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'Young Accountant of the Year’ winner Ru Lim explains how her grandmother inspired her to overcome her doubts and chase her dreams.
Too young. Not good enough. Those were the words that rang inside of Ru Lim’s head as she tried to decide whether to start her own accounting practice at the tender age of 26.
Ms Lim already had a lot of experience. She had always dreamt of starting her own business. And yet when the opportunity had finally emerged, Ms Lim couldn’t help but feel nervous.
“I always knew that I wanted to do something on my own, because my dad runs his own business as well and I sort of grew up in that environment. At the end of 2015, one of my family friends here in Adelaide, who runs a mortgage broking firm, approached me and asked, ‘Do you want to start running your own business?’” she says.
“It was nerve-wracking because I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to do it. There wasn’t a lot of people around that started an accounting firm at the age of 26. So, I knew that my experience wasn’t as good as a lot of people out there, but I also knew that opportunities like that don’t come around very often.”
So, she went for it. In January 2016, Ms Lim established Rise High Accounting Solutions in Adelaide as the accounting branch of the mortgage broking firm Rise High Financial Solutions. Since then, she has grown professionally, even winning ‘Young Accountant of the Year’ at this year’s Australian Accounting Awards, hosted by Accountants Daily.
Ms Lim says the award was a wonderful surprise, although she could not attend the event. Her grandmother had passed away the week before, the very woman who inspired Ms Lim to be brave.
“She was really a role model for me growing up. She was quite an independent figure, a strong female figure. Doing what I need to do, not being dependent on other people – those are the things she taught me when I was younger,” Ms Lim says.
“In our culture, it’s easier to just get one job and be in it for the rest of your life because it’s stable. But when my grandma knew I was starting on my own, she was very proud of me and she knew that I could do it. That made me believe that I could it.”
Investing in education
As it turns out, Ms Lim really can do it.
While she initially wanted to study health science at her university, Ms Lim decided to go into accounting because she loved the practicality of the field.
“You need that skill everywhere. When people come to you and ask you about specific questions that only you know, and you can help that person get that answer, it’s pretty satisfying,” she says.
Ms Lim’s first role was as an accounting assistant for a small firm. And because it was so small, Ms Lim found herself doing many jobs, from compliance and tax returns to bookkeeping and administration. It was in this role that she realised she wanted to branch out on her own.
Now that she has, Ms Lim has seen her accounting practice grow successfully over the years, thanks in large part to the referrals that come from the mortgage broking side of the business.
“Any broker that has clients who are confused about the laws around property investing, those are my referrals. Compared to all the other accounting start-ups out there, I probably have got it a little easier,” she says.
“From the beginning, the leads were coming from there, but now it’s getting to a stage where my clients are referring their friends and family to me.”
In addition, Ms Lim says social media plays a big role in growing a business because “reputation is important in this industry”. Further, she strives to stay on the front foot of technology and innovation and invests time attending educational events around the country.
“I do spend a lot of time upgrading my knowledge by going to conferences and seminars to make sure that I’m in the loop with everything that’s happening in the industry,” she says.
“Earlier this year, I was at a Sydney business expo and I think that was one of the best things I’ve done for the business because there were so many exhibitors in Sydney that are pretty much accounting-specific.”
These exhibitors included software providers for accounting, lodging and security protection, Ms Lim says. Moreover, Ms Lim has decided her business would run nearly totally paperless.
“I actually do not have any paperwork in the office. I don’t have a filing cabinet at all, we run everything electronically. The way I send files to my clients to get signed is through electronic signature,” she says. “Little things like that help us make sure that things are done smoothly.”
A healthy work environment
Beyond this, Ms Lim credits her work environment for her growth. She says all of her colleagues are helpful people who contribute to a good vibe in the office.
“If I’ve got a question, it doesn’t matter if it’s the principal or administration, everyone is willing to help you. Everyone is treated equal, and we’re all happy to help each other out,” she says.
“Everyone’s there with a good spirit in the office every day. I don’t think there was ever a gloomy day. It helps when you go into the office and have such an environment. It helps just having good people around you all the time.”
This company culture has also helped to attract many good clients, who have become like family, Ms Lim says.
“I reckon the same type of people attracts the same type of people. The vibe we give out as an office, we attract the same kind of people to become our clients, as well,” she says.
“Our clients are very good to us. They’re pretty much our family. Everyone’s got difficult clients, but the majority of them, I can talk to like my friends and family.”
When it comes to future goals for the business, Ms Lim says she hopes to stay small.
“My target market is the small businesses and property investors in Australia. I believe that we, especially in Adelaide, are run by small businesses. I really enjoy helping the small businesses achieve what they want to achieve,” she says.
“So, I don’t see ourselves going big in terms of big firms. We do want to focus on still helping the small businesses around Australia.”
As for her team, Ms Lim hopes to one day see her practice become self-sufficient.
“In terms of where I see myself in the next five to 10 years, I want to be able to run a firm that sort of runs itself. So, having enough staff to help me so that I can go away and do the things I love doing. At the end of the day, our goal of helping everyday people doesn’t change,” she says.
“We still want to help people achieve their financial goals, their retirement goals.”