At a glance
The practitioner: Belinda Howie FCPA
Managing director, Northern Sky Accounting and Advisory
My venture into public practice began after spending 15 years working in the corporate sector working as an auditor for PwC, a financial controller for Shell and CFO of international shipping company Perkins Shipping.
I took a break to spend time with my young family. That lasted for about six weeks. The phone started ringing and I was back at the desk, albeit in a consulting capacity.
I began consulting for growing SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises], applying best practice corporate governance and financial management knowledge to assist with growth and risk management.
I expanded the business in 2015 to introduce outsourced accounting and bookkeeping. I’ve also developed a strong interest and passion for the not-for-profit sector, and provide best practice governance workshops for not-for-profit boards.
When I first sat down with John and Leah, I was really sold on their wealth of knowledge and their business background coming from the McDonald's franchise world. They’re just amazing people with very similar morals and values.
I think it’s a match made in heaven. I’m very privileged to be part of the Walkabout Lodge’s systems, processes and growth. We've been through a lot of challenging times. We could almost write a book about the adventures of the past 15 years at the Walkabout. We have been through so much together.
What do you value about working with Leah?
Leah is an ideal client. I’m lucky that I’m in a fantastic position now that I only accept client engagements where the client is genuinely interested in investing in best practice financial management and governance in their business.
It can be challenging that business owners understand that the operating environment but knowing that you have someone knowledgeable and trusted is a comfort.
Leah and John both check that box. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be an integral part of their business success story.
The Client: Leah Tourish
Co-owner Tourish Hospitality Group
We've always been in hospitality. Our background is McDonald's restaurants, where we had two restaurants in Western Sydney. Then we thought we would semi-retire and have a going concern in the Northern Territory to come back to as our base between travels.
We were in for a rude shock. We ended up working harder than we ever had in our life, but we loved it and still do love it. There are not many towns like Gove or Nhulunbuy.
I’m grateful that we looked at the business and made our decision before walking down to the beach, because I would have been sold just with the beach.
McDonald's business is very regulated and process-driven, and it has a policy for every imaginable thing.
Although the tavern was built in the 1970s, there were no processes in place. It was quite a daunting experience, and we fumbled along as best we could. We had an accountant based in Sydney, and he was travelling in and out every three or four months.
Then we heard about this lady who was in doing some work for another business in town. I think this was in 2006 – we'd been up there about six months – and I was floundering in the office.
Our accountant said, “I think you need to talk to her”. We arranged to have an informal chat in the restaurant. Afterwards our accountant said, “You are absolutely crazy if you don't take this lady on. She will save you so much time and money”. It was the best decision we ever made.
What do you value about Belinda?
I think it is amazing the trust and honesty that we have for each other. Belinda holds me accountable. I struggle at times to remember what I had for breakfast, let alone [details from] a year ago, and the processes that she’s put into place have taught me the importance of source documents.
I just love that she’s just made us 100 per cent accountable – whether it’s me, a manager or an employee.
Belinda’s almost like a secret customer for me at times, because she has been going across to Gove [from Darwin] continually since she moved. She will report back if she’s been to dinner or stayed overnight. She’s full of praise and very encouraging – my little cheer squad at times.