So who are you anyway, and what do you do?

I’m David Smith. I have spent over 40 years in or around the accounting industry. These days I concentrate to assisting accounting firms improve their businesses, deal with succession or undertake mergers or acquisitions. With two others I run workshops and conferences for accountants include ATSA (Accountants’ Technology Showcase Australia) which is Australia’s only independent technology conference and exhibition for accounting practices. I live in three houses to create an “interesting” domestic life, with my partner. I have two adult kids and am a keen Dragons fan 😦

What was your last job before getting into this?

I was a partner at PKF, Sydney (now BDO Sydney) for many years where I build a software business that was sold to Solution 6 (now part of MYOB in 1999). I worked for Solution 6 for a couple of years after the sale before creating my own consultancy.

And why did you decide to do what you do now?

I like the challenge of doing something new. Creating a consultancy and event business from scratch was an interesting challenge but leveraged my years in the profession.

What is it about the 60/70/80/90s that you miss most?  (Choose one)

As a teenager in the 60s I was captivated by the US space program. I used to stay up all night listening to broadcasts from the Voice of America on shortwave where they’d broadcast transmissions to and from the spacecraft. There’s been nothing as captivating since and such a shame that the early exploration momentum has been lost. I recall standing outside my home when I was 9 years old with all the house lights on so that John Glenn could see the lights of Sydney when he passed overhead.

What is the biggest challenge facing SMEs today?

Every small business person I see seems to be incredibly time challenged. Often they’re the driver of their business since they created it. Moving into a world where they need to invest in people and delegate responsibilities is often a great challenge. Most accounting firms are SMEs. Since the commodity their selling is based around time there is a focus on maximising the billable hour which means that insufficient resources are dedicated to developing the business.

Can cloud software solve that challenge?  And if so, how? And if not, what can?

Cloud software can take away some of the pain and hassle for SMEs. Not having to manage their own IT infrastructure frees up time and creates a more reliable IT platform. Secondly, cloud enables more effective collaboration. That means, in the case of accounting firms, that team members can work more effectively together on projects without regard to physical location. Therefore, people can work where they are most productive – at home, with a customer or in the office. Work can be more easily delegated and reviewed. All of this creates greater efficiency and frees up time.

If you could retire now, what would you do? Or not do?

Many of my friends are retiring or slowing down. I have no desire to do so. I love what I do and thrive on new challenges. At some point I may reduce my involvement in business. I suspect I’d then get involved in some charity work and spend more time at my home in Port Stephens and catch some fish. It’s likely I’d get a games console and a copy of Grand Theft Auto – always been a bit of a geek!

If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?

The most valuable asset you can have is your own reputation (personal brand) and network. Start as early as you can in building your network and personal reputation.

If you could buy anyone a drink in a bar and chat to them about anything, who would it be, what drink, and what would you talk about?

Assuming he can be resurrected, Thomas Edison. I’d love to discuss his views as to how he sees the world today and the possibilities for the future. I am fascinated about how technology can change the world. I love to discuss the possibilities – the unintended consequences. 3D printers fascinate me and seem to be the next potential world changing technology. If I’m on the road I don’t drink, so mineral water otherwise a nice glass of Shiraz.

If you could walk up to anyone, kick them in the shins and shout something at them, who would it be, and what would you shout?  Go on….get it off your chest!

Rather than one person – can I kick a group? I am so disenchanted with our politicians (not just in Australia). Some recent research showed that 30% of Australians thought that democracy was the wrong system. Party politics doesn’t work. We need to pay our politicians a lot more (to get people of talent) and then make them a lot more accountable with harsh penalties if they abuse their position of trust.

If you could walk up to anyone and hug them, who would it be, and why?

My partner for tolerating me. I work hard and sometimes she doesn’t get the attention she deserves.

What’s your favourite meat and gravy meal?

A great roast lamb.

What is your greatest achievement?

I’m very proud of my kids as they both enter early adulthood. Watching them grow and develop is a joy. Being National President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2003 was a humbling and rewarding experience.

What do you want to achieve that you haven’t as yet?

I’m always looking for another mountain to climb. A new one is just around the corner.

What’s next for you?

If I told you I’d have to kill you. Watch this space around mid November !

David is Director of Smithink 2020.

@smithink2020


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