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Counting on each other: The accountant and hairdresser trading tips on resilience

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Vladka Kazda

Jul 5, 2021

For many advisors and their small business clients, the turbulence of FY21 proved that their connection is about much more than just numbers. In this series, we ask what they’ve learned from each other, and how their relationship has evolved through one of their toughest years yet.

It’s said that a good hairdresser is for life, and in the world of small business, the same goes for finding the right accountant. At least, that’s what Rachel Forward of 1st Break Accounting and Cat De Pedro of Envious Hair Culture will tell you. When the pair met four years ago in Perth, Cat needed an accountant, and Rachel was looking for a hairdresser – it was a perfect match. 

Tell us more about how you came to work together

Rachel: After more than two decades of working as a partner in accounting firms, I was tired of dealing with big companies. Instead, I wanted to help my clients succeed by providing emotional as well as practical support. And that’s what I found working with small business owners like Cat. 

Cat: Rachel has helped me through the good times and bad. Four years ago, my husband was recovering from a workplace injury, and as a result, we were relying heavily on the success of my salon. So I reached out for some extra support, and Rachel and I hit it off instantly. We’ve been working together ever since. 

Before the pandemic hit in early 2020, Rachel helped me to downsize my salon – it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I used to work long days, and now I have the freedom to prioritise my family. 

Rachel: Helping clients find work-life balance is something I’m deeply passionate about. According to research done alongside Xero’s Emotional Tax Return – a campaign that is uncovering some of the emotional tolls of running a small business – like Cat, more than half (56 percent) of Australian small business owners have missed out on important time with family because of business commitments. I’ve seen this all too often, so I make a point of living by example. 

My husband works in the Australian Defence Force and, earlier this year, he was posted to Hawaii. I loved the idea of a tropical secondment and, being cloud-based, I realised that I could work from anywhere and still do what I love. 

What did you learn from each other through one of the toughest financial years yet? 

Cat: From lockdowns to JobKeeper to closed borders, last year was an emotional rollercoaster. From the Emotional Tax Return research, I learned that many people (68 percent) said running a business in the past 12 months has been more emotionally draining than any other year they’ve been in business – and I couldn’t agree more. I realised that I had my head in the sand when it came to my business finances. But Rachel taught me so much about the power of my numbers, as well as how to keep a cool head in times of crisis. 

Rachel: I’ve learned from Cat that everyone has a fire within themselves – they just have to find it. I’ve watched her draw on newfound strength when having difficult conversations, and it’s truly admirable. Everyone could learn a thing or two about determination from Cat. We used to joke about how far she’s come based on when I stopped offering her tissues during our meetings. 

Cat: It’s true, I would laugh and say, “Look, I’ve endured this entire meeting without crying.” 

What makes a great advisor-client relationship? 

Cat: Finding the right advisor is about working with someone who is truly invested in who you are and what you do. From the moment I met Rachel, that’s what I picked up on. She had this caring ability, and I knew right from the start that she was on my side. 

Rachel: The right connection really does make all the difference. Although, while I’m a great accountant for Cat, that’s not to say that I’m going to be a perfect match for everyone. Sometimes, it’s just about finding someone you bond with, and that might take time. 

Another thing to consider is the compatibility of your working styles. Even though I’m geographically oceans apart from most of my clients, we’ve found a rhythm by using technology like Xero. 

Cat: The collaborative element of Xero has been fantastic. There are times when I’ve called Rachel and said, “Jump on my account – I need to show you something.” It makes things easy, even though running a small business rarely ever is. However, despite the highs and lows, it’s not something I’d change for the world. And the same goes for the majority of Australians (77 percent), according to the Emotional Tax Return findings.

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