Accountants to Watch: Mel Power
With all the talk in the accounting profession of changing firm cultures and business practices, The Revolutionary Firm, founded by Mel Power and Steve Major, is offering a clear vision that looks to radically transform both small businesses and the accountants/bookkeepers who serve them.
If you couldn't tell from the name, the program and its founders place a premium on future-forward ideals, such as value pricing, technology, and client communication/relationships.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all value is subjective, the customer is the sole arbiter of the value which we as a bookkeeper create, and that bookkeepers the world over can transform small business," reads part of The Revolutionary Firm's "Manifesto." "To secure these truths, it is the right of accounting professionals to institute new policies, practices and rules that shall seem most likely to effect their professionalism, dignity, self-respect and happiness."
Co-founder Power, who is also the current global head of partner community at Xero, has been in accounting in her native Australia since 1992. We caught up with her to see what makes the Revolutionary Firm tick, and why finding the professional's purpose is just as important as their day-to-day work.
What made you become an accountant?
I love this question! I started out as a music teacher and I had my first teaching session with a group of gorgeous kindergarten children and one of them had a toilet accident. It was at that point I [realized] I was not cut out for being a school teacher. My dad suggested that I try accounting; he came from a finance background and said it has always been a great career for me. [It] has allowed me to also do what I love around that, and that’s music!
So off to university I went. I started my career as a trainee accounting in rural New South Wales, Australia, driving around in my little yellow van I fondly named the "Mystery Machine," providing mobile tax return services. It was fun meeting new people and what I soon discovered [was] that many of these individuals were running small businesses on the side. This is how I discovered the power of having current data collated during the year could turn the lives of people around. It empowered them to make timely decisions, ones that were life-transforming even. I discovered my passion for helping small business.
So, in essence, I was still kind of teaching, just with adults!
What was your primary drive behind creating The Revolutionary Firm?
Along with my co-founder Steve Major, [it] was absolutely based around the sole mission of helping small businesses transform. Accountants and bookkeepers all over the world are in business themselves but also are the most strategically and uniquely positioned people to be able to help those in business really achieve their goals and help transform those that are stuck around getting on that pathway to profitability and freedom. It’s a super strong purpose and "why."
I also [have] the opportunity to create a fabulous global community of like-minded advisors that are all on the same mission [to] connect, collaborate , support and cheer each other on as we navigate a changing technological landscape and focus on that mission of delivering superb value to our clients as we help them along their business journey.
As someone who’s constantly teaching and communicating with accountants, what do you feel are the biggest issues in the profession that accountants should be paying more attention to?
There are many, but I will highlight two that I believe are paramount, the first point being "Business Mindset." If we put the larger firms aside and focus on the sole practitioners and two- to three-partner firms, this is where I believe the biggest mind-shift needs to happen. Many have created a job for themselves in both of those scenarios ... [but] making a transition from thinking as a professional in a job to someone that has a business mindset can often be tricky, and let's be honest -- these skills aren’t taught when you go through college or university and obtain your technical professional degree, and they should be! Especially when we have people coming out with all the accounting technical knowledge in the world and advising small-business owners on structures and taxation, but may not necessarily identify with the pain points that business owners experience that are not specifically related to those things.
Harsh words, maybe, but as a profession we need to really step up our mindset on supporting our clients in business, not just from a compliance view but a holistic view. Let's bring together teams that can provide support to the business owner. This mindset also steps into the area of perceived value; many consistently undervalue themselves and do not price the client, [but] focus on pricing the service. These are very different things. This is an issue across the whole profession and has been a long-term problem.
The second point I believe is that accountants and bookkeepers are in a place where they really need to work out what their business model is going to be. Essentially go big, boutique, or go broke! It’s that simple. The days are gone where firms can limp along and not be client-focused and churn our loads of compliance and expect to receive huge amounts of fees for that. You either have to make the decision to scale and go big or really niche hard and be boutique. Both scenarios need to be super client-focused and -centric.
Have you found that the professionals you encounter on The Revolutionary Firm are ready for future-proofing their firms, or have a lot to learn? What are some of the current attitudes and goals you've seen?
I definitely think that what is attracting advisors to The Revolutionary Firm is that they absolutely are aware that the industry landscape is changing and they know that what they are doing today may not necessarily carry them through into the next decade. So, to answer the question, yes, people that do come to the Revolutionary Firm are coming because this thought process is starting to come up for them.
This is why the community is super important! In a collective mindset there is absolute power and positivity and there is a lot to learn. Often the process of changing mindset comes down to actual behavioral changes as well, and for a leader to do that for a whole team, then the mindset change has to be super-strong. The major goal that I am seeing for accountants and bookkeepers that are coming to the Revolutionary Firm is that they have self-belief that they can and are making a difference to the lives of the clients they are working with and also want to break away from the shackles of doing business in the typical way they have always done, especially from six-minute and hourly billing units.
It’s just not at all productive, but we have known that for a long time with people such as Ron Baker and my co-founder Steve Major driving that message for many, many years. Now that's revolutionary!
What are your biggest aspirations for the profession going forward? What do you hope will change about the profession in the next 10 years?
My hope for the profession is that we see accountants and bookkeepers shift their focus ... to the points that I have mentioned above. Understanding who it is you want to work with, the problems they can solve, and how you can deliver exceptional value and "Command the Prices" that they deserve are fundamental. This recipe ultimately leads a business owner to freedom and also creates impact in the lives of those they work with. Having the client as the focus of what we do and deliver is key. I see so many accountants and bookkeepers distracted from their core business by other things; if that’s the case, get out of that and do what you love, but ultimately focusing on your own business, and gaining the bottom line you want to see is the ultimate goal. It really is about freedom. Viva la Revolution!
For more on The Revolutionary Firm, head to its site here.
"Accountants to Watch" is a new feature highlighting standout members of the profession who are striving to push accounting forward. If you or someone you know would like to be considered, send a submission to AcToday@sourcemedia.com with the subject line "Accountants to Watch."
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