Carbon Accounting Partner Michelle Maynard named as one of Business News' 40under40!

Carbon Accounting Partner Michelle Maynard named as one of Business News' 40under40!

Carbon Accounting Partner Michelle Maynard named as one of Business News' 40under40!
23Sep2020

Michelle joined Carbon three years ago, and in that time has made a name for herself as an accounting expert with appearances on Channel 9, 6PR, Triple M and as a keynote speaker, all while building her business: Carbon Swan Valley. We caught up with Michelle to share her story so far, and have a look at what’s next.

The Business News 40under40 recognises and celebrates WA’s leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and future business leaders under the age of 40. To be nominated is an achievement in its own right, but to be named as one of the 40 is amazing and something Michelle didn’t believe was possible. 

“When I was reading the list of nominees, I was in disbelief that my name was alongside those of people and businesses who are doing spectacular things. It’s something that I couldn’t believe was possible, and then to have been named as one of the 40under40 it shocked me even more.  

“If someone had told me three years ago that I would be a regular on Channel 9, on the radio, a keynote speaker to over 800 Australian Finance Group brokers alongside the Minister for Housing & Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, and would have 10 employees…well, I would have been pretty excited,” said Michelle. 

 
Michelle’s pathway into accounting is less than traditional, and if you know Michelle you’ll know she rarely does things the traditional way. Travelling back to her high school years, Michelle was the first person in her family who considered going to university. She really wanted to be a lawyer, but doubted her ability to get a score high enough to qualify her for that course. So, her love of English literature and reading saw her aim for a Bachelor of Arts instead. 

When her results came in and she realised she missed out on law by 0.05%, it was a big moment of reflection: She had undervalued herself and her ability to achieve a goal, despite it being well within her reach. 
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Michelle secured a scholarship with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) where she studied and completed a Bachelor of Taxation from the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales. This pathway made sense to Michelle who loved the grey nature of law, rather than the traditional accounting approach of it being all about the numbers. Instead, it became about the person’s circumstances and how law and accounting meet in the middle to help a person out.  

After finishing her three-year cadetship at the ATO, Michelle moved into a graduate position at PwC Australia. With her interest in helping people understand their business’ finances better, she asked to go into the small business sector and that’s what kicked her career firmly into the direction it’s now in. 

Partnering with Carbon and running her own small business accounting firm in Swan Valley came on the radar after Michelle had returned from maternity leave. 

“I always knew I wanted to work with small business owners because I come from a family of employees. I was a Manager at a mid-tier firm when the opportunity to join Carbon came up. It was outside of what I had planned for my career, but the stars-aligned.” 

As with any big decision, Michelle experienced some hesitation at the thought of being self-employed. 

“The prospect was pretty unknown to me. I had no one in my close circle to model what the journey would look like, so it presented a range of ‘what if’ scenarios in my head. But, after meeting with Jamie and Nathan, I was able to process through those fears better. I called my mum on my way home and told her that if I didn’t take this opportunity then I would regret it.”  

No journey is without challenges, and for Michelle the biggest obstacle was her lack of network at the start of her path as a small business owner.  

“I came from a high school where not many did TEE so there wasn’t anyone I knew in the business world, and I studied university via correspondence so I didn’t have any uni mates to keep in touch with as they made their way through the career ladder. Anyone in professional services knows and understands that it’s all about networks, so to have nothing was a big issue.” 

So, what do you do when you’re staring at a brick wall? You figure out a way through or around it. And that’s what Michelle did. 

“I had under-estimated the need for clients to know, like and trust you, and for other people to know who you are and refer work to you. Attending networking events was hard for me because I have two kids, and most events are in the evening. So, I worked really hard to establish a personal brand, create a network and cement myself as an expert in the field. One of the best things I did was make 2018 the ‘year of yes’ where I’d say yes to everything and figure the details out later. I’ve just kept doing that!” 

It may come as a surprise to learn that Michelle is an introvert at heart, so not only did she not have a network to leverage off but her very nature made her want to avoid networking at all costs. But, by putting herself truly out of her comfort zone, she believes she’s done more personal development in the last three years than ever before. 

“Being in business for yourself makes you very aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and while it’s not particularly pleasant to face the weaknesses it’s how we grow. I realised early in my journey with Carbon that my path is what makes me stand out in the field of accountants. I understand the financial pressure that small business owners feel, and the emotional toll the fear of not being able to provide for your family can have on you. When I worked at a mid-tier firm, that reality was removed and it was about the numbers, not the people. 

“For me, it’s about helping them achieve their dream, because that’s what I’m doing. I get the fear, the worries and being up at night trying to figure out how you’re going to make it work because I have been there.” 

The lessons Michelle’s learnt along the way are similar for all entrepreneurs looking to start their own business. As with any pathway, the learnings of those who went before us are incredibly valuable pieces of advice.  

“I wish I had known at the beginning that I didn’t have to have all the answers, and that it was okay to ask and rely on other people for help. In the employee world, it’s a constant battle to stand out against your colleagues, but as a small business owner you simply can’t do everything yourself – as much as that pains you to admit. It’s important to recognise what you’re good at, and get help on the other things. Don’t do what I did and do a poor job of keeping all the balls in the air at the same time.” 

Another key lesson she wish someone had told her was not to take everything so personally. 

“Someone saying no to you isn’t personal, you can’t be for everyone and that’s okay. It took me a long time to realise there are so many different factors which come into play when clients are deciding whether to go with you or not. I would always question why they said no to me so I made the mistakes of undervaluing and under pricing myself to avoid the word ‘no’.” 

As one of 2020’s Business News 40under40, Michelle is taking a moment to take stock of her incredible achievements in a short period of time. 

“I’m very proud because it’s been under three years with Carbon. It makes me excited to think that this is what I’ve achieved in three years, imagine what the future holds. I’m going to enjoy the ride, that’s for sure.” 

Have a question for Michelle?  

Get in touch! 


 
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