After a 20-year career in accountancy, Naeem Anwar felt compelled to start out on his own and share his expertise. Naeem talks to The Industry Leaders about the challenge of walking away from a well-paid job to start his own training business and why word gets around if you're good at what you do.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I've been working as an accountant for the last two decades, and I decided it's time to impart some of the knowledge and experience I've gained to help others.
The perception is that accountancy and finance is difficult or complicated or boring! However, I personally find it absolutely fascinating - learning about how people and businesses make money. And it's not as hard as people think either.
I think it's in my nature to help people, and I suppose part of this is making things easier for others. Whenever I signed up a client for my accountancy firm, I'd always think about what I could do to make their lives easier. Not only did this give me a sense of satisfaction, but it also made the client realise the value of having me as their accountant.
I apply the same philosophy to my current training business - the aim is to make things easy to understand (and, dare I say it - enjoyable)! I think that's what people want from an accounting and finance trainer.
What kind of work does your role involve?
My job involves preparing and delivering high-quality training to companies and organisations around the world in the field of accounting and finance.
The training could be in-person or online via Zoom.
In-person training requires a lot of travel around the country to deliver training at the company's premises. Zoom training is delivered from my home office and can be delivered to anyone in the world.
I have a series of courses covering a wide range of subjects within the accounting and finance field. For example, I can train people on everything from Balance Sheets and Profit & Loss Accounts to Budgets and Forecasts, Money Management and everything in between.
I am always developing new and improving existing courses to make them fun, interactive and dynamic.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The best bit about being a trainer is that I get to meet lots of new people. I just love the interaction with people. I love getting to know what makes people tick, and I also love the fact that I can say things on a training course that really makes them think and reassess pre-existing ideas in their heads - that's fun.
The best bit about being an accountant is that I have learned so much about money and money management over the years. And yet, there is so much more to learn! It's so interesting to find new and innovative ways that people and companies come up with to make money.
If you think about it, as long as you can come up with something (or do something) that someone else will find useful, you can sell and make a living from it, as long as you can do it for the price that the other person is willing to pay.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My previous boss once said to me:
"I know you know the numbers, but do you understand them?"
This has always stuck with me because it's not all about knowledge; it's about wisdom. What do the numbers actually mean for the business?
I think this is excellent advice to any accountant or non-accountant for that matter. If you can make sense of what the numbers mean, then you are halfway there.
I find that the numbers usually tell a story of what has happened. For example, if the company struggled with sales or experienced problems in production, this will (sooner or later) find its way to the accounts, and the numbers will always reflect what is happening on the shop floor, so to speak.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
As well as training, I offer coaching to anyone that wants a more in-depth look at their company or organisation.
While training involves explaining financial concepts and making them easy to understand using real-life examples, coaching can be tailored to a company's particular circumstances.
I am also part of a network of trainers whose aim is to deliver excellent training in a variety of fields. We have all been through a rigorous training programme to become successful trainers. I can share more information about the programme if they're interested in becoming a trainer in their chosen field.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
As a Chartered Accountant, I must keep my technical knowledge up-to-date, and I do this by subscribing to several accountancy journals and publications.
I also attend training courses regularly as part of my CPD (Continued Professional Development) requirements. As a trainer myself, I think it's important to attend training courses - I like to practice what I preach!
I love reading business books and learning new things. I also enjoy watching relevant YouTube channels and catching up with people that I've worked with. I find that there's so much to learn from past and present colleagues.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
The biggest challenge for me has been to give up a good, well paid, stable job and start my own accountancy firm from scratch, without any clients, contacts or idea about what I was doing!
I didn't know if I could do it, but I did it.
I thought to myself, let's give it a go and see where it takes me. I enjoyed the challenge, and I took it upon myself to try things, see what worked and do more of that.
I used the PDSA (Plan Do Study Adjust) Cycle, and it worked out fine. I realised that if you're nice to people, reliable, and you can help them out somehow (using whatever skills and experience you have), it will all be fine in the end!
Also, if you are good at what you do, word gets around quicker than you think, and before you know it, you have a fully functioning successful business.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
If I won $10 million in the lottery, I think I'd put most of the money into relatively safe investments and live off the annual yield from those investments. Even if I only earned 3.5% on the $10 million, it's still $350,000 per annum, which is more than enough to have a great lifestyle. I could certainly live off that! What's the point in blowing it? I might as well have a great lifestyle for the rest of my life and leave plenty behind for my kids and their kids after that.
That is such an accountant's answer, isn't it?!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
After work, I love to spend time with my two children. I have a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, and I find them adorable.
My boy just wants to play and watch sports all day, so that's what we do! He is super-competitive!
My girl just comes out with the most wonderful things. I love talking to her and playing along with her role-plays.
And when the kids are finally in bed, it's nice to just chill out with my wife, put on a good movie and enjoy a nice cup of tea!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I wish they wouldn't make tax laws so complicated. I don't see the point of having hundreds and thousands of pages of tax legislation - surely there has to be an easier way!
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I love listening to Joe Rogan's podcast. I like the variety of guests he has on there, and also like his way of communicating and being open to new ideas whilst challenging his guests' thoughts and ideas with his own views.
I also love Tim Ferriss's YouTube channel - there's certainly a lot to learn from Tim.
As for books, I would recommend that everyone reads 'Screw work, break free' by John Williams and 'The One Thing' by Gary Keller. These books changed my life.
How should people connect with you?
If you want to know more about me, please feel free to visit my website: www.naeemanwar.com.
Once there, you can sign-up for my free monthly newsletter - it's full of brilliant tips and ideas about managing finances (and did I mention that it's free!).
You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel and follow me on LinkedIn; simply search 'Naeem Anwar', and you should be able to find me easily.
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