Our recent research found that accountants are facing a number of serious challenges, so we want to put a spotlight on their brilliant work, and their lives beyond the industry. Here, we continue to celebrate accountants, speaking with Callum Tingle, axe thrower and director at Fresh Business Solutions, Zahra Kassamali, hotel manager and accountant at Jaffer & Co, and Neil Criddle, founder of NDC and heavy metal DJ.
They tell us more about the misconceptions they face, how their side projects complement their day-to-day roles, and why they love the accounting industry.
Managing books and bookings
Zahra Kassamali manages six bed and breakfasts in central London, alongside her role as an accountant at Jaffer & Co. According to Zahra, the two professions complement each other: “I split my time between the jobs. You have to be organised to manage it, but accountancy was a useful training ground and has allowed me to hone my decision-making.”
Following in her father’s footsteps, Zahra is a trained accountant, and is aware of misconceptions around the industry:
“I’ve always known about accounting but I don’t think many people do. They think it’s staring at a computer screen, but it’s more working with small businesses, and it offers exciting opportunities. Half of my friends went into accountancy and used those skills to explore other things.”
Zahra explains how these misconceptions can be changed. She says, “It’s tricky to explain what an accountant does to a student with no experience, so it would have to be packaged well. More apprenticeships would help – something practical to show people the ropes.”
She also feels Xero has helped bring accountancy into the limelight: “Which is not just important for accountancy, but for small businesses too.”
Callum Tingle of Fresh Business Solutions is an accountant, small business owner, and axe thrower. In 2020 Callum and his brother opened The Axe House, which fought through the pandemic to come out the other side, with a new bar now opened next door, also run by the brothers.
The combination of these different industries has taken clients aback, Callum says, “We have adverts in the office and people say it looks cool, and we’ve had people come into the bar who recognise me and ask ‘what are you doing here?’”
Callum founded his firm when he was just 19, and has seen a lot of change. “Old fashioned accountancy is very rigid, but now we use software to make clients’ lives easier, and it’s all Xero compatible. We also have fun, and this comes across on social media and the website – it puts clients at ease.”
But Callum tells us that people leaving university aren’t taught the client engagement side of the industry, making recruitment challenging. He adds, “there needs to be more talks in schools and colleges about dealing with finance – doing so could drive more people into the industry.”
With a merger on the horizon, the future is bright for Fresh Business Solutions. And The Axe House remains on the cutting edge.
Balance sheets to bass drops
Neil Criddle, founder of NDC, is also a heavy metal DJ. And it’s fair to say his work ethic is to be admired: “A normal DJ set lasts from around 9pm-6am including the set up and getting home, so it can often turn into a 22 hour day when I go into work the next day.”
This is alongside founding a successful accounting practice: “I didn’t have much of a perception of the industry until I started a business in 2020 – I never worked in practice until then, only in large businesses.”
Neil tells us his use of technology gives him an edge: “Accountants should speak to clients regularly and use technology. I quickly differentiate myself to clients based on that – especially at the time of the pandemic when I was doing webinars and online interviews.”
He’s also bucking trends in terms of recruitment: “I hired fewer experienced people and focused on personality – I found two amazing people and have got one more starting who I know will be brilliant with clients.”
But this, he says, is an exception in accounting. “There are walls to gain entry into the industry. My employees would have found it difficult to get into a stereotypical practice. The industry needs to focus on soft skills over qualifications.”
And Neil’s passion for the industry is palpable. He concludes:“The main draw in accounting is there are always different stories to tell – it doesn’t matter whether the client is a plumber or recruitment agency, we can find creative ways to explain numbers. It’s not a client service, it’s a partnership. We don’t work for them, we work with them.”
Want to find out more about how we’re celebrating real accountants? Check out this page. And if you want to learn more about how the industry is coming together to address the recruitment challenge, read our guide on embracing technology, talent, and change with insights from our recent event, Xero Talks.