Kylie is an accountant & interior designer
Kylie Parker, a director at Lotus Accountants & an interior designer, tells us about some of the projects she has done, how it has established relationships in with workplace with both clients and how finding clients with similar passions can make going to work more enjoyable! She also talks about her short time as a dancer!
• Getting into interior design
• Pool table vs Ping-Pong table
• Her time as a dancer
• Working with clients who share your hobbies
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Welcome to Episode 203 of What’s Your “And”?. This is John Garrett and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. And to put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills that you do every day at work, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office, but first, I’ve got a quick favor to ask. If you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit “Subscribe” so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week and this week is no different with my guest, Kylie Parker. She’s the co-founder of AccounTEK Global, a director at Lotus Accountants, and the author of the book, “Planning Plan B”.
Kylie: Thanks, John. It’s fantastic to be on What’s Your “And”? and part of a new podcast that you’re doing.
John: Oh, here we go. All right. You’re already ready for the “and”, but we all know the drill. Since it’s my show, I get to rapid fire question you first, so here we go. All right. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one. Favorite color?
John: Oh, okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Interesting. All right. So Easter, you’re very conflicted. How about cats or dogs?
John: All right. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Kylie: I would say Hugh Jackman.
John: Oh, sure. There you go, playing the home team. I see what you’re doing. So when you travel, more planes, trains, or automobiles?
Kylie: Planes to get me places given that we’re in Australia. I need to really get out of this end of the world, and then probably trains once I’m there, boats, cars, taxis.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I didn’t think of that. Yeah. Being in Australia, I guess planes are really the only option.
Kylie: Yeah, definitely helpful.
John: Yeah. How about more chocolate or vanilla?
Kylie: Chocolate, definitely chocolate.
John: Okay. All right. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Kylie: I’m not really a puzzle person. Definitely it would be crossword then. I don’t know if I’ve ever done a Sudoku.
John: Right. That’s how my tax returns are done actually when I do them. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Kylie: Night owl.
John: Okay. Do you have a favorite Disney character?
Kylie: Mickey Mouse.
John: Solid. Yeah, classic. All right. Now, I have to ask you, when it comes to financials, balance sheet or income statement?
Kylie: Balance sheet.
John: Okay. All right.
Kylie: I had a boss that was always, “If the balance sheet is right, your P&L is correct.”
John: Oh, there you go. That sounds like lazy auditing. That’s what that sounds like. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Kylie: I started liking Brussels sprouts recently. That easily would’ve been my first answer, but I’d have to say turnips.
John: Turnips, oh yeah, that’s a good answer. I didn’t realize that in Australia, you guys have different names for things like capsicum, which is green pepper, I guess.
John: How about a favorite number?
John: Oh! And why is that?
Kylie: My older son was born on the 13th and then I just had a lot of lucky things happen around 13.
John: Oh, okay. All right. I like it. How about when it comes to trilogies, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kylie: Star Wars.
John: Okay. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Kylie: Oh, I’m a bit of a hybrid now, but after working at Xero, I’ve switched to the Mac.
John: Oh, okay. All right.
Kylie: But with Office 365 on it.
John: Oh, yeah, so you definitely are the hybrid. Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Chocolate. There we go. Two more. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
John: Okay. All right. I wasn’t sure if in Australia, it goes the other way. Then the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Kylie: I have to say my engagement ring. My husband, he designed everything and it’s got the lotus flower in it, a black diamond.
John: Oh, nice!
Kylie: I’ve actually just moved it today to his safe at work. We’re going away to Greece on Saturday and it was one of those things, do I wear it or do I not, and I actually had a struggle to put it away, so I figured that would probably be the one thing that I would worry about losing most.
John: Yeah. That sounds neat though that he designed it.
John: And with a lotus, which is cool, which means a lot. That’s really cool. So let’s jump right in here with the fun stuff. Interior design, how did you get started with that?
Kylie: Through university. I was actually going to a lot of antique auctions, and so on my Tuesday off, I’d go and pick up — at the time, it was quite often a lot of farm instruments or old pieces of furniture and then I would be doing them up.
I went through a phase of taking all the paint off and going back to natural wood. That was a bit of a trend back then where you paint a lot of things dark green, bottle green, and then I lent one flower from a friend and it was a pansy, so I used to just go and paint all these in bottle green with pansies.
John: That’s funny. It’s like your signature. You didn’t even need to sign the piece.
Kylie: That’s correct. My then husband at the time was very tolerant because honestly, we had a house full of furniture that was bottle green with pansies.
John: That’s so fantastic, but when you’re good at something, that will drive it home.
John: That’s very funny. So it started with collecting these antiques when you were in university and redoing them and then it just became a full-fledged passion.
Kylie: Actually, even thinking about talking about this topic with you, I went back and had a look at the properties that I bought. I bought my first property at 21, and so over the last 25 years, I’ve had 12 places. I currently still got three and all of them are fully furnished. I’ve renovated them. A lot of it though is still with an accounting hat on, so it’s doing the renovation, but making sure that you’re not overcapitalizing, that you’re getting a bit of rental yield if I am going to fully furnish the place that I’m renting, so doing things from a point of view of what’s — say, for example, a friend of mine that I met when I was on holiday in New Zealand years ago, she’s Canadian, when I went to Canada, she introduced me to West Elm and Pottery Barn.
John: Oh boy.
Kylie: Yeah, and they weren’t in Australia at the time, so quite often, a lot of the things that I’d be doing was then I would go on to eBay and then I’d try and find second-hand items and ship them over. That’s a bit different now that they’re here, but I still would find — I tend to buy things when they’re on sale. If I like something, I try and find an option rather than full price — I’m not a very good buyer from retailers.
John: Right, but that’s the accountant in you right there.
Kylie: It is.
John: Getting the value. That’s interesting. Now, it’s grown to — yeah, you’re doing it all out when you’re purchasing properties and renovating them. What does that involve? Is that redesigning or is it more than just painting? Are we tearing down some walls and doing some stuff like that?
Kylie: Yeah, definitely a lot of tearing down walls. It’s really trying to find a property that I can see can add value by changing something. It might be one with the two-bedroom apartment. We made it a three-bedroom apartment by moving the kitchen from — it was in a room, so we took that out and then opened up the internal laundry and then made that the kitchen area, more of an open plan kitchen. Another one was a two-bedroom semi in Bondi in which we initially did a renovation which was just at the bottom of it and then we did a full build on top, so we turned a semi into a five-bedroom.
Kylie: Yeah. We had that in the House & Garden Magazine and that was something that was very much a side project that I found. I was a full partner at the firm at the time and had young kids, so living through it wasn’t the smartest idea.
Kylie: And that was something I don’t think I’d do again.
John: Yeah. So some of these places, you’re remodeling while you live there?
Kylie: Yes, that was the only one that while we lived in it. It was nine months and — well, we had to end up doing the walls downstairs because it got water damage, and when the roof was off, it was crazy. You’re getting ready for work in your pajamas with young kids and the builders are all coming in and you say, “Hi!”
John: Right. To have something featured in House & Garden Magazine, that’s pretty intense. That’s cool.
Kylie: Yeah. It was something — I think for me, it was a bit of something I was quite proud of and particularly not having — I’m not an interior designer. I’m an accountant, so getting to a point where I decided to do it and to have it displayed like that, though some things that I did, the builder would be saying to me, “Why do you want to do that?” One of it was leaving a bit of a gap in one of my son’s walls. That was brick work and I put a Banksy print on that wall so it looked like the — you know. At the time, he thought I was crazy, but it’s funny. A lot of those things, once they’re finished, they don’t look as risky as what sometimes they might be at the start. I’m not sure whether the Banksy print is still there given another woman that bought that house has got a teenage daughter up in that room, so I’m not sure whether it survived.
John: Right. I think that’s really interesting how you’re able to see the vision all the way through when maybe others can’t, but then in the end, it’s like, oh, see? There it is. It’s all good.
Kylie: I’ve got a lot of family members that are artists, so I do think I’ve got a bit of a natural eye for that, which I do feel lucky because sometimes we’ll be looking at something, a wallpaper, and people would go “no” and that’s what happens. The reaction is always, “Yeah, that looks really good.” I’ve never had something that I’ve done that people go, “That’s disgusting.”
John: Right. That’s really cool, and I would challenge you. I think you are an interior designer just as much as an accountant. What more do you need to do to qualify as an interior designer, you know?
Kylie: Get paid.
John: You get paid. It sounds like you are if you’re starting flipping properties like this — or not even flipping, but transitioning properties. That’s the one thing that I think is really interesting that came up in a conversation recently. I think a lot of people don’t consider themselves to have this hobby or this passion because they don’t have the degree in it or they don’t have some world accolade of some sort. It’s like, well, what more do you need to do, you know?
Kylie: You don’t feel like you’ve got the qualifications or —
Kylie: I often wanted to go into this type of business line, and at the time, my old partners were actually even prepared to let me do this because I’d renovated — I did our office and everything like that as well when we did the second floor and the difference in price as well was just crazy from the first person. Well, we did have an interior designer versus what I did and you really couldn’t tell by looking at it. I was going to actually have really a styling for investment properties because a lot of people will have styling for selling a house but not for how to get a better rental return. The property that I have up the coast, it was getting rent of AUD 585 a week and then I spent that AUD 40,000 in furnishing, cosmetic styling, so changing kitchen splashback tiles, new taps, and just cleaning things up. Now, it’s rented at AUD 850 but if you’re an investor then you bought a property to get the best return that you can while spending a little bit of money.
John: Yeah. Do you tend to talk about these projects with clients or co-workers?
Kylie: I don’t really. With co-workers, yes, they all know that I do this with clients. I’ve actually started to get a few more clients. I tend to work in the film and TV industry and with high net worth individuals, and so going into my clients’ homes, they’re beautiful, but I do like — I like a home that’s got a bit of interesting and sometimes trinkets from where someone’s traveled or items that have been passed down through the family. I’d like a home that’s got a bit of a story as well in terms of what’s in it, not just something that’s very clean lined. A lot of my clients now — so I look after Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin. So when I look at what she’s doing, for example, it’s admiring what she’s doing, so she’s not really going to listen to me.
John: Oh, right, but at least you know what you’re talking about way more than I do if I go in there. “Wow! That looks pretty cool!” That clearly isn’t going to ring the same when you use the language and know the terminology and things like that. It has to mean more to her.
Kylie: You just reminded me of something I did actually. Years ago, I went to their home. They had this beautiful home in Sydney and I really liked the outdoor setting that they had and it’s a very expensive brand called DEDON. Again, I got on eBay and eventually found my $5000 settee for $1000. I do take my inspiration from clients, but again, I don’t like paying what they pay.
John: Right. Actually, as their accountant, you should’ve been like, “Hey, actually, you could’ve saved some money if you would’ve…”
Kylie: Oh my God, I know. Honestly, I would love to be able to do this with some of my clients and say, “Okay, so what are you wanting to do? This is the budget,” but a large part of it is really — it is time. There are rules and things like that that you could set up as alerts, and so if something comes up, we’ll send you an email, but that’s just it. I think quite often, people just want things now and just get it delivered.
John: Yeah. When you have the money sitting around, I guess, why not?
Kylie: Yes, exactly.
John: That’s interesting. I guess what is it about this that makes you think that maybe it doesn’t come up with clients or rarely with the co-workers, I guess? Is it just because it’s not the accounting work?
Kylie: I don’t know. I’ve not really thought about it too much. I’m very much sitting in an office that’s not your typical office space. It’s got lots of pretty things, for want of a better word. I’ve got a thing for blue velvet at the moment, so I bought a couple of blue velvet chairs.
John: It’s no pansies, but it’ll do.
Kylie: I’d swap my pansies for my lotus flowers.
Kylie: Actually, that’s something I would like to do. I do have — because if it’s anything that’s on rent, it’s sort of an excuse. I have not gone to the point of making anything tax deductible yet, but my engagement ring isn’t tax deductible.
John: Right. That would be a pretty awesome tax deduction, right?
Kylie: It would, so there are so many lotus flowers, scented candles, jewelry. That’s the thing. Once you start tapping into that, it’s like, oh, that would be a good thing to do, is have a little aside, retail therapy, just as an aside for the business. Sometimes as well, it’s also then you get to try what would Shopify be like, so sometimes for me, it’s also around the technology and how could I do different things that then I can take and help with clients in terms of what they’re doing.
I’m looking at one at the moment. There’s a company called Ivy which they help with interior designer software. They’re coming out of the States into Australia. I’ve been doing a little bit of work with them on marketing at the moment, but I went to their official launch a few weeks ago.
John: Oh, cool!
Kylie: Yeah, and that was interesting because I think a lot of the accounting tech these days, really they know to aim for the accounting market or the bookkeepers and then have them almost act as like a reseller for their software where their launch, I was the only accountant there and there was one lawyer. Everybody else, they’ve just gone straight into their end user, I suppose, the interior designer. I thought that was an interesting marketing tactic. It was quite a bit different.
John: It definitely set you apart as well. I would imagine that clients that come to your office and they see everything, I’m sure they’re like, “Wow, this looks nice” and they just think that you paid someone to do it. It’s like, “No, no, I did this myself. These are my ideas.” I think that that’s something that could be really powerful because then I would be like — not only is it really cool, but you did it. “What? That’s awesome. Who knows that that’s an added service?” “Well, I’m here doing your tax return. Why don’t I fix your office up a little bit? Good God. This is terrible” at the client.
Kylie: Actually, I had a client ring me yesterday and he was wanting some advice around the lease. He’s looking at moving offices, and so I just went straight into talking about the fit out that’s already there, what’s there. I should’ve said to him, “Well, if you’re wanting some tips…” He is moving office at West Elm and Pottery Barn, so —
John: Oh, there you go, extra reasons to stop by. That’s definitely an added expertise that you bring that not a lot of accountants also have. I think that’s cool that you let it shine like that in your office and that you’re not hiding it and you’re bringing it out. I think if clients knew that, I think that they would be pleasantly surprised. I guess one thing that I wonder about is how much do you think it’s on an organization to create a culture where it’s cool to share your hobbies and passions and how much is it on the individual to just maybe create their little circle or to step in and be a part of that?
Kylie: I do think if you want high-performing employees, I quite often think having hobbies and just interests outside of work do make you a well-rounded person, and again, like you said, when you’re talking to clients, you’ve got other interests that you can talk to them about. I just find that more interesting when you’re talking to somebody. I think from a cultural point of view, I was really fortunate to be able to work at Xero, so that’s the culture that it brings to mind. There were just lots of different opportunities in an organization particularly in a larger organization where you can utilize your skills whether it’d be fitness. There are lots of opportunities if you wanted to do either running or sports.
There’s the age old ping-pong table versus pool table debate that we had. When I was in my other company, we ended up putting a ping-pong table. We let the staff vote. I would’ve gotten a pool table. That was definitely where I was heading. Again, we just put it to a vote. Everyone wanted a ping-pong table. Just the level of competition — and it was very much anyone could participate, but sometimes, a pool table tends to be more male-orientated. So even just having those kinds of programs then create diversity and mixing of genders and of personality types and everything, and ping-pong was something that I actually was really surprised about. A lot of them were the compliant-based accountants and traditionally, they’re quieter personality types. We put them on a ping-pong table, whew, they were crazy.
John: Right? It comes out, right? All of a sudden, their true personality.
John: So would you have tournaments or was it just a free-for-all?
Kylie: There were tournaments. The staff started things like that as well. That was something that they put together. I do think through social committee members and events that they organize, I think that’s where you start to see — we might go to a karaoke night and then all of a sudden, you find out you’ve got an amazing singer amongst your organization.
Kylie: So I do think sometimes those social events can really help with finding out other people’s hidden talents.
John: That’s exactly it. It gives them permission, if you will, to do that. I feel like we’re so permission-based especially in accounting where we’re just trying to just follow the rules and be compliant. If you told someone you’re an amazing singer, who cares? That’s really awesome. No one is going to judge you in a bad way for that.
Kylie: That’s right.
John: You can be a great singer and be a good accountant. They’re not mutually exclusive, or they are mutually exclusive, I guess. Yeah, you can do both in the same way that you can be an accountant and an interior designer like you are. I think that’s awesome that you actually took the time to ask them because if you rolled in a pool table then it’s like, well, you thought it was going to be amazing and then it backfires and it’s like, oh, well.
Kylie: Two thoughts came to mind then. Actually, when I first started my accounting job, I was dancing and I ended up joining a cabaret show that was — the receptionist at my first job was already in, and so we did a lot of touring and —
Kylie: Yeah. I was actually booked to go on a cruise with her, so it was a singer and two dancers. I had my first tax exam came up, so it was do I go on a cruise or do my tax exam? I chose the tax exam. That’s probably the one thing that I regret because then it was like — they had to get a replacement dancer, and so I was kicked out of the cabaret show for tax.
Kylie: Another one was I actually took my team — it was a small team at the moment — and a lot of clients. We went axe throwing last week and then my husband came along. He is an accountant as well. He’s a CFO of a payment services company. He won axe throwing, so now, I’m a little bit scared. That was the talent that I did not know he had.
John: Right. That’s very funny. “How long have you been practicing? I have some questions that I need to ask.” What the heck. Yeah, that’s a cool thing that it allows people to just — they don’t have to conform. They don’t have to be what they think the stereotype is because clearly, apparently being an axe thrower is a skill set that accountants can have. There are a lot of different things that we have that we don’t always get to share or even talk about. I really like that you give your people the opportunity to do that. It sounds like the tone at the top and the organization creating those experiences is the big part for you.
Kylie: Well, it’s interesting for me at the moment because I’ve gone from a position of being in a partner — we had 45 staff — and then starting back up on my own. I worked at Xero for just under two years, and so I’ve got a good experience of seeing what other accounting firms are doing, really learning more about technology, and just creating different networks and everything. It’s been amazing. Now that I’m back in practice, it’s that decision of what kind of business do I want to have. I’m actually recruiting my first recruit outside of my existing network at the moment. We’ll have an interview today actually.
A large part of it is that person has to be almost — they’re sort of the person starting the creation of the culture. It’s like these are the things that I want, but I could go and get someone that could very easily just come in and straightaway do the work that I need them to do, but actually I’ve created a bit of a different brand with the Lotus Accountants now. So that person, how do they fit into that and what do I want that to be? It’s very much around technology, but there’s all that talk around business advisory and what does that mean. A big part of it is communicating with clients, so that’s actually a real key skill that I’m looking at at the moment, is hiring for attitude. I can train the accounting skills. I’m pretty confident in myself. Even though that will take a little bit longer, I’m better off getting that right person because I’m thinking it’s like that pyramid. I’m hoping that they’ll train the next person and so on, so you want to get that hire right.
Kylie: My manager, she works for me part-time at the moment, works remote one day and in the office the other day, so she’s not going to be around as much to help train her. It probably would be what I’d like, so it’s very much that decision-making process now is personality type for what culture I’m wanting to build.
John: Yeah. That’s very cool. That’s exciting times. It’s also interesting that it’s the personality of the person that ranks higher than their technical skills.
Kylie: Yeah. I never thought of things like that.
John: Yeah because one, almost everyone has similar technical skills, and two, you’re going to train them up anyway.
John: So if somebody is a dud and not a good personality fit then it’ll never work. I don’t care if you’re the accounting wizard of the universe. It doesn’t matter.
Kylie: In terms of what you’re doing, we are all in a situation now where everything is new. Everything is changing. If you sit back and wait for someone to teach you what it is then you’re already behind the eight ball. I think maybe having someone that has got just those proactivity, taking ownership, that personality type for me is going to be one that I think can help drive the business faster than someone that is going to have to wait for me to show them how to use the next piece of software I get where I really want them to be looking at a client. They’re not just thinking technically, these are the things they should be doing. I really want them to also look at and go, “Okay. It’s a recruitment consulting firm. They’re using JobAdder, Xero. What else could they use that would make their business life easier?” I actually want to start having that just part of the job review as well.
John: Yeah, that’s very cool. That’s exciting times. Before I wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening? Maybe there’s an interior designer out there that’s also an accountant that thinks that, “Oh, well, it has nothing to do with my job” or other people with other hobbies and interests?
Kylie: Yeah. We’re hearing a lot about nicheing coming out of the states and it’s something that in my career I have done, so it’s always been — I actually used to have a Star Wars, Starbucks, and startups, so those were the sorts of clients that I worked with when I was working at Deloitte and I’ve continued that sort of thing. So find what you’re passionate about and then niche in that as an area as well because you’ve just got an interest in it and it just makes it easier and then you’re more passionate about the work. You’re more inclined to want to help the clients because you’ve got an interest outside just the professional side of it.
John: That’s excellent advice and something that’s so easy. Just take a little bit of time to get to know the people around you and what they’re interested in and then how you can appropriately assign them to tasks and clients. That’s such a simple thing, but yet we never really do that, so I love that. I love that advice.
Kylie: You just reminded me, I actually did that even when I was back at Deloitte. This goes back to 2000. The managers that I had, I think because I created an entertainment division within Deloitte at the time and they went across tax, business services, audits but normally it’s quite solo-based. I actually even at the time used to say to my managers — it’s always been something that’s like, “Well, what are you really interested in?” One girl was interested in horses, so we ended up saying, okay, are there any clients in Deloitte at that point in time that have horses for studs and things like that, and we created that for her at that time. Some people generally actually don’t mind, but you’ll find quite often that there’ll be people that have got an interest in something.
John: Yeah. That’s fascinating and that’s so cool that you were doing that. I have to imagine that engagement goes up and she just — when she’s working on the clients that are horse-related, that lights you up. You’re not going to work. You’re going to hang out with cool people that do the stuff you love, so that’s fantastic. It’s only fair that — I know you alluded to it earlier and I’ve been nervous for the past 30 minutes trying to make you forget, but it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid fire question me, so I’m ready. I’m ready. Fire away.
Kylie: Favorite book title?
John: Favorite book title? Can it be my favorite book or is it just the title itself?
Kylie: Favorite book
John: Well, The War of Art is my favorite book. It’s by Steven Pressfield. I love that book a lot.
Kylie: Greece or Norway?
John: Oh boy. Okay. I’ve never been to either one. I’ll go Greece.
Kylie: Favorite movie?
John: Favorite movie, either Dumb and Dumber or Rudy, which are a pretty big mix. That’s a wide variety, but it depends on what I’m looking for. I’ll cry my eyeballs out at Rudy. I don’t know why.
Kylie: I haven’t heard of it.
John: It’s a sports movie that takes place in the US, the guy that can’t get into college and then he works really hard to get in and then he makes it in for a couple of plays and all this, so it’s kind of that underdog story type of thing.
Kylie: Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey?
John: Jim Carrey although they’re both fantastic and Adam Sandler is the super nicest guy, but Jim Carrey, that’s my guy. All right. Well, thank you so much, Kylie, for taking a part and being with me on What’s Your “And”?. This was really, really fantastic.
Kylie: It was great chatting too. I really appreciate that.
John: If you like to see some pictures of Kylie outside of work or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. It’ll really help for the book that I’m releasing in October. Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that no matter our job or technical expertise, there’s a human side to all of us.