WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING AN ACCOUNTANT IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR RIGHT NOW?
It is a challenging sector at the moment with a lot of uncertainty; there are all sorts of changes afoot from the phasing out of the basic payment scheme, to the exponential increases in the costs of inputs. In most industries, businesses can increase their prices to mitigate this but for large parts of the agricultural sector, farmers have a lot less influence on their prices which can be particularly frustrating.
The discussions we have on a day-to-day basis are so varied which makes it such an interesting sector to be part of. A conversation can start by looking back over the previous 12 months but move forwards to cover everything from succession planning, inheritance tax to diversification, no two days are ever the same.
With change comes opportunity, so there is a lot to be excited about within the sector. Equally with so much uncertainty, and so many unknowns, it can be difficult for a business to know the best way to move forwards.
WHAT DREW YOU TO WORKING IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR?
I grew up on a beef and sheep farm in Somerset, and farming has always been close to my heart. I always knew this was an interest I wanted to pursue, be it practically, or within a professional capacity. Despite being an accountant, I still take a keen interest in the farm at home and like to get involved, whether it is TB testing or picking fat lambs on a Monday morning ready for market.
Having grown up on a family farm, I have experienced many of the challenges my clients face personally, which can really help my perspective. A farming business is particularly unique as family and business is often so interlinked. Any decisions may go much further than the initial conversation and have implications on the family dynamics, being able to appreciate this is so important.
TELL US SOMETHING THAT WE MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?
In my spare time, I show commercial cattle; I pick any good homebred calves from our suckler herd at home to show, and sometimes buy calves in the ‘potential show calf’ shows in the spring. Any calves I show, I take to county shows throughout the summer, finishing up with a ‘fat stock’ show at Christmas.
My preference of breed to show would be Limousin, although they have a reputation for being quite hot-headed, I love the challenge and would consider it a life goal to own a herd of pedigree Limousins.
When I am not showing, I am partial to a good pint of cider and am a firm believer that the best cider is made in Somerset, although I appreciate, I am biased!
I love working at Hazlewoods because the team has the advantages of a smaller firm, being able to provide a personal service whilst being able to draw on specialist expertise from other teams when required. The nature of the changes within the agricultural sector does mean that the ability to provide specialist advice is essential to provide a quality service.
My favourite bit about the job is going out to meet clients and chat about their business. Being a trusted adviser goes much further than preparing accounts and tax returns. No two farms are the same and with so much potential change brewing, developing relationships with clients so that they are comfortable enough to pick up the phone and talk about their business and future plans is something I feel really strongly about.
Having inside knowledge and understanding of the sector is really important in our team. My philosophy at work is: it’s not necessarily knowing all of the answers that is important, it’s knowing the right questions to ask.