A word from the Australian Rugby Union

Here is an extract of an interview with Ashley Selwood, CFO, Australian Rugby Union.

What is the most important quality or attribute you look for in an accountant?

The times that we’ve engaged an external accountant have been mainly around projects. We’ve tended to engage accountants and others for project-type work, so they’d come in to complete a specific task. There has been some advice from time to time on tax issues, but we’re a not-forprofit, so although we don’t pay tax we still have tax issues. We’ve still got fringe benefits, GST and the like. My comments are around where we’ve engaged accountants on the basis of projects.

Set against this background, one of the attributes I’d look for is the ability for the person (or persons) to sit down and spend the time up front getting to know our business. In my experience many accountants use pre-defined work processes, templates, checklists, software and so on. This is good and helps in a lot of business settings such as audit assignments.

However, I find at times that external accountants already have some preconceived ideas about what the solution is before they spend the time to actually get to know our business. We’re a sport and nine out of ten people who walk in the door are either followers of rugby or at the very least know a bit about rugby. When you’re dealing with sport there’s a lot more heart than head involved and sometimes people will walk in the door as a consultant or an accountant and the first thing they’ll do is spend an hour telling you what’s wrong with the Wallabies! Once you get through that, they always seem to have quite fixed ideas of what the solutions are without actually spending the time to get to know our business. In my view this is a fundamental mistake. It not only applies to accountants but all other external professional consultants irrespective of their discipline.

With sport, people understand it or think they do. What they don’t understand is the business of sport, which is why we are engaging them in the first place. The challenge, in our case, is that the core of our business is run on six Saturday nights during the year. We play six test matches annually against countries from around the world; we drive all our revenue for the year from those six matches.

When you’re sitting down and talking to an accountant and looking at what attributes you want them to have, you want them to set aside their preconceived ideas and get to really know what our business is about before they start, and get into the process of providing the advice or whatever the work they need to do.

Enough said?

See you next post,

James E