Part IV in our series. In this article we ask Charlotte Lishman about her career and her current role as Associate Director at Grunberg & Co. As well as her thoughts on the lack of practice-focused software being developed in the industry.
Hi Charlotte, who are you and what do you do?
I am an Associate Director at Grunberg & Co, a firm who recently ranked number four in the Mid-Tier Power Index. My background is in accounts and audit, and the first ten years of my career were focused on a real mix of accounts preparation. And latterly, audit leadership and management. However, I’ve also been responsible for the high-level oversight of our rapidly growing Cloud Accounting Department.
We moved away from the term bookkeeping a number of years ago, as the department offers far more than processing. Seeing ourselves as an outside finance function for our clients. This is where my background in accounts and audit comes in useful. I can drive our output to reach even higher standards than the team were already achieving.
What has your career journey been like?
I’m proud to have spent my career at Grunberg & Co. Whenever I’m asked what I like about the firm and the benefits of working here, my answer is always the opportunities. When joining as the first school leaver in 2012, I studied AAT Level 3 and quickly moved onto ACA, starting in 2014 and qualifying in 2016. I’ve been given the chance to work on audits for very large multinational clients, which at times took me overseas to work with component audit teams. I led teams of up to five staff at a time on audit assignments, whilst also managing our unincorporated accounting function for a season, before being made responsible for managing my own portfolio. I am very fortunate to work with and learn from such a wide range of clients.
The partners at Grunberg & Co have always been supportive when I’ve looked for the next opportunity, and we have developed a great level of mutual trust, which I believe was critical in their decision to promote me to Associate Director within weeks of returning from maternity leave this Spring.
What do you enjoy about your area of the Accounting industry?
Building client relationships and forming trust by understanding and pre-empting their needs. I pride myself on my high standards, and believe my clients trust that I will always have their best interests in mind. Whether that’s when working on their accounts, providing advice, or recommending strategies that could help their growth.
What opportunities are there now in Accountancy?
Huge opportunities, not only in the current job market, but the doors that a qualification like ACA can open. I’ve seen colleagues move into banking, corporate finance, and industry. However, for me, the opportunities really lie in supporting small businesses and being part of what they can, and do, achieve.
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?
I’m confident the number one answer to this question is finding the right staff. So, to think outside of that box, I’d say lack of understanding from software providers. We are Xero platinum partners, and have a great relationship with them. But I see a real lack of practice focused software being developed.
One of my main projects is finding a working paper solution for our Cloud Team. I’ve spoken to multiple providers, but most don’t understand our needs from a day-to-day workflow perspective. So I can see why practices continue to use Excel for these schedules, when there could be real efficiencies made if the software was available.
Who or what inspires you?
Broadly, the next generation of women. I had my own daughter 18 months ago, and feel very strongly that women should always be given equal opportunities. In my opinion, the accountancy industry still faces a very stereotypical grey image that is focused on myths of being dull and largely male dominated. But this is no longer the truth. Around half our workforce are female and some of our strongest talent are young women. I am very proud of my promotion to Associate Director. I am also proud that of our seven Associate Directors, four are women. The industry is opening more doors, but I think there is always room for progression, and female voices to take more centre stage.
What advice would you give others looking to pursue a career in Accountancy?
Find the area you are passionate about, and enjoy it, as many of our careers will span forty plus years, you have to love what you do! There’s no harm in trying out a few different routes before you settle on the best fit for you.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Understand your client, you can provide them a much better service if you understand their industry. Recognise what to look out for and the challenges they may be facing. Be inquisitive, there is no harm in asking a client for some background on how they’ve got to where they are today. It helps build that relationship that is so vital.