Counting on People

Kirsty Rispin, director and co-founder of boutique accounting and finance advisory company, Rispin & Mott, talks about the importance of relationships and what makes her practice different.

Photography by Marija Ivkovic.

With decades of experience in finance and accounting under their belts, Kirsty Rispin and Ashley Mott are now breaking the mould of traditional financial service companies with boutique practice, Rispin & Mott. Launched in November 2016, the company may be young, but its values are borne from the experience of the co-founders.

What sets this company apart is its delivery of a broad spectrum of services. Rispin & Mott takes a proactive approach to help its clients with accounting solutions, but it also guides them to focus on their businesses and goals holistically. While the company’s core services include various taxation services, the business advisory arm focuses on working with clients to help them grow their businesses. The services offered include advice on growing revenue, improving profits, cash flow, obtaining finance, planning for business succession or sale, and more.

Rispin and Mott are passionate about building and maintaining strong relationships with their clients, which is especially important when they’re privy to clients’ financial records and are guiding them during difficult decision-making processes.

Situated along the bustling St Kilda Road in Melbourne, the practice currently services a broad range of clients – from small family businesses to large pharmaceutical companies across Australia – with a current staff count of 12.

Rispin says that, although the practice is only just over a year old and small in size, the team comprises partners and staff who have deep industry knowledge, positive energy and sharp business acumen.

“Our size is our advantage. We’re nimble and agile. And we adapt to the demands and needs of our clients quickly and that has created a lot of opportunities for us,” Rispin tells Business State.

“We’re able to focus so much more intensively on our clients, and that’s our differentiation that we will not let slip. We’re not just doing their taxes. We also provide a business consultancy service. Our clients often refer to us as the umpires. We have access to their financial information, and they ask us for our opinions on certain business decisions.”

“We value the relationship and we’re able to give them the impartial advice they’re after. Sometimes that may mean saying ‘no’ and not be afraid of doing so.”

Rispin started her career in banking, with a focus on commercial lending. It was there she had her first exposure to small businesses and their owners, and gained an understanding of their needs and the issues they face. It was not until she moved to London that she dived into accounting and took up roles in financial control. She continued to be a practising accountant for about 15 years, offering taxation and business advisory services. In 2001, she joined the family practice established by her father Neil, Rispin Financial, in Cheltenham. Four years ago, that practice merged with Cummings Flavel McCormack, where Rispin also served as a director for about three years. And that’s where she met Mott.

“Ashley has a wealth of experience. He’s been practising for about 15 years and specialises in financial and business modelling,” Rispin says. “The idea of starting our practice did not exactly have a ‘eureka’ moment – it was a culmination of circumstances, and the idea came together quite organically.”

Rispin admits that the journey has been challenging – from both a business and personal perspective. “The initial challenge when we first started this practice was understanding how to staff the company appropriately for the amount of work we have,” she says. “We needed to find the right people for the roles, and we needed to train them well.”

Another challenge the business has is the competition. In an industry that has many big players, the smaller companies are constantly threatened. Not Rispin & Mott.

“As a small business, we’re constantly reviewing what we’re doing and how we’re doing it to stay true to what we do well: providing excellent service.

“We make it a point to meet with our clients regularly. We’re not a once-a-year accounting practice. We make ourselves as accessible as possible and frequently check in,” Rispin says.

Her approach to this challenge is to cultivate an abundance mindset. “In our business, that means to firmly believe that there are many potential clients out there who require the service that we provide. That mindset gives us the confidence and the drive to go out there and face the competition,” she says.

It is this confidence and passion, paired with an undercurrent of strong determination, that has helped Rispin pave her way in this male-dominated field.

“Women are still a minority in this industry. You do not see many female equity partners in accounting firms. Some specific challenges come with being a female equity partner. This is something that women in other corporate jobs and industries also face, even today.”

While Rispin laughs and says that this topic is one for another day, she adds that for women to gain equal representation at work and seats within boardrooms, there needs to be an equal division of duties at home, first. “It all starts from the home. There needs to be a change in structure at home as well as in the boardrooms themselves. I don’t see one happening without the other.”

Personally, it hasn’t been a walk in the park for Rispin as she juggles the responsibilities that come with building a business from the ground up while raising two children. She has learned that to play the separate roles at work and home effectively, she needs to be realistic about what she can or cannot do and to be OK with that.

“I was in school when someone said to me ‘women can do everything, but not all at once’ and I realised the truth in that when I started to raise a family. It’s not possible to do everything and I’ve learned that I need to have a trustworthy support system both at home and at work to help me. But it has been a challenge for me to realise that,” she says.

Overcoming these challenges head on, Rispin has gathered various lessons along the way and has many words of advice for peers, her team and younger managers or business owners who are stepping up.

“As a business owner, trust your intuition. It does point you in the right direction. If something feels wrong, it usually is. I wish somebody had pointed that out to me a lot earlier in my career,” she says, adding that people and relationships should be at the front of mind.

“Don’t make it difficult for clients to see you or speak to you. Clients don’t like to be billed in six-minute increments, and they don’t like to be billed for having a phone call. Meet them, answer their calls, listen to them, empathise with them and seek a solution with them.

“A good business adviser focuses on the people and relationships, not the products.”