Co-Founder’s story – Wendy Wu
My first degree is in Education and my first job was a teacher. I once said to myself that if I can manage groups of students of different ages with different family backgrounds and different levels of learning ability very well, I can, for sure, handle the adult world of business. For several reasons I decided to take the challenge by quitting a very promising career in the education industry and start from fresh in business. I am a person who believes that everything needs to be built on a solid foundation. With a good foundation one can construct a building as tall as one wishes, the same applies for career development. I completed an ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accounts) course within 3 years by overcoming the language difficulties. Before I completed the ACCA course at the same time I obtained a BSc (Hons) degree with 1st class in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University (UK). Before that I spent 2 years studying for a diploma in management to build up my business knowledge and to enhance my English language skills. It took time, but the time I spent was worth it.
I believe people who work hard and with determination will always be rewarded. After I completed the last ACCA exam, I obtained an offer from an international auditing firm; my boss, thankfully, recognised my hard work and determination.
Working as an external auditor, I was able to apply what I learnt into practice, I also had the opportunity to gain knowledge in different industries. Working as a team leader provided me with more duties and responsibilities and the challenge was not only to perform field work but I also needed to review team members work. It helped me to build up good time management skills and people management skills. Reporting directly to the partner, my boss, was also a great advantage in my career development, I gained a lot from his advice. Up till now I keep in touch with him, my good mentor and friend.
When I worked as the internal audit manager, I was given full responsibility for the internal auditing of the company, reporting directly to the Chairman, attending Board meetings. The connection with the management at the top level broadened my knowledge of how to manage and run a business. I maintain a working principle that internal auditing is not to look for people’s mistakes but to work with people for the better. With this in mind I would always emphasise in emails and in discussions with people that my approach is that I am not a person who is trying to make your life difficult, I am here to try to work together with you, to help to make things get better. If the company improves so the employees benefit also. Win- win for both the company and the employees.
I have to say that to make internal audit work effectively and efficiently, people skills are particularly important. From my working experience, I enhanced my skills and my ability in communicating, organization, co-ordination and collaboration.
What I learnt from my experience is that the methodology and principle of internal auditing provides guidance, however in practice applicability and suitability are vital.
One of my lecturers once said to me: “Wendy, if you can combine accounting knowledge with IT or accounting knowledge with law, it will help in your career development.” I took her advice and kept her words deep in my mind, so I took the Information System paper in the ACCA course. The lecturer had very good knowledge of IT and a sound working experience. Studying in his class was never boring. I have to say I was so lucky to have such a good lecturer.
Having taken the advice to study Information Systems as one of the papers for ACCA explains the reason why I took the opportunity to work as an ERP consultant for a software company knowing that it would be tough, that it would be a new experience and a steep learning curve and that I would have to work very hard to master the complex software.
It was really tough at the beginning. The worst part was when I met a potential client to present a presales demonstration, I had to know how to change the set up in order to show the client what they were asking for. On one occasion another consultant changed my set up in the shared demonstration area which caught me out. I managed to get over the awful moment by stating that the system is flexible to enable changes to be made to suit the business needs.
My ERP consulting work experience gave me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I learned from the ACCA course in practice, understand and analyse client’s business processes, explain how a process can be changed for the better, discuss with the client a new chart of accounts set up when adopting the ERP software, explain how to set up new cost codes and how the cost codes match the new chart of accounts and what the benefits will be, etc.
I am not a salesperson. Doing the presales work explaining to the potential client’s top management, middle level management, front line workers at different levels was tough and challenging but really worth it when I think about now. I had to be ready to answer questions at different levels of complexity. The ability to understand what top management focus on, what middle level management’s concerns are and what front line workers worry about when changing a new system is very important.
Company CFO’s and accounting managers are people who often resist changing a system. An ACCA qualification, external and internal auditing experience certainly helped me a lot, as I can speak the same language with them in answering their questions and concerns.
While working as an ERP consultant, I was also involved in the implementation and training. The end users need good training to be able to use an ERP system in order to benefit fully from such a system. Every single business process and related activities need to be learnt. I sat in the meeting rooms meeting different groups of users, trained them from one business process to another business process. Each business process will have an impact on accounting which I needed to explain to users in the accounting department. Although I was busy in various training sessions, I enjoyed the training process because I also learnt whilst having to answer questions from various users.
I learnt that managing a business is in fact heavily dependent on managing people. Changing business processes is in fact changing people’s mindset in the way they carry out their work. Most people in an organization are reluctant to change but once one has explained and discussed the reason for relevant changes with the users, they will accept the changes and be willing to co-operate.
What is very important is to have a set of skills and knowledge to enable one to convince people that a change should be made. People one faces are different, so the learning of new skills and knowledge never ends.
Later I was given another position as the company director of the subsidiary. With the new added position, my methods and views of managing business focused more on strategy and long term business development, such as business strategy, marketing strategy and managing growth.
At one stage I was very tired at work, but I still enrolled in a Master’s degree with a view to broadening my knowledge in business management.
Another challenging job I had was as the internal control manager in a global purchasing centre for a company in the automobile parts industry.
My responsibility also included the suppliers financial risk management. It was a new position, there was no existing policy or procedures for the supplier financial risk management. With the ACCA qualification and past experiences I quickly drafted out various policies and procedures for the supplier financial risk management. One colleague said to me “just look at the supplier’s financial statement, it will be sufficient enough?”, of course it is not. It is known that operational risks can result in financial risks. A site visit to a supplier’s factory (existing or potential) is also very important. My traveling schedule was very busy.
I was also busy reviewing existing policies and procedures, modifying the supplier management rules, writing up change requirements in the procurement system due to changes in supplier management and providing training to the procurement team in the new policies and procedure, new rules and new processes.
When there were issues in meeting a customer’s requirements where the work was sub-contracted I was sometimes called to sales department meetings since the issue also related to policy and procedures for supplier management.
From this working experience, I saw how to make a company successful from the procurement angle and its relationship to sales, accounting (payment), costing management, quality control, even HR (recruitment of qualified purchasing manager, QA)
I see this as another key job that I have had in my career from which I gained valuable experience which has enabled me to build a path for me to become a knowledgeable consultant based on the practical experience I have had in business.
Learning never stops in one’s life. I obtained a further position as the CFO of a Chinese company with an overseas subsidiary in the USA. It was a totally different position and a more challenging role.
Working as the CFO provided me with another perspective in looking at how to run a business successfully especially for SMEs. Big companies have resources especially human resources to carry out certain work, SMEs usually do not. How well do the employees in SMEs understand the important of cost control & cost reduction, value added process, cash management etc.? They will be aware of some of it, but do they have the skill and knowledge to carry out the right work in the right area to solve issues when they arise?
A bad result shown in a financial statement needs to be traced back through each relevant business process to dig deeper to find out the root cause of the bad result otherwise if this is not done the situation will never improve.
Accountants need to get more involved in the business activities so that they can have a better understanding as to how the business runs, thus they will know how to perform their duties better and provide good advice to the management for decision making.
I am a person who is always willing to learn. I also enjoy solving issues especially if it helps clients to solve their issues. With my working experience, my qualifications and my willingness in solving problems, I am confident that I can help companies with different aspects of improving and running their business.
Please feel free to contact us even if it is only just for a preliminary discussion of any of your concerns without any obligation to engage in a service agreement.