Introducing Stephen Howard, Manager, Business Services

We are extremely pleased to introduce Stephen Howard. Stephen, or Steve as he likes to be known, has been appointed as Manager, Business Services. We sat down with Steve to find out a little more about him, his style and what we can expect working with him. Thanks, Steve and welcome to the team.

  1. What led you to join McPhail & Partners?

After working in various different sized firms over the last 11 years, I was looking for something that was small enough to have the personal connections between staff and the clients that often gets lost in some of the bigger firms; but also, somewhere that had the right potential to be able to grow in the longer term

  1. What qualifications do you have?

I hold a Bachelor of Business (Accountancy) from RMIT University. I’m also a CPA and a registered tax agent

  1. What is your role at McPhail & Partners?

I am a manager in the business services/tax side of the business, so I assist the directors of the firm with managing client’s day-to-day affairs and ensure we’re being proactive and engaged with them regularly and to make sure their accounting needs are always met.

  1. What qualities do you think it takes to be a leader in today’s ever-changing world?

I think leaders today require an open mind and the ability to think outside the square. As technology continues to evolve, the way things were done in the past is no longer efficient or necessarily best practice. Good leaders today need to be able to continue to move with the times and not get stuck doing things in certain ways because that’s what has always been done. It’s also important for leaders to be in touch with those that report to them and allow them to have a voice in relation to how things should be done. A lot of big corporations have seen great ideas come from people well below the top of the food chain

  1. What three words would you use to describe the team at McPhail & Partners?

Friendly, community-minded, professional

  1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?

The great thing about public practice accounting is those typical days don’t really exist. You might have a plan as to what you are going to do and then a client calls with an urgent matter and things get shuffled around. One day you might be working on a cash flow for a client, so they can get finance; the next you might be working on tax returns and the day after that might be dealing with the ATO regarding a client’s affairs. The variety of work keeps things interesting

  1. Who do you admire and why?

I admire any professional sportsperson who is in the public eye while being at the top of their sport. In our world, the continual legislative and technological changes make staying at the top of your game hard. Professional athletes have to be at the top of their game, maintain peak performance, train etc. all while being subject to media scrutiny & social media commentary from people who have never played professionally themselves. The fact that so many of them can stay at the top of their games for so long despite everything they have said about them is quite amazing.

  1. The world is changing so fast, how do you remain up to date at work?

We just need to make as much time as we can to attend seminars to keep ourselves up to date with new legislation and rules etc. The methods of delivery have improved significantly over the years so keeping up to date isn’t as difficult as it seems. Often there are webinars, email newsletters and other forms of communication that can be accessed from anywhere.

  1. What can the team at McPhail & Partners expect from you and why?

My focus is always around exceeding client expectations – M & P can expect a client-focused approach to all engagements I’m a part of.  My view is that as accountants we need to take on more than just a “number cruncher” role; we need to become our clients’ trusted advisor. That might mean simply listening to their goals and concerns and assisting put them into action; it might mean being a broker of sorts and introducing them to other professionals such as lawyers; sometimes it might involve being a counsellor of sorts. By being that trusted advisor allows us to be integrated into the client’s affairs fully and allows servicing opportunities that may not exist otherwise.


Banking - Future trends and business tips with Natalie Goold, Franchise Manager, Bendigo Bank

Bendigo Bank is part of the local community. You might even be a customer of theirs. Why is the Bendigo Bank brand so strong and well respected in a time when most banks are failing? We sat down with Natalie Goold, Franchise Manager to learn about the bank, future trends and her leadership style. Thanks, Natalie.

  1. The Bendigo Bank brand has always appeared strong. How does it achieve this?

According to independent research by Roy Morgan, Bendigo Bank was named the third most trusted Australian brand last month [July 2018], ahead of Bunnings, Qantas and the ABC. This is something that we are extremely proud of and reflects not just how we function as a bank, but more so how we treat our customers, our company character and conscience.  Our capabilities continue to evolve to deliver industry-leading solutions and experiences to our customers.  At the core of what we do is our customers, and this has not changed during our 160 years of operation.

  1. The world of financial services changes at rapid rates and shows no sign of slowing down. How do you remain up to date and in touch with client needs?

This is absolutely true, change is happening at a rapid rate, this is exciting for our customers as new technologies make banking more accessible, putting the consumer in control.  It is a challenge that the banking industry faces, we need to ensure we are meeting the changing needs of our customers and innovating constantly to remain relevant.   We actively encourage and monitor feedback from customers through our Customer Help Centre, feedback is monitored for emerging trends and acted upon as required.  As an organisation we also engage with Fin Tech innovators and existing partners, ensuring we are always up to date with best practice and looking for new areas to invest in.

  1. What and who motivates you as a leader?

My team of people motivate me every day!  People that are passionate about getting the best outcome for a customer are really motivational.  I really admire staff who are willing to try new things and go outside of their comfort zone at times.  I have a motto that ‘while you are in your comfort zone you are not growing as a person’.Personally, I am motivated by leaders that are passionate about achieving goals and who can set a vision for our company.

  1. What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

To make the most of compound interest, start investing young!!  A good work ethic and right attitude will open doors you never imagined.

  1. A large number of SME’s fail in the first few years of business. Why is that and how does Bendigo Bank assist [before they fail that is!]?

Starting a new business can be all encompassing, there are so many elements the business owner needs to be across.  Being planned in your approach and researching your market are critical.We provide new customers with access to our online Business Hub, which provides information such as Business Plan templates, updates on financial markets, information on legislative requirements for employees such as Superannuation contributions and loads of information.  We can also support start up SME’s by ensuring they have the strong advisors supporting (such as Accountants, Business Advisors etc.).

  1. How would your colleagues describe you?

That’s difficult to answer…I enjoy achieving and always moving forward.  I care about the best outcome for our customers and our staff.

  1. How would you describe the team at McPhail & Partners?

The team at McPhail & Partners are genuine in helping their clients to achieve their business goals.  It is a family based business that has strong values, work ethic and integrity.

  1. Technology has impacted business in so many ways. How has it helped Bendigo Bank and its clients?

Technology in banking has put the customer more in control of their finances.  Customers have all their banking information at their fingertips, so people are more informed about their financial position.  Payments can now be made and received so quickly by so many different means, this is great for small business and assists with cash flow challenges.

  1. How important is a partnership approach to the relationship you have with your clients and how do you ensure that is consistent throughout all three branches that you oversee?

We view banking relationships with our customers as a partnership, in which we feel that we can add value to the customer and help them achieve their financial goals.  We do this by really knowing our customer and understanding what challenges they face, how they like to manage their banking and being accessible when the customer needs assistance.

We look for ways to reach out to our customers and give suggestions on new products or different ways of structuring their banking that could be more beneficial to them.

Our group of 3 branches (Ringwood, Boronia and Bayswater) work as one team.  We meet on a regular basis as a group to discuss things like; best practice, new products and initiatives, key client relationships etc.  This ensures that we keep challenging ourselves and meeting the changing needs of our customers.

We would love the opportunity to speak with anyone who is interested in banking with Bendigo Bank and invite you to contact me on 03 9870 9244.



Who is the REAL Chathu De Silva?

Chathu De Silva is our Administration Team Leader; the backbone of our business. You might not get to meet Chathu when you come to the office so we thought we’d ask her some questions to reveal the REAL Chathu – we learned some new things too!

  1. If I could have any job, I’d be - A film director.  The room for creativity in filmmaking always fascinated me. Guiding technical crew and actors to bring a script to life has captivated me since I was a kid.
  2. Best career advice I’ve received - Not to sweat the small things to focus on the bigger picture.
  3. The three qualities that got me where I am today – Hard work, persistence and logical thinking
  4. The kind of work I’d do for free - Personal shopper or stylist
  5. Change I’d like to see in the world - For every child in the world to receive a good quality education
  6. Who I admire and why - Princess Diana- I admire her grace and beauty and her fearlessness to do what she truly believed in.
  7. Last thing I binged watched - Game of Thrones like the rest of the world
  8. Book that left an impression on me - The Road from Elephant Pass - A novel by Nihal De Silva [Book written during the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka]. Being a hopeless romantic myself this book is about a love story of two people who belong to completely different races and liberation organisations - it is definitely memorable
  9. Movie that left an impression on me - Being a parent myself definitely – Will Smith’s “The Pursuit of Happiness”
  10. On my bucket list - Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  11. Cocktail of choice - Espresso Martini
  12. My perfect day would begin - A morning cuddle from my daughter and a warm cup of coffee
  13. My perfect day would end with - A good book, chocolate and a glass of red wine
  14. What every person should try once in their lifetime – Live in another country
  15. One thing I’m exceptionally good at - Talking
  16. One thing I’m exceptionally bad at - Being patient
  17. Advice I’d give to my younger self - Buy more size 8 shoes
  18. Three words to describe McPhail & Partners - Professional, Caring & Forward thinking

Thanks, Chathu and thanks for all your hard work!


Business Success Tips from Small Business Owner Mary Souness

Have you ever been to a dinner party and sat next to someone and asked them, “What do you do?” and go on to learn something new? Mary Souness is that dinner party guest! Mary runs her own small business and has been a valued client of McPhail & Partners for many years. She runs an interesting business which is why we sat down with her this month so that you too could learn something new! Thanks, Mary!

  1. When people ask you, ‘What do you do for work?’ what do you say?

I run my own business “Just Shows To Go” that tours small-scale performing art shows into regional Victoria. Over the past 20 years, the type of shows have varied from all sorts of different styles of music from around the world e.g. Irish, African, American, Russian, Greek, Latin American, Indian, Hawaiian, Scottish, Tex-Mex, etc. As well as comedy, drama, circus, puppetry, film, dance, vaudeville, mime etc.

  1. Your business is heavily reliant on gaining government grants each year. This appears to be a minefield regarding how to successfully complete the applications each year. What tips would you offer someone who was looking into gaining a government grant?

Never underestimate the time involved. Do your research. Allocate ample time to the preparation and writing of the submission. Often you need information from other people and they do not necessarily work to your ideal timeline. Be accurate, don’t guess, especially when it comes to the budget items. Be succinct but include everything you are asked to submit. Be thorough.

  1. What have been the most successful shows in The Café Culture Series over the past two years; what are people enjoying?

‘Sonidos Flamencos’ a contemporary & traditional flamenco dance troupe.

“Pacific Belles” a retro style singing trio & their little big band inspired by the music, fashion and glamour of the 1940’s in the style of the Andrew Sisters.

“I Viaggiatori” Italian group playing live music to accompany a 1924 silent film documentary of a 7-week world odyssey voyage from Italy to Australia.

  1. What characteristics and beliefs do you think small business owners need to survive?

Resilience. Adaptability. Optimism. Calculated risktaking.

  1. What’s the one piece of advice you have been given that you still remember today?

When I was a kid and expressing interest in something but lacking in confidence my mum would always say “just try”.

  1. Technology seems to be changing most industries, how has it impacted yours?

Online ticketing is prevalent now. Publicity is now more online than in printed form. The submission process is now online.

  1. Sourcing new performances over the past 20 years; you must have met some interesting people! What makes a performance successful?

The main aspect of a show that an audience responds to most is artistic integrity. We often get the comment after a show “I had never heard of this act before and didn’t know what to expect but I really liked it”.  It is also important that the artists have the ability to connect with their audience. It is also important that you select the shows that are going to appeal and suit the demographic.

  1. Ten years from now, will regional Australia still be visiting the theatre to watch shows or, will they be delivered virtually or, will people still want to get outside and visit the theatre and mingle with others?

There is no real comparison to online versus experiencing a performance live. Apart from the quality of the live theatre experience people also like to be sociable and catch up with their friends and community. You can’t hug online.

Thanks so much for your contribution to our newsletter Mary and let's hope you can't hug online ten years from now!