Accounting is a rewarding career for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that it sets you up to pursue your business dreams.
This is exactly how New Zealander Saimon Lomaloma approached his career, becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA) while working for an international firm before moving to an accounting role for an oil and gas company. Saimon then decided it was time to move out of the corporate environment and into something that aligned with his personal passions. He started his own company in Wellington, New Zealand, focusing on extreme watersports. Through hard work and dedication, Saimon is in a place where accounting lets him earn good money doing what he loves.
We speak to Saimon on his journey to becoming a business owner and pursuing his passion.
What is your current role?
My current role as Owner of Jetboards NZ encompasses everything that relates to day-to-day business operations, as well as sourcing sponsorships for the business.
How did you get to where you are today?
When I was still at school, I didn't necessarily enjoy accounting, but I knew I was good at it and it came easily. I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do career-wise, but it felt like it would be a smart choice to do an Accounting degree. I studied Accounting at the Victoria University of Wellington, and also took some papers in Law. I realised that regardless of whether I wanted to go into an accounting role or not, an Accounting degree would equip me with a financial background and a decent level of understanding of finance that I could apply to whatever career I chose.Nearing the end of my degree, I went for an internship with BDO, and after that, I headed off to the UK for a job with BDO in London.I started Jetboards NZ as a lifestyle business to fill a gap in the New Zealand market as well as allowing me to spend more time doing what I loved. I realised that I had stumbled on a real niche in regional water sports, so I worked to make my passion into my career.
I wanted to do the things I loved and live the life I enjoyed without feeling restricted. Being financially secure, having enough money to do all that - becoming a CA helped me achieve that.
How has being a CA changed your life?
Being a Chartered Accountant provided many skills that helped me achieve my personal goals by giving me a lot of career flexibility. I wanted to be financially secure; have enough money to do the things that I want to be doing, and I wanted to have a lifestyle with my family and the freedom not to be restricted. The CA skills I had acquired allowed me to start my own business, and also gave me the choice to do anything I wanted to do - I didn't necessarily have to stay in a CA firm to achieve my goals. I was thinking to myself, 'if I could be out there doing something that I don't really consider work, getting personal satisfaction out of other people having a good time and being around that positive energy. If I could trade that instead of being in the office, I would'.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
One such career highlight would probably be my CA graduation. During the graduation they had a guest speaker who was a business owner who ran a successful craft beer company. He was a CA and he was describing his story, and I was sitting there kind of like, "Wow, that's so awesome." And then two years later, I ended up speaking to new members in Germany about my story. So, I guess that was a bit of a personal achievement on that sense.
Any advice for those considering following the CA path?
A modern CA has to have a wide range of skills, and to be open to endless opportunities. You have to be agile, a confident decision-maker and adaptable to a consistently changing role. It takes foresight, and the role is likely to become increasingly strategy based.
We also catch up on what he does in a typical week:
First things first for the new week, I read and follow up any important emails from the weekend and conduct some website maintenance. I'll also do repairs and maintenance on the boards (flyboards, hoverboards and motorised surfboards). Obviously, this is for the customers, but I'm also out on the water each day if the sun's out and the water isn't too choppy, so it's good to know they're working.
I try to get to the gym two or three times each week. Even though I am fairly active - getting out on the water as often as I can - I like to keep fit in the summer when I'm not involved with winter sports.
Time to catch up with booking agents and other people in my network for a coffee. I find you're able to gain so much business intelligence from just talking with people, particularly if you get along with them. You share knowledge and catch wind of business issues everyone is facing. It's also a great way to get advice on any business issues relating, in my case, to running a company.
Someone once told me that if you want honest business advice from someone, ask them for money. You'll hear why they wouldn't, can't or won't contribute; why they're not prepared to stake cash; what you need to fix and how they'd approach the problem. It's very eye-opening. Besides, if you've got it all worked out, they'll give you money. It's win-win. However, if you were looking for investment and you ask for advice with a different approach, people can appreciate your ideas from a different angle and are more likely to buy in if it's worth doing so.
Business development is a big part of each week, particularly when you're running a small operation that only operates during the summer months - usually December through to March if I'm lucky. The beauty about motorised surfboards is that they can be used in various weather conditions. You don't need waves, wind or a boat to get out on the water, like you would with more traditional watersports. We've also expanded our business into Queenstown/Wanaka and the Bay of Plenty, but I've got eyes on going further afield to help extend the season as New Zealand starts to cool down.
Setting up elsewhere means undertaking a lot of business activity, such as establishing correspondence with local councils and marine authorities to make sure we're compliant. I'm thinking of somewhere where peak season is during our winter. Kiwis and Aussies don't tend to go to tropical destinations when it's hot at home.
While I'm handling operations and development, my partner, Victoria, takes care of social media, which is a platform where I lack experience. She is strong in marketing and design, and that gives me the time to handle other important areas of the business.
Marketing is critical to our business; we need to get people to try our service. For example, we might put out a deal on Groupon to get people in the door, and then if we can provide a great service to them, they're sure to tell their friends about it. We believe we need to have a big impact on the people who come jetboarding and to then get repeat business.
I try to experience other Queenstown adrenaline activities whenever I'm free, because we often have customers asking what else to do while on holiday. So it's always good to know what other activities are worth recommending. It builds rapport and I can get good word-of-mouth out of it.
I'll take care of the accounting activities, such as banking, expenses coding and invoice payments. I'll also get out on the lake to film and take photos for social media content. Friends are always passing through town, so I'll spend time catching up with them.
"You don't have to stay in a CA firm. You could really do anything you want because, at the end of the day, accounting is all about business, and business is not going to go away," Saimon says.
An accountancy career could make you a high-income earner, but it also equips you with the skills to pursue your business dreams, much like Saimon.