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Taking a people-centric approach (and why it works)

Julian Hutabarat

Accountants may be stereotypically seen as more interested in numbers than in people, but the profession is all about relationships, says Julian Hutabarat CPA.

It starts at understanding who a business owner is and what they want to achieve, he says. Being able to communicate in everyday language – not “accountant speak” – increasingly involves offering a whole business service that helps clients to realise their personal and professional goals.

“Good advice comes from solid compliance, so that business owners have confidence their government obligations are being taken care of and their financial information is accurate,” says Hutabarat. “But the value is in using that information to present opportunities, as well as highlight risks, for moving forward.”

Hutabarat is currently general manager of Beany Australia, the Australian arm of the New Zealand-based online-only accounting firm. The young CPA has been working towards what he sees as a partnership with small business owners – rather than a simple tax compliance service – since his very first role.

As an accountant for the Sydney-based Announcer Group, a multi-disciplinary professional services firm, from 2012 to 2014, he says he gained a holistic view of taking care of a client.

“The firm was a one-stop shop that offered legal, financial, lending, real estate and accounting services and shaped my ideas about business advisory.”

His next role, from 2014 to 2017, was as a senior accountant with small business specialist SPR Accounting, where his values aligned with their ethos that “accounting services should not stop with your tax return and financial accounts”.

Hutabarat then polished his leadership and management skills at personalised professional services firm and SME specialists Myssy + Co, where his role as a client manager and supervisor included overseeing three financial services staff.

His most recent position before Beany, as manager for BPI Accounting Services, focused on assisting the practice to become “a scalable, sustainable and saleable business”.

After BPI was sold, Hutabarat sought a leadership role in a company that shared both his values and “client-focused, relationship-focused and advice-focused” method of accounting.

“My role with Beany is a result of great timing, but also an alignment of values,” he says.

Beany uses technology designed to provide high-quality business and accounting services and advice to small business owners at a fixed monthly cost, so they can focus on goals and growth.

The company has developed software to collect all the necessary information accountants need to undertake engagement, onboarding, compliance, forecasts, budgets and more for SMEs.

Once online onboarding is complete, Beany appoints a personal accountant – who has access to all the requisite information to start work immediately – to the client. Clients then have access to unlimited support and advice.

Hutabarat believes this allows business owners to reach out with concerns without fear of bill shock, allowing accountants to address issues and seize opportunities as they arise.

“Additionally, advice-focused services give them support to make key decisions confidently,” he says.

“Every day at Beany, I am helping small business owners live better lives and contributing to them achieving their definition of success.”

The son of a lawyer, he was discouraged from entering the legal profession by his father who believed stress levels would be too high.

“I decided to do a bachelor of commerce with majors in accounting and finance at the University of New South Wales instead,” he says. “After completing my degree, I had a good understanding that public practice would be a path that would allow me to achieve my professional goals.”

Hutabarat enjoys mountain biking in his spare time, both as a personal challenge and to improve his focus.

“It keeps me in shape, gets me outdoors, gives me perspective…as well as forcing me to want to improve to overcome bigger obstacles,” he says.

“I have two young children I strive to be a role model for. The example that I aim to set for them is one of responsibility, service, caring for others and being an involved member of our community.”

Hutabarat also mentors accounting students and graduates, in addition to volunteering for accounting and committee roles in not-for-profit and community organisations. He is currently the treasurer of a not-for-profit community childcare centre.

“These roles provide me with the opportunity to give back, learn new perspectives and ideas, further develop my communication and leadership skills and help in shaping leaders of tomorrow.”

One piece of advice

“Always challenge the status quo, not for the sake of change, but with the desire to improve. Come with your vision in mind and a solution on how you want to achieve it in both your professional and personal capacities.”

Originally published by InTheBlack – 1 November 2022