It’s been a turbulent time for the real-estate industry with inflation, high interest rates and the pandemic all contributing to a state of flux.
However, Chartered Accountants have played pioneering roles in helping companies navigate disruption as trusted advisors who can both interpret data and inform business strategy.
In a time of great disruption, trust was a value that strongly resonated with LJ Hooker Group Financial Controller, Ed Feiner CA.
After the initial shock of the pandemic, Ed quickly found a way to use his ability to communicate numbers, and his track record to instil a sense of confidence, trust and assistance with the LJ Hooker franchise owners.
“We took all the data we had available, this included benefits like JobKeeper, Cash boost, options to get loans guaranteed by the government and major banks’ policies in Australia and New Zealand. We sat down, summarized it and generated a pack for the franchisees, which we sent to our network to make sure they were aware of what was available to them by the government during tough times,” Ed said.
Data influences decisions – know yours
Ed identified three key ingredients that helped him to stay agile as a Chartered Accountant to contribute to business transformation in a changing environment. The first was being able to interpret data from a wide range of inputs.
“I think understanding numbers is really important and not necessarily only at LJ Hooker, but for my career. The ability to pick up a set of numbers, ask the questions and understand the drivers is so critical. That's something that comes from the studies, because as a CA you study consolidation, financial reporting, and you really understand what's behind the numbers.”
Once Ed understood the data, he could communicate numbers confidently to management, while explaining the rationale behind his recommendations to “a lot of smart people.” He said knowing your material was crucial when it came to influencing business outcomes.
“Decision-makers, board members, CEOs - they typically don't have unlimited time to discuss every issue. They want to clearly understand the issue in 5-10 minutes. And I think that's the tip. Be prepared, know your objective, know your numbers well, don't be too detailed, but be able to answer their questions while guiding them through the discussion,” Ed said.
Drivers are the most important thing, because you need to understand what's driving the cost. It's about understanding the data, identifying the issues, finding solutions and proposing it to the other stakeholders in the business.
There’s great value in collaboration
With businesses adapting to hybrid working models, Ed said collaboration was another crucial ingredient to success as an advisor or business partner.
“When students think about accountants, a lot of people think about people that are very quiet, sit next to their laptop and just do their numbers. It's all true. But you have to have personality. You have to be able to talk to people,” he said.
He recommended accountants take the time to deeply understand all aspects of a business and the various departments of a company to truly add value to the business.
"When you’re talking to people from the business and seen as a trusted person, they know to reach out when they have issues. It is important to have recurring conversations about the business. Ask questions such as ‘How are you going with your product launch? How are your sales this quarter?’ It's so critical.”
Look to the past to inform the future
The third key ingredient to business transformation was to analyse past trends as a way of understanding and forecasting for the future of the real estate market.
“With the changes in the market it's useful looking back, learning from previous cycles, trying to analyse what happened to profitability and to our costing. It's very helpful to project the future,” Ed said.
“Drivers are the most important thing, because you need to understand what's driving the results. It's about understanding the data, identifying the issues, finding solutions and proposing it to the other stakeholders in the business.”
Ed said becoming a Chartered Accountant had given him a set of skills that had been very useful in aiding business transformation and his forecast for the accounting profession was bright.
“I strongly recommend people to learn it, and realise that they're not just accountants, they're not just business partners, they're part of the business and that’s really important.”
Lauren Zwierlein CA
Growing up in country Victoria, Lauren Zwierlein CA had a knack for numbers. Little did she know it would lead to personal and professional growth and a career that would take her around the world.