Discovering a passion for numbers and a new career
Accountant & Bookkeeper Stories
4 min read
Sally Hams has a different way of looking at the world. After finding out she had a real knack for numbers aged 31 she jumped right in and started her own business. And now she’s working on sharing her passion with as many people as possible.
(Sally and her son Matthew playing in the ball pit at Xerocon 2018)
Sally Hams’ open and inquisitive nature is what helped her discover her passion for bookkeeping a little bit later in life. Having completed year 12 at school, Sally spent her twenties working in hospitality and administration roles. She didn’t find out about her flair for numbers until she was 31 years old and working for a construction company.
“I was working as the front desk receptionist as the face and voice of a large company. One day the accountant gave me some accounts payable work and I just loved it,” says Sally. “It wasn’t work to me, it was fun".
However, juggling the workload of two roles was too much for her to handle and they appointed a full-time accounts payable person.
"I cried to my boss when I found out", says Sally. "I really loved the accounts payable tasks.”
Sally later spoke to her HR manager who shared some words of wisdom with her: if she didn’t want to get left behind she should study every ten years. That really stuck with her, so inspired by her new found love of numbers she began studying.
“I started by getting my cert two in financial services,” she says. “I smashed through that, then did cert three and cert four in accounting, along with cert four in small business management and training and assessment. I’m a cert four girl!”
Xero was such a fun way to navigate the software, it changed working with numbers to me – it felt like playing a computer game.
Building and branding a business
While Sally was making her way through her studies, she had a first child Mia and raised her as a single mother. Despite juggling parenthood and her studies, Sally was still keen to forge her own path in bookkeeping.
So after completing all her certificates she made the decision to start her own bookkeeping business and set up Sally Hams Business Solutions. It ticked along for a while but she quickly realised she needed a brand that could expand and grow with her – and Balance Books was born.
However, she still had to solve the problem of how to take on more clients. Making the move from desktop software to Xero cloud accounting software changed everything.
“I was using desktop software with all my clients and there was only a certain number of hours in the day. Then one client introduced me to Xero and I got certified as soon as I could,” says Sally. “It was so much fun to navigate the software, it changed working with numbers to me – it felt like playing a computer game.”
She realised she needed to move all her clients over to Xero as soon as possible, so she did a big transition at the end of the financial year.
“I got them all automated and I was able to just keep taking on new clients,” she says. “I don’t like any other cloud software – I’ve tried them all – Xero is bright, easy, fast and fun, ahead of the rest!”
Using the right technology has made a world of difference for Sally. With automation, training videos and online accounting software, Sally has been able to shift her role slightly from bookkeeper to managing director.
Being able to delegate and automate her work has also meant Sally’s been able to juggle childcare, looking after her now ten year old daughter Mia and her eight month old son Matthew.
Sally admits that running a business as a single parent can be challenging sometimes, but she’s built a close circle of friends who are all very supportive – creating their own version of family life.
“I’m an organised single mum of two and I do everything on the go,” says Sally. “So the more I can automate and delegate to my team, the better.”
Making an impact
After building up Balance Books, Sally needed a way to get the business name known. She went to an event in Adelaide where she heard Edible Blooms founder, Kelly Baker-Jamieson speak.
“Kelly had wanted to make her business stand out, so she went to the middle of the CBD in Sydney and dressed up as a strawberry handing out flyers,” says Sally. “And it worked, Edible Blooms grew nationally. It got me thinking about how a bookkeeper could get noticed like that.”
Sally took to Twitter and someone suggested wearing a dress made out of money, because as a bookkeeper she saves people time which saves them money. She approached one of her clients - Kate Billinghurst, the owner of Fancy That on Beach Road - and together they collaborated on ‘the money dress’ creation.
When she turned up to Xerocon in 2015, Sally turned heads in her custom-designed gown made out of $100 bills with her face printed on – and a Xero branded lining underneath.
“It was a real Hollywood moment,” says Sally. “I remember walking out of the hotel and waiting for an Uber and there were tourists everywhere taking pictures of me in the money dress, it was fabulous!
It was the start of something special. The next year, Sally turned up to Xerocon in a dress made of revolving clouds and the year after that in a steel dress that held 100 glasses of champagne.
Last year, when Sally turned up to Xerocon she brought her six week old son, Matthew.
“He was a real hit! We were in the ball pit and dancing near the main stage,” says Sally. “That was his second conference. In his first three months of life, Matthew went to two board meetings, two committee meetings and two international conferences, he’s a businessman in the making.”
Sally in the famous money dress that she wore to Xerocon in 2015.
Education and inspiration
There’s certainly no slowing Sally down. She was back to work a week after having Matthew – using a hospital desk table so she could work, manage her team and look after him at the same time.
“There’s no way I could have done it when my daughter Mia was born in 2008, but in 2018 the tech was available, so I could,” she says. “The only barrier with this software is the mindset of change for people and I’m constantly working with people to help guide them through this change.”
And Sally is on a mission to change the hearts and minds of clients and also other bookkeepers and accountants. And as part of that mission she’s written The Business Owner’s Diary – a diary marketed for the financial year, containing useful tax dates, to do lists and checklists.
“It’s a way for the non-employee, micro and small business owner to be all over their business bookkeeping compliance,” says Sally. “And I’ll be right there by their side, in paperback form.”
“I want to share all that valuable information and make it user friendly,” says Sally. “I want people to be more educated about their businesses, to grow and to live the life they want – I want to be able to duplicate myself as much as I can to help as many bookkeepers and business owners as possible.