Heather is an Accountant & World Traveler
Heather Smith talks about her passion for traveling around the world and how it helps her with developing relationships and standing out among the competition!
• Getting into traveling
• Immersing in different cultures
• Why Singapore is her favorite place to visit
• How her traveling has helped her career
• Breaking the stereotype of her competition
• What she has noticed with other company cultures
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Welcome to Episode 321 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. Put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. That’s right. It’s out. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo and Bookshop, and a few other websites, so you could check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it. The fact that everyone’s buying the book is really, really cool.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast 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, Heather Smith. She provides education around accounting apps for the accounting community out of Australia, and now she’s with me here today. Heather, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Heather: Thank you so much for having me on, John.
John: Yeah, this is going to be so much fun, but I have my rapid fire questions right out of the gate. It’s going to be good to know Heather on a new level. Here we go. I’ll start out easy. First one. Favorite color.
Heather: Favorite color. Pink.
John: Pink, okay. How about a least favorite color?
Heather: Brownie, brownie, gray, brown.
John: Just the way you said it makes me hate it. Yeah, yeah, that’s gross.
Heather: Yeah, I hate it.
John: All right, all right. How about pens or pencils?
John: Oh, okay. Old school. I like that. How about puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
Heather: Definitely Sudoku. Does anyone like crosswords?
John: I just make up words when I’m on the airplane. How about a favorite Disney character?
Heather: Oh, that’s got to be Princess Leia.
John: There you go. Going Star Wars. Awesome. I love it.
Heather: Absolutely. Amazing lady, strong leader, defeated the Death Star.
John: Right. There you go. That leads into my next one. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Heather: That’s a hard one. But I’ll have to go Star Wars.
John: Okay. All right. All right. How about your computer? More of a PC or a Mac?
Heather: Oh, PC. Definitely.
John: Yeah, me too. Me too. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Heather: Rum and raisin.
John: Oh, okay. You don’t get that often.
Heather: Rum and raisin always. You have that in America?
John: Absolutely. Yeah. The rum is always an all caps and then raisin is in little font. No, I’m just kidding.
Heather: Rum and raisin, then peppermint and chocolate chip, then chocolate. But we’re always rum and raisin.
John: Okay, no, I like that. I like that. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Heather: Unfortunately, both, but I typically get up at 4:00 a.m. I’ll say early bird and typically trying to get to sleep at 8:00 p.m.
Heather: Wow, that’s early. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Heather: Sandra Bullock, who is an amazing actor, love her. Very disciplined, very funny, funny, funny actress and lots of great movies.
John: Yeah, we should get Sandra Bullock to play Princess Leia and one of the new Star Wars movies and then your worlds would combine.
Heather: Yeah, maybe her life. Maybe a biography.
John: Right. There you go. There you go. How about favorite adult beverage?
Heather: Oh, that’s a good one. Prosecco.
John: Prosecco. Okay, there you go. A little sweet.
Heather: What do you call it? A Prosecco Spritzer. That’s what a lot of us drink. Do you understand what I mean by that?
John: It’s like sparkling.
Heather: It’s like champagne with Prosecco in it, which turns it sort of pinky color.
John: There you go. Fancy. I like that. All right. Since you have the accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?
Heather: We don’t call it really an income statement in Australia so I’ll go for the balance sheet.
John: Oh, okay. What do you guys call it down there?
Heather: We call it a profit and loss statement. I think they call it that in the UK as well. I know that because I’ve written a global accounting book. You will all agree on this.
John: No, it’s probably the whole world does except for America, because we do inches as well. So why not? We got five more. More oceans or mountains?
John: Oceans, okay. How about heels or flats?
Heather: Flats, UGG boots, Australian UGG boots. I should highlight that Australian UGG boot, the brand is actually not from Australia. You should seek real UGG boots, not Australia labeled UGG boots. A little controversy there from the UGG boot lovers of the world.
John: Yes. How about a favorite number?
Heather: Oh, I’ll take pi, 3.14.
John: Nice. I love it. I love it. Since my book is out, do you prefer more Kindle or real books?
Heather: Kindle. I think Kindle’s amazing. I think people should have a go at trying Kindle if I haven’t tried it.
John: Especially when traveling because it’s hard to bring volumes of books.
Heather: What I like about it is it tells me what other people who’ve read that book have highlighted. I always like to know what other people’s perspectives of something are. I’m always very curious. It highlights it. I think there’s one section you can go to and go okay, what have people highlighted? You can scan through and see what things have piqued other people’s interest, which is quite interesting.
John: That’s interesting. I need to go do that on my book. They highlighted the whole thing. What? It’s all so amazing. No, no. The last one, last one. Favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Heather: Favorite thing I have, I guess my family? Is that what we’re going for there?
John: Yeah. No, that counts. Yeah, or if you had a cool thing that you were like, if your house caught on fire, you would grab on the way out sort of a thing. But yeah, family counts.
Heather: Family and friends, and I digitized all my photos over Christmas. Everything’s in the clouds. I actually physically live in a wooden house, and so we’re very aware of the house could burn down in 12 minutes. Everything is in the clouds, and we get the family out.
John: Wow. That’s fantastic. Very good. Yeah. Family and friends. Perfect. That’s perfect. Let’s talk traveling and exploring. Is this something that you grew up doing or something that you started later in life?
Heather: Yeah, look, I was quite a fortunate child of immigrant family who traveled back to the UK on a frequent basis, so always had travelled, and look, actually chose accounting because it’s a global international qualification that you can travel with. I have traveled extensively. I’ve lived abroad in what we call sort of an expat status for a decade in Singapore, in Canada, and in the UK.
Once I had my children and sort of did extended sort of stay at home with the children, I then have traveled quite extensively going around the world and traveled through Australia and New Zealand. I call them “workations” in that I might tie up a bit of work at the beginning and a bit of work at the end, and it kind of works out really nicely in that term.
I may well have a tax deductible holiday out of it, but I kind of evolved my practice so I can actually run my practice out of my handbag, and so I can be anywhere. One of the things is Australians typically take a holiday from the 24th of December through to the 27th of January, so they take that holiday, but they typically then take another month somewhere else. I’m kind of — I do run on I take at least two months holiday a year and immerse and that’s the real thing there is immerse yourself in the culture.
I’ve lived in places for three years at a time, but I also go somewhere, I try and stay there as long as I can, just not getting that superficial touch of the city, I’m getting that I know the name of the barista who’s making me the coffee in the morning. I will be very thrifty. I’m very, very thrifty when it comes to these things. We’ll identify all the free things that we can do, be that cycling, be that going to off the beaten track type of things rather than the big theme party things so we can actually extend our time away traveling and meeting the people.
John: That’s awesome. The accountant in you is strong then with the frugal thriftiness there.
Heather: Frugal thriftiness.
John: But yeah, but you’re right. I mean, that’s what normal people do that actually live there. They’re not going to the sightseeing stuff all the time, so you can actually can be part of that culture like you said. Do you have some of the favorite places you’ve been?
Heather: I love Singapore. Singapore has always been my absolute favorite place in the world. In fact, my boyfriend was offered a job in Singapore, I think on the Friday, no, I think on the Tuesday and I asked him to marry me on the Friday, and we were married by the following Tuesday, and then the following Friday, we flew out to Singapore, and we lived there for three years. We really like Singapore.
John: That’s awesome. Your husband, kind of a little bit, but Singapore? Definitely.
Heather: Yeah. 27 years later, I’m still with him, and went back to Singapore last year for the Singapore Asia Finance Conference, which was amazing. Wherever you go, the way people do business and the way people behave is different. It’s always interesting to see how they do that, and then go, okay, well, this method would work if we brought it back here, and why do people work this way? Why do people work that way? That immersion I really like. Singapore is kind of like a really clean place, but you can really immerse yourself in Asian culture.
John: That sounds fantastic. Yeah, Singapore, I’ve never actually been to Asia. I’ve been a lot of other places in the world, including Australia. But yeah, and that’s a long flight from the U.S. That’s like, you got to have to want to go to Australia, to take that flight. I mean, yeah, you’re used to those long flights, I guess.
Heather: You just deal with the long flights. You just get on the plane. You deal with it. Maybe it’s like lockdown. Just deal with it. You just get your mindset ready for a long flight. You have whatever you need to have prepared and deal with it. I’m a super sleeper. I put the mask on, put the face mask on, put the cranes on to make myself sleepy.
John: There you go.
Heather: I’m asleep before we’ve taken off, and I’ll wake as we land.
John: You’re a professional, that’s impressive.
Heather: Professional sleepy, yeah. But I tell my body that sleep is work. I need to be asleep at this time. I need to be functioning at the other end, so I have to sleep. Because I like to travel a lot. Typically, I like to travel a lot. If you travel a lot, then when you have the opportunity, you need to sleep.
John: For sure. I completely agree with you. Do you feel like the traveling, I mean, it sounds like it does impact your work in a way, and that, like you said, you’re able to see how other people work or other people’s processes and things like that. You’re able to pick up some little tips and tricks to apply to your business or to bring back to the accountants that you’re helping as well, so it does help out.
John: Is there another way that it benefits the career?
Heather: For a start, I don’t do compliance, I don’t do tax. My clients can be anywhere in the world. I’d lost count. I had connected with clients on 135 countries. If you feel that you’re competing with the guy down the road, I’m not competing with anyone because the small business base is phenomenally huge. If you focus on actually, okay, I’m going to serve these people globally, you actually have a massive base that you can actually service. That’s really quite exciting, especially when you do get to travel to the places and actually visit them and see what they’re doing.
I don’t do the tech side of it, but what I do is help them with the management reporting side of it. That level of understanding is in all businesses and getting them to that place, so they still need a tax advisor, of course, but many tax advisors don’t get into that aspect. I get the opportunity to meet people and lots and lots of different cultures.
I do, as well as for profit, as well as clients who are paying me, I will try and volunteer and do pro bono work for people who can’t afford it, because I know that I can really impact what they’re doing in their sort of smaller countries, or in their not for profit businesses, et cetera. I can bring that back and sort of help people in a mass way through the education. I try and push out there again.
John: Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. That’s really fantastic. Is talking about travel is something that comes up with I’m sure with all these clients, because I mean, you’re visiting them, but then for colleagues or even before you had this early on in your career, when you would have coworkers and what have you?
Heather: It does come up. I think that I’m sort of constantly breaking the stereotype of competition in my backyard, my thoughts in my own tea cup. I’m constantly, probably more with other accountants around me. It’s like, why do you think we’re competitors? We’re not competitors. The clients aren’t in the same street as me. My clients are global. Probably the conversations come up with other accountants and me talking, this is the opportunities out there, this the lifestyle opportunities out there and broaden your horizon if you want to.
If you want to be a local accountant, that’s fine. If you want to only serve people that you can actually walk to in your street, right. That is fantastic. But there is an opportunity beyond that that you can service.
John: Yeah, the alternatives are out there. That’s for sure.
Heather: The opportunities are out there.
John: Yeah, sorry.
Heather: That’s all right. Don’t apologize. We’ll do a crossword puzzle together.
John: Yeah, right. That’s hilarious. But I love that phrase, the Australian phrase, thoughts in the tea cup. For Americans, that’s kind of like in your own bubble, where you’re in like an echo chamber where you only hear people that think the same thing that you do. It’s not broadening your horizons.
Heather: I think that it’s very concerning for people, especially if they only listen to a certain bubble or echo chamber of people. If they only read from certain sets of publications, I find that very restrictive of them. It can be shocking to meet people like that. It’s like, one of the things I’m also advocating, if you want to read good journalism, you need to be paying for it. You can’t expect a free publication to be providing you with unbiased information.
John: Or somebody’s blog that’s got like you know .org/net/, it’s like, that’s a blog. What are you doing?
Heather: Yeah, yeah. Fact check, fact check.
John: That’s for sure. That’s for sure. In all the cultures that you see and from traveling so much, how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create this culture where sharing outside of work interests is a part of the way we do business, or how much is it on an individual to just create that circle amongst their peers?
Heather: For me, it’s about a lifestyle that I want to lead. That is for me. I went and did that, but what’s now interesting is now a lot of people are asking me to explain it back to them. Honestly, I know that I do get invited into these grand, tall, towered buildings, and I’m developing hives from the moment I walk into the elevator going off. Oh, my god. That freaks me out.
John: Your ears pop.
Heather: Yeah, and I’ll give a talk. Someone will come up to me, he’s 45 years old, and will say, that is the most I’ve ever learned in ten years in the one-hour talk that you gave about that. I’m just so blown away. Where have I been? What have I been doing? While on one side, that is wonderful, on the other side, it’s where have you been? What teacup have you been sitting in? That has meant that that has happened, because those businesses are promoting themselves as innovative and as modern and as leading and cutting edge. I think what it is is the smaller micro firms, such as myself are the windsurfers, and we can be quite more agile. We don’t have to make decisions based on a board.
Whereas the bigger firms are like a big, big sort of cruise liner. Every time they want to make a decision, everyone has to agree and that there’s a sort of a very slow, slow movement there.
John: Everybody move to the left side, and then we can — yeah, that is nutty. I always wondered just how much does tone at the top matter, or if the tone at the top isn’t necessarily super positive, can you still within your own little circle share?
Heather: I think that the tone at the top does matter. It needs to filter through.
John: That’s for sure. Have you seen companies or firms in your in your travels or in your career that do encourage this finding out about other dimensions to people?
Heather: I think probably in the firms in Australia, they probably do lean into that quite a lot more. They’ll have activated water cooler sessions to do that. Plus, they’ll encourage people to do outside activities, like participate in sport games or participate in various activities like that, so yeah, I do see that happening.
John: No, that’s great. It’s typically an outside of the office thing for whatever reason.
Heather: For water cooler. Yeah, so I guess facilitated breakout rooms, I see a lot of organizations with a billiards table or a pool table, with reading area, breakout, chairs, so you have the opportunity to potentially meet other people casually or accidentally. The cafeteria, it seems to be like a small kitchenette cafeteria area always seems to be set up and nicely stocked in many of these places as well.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that has a hobby or passion that they feel like has absolutely nothing to do with their job?
Heather: Well, I would encourage you to lean into it as much as possible and find out as much as you want about that hobby. Maybe you have the opportunity to introduce it back into your firm through maybe a newsletter or maybe a stand up session to talk to them about it, a breakout session to introduce it to them, or educate them about what your hobby is, or maybe invite them as an activity to participate in it depending on what it is. Maybe if it’s terrarium or gardening, you could get them all to make a terrarium together.
John: Yeah, it’s something that’s that simple, and they can see you light up that much. That’s awesome. Well, thanks, Heather. It’s only fair before I wrap this up that we turn the tables, if you’d like to rapid fire question me since I so rudely started out the show peppering you with questions. It’s now the Heather Smith Show. If you have any questions at all, I’m all yours.
Heather: What’s your favorite color John?
John: Favorite color, blue.
Heather: What people can’t see is your blue eyes match the blue painting behind you, which is quite mesmerizing.
John: Oh, well, thank you. Yes. Real eyes. Those are my real eyes. Yeah.
Heather: What’s your favorite movie?
John: Favorite movie? It’s hard to go away from Dumb and Dumber. It’s just hard to go away from that. It really is. I know it’s much to the chagrin of everyone listening but it’s so silly dumb, but so brilliantly written that it’s hard to get away from.
Heather: I love one of the actors in it. The non-Jim Carrey actor.
John: Jeff Daniels?
Heather: Yes. I love Jeff Daniels.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, he’s fantastic. He’s an amazing actor.
Heather: Fantastic in Newsroom. If someone comes to your city, what bar should they go to?
John: Oh, so there’s a restaurant right downtown called D bar for dessert bar in Denver, right downtown. They have the most amazing desserts, as well as drinks. It’s a super cool place, really good food as well. So yeah, D bar’s my favorite, mostly because I can get the desserts also. If there’s Nutella involved, I am there. That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much, Heather, for taking time to view with me on What’s Your “And”?
Heather: Thank you so much, John. It’s been a real pleasure.
John: Awesome, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Heather’s travels, or maybe connected with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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 who you are is so much more than what you do.