about the problems with the childcare/preschool industry and I challenged him on how it could be fixed. Next thing I knew we decided to put our money where our mouth and passion was and try to build a long day preschool that was the first of its kind in Australia with the goal to change how schooling is done in this country.
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION / STUDY BACKGROUND?
From school I studied law at Sydney University for about three and a half years part-time before moving to Accounting. Since then I’ve studied theology on the side for a couple of years to try to make sense of the grey (where you really only discover more grey) and then most recently I’ve completed a Masters of Business and next year will finalise my MBA
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND WOMEN STUDY OR DO TO BEST EQUIP THEMSELVES TO GET INTO YOUR INDUSTRY?
It really depends where they want to end up: in tax or corporate. With tax I believe that clients look at tax as a grudge purchase and are looking more and more for business advisory, so having additional business skills is as valuable as any study you undertake. If I’m hiring an accountant, I prefer someone who has studied accounting or business studies but who has corporate experience in another industry as it brings them real life experience, not just text book experience.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY MOMENTS OF CAREER UNCERTAINTY?
Many, many moments. I guess a few are moving away from studying law was particularly tough, especially as I was so far into the degree but I realised it wasn’t for me so I needed to ignore the three and a bit years of study and switch paths rather than finishing the degree and then never using it. Another time was writing my first book More Money for Shoes. This book is a little bit different in that it’s conversational in tone, it’s full-coloured, illustrated and compares building a business to building a wardrobe. I was certain about creating a product that women would actually read and then implement the changes they needed in their business however my professional ego was concerned I might be viewed as a bit of fluff by my peers. Thankfully my ego didn’t win and the book and the online Business Makevover Series has been received with an incredibly positive response by the many women that have read it or completed the course. My most recent moment of uncertainty has been with creating a business in an industry that I’m not familiar with (preschools) and relying on my business and strategy skills to ensure it is a success.
WHAT SKILLS AND TRAITS DO PEOPLE NEED TO SUCCEED IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
They need to be warm, highly organised, analytical, able to listen, willing to embrace technology and adapts well to change: I know all this because they’re all qualities we identified in our recent job advert for an accounting cadet! As with many industries, technology is becoming more and more meshed with what we do and the services that we offer our clients and our industry is moving and changing at a rapid pace so being able to keep up with this change and embracing it will place some firms apart from others.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I think my greatest achievement to date has been the ability to recognise when I’m going off the right path either personally or professionally and having the foresight to drag myself and my business back. I don’t believe that my greatest achievement has happened yet so I’ll let you know in a few years time…
WHAT PART OF YOUR JOB DON’T WE SEE ON INSTAGRAM?
The counselling that happens with clients. This is probably the biggest surprise for any new person that starts with A+TA is how much clients are willing to share with us. Perhaps because they’re talking about money and they’re already feeling vulnerable but we hear a whole lot of stuff that we don’t expect to and often end up as quasi counsellors. That and the amount of reading and education that we need to do to keep on top of changes, trends and technology.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU’VE LEARNT FROM A MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE IN THE PAST?
Hire slow and fire early. Every time. You’d think I’d learn by now but this is definitely my weak spot.
HAS YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS CHANGED FOR YOU OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER?
Absolutely. It has become much, much bigger than I ever thought or expected it would or could be.
REFLECTING ON YOUR CAREER TO DATE, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF AT THE BEGINNING?
Brace yourself. Think bigger. Don’t be afraid. Back yourself. Don’t believe everything people tell you.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED AND COURSES, SEMINARS, BOOKS OR GUIDES THAT HAVE CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
I am a prolific reader and take a couple of weeks a year away to go on a ‘think week’ to actually read and watch the many things that I’ve been ‘meaning to’ over the year and then to work out a plan to implement the great things that I’ve read or seen that I was ‘going to’ do something about. Books that I have read over the last decade that have had a profound influence on me and how I think and do business include:
- Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Spent by Dr Frank Lipman
- Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish and his Gazelles method
- Brene Brown’s Ted Talk
- Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk
- Rob Nixon’s Coaching Club groups
- Anything by Phillip Yancey
HOW DO YOU MANAGE STRESS / ANXIETY / WORK LIFE BALANCE?
I think work/life balance is a bit of a myth but in my downtown I escape by exercising, fashion magazines & shows, reading, bad reality TV shows, dinners out with my husband and friends and days out at the horse races.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
My second book Fabulous but Broke has just been released and is a gorgeous, illustrated book of financial fairy tales designed to challenge the money messages we carry around with us. My online world I’m creating for business owners or people who want to educate themselves financially will be launched also in mid-2015 called The Numbers Lounge which I’m incredibly excited about and will be available via subscription. Finally setting up new preschools for new locations for Thinkers.inq and eventually franchising it. Just a few balls in the air!
WHAT THREE WORDS WOULD YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
Awkward, Ambitious, Great-shoes