- Corporate Social Responsibility is often part of the DNA of large organisations, but purpose-driven business models are also proving successful for smaller practices
- Having a strong story is an important step to establishing what you’re doing and why
- Purpose is a great way to establish values alignment with clients and/or stakeholders
Those in the accounting profession trade in certainty, and probability, and risk. Defined parameters with often predictable outcomes. But life, and business, don't always follow the rules. Nor does Lisa Mead CA, who quit her comfortable, well-paid job in 2017 to start her own purpose-driven accountancy firm.
The disruption began when her son's father was sent to prison for 12 months. Lisa became aware that, statistically, her son was now far more likely to end up in prison himself.
"There are a lot of risk factors attached to statistics, and I don't really like those. I'm a single parent and that's considered a risk factor. There's a risk factor that says that my son is nine times more likely than any other child to end up in prison when he's older. I didn't like that either," says Mead.
"So those were the driving forces behind me leaving my easy, comfortable position. I saw something beyond that I wanted to strive for. I had a big dream to create something that actually could create sustainable social change for kids who have risk factors."
Uncovering her own story has proved to be a crucial cornerstone to Mead setting up a successful, purpose-driven practice. Her story gave rise to Social Currency, an accounting and business advisory firm that donates 10% of all sales to support at-risk youth in Aotearoa. Its motto is 'whakamahia te putea mo te pai' - using money for good.
"Having a really clear, transparent, genuine story is everything."
"A lot of medium to larger firms do tend to have something called a CSR policy, not necessarily understood by the entire team. What that creates in that organisation is a scattergun approach. There's no point in going, I would like to support that area because it's a nice idea," says Mead.
"It's really important if anybody is going to go out there and really change their purpose model, or even create one, is by having that place to start from and say, 'This is my story. This is why I care about this. And this is what I'm going to do about it.' So having a really clear, transparent, genuine story is everything."
It was a leap of faith for Mead to think that if she cared about an issue, others would too. But her strength of purpose provided her with enough confidence to jump into the unknown of quitting her job and starting her own practice.
"I was prepared to have a low income, eat noodles, whatever it took to make this work. When I was at that point of being ready to do what felt like jumping off a cliff, that was when that purpose was a lot greater than my need to feel comfortable. So I got used to feeling uncomfortable really quickly," says Mead.
Having a CA designation was a large factor influencing Mead's ability to create her own purpose-driven organisation. Her instinct - that there was latent demand for a socially responsible accounting practice - was soon validated.
"The CA platform for me has been really critical in driving me towards something and knowing that I have a platform to create positive change is massive… I'm in this position because I'm a CA, because I can use my skills to do good," says Mead.
"I realised really quickly, pretty much the first day actually that I launched my business, that other people had that same mindset. They'd engage with something meaningful and choose a conscious accounting firm over one that didn't necessarily have a lot of purpose behind it," she says. The economic and social turmoil of 2020 has left Mead in no doubt that purpose-driven organisations of all kinds are the businesses of the future.
"I think there's no way that globally we can collectively come together in a better way than to have purpose behind what we do. I think in terms of engaging with people, engaging with the people that you'd want to be working with, what better way than to have values aligned with your client base or stakeholder group than to have that purpose as number one," says Mead.
"I think it is difficult for an existing organisation to adapt or change, but change is constant and we've seen that in the last few months that that is inevitable."
Gen CA Podcast Series
Hosted by Peter Rupp, FCA and President of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, the Gen CA Podcast episodes are conversations with inspiring young CAs who are making a difference every day...Find out more
Meet the CA who donates 10% of revenue
Clients of Christchurch-based Lisa Mead CA can feel good they are helping build a more positive future for at-risk kids.Read more