Here I am, come and get me!
Lisa Tait is not your typical accountant. A whiz at numbers, who flies planes and rides bikes in her spare time, Lisa is nothing short of a wonder woman.
Her adventurous soul and brilliant mind make Ms Tait a fan favourite in the accounting world. But as the tale so often unfolds, her journey was not without its trials.
Ms Tait comes from a family of self-employed people. In high school she was a natural with numbers and logically she decided to pursue accounting studies at university. Her first job was in an accounting practice, but to her surprise she hated it.
She felt it was a lot like a “sausage factory” and decided to make a quick escape. “I left that for a couple of years and tried my hand at a few other things, sort of like a gap year concept, and actually ended up going back to university to do a bachelor degree, majoring in management,” Ms Tait recalls.
“While there I had to resit the accounting subjects and they just came way too easily for me. So, I ended up returning to accounting.”
Each to her own
Having never been good at doing what she was told, Ms Tait started her own practice at the age of 27.
“Unlike most accountants, I didn’t buy a client base or steal it, I literally hung my shingle out and said here I am, come and get me,” Ms Tait explains.
“I did lots of door knocking around industrial estates. I was trying to offer a one-stop shop sort of concept to my clients.” From her home office, Ms Tait did bookkeeping, tax returns and, later down the track when introduced, BAS. “I was living on fresh air and sunshine for the first few years,” she laughs.
Today, 23 years since she launched her accounting business, Ms Tait is also the proud owner of an advisory practice. She was motivated to expand into advisory by her long-term clients.
“Back in 2007, when the first lot of FOFA restriction were making an appearance, rather than sitting around waiting to see if accountants will get an exception, I decided to go do my RG146 and become a financial planner anyway,” Ms Tait says.
“As I had started so young, by 2007 a lot of my clients were starting to think about their retirement. I had been a part of their lives, gone to their kids’ weddings and 21sts, and the thought that I wouldn’t see them anymore once they hit 60 and retired is the reason I pursued financial planning.”
She tells us that since her initial clientele hunt in her first year as a sole practitioner, she has grown her business entirely by word-of-mouth.
“I have formed a great relationship with my clients,” Ms Tait says. “There have been a few times in my life, with life circumstances, that I have realised how much my clients have become my friends”.
Only a couple of years after she started her business, Ms Tait broke her back skydiving. Doctors gave her a slim 15 per cent chance of ever walking again.
“My hospital room, even after a short few years of having my practice, was flooded with flowers and things from my clients. And that was before we could do things remotely, so during my recovery clients would come to me, rather than having me go on site to them,” she recalls.
Ms Tait made a full recovery and was soon back in her plane, visiting clients up and down Queensland’s east coast.
But her woes didn’t end there. Just over a decade after her accident, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was quite an aggressive stage of tumour, and again my clients rallied up. My office and home were filled with flowers and lots of well wishes,” she says. Despite her deteriorating health, Ms Tait always put her clients’ needs ahead of her own.
“I worked through chemo and everything else. I arranged with the hospital to minimise any downtime for me. My clients were extremely accommodating accordingly,” she says.
Today, Ms Tait’s clients are an integral part of her everyday life.
Asked about her secret recipe to great client relationships, Ms Tait says it is crucial to really get to know your clients.
“We don’t just send out Christmas cards, we do Birthday cards, we do 20 to 25 per month. Everyone in the office signs the card. It’s the little things like that. Make note of their names, of their children’s names,” she advises. “Actually care, don’t see them just as a dollar sign.”
Currently, Ms Tait employs eight people and an office mascot, Pepper. Pepper joined the firm in 2013. She is also a regular at accounting conferences held by the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA).
“Clients get disappointed if for any reason Pepper is not there when they come in. I do take Pepper out to site to see clients, she comes everywhere with me, even on the back of my bike,” she says.
Besides her business, Ms Tait is a licensed pilot, she is a member of the Formation Flying team at Archerfield and readily swaps her heels for her motorcycle boots.
“I try to keep my weekends free for my hobbies. But in saying that, at tax time it is often a mix of the two,” she concludes.