IPA Profile: Jessica Sayles

IPA Profile: Jessica Sayles

MP, Houldsworth Russo & Company

Years in Business: 24

Main Office: Las Vegas

Staff Size: 20

FY19 Net Revenue: $3.4 million

 

What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm right now? Managing staff, clients and the pandemic. We’ve got an incredible group right now, but many of our staff have young children at home in virtual learning environments and are unable to work their normal hours and workloads. At the same time, we’re heavy in the non-profit sector with June 30 year-ends and directly in the middle of our audit busy season. It’s been a challenge to find a fit that works for our staff and our clients, but we’re remaining committed to both. We’ve increased our staffing during this time (although hiring is and always will be a separate challenge) and worked with our clients to be more flexible with remote auditing and timing of work. It’s teamwork on all sides, but we’re getting through.

Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years? I think we’re all looking toward hybrid models of working and the possible expansion of markets with new virtual models of audit and communications. We’ve leapt so far forward with technology this year, and I don’t want our firm to lose momentum. We need to continue adapting to provide exceptional service in any medium – virtual or in person.

For decades, the profession has encouraged a move toward partners delivering advisory services beyond compliance. What has been your biggest success in this endeavor? We’ve expanded our client accounting services to ‘client accounting and advisory services.’ This simple name change has expanded our mindset from traditional debits and credits of bookkeeping engagements to being full-service partners with our clients. While we continue to learn and grow this side of our business, I think a paradigm shift has happened internally that will pave the way for exponential growth.

What’s the best advice you have ever received from another leader? Don’t be afraid to fail. The sheer quantity of decisions you need to make as an MP can be overwhelming at times, and you’re not always going to make the right ones. Acknowledge what was wrong, learn from it and move on.

What one piece of advice do you wish someone told you before you stepped into your current leadership role? It’s OK to not love your job and everything you do every day. It’s that questioning and the reaffirming that means you still WANT to do what you’re doing. The biggest periods of growth in my career have been when I’m at a crossroads and I actively choose to continue down my path in public accounting.

 What has been the biggest surprise in your role as a leader?How little I feel the need to be ‘in charge.’ I love having capable and talented people around me, and I don’t believe that leading always means being in front. Sometimes leading is watching from the background, being a cheerleader for successes and being there to commiserate over failures.

How has your role as MP changed over the past five years? I’m homegrown within my firm – I started as an intern and am now MP. The employees we hire today have never known me as the intern, so I’ve had to reassess how I view myself and learn the new perceptions others have of me. It’s important to HRC to keep a culture of openness, and I have to be intentional now more than ever to make sure I stay open as well.

What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today? Keep going! This is a tough profession and the expectation is that it is nearly impossible to get it right the first time (review notes, anyone?). Many accounting students graduate at the top of their class and expect that academic success to immediately translate into professional success. It’s hard and humbling to find out that there is always more to learn and opportunities to grow – no matter what title you achieve within your firm.

How do you stay on top of the profession? Education, humility and a good sense of humor.

Where do you see the accounting profession in five years? How do you see it changing/developing and/or how would you like it to change? The social movements toward more diverse and inclusive work environments are finally making headway in the accounting profession. I’m excited to see a broader range of ages, races and genders in the next generation of leaders.

What is your proudest achievement? My children will always be my proudest achievement. My work is a distant second. I hope that’s the legacy I leave behind both on and off the job.

 

 

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