Agronomy and Accounting - Who am I?

Sally Innis Sally Innis
4 February 2020
5 min read

4 February 2020

Homesickness is tough. Whilst University fed my curiosity and challenged who I was and what I believed to be true, it never captured my spirit the way the mountains at home did. No matter how many ways I caught the bus or walked a different route to University, I never found the beauty in the city landscape. From friends enticing me into their homes, their lifestyle, their world to enjoying the nightlife and beaches, I just longed to be home.

Our parents often spoke to us as teenagers about our strengths and development points and were very honest and open in conversations around our farm and what the future might look like for us. We had years to prepare ourselves for my parents’ retirement. These years went by quickly.

When I started my career, my boss at the time was very direct with me. He said, “I like you because you’re from a dairy farm, which means you’ll work hard but you’ll have no idea that you are”. I was happy to have a job in accounting so close to home - I was 22 years old with limited accounting experience. By 11am on day one, I was working away on a dairy farming client and by day two, I was chatting away to the client on the telephone. He threw me in head first and I loved every second of it.

My plan at the time was to work on as many clients as I could across various industries to gain technical competence and commercial skills. As I gathered accounting skills, I found myself leaning towards agribusiness clients. My curiosity kicked in and I started to think more holistically around the numbers, and decided some agronomy knowledge would be helpful. The course I enrolled in had assignments (very scary assignments!), whole farm plans to be developed, monitoring and managing soils for production, understanding the production system and developing climate risk management strategies. I was very average at all of these topics, so I invested some time with an agronomist to help me work through and understand them properly. The course finished on managing business capital and analysing business performance, and I really enjoyed those topics.

What became apparent to me was that I didn’t need to be across everything on the farm. I didn’t need to know everything for the client to be successful. I didn’t need to be an agronomist. The network of people I had around me had the depth of knowledge, people that cared as deeply for clients as I do, people brave enough to share their knowledge. I’ve lost count now of the amount of times we’ve tried something different or new with others in the network to help clients - we honestly didn’t know what we were doing exactly, but knew what we needed to achieve. What is so exciting is that we finished with a much more robust outcome than what I could have achieved on my own. Trusted, strong relationships are so vital.

There is such a fine line when helping clients. What are their expectations? How deep does your knowledge need to be? It wasn’t until we worked through the sale of our own farm that I truly understood my role in their support team.

When it’s your own farm and you’re the family accountant, emotions can play an important role - especially having self-awareness around those emotions. So, I told myself to stick to the figures and work through the emotions later… That was not successful.

Over the course of around twelve months, I recognised and finally embraced the fact that I was always going to wear my heart on my sleeve, that I get overly passionate, and that my work mates - at times - probably think I’m a little bit crazy. I’ve learnt from my clients and mentors at work that vulnerability is where we need to live, where we grow and where we really help others. I’m cool with being different - I’m just being me.

So, to my second family I went – Findex, Albury. I mapped out my family’s goals, timeframes, non-negotiables, and how my parents would like their retirement to look. We broke down the plan into manageable chunks with timeframes and assigned our experts to where they could showcase their skillsets. We then brought in trusted advisers from our network where we had gaps. The team did their ‘job’ but most importantly looked after my family and me. The care and kindness from the Findex team, shown quietly and authentically, was appreciated.

The advertising campaign came, followed quickly by the auction, the sale of the herd and the clearance sale, the dairy turned off for the final time and the houses packed up. A lifetime of memories packed and boxed. Then we had some time to work through what we needed to work through, as settlement day arrived.

The ability to quietly manage the cash, tax and wealth strategies and implications associated with the sale was where I found my role and my strength. To organise, collaborate and to chase outcomes. To take the worry away and for the client to know - we’ve got this, we’ve got you. And this doesn’t end at settlement - the connection and the care is for a lifetime, as our client is redirected to experts that help manage the next stage. We are a team, in it together.

I’m ok with not being that great at milking cows, or really understanding how best to deal with acidity issues or mastitis. I can learn and experience this alongside our clients, as they too are able to learn and grow from my skillset alongside me.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the thought or position of Findex (Aust) Pty Ltd.

Sally Innis
Author: Sally Innis | Associate Partner