For many advisors and their small business clients, the turbulence of FY21 proved that their connection is about much more than just numbers. In this series, we ask what they’ve learned from each other, and how their relationship has evolved through one of their toughest years yet.
In business, fostering a mutual understanding is something that even the most skilled communicators have to work on. Yet sometimes, finding someone who you click with comes down to sheer luck – as was the case for Diana Swadling of Milkbar Breastpumps and Tracey Newman of Bean Ninjas.
After years of struggling to find an accountant who understood the complexities of her niche and rapidly growing ecommerce business, Diana turned to the internet for answers. By chance, that’s when she came across Tracey – a specialist cloud accountant and tax agent with a deep understanding of the ecommerce world. It was the perfect online pairing.
Tell us more about how you came to work together.
Diana: Before I started my business, I was working in the finance sector. Back then, flexible work wasn’t really an option. So when my first son was born in 2015, I went back to work with a nine-month-old while I was still breastfeeding. Unsurprisingly, it was a struggle. Between expressing milk at work and all of the equipment that came with it, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have products that would help make the breast pumping journey more comfortable for new mums?” And that’s where the inspiration for Milkbar began.
What started as a small side hustle evolved into a fully-fledged online business within a couple of years. Eventually, I needed an accountant. After a few failed attempts with other advisors, I ended up finding Bean Ninjas through a Google search.
Tracey: From our initial consultation, it was clear that Diana had a natural affinity for numbers. Similarly, financial data has also been my passion for the past two decades. But it wasn’t until three years ago that I decided to specialise in ecommerce to work with clients who have a high level of technical literacy.
Diana and I speak the same language and operate at the same speed. And although it’s a unique understanding, Bean Ninjas has created a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who share this in common. One of the things that I’d love to build on with Diana is connecting her to working mums in similar industries, most of whom aren’t given the airtime to talk about their success beyond the limits of their business.
Diana: It’s also about sharing the challenges of working mums. As an example, according to research done alongside Xero’s Emotional Tax Return – a campaign that uncovers some of the emotional tolls of running a small business – Australian small business owners lose 15 hours a week that could be spent with their loved ones due to the demands of running a business. Having a group to share the highs and lows with would be a massive support.
What did you learn from each other through one of the toughest financial years yet?
Diana: The ecommerce industry was one of the few that actually flourished during the pandemic. And while my business benefited from that, I also faced new challenges. From the Emotional Tax Return research, I learned that many people (68 percent) said running a business in the past 12 months has been more emotionally draining than any other year they’ve been in business – and I can understand why.
However, despite the hurdles, Tracey taught me how to manage uncertainty. I learned to track key figures in my business which was a huge help in monitoring large shipments, delays and changing exchange rates.
Tracey: Equally, I’ve learnt from Diana’s proactive nature – she’s incredibly hands-on in how she runs the operational side of Milkbar. It’s common in specialist accounting to learn from one client in order to teach the next, and that couldn’t be more true of our working relationship – especially in the past year.
What makes a great advisor-client relationship?
Tracey: When it comes to finding an advisor, my advice is twofold: do your research and trust your intuition. It may take several consultations, but your first impression is often the best.
Diana: I would suggest engaging with a specialist who can match your business’ needs. Being on the same page makes the initial stages of an advisor-client relationship more seamless. And at the end of the day, you want to find someone who speaks the same language as you.
To find an accountant or bookkeeper that’s right for you, head to the Xero Advisor Directory. Use our match-making tool to explore advisors all over Australia or filter by industry and location based on your business’ needs.