Here’s why your next co-founder should have an accounting background

- September 17, 2019 3 MIN READ
There’s no denying being your own boss is the career choice of today.

People of all ages are drawn to the idea of running their own business – and this is especially true for young people.

NAB recently found one in two young Australians aspire to have their own business and while being an entrepreneur is undoubtedly appealing, the reality can be brutal. It can be a long, lonely journey to achieve the “overnight success” celebrated in the media.

I’ve worked with many businesses helping them improve their chances at startup success. Identifying the right people to bring the vision to life is essential and diversity of background, thought, skills and expertise are essential ingredients. The mix of skills – soft and hard – in your founding team are crucial to triumph or trial.

Business and financial literacy are often missing from founding teams. 12.5% of companies exited the market last year, and more than 250,000 Australian SMEs couldn’t afford to keep their businesses afloat*.

Their dream was shattered, and many of these, we believe, could have been avoided. How? We need more people who understand business and financials on our founding teams.

Entrepreneurial grit, initiative and lateral thinking are all important mindsets to take into a business, but on top of this, a good grip on the business building foundation blocks makes you a force to be reckoned with. To set yourself up for the best chance of success, startups need a founding team that combines solid business knowhow, management skills, understanding the ins-and-outs of finance and marketing nous.

MYOB’s Blake Collins

Accountants make ideal co-founders: The bread-and-butter of accounting is to take skills in analysing numbers and pattern recognition and apply these across all areas of a business, to ensure the business succeeds.

Successful Australian founders like Showpo’s Jane Lu and Collective Campus’ Steve Glaveski both got their start in accounting, while further afield, accountant-turned-entrepreneur stories include Sarah Kauss (S’well), Bob Parsons (GoDaddy) and Tony Fernandes (AirAsia), to name a few.

Accountants have the fundamentals; how to interpret financial statements, how to set up partnerships and trusts, tax planning, business plans, growth and profitability, strategies, business sales, exit strategies, succession planning strategies. There’s a real breadth to the knowledge accountants bring to the entrepreneurial table.

Founders with an accounting or finance background can also lend their mathematical and analytical mindset to the marketing and growth functions of your startup, helping to calculate and track key metrics such as customer acquisition cost (CAC), lifetime value (LTV) and fundamental investment and growth metrics like monthly burn (how much you spend a month) and your startup’s runway (how long until you run out of money in your current state).

Numerically-savvy founders can handle this type of serious data analysis, taking your creative campaigns and maximising their return.

Industry and skill sets are changing

As the formal training and education systems develop, we’ll see our future accountants even better equipped to work in startups. They’ll be trained in harnessing technology and interpreting real-time data to generate insights that will help guide strategy and decision-making.

Accounting-trained founders of the future will be powerhouses of growth, especially when it comes to business development, strategic insights and capital raising.

Whether you plan to bootstrap or raise money from investors, startups always need to keep track of where their money is.

Couple this with fundamental accounting skills like handling payroll, tracking sales, reconciling payments, buying and selling long-term assets, preparing financial statements, and analysing profitability and it’s clear to see why someone with formal training in accounting would be an advantageous – and competitively dangerous – addition to your startup team.


* ABS data https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/8165.0


  • Blake Collins is the general manager of partners at MYOB. He has more than 20 years’ experience in startups, operations, sales, corporate leadership, financial management and business transformation, and has spent the last 10 years helping companies like Sensis, Zomoto and MYOB transform into digitally-led businesses. Through both internal and industry transformation, Blake helps businesses to embrace and drive change.


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