Tax and Accounting Manager, Lisa Bassingthwaighte, recently celebrated 20 years’ service with local accounting firm, Accounting Professionals.
While the words tax and accounting may conjure up images of tedious paperwork for many of us, Lisa explains her longevity and career satisfaction is more about establishing trust and relationships with clients than simply crunching the numbers.
“It’s a people game,” Lisa said. “Clients become friends and you want the best for them so naturally you are looking out for all parts of their business.”
For Lisa, this also extends to her client’s personal life to ensure her advice is meeting their lifestyle goals and outcomes.
“I still have a core number of clients that I met in my first year of working here. They often joke they remember when I turned 21 when I turned 30 and had my children.
“And I’ve watched all their children grow up too.”
Loyalty runs in family
Loyalty runs in the Bassingthwaighte family with her father Michael, also an accountant, recently retiring as CEO of local health fund Peoplecare after 36 years at the helm.
While admitting her father’s interest in accounting may have rubbed off, it was a Year 10 work experience stint that initially piqued Lisa’s interest in accounting.
“I did some work experience at another local firm and thought that would be a good job to have, turns out it has been.
“I also think I liked the idea of a Monday to Friday job too. And not having to work weekends or nights. That was appealing!”
With one of the most renowned surnames in the Illawarra, Lisa is one of four sisters including twin sister Nicole, singer and television personality Natalie, and eldest sister Melinda.
“The surname is generally a trigger question. People have either worked with or worked for my dad or seen my sister on the TV or stage. And, they can’t spell it!”
Baptism of fire
Reflecting on her own career, Lisa recalls it was a baptism of fire commencing with Accounting Professionals at the age of eighteen, and coinciding with the introduction of a new tax system.
“I’d just finished my HSC in December 1999 before landing straight here at Accounting Professionals,” Lisa recalls.
“It was my first job interview. First job. Well, first serious job anyway. I started as a trainee. Full-time work. Part-time University.”
“When I started it was a six month lead up to the introduction of the GST.
“I spent six months doing ABN applications for all our clients and getting everybody into software that would allow GST to be calculated.”
From small beginnings
Just the ninth person employed at the time Lisa says the firm has grown from small beginnings.
“I think they have employed 90 people or more over the course of the last 20 years.
“Back then we needed people, junior people [Laughs]. Data entry was my role for the first 12 months or so until we were trained to do more interesting accounting work.
“Luckily, technology has improved a lot since then. Most of that accounting work is done by accounting software like Xero and Quickbooks now.”
Those early days were also spent juggling work and driving to the University of Wollongong before deciding to complete her degree by correspondence.
“Getting into lectures and tutorials was getting more difficult. As I progressed in my career and became more senior it became harder to leave the office on time.”
The old days
With the benefit of experience, Lisa takes pleasure in explaining to younger staff members what it used to be like compared to how easy they have a lot of things now.
“For example, back then we didn’t have much internet. If you needed internet access you would have to unplug the fax, climb under the desk and plug yourself in for the five minutes you wanted to use it then switch it back out for someone else.”
“The tax office didn’t even have a website with any client portability. You couldn’t just log in to find out client information. We had to call and request and then wait 28 days for a report to arrive. Now it’s instant.”
“People get frustrated now when the internet is down, but I think back and laugh when we had to wait a month for the one report to come back from the ATO, every time we needed to do a job.”
While the banter between the older and younger brigade is light-hearted, for founding partner Garry Pinch, it’s Lisa’s experience which is invaluable in a mentoring role.
“Lisa has been really valuable to the firm, and particularly for me as my main support person for the last 15 years,” Pinch says.
“I’ve seen her grow both professionally and personally to be an extremely competent, professional advisor.
“She is also one of our best mentors and trainers with a high skill level and a really good ability to impart knowledge and preparedness to sit and work with people in a mentoring capacity.”
One of the first at Accounting Professionals to work from home, Lisa is appreciative her employer has always been willing to provide flexibility and opportunity. First while studying then raising her young family, Clayton (13) and Koa (8).
“One of the blessings is we are all a family. When I had my family, they were very supportive of me. And I like to reciprocate that. We all look after each other.
“I’d sometimes come into the office on Friday with a baby on my lap, Clayton is probably the first ‘AP baby’ to come along to a staff meeting.
“Until he got too cute and distracting and then he got the sack [Laughs].
Working for the same organisation for two decades is a rare feat in any industry these days but Lisa feels like she is just getting started.
“It’s just a nice environment to work in and legislation is always changing so it’s not boring or repetitive.”
“I don’t feel I am much older than the younger staff members here but apparently I am [Laughs].
“Our newest recruit just discovered she was just being born when I started here. She turned 20 so that does make me feel really old.”
They say numbers don’t lie. In Lisa’s case, they simply add up to a challenging but rewarding career.