When the role of general manager came up at AFS & Associates, Kate Mannix felt compelled to apply. With three children under six, Kate was unable to commit to full time hours outlined in the role description. Rather than “self-eliminate” from the recruitment process, Kate saw it as an opportunity to lay her cards on the table.
“The drive to work in a role such as that overrode the fact they might say no,” recalls Kate.
“I was clear that I couldn’t over commit... and put on the table what I could bring and what I could offer which at the time was 20 hours a week.”
That was 2013, and Kate was successful in being appointed the role of general manager. In 2017, still working part time hours, Kate was appointed CEO, a position that is the first for the Bendigo accounting firm which has operated for over 70 years.
Kate’s appointment as CEO has strengthened the representation of females in leadership positions within the Bendigo business community. An example of this is the appointment of two female partners in early 2021, Katie Dempster and Jess Ritchie.
Kate continued to work through a pathway to partnership with Jess who was on maternity leave, rather than halt the opportunity during this period.
“That was a massive defining moment in terms of how far we’d come in our people development and focus on future succession.
“We are all about the long term - the right people in the right roles. Jess has all this to give us and when she was ready, that opportunity was there.”
Prior to working at AFS, Kate gained experience in Melbourne at PwC before taking a role with Blockbuster Australia. Her last job with Blockbuster after returning from maternity leave was to assist in the sale of the business.
“That was eye opening in terms of working in a world-wide business that went through major tech disruption and had a massive amount of change thrust upon it and was not quick enough to respond.
“One of my biggest fears is I never want to go through what we went through with Blockbuster ever again – you can see the train coming.”
The period since March 2020 has been rough in many ways for businesses. Whilst no one could have predicted a global pandemic, Kate’s experience at Blockbuster helped her understand how AFS must better prepare themselves for what the future might bring.
“It’s about being relevant both now and into the future. You can’t be complacent,” says Kate.
“The challenge is understanding the disruptors to your industry, what you want to be a part of and what you don't, being quite clear in what you offer in your business, and making the time to look ahead.”
In 2019 the accounting and advisory firm upgraded to more flexible tech and work practices pre-empting future growth. Luck would have it that adopting a more agile workplace made it easier for staff to transition to working from home as part of COVID-19.
“Through good luck, good management or call us Nostradamus, leading up (to COVID-19), we’d done so much work with our team that everyone knew their role, everyone knew our purpose and what we were there to achieve
“The way we had to work over the last 18 months wasn’t new to us. We’d introduced that to our business already.
“Where we can, we’ve got people back to the office because they need that human connection and we’ve talked to the team about what work looks like beyond this.
“It’s making sure we continue to think the future, deal with the now, and keep the team connected as much as we can to purpose.
WORDS: Kimberley Furness
IMAGES: Words & Pictures
Based in Bendigo, AFS & Associates is a total service chartered accounting firm delivering highly skilled, professional accountants and business advisers.