Falling back in love with accounting with Natalie Lennon from Two Sides Accounting

Natalie Lennon's headshot
  • Natalie Lennon, Founder and Director of Two Sides Accounting, encourages accountants who are unhappy where they are to take the leap into their own practice.

  • Like many firm owners, low unemployment rates have created difficulty for Natalie in hiring new accountants.

  • After COVID started to recede, Natalie found herself burned out. To recover, she took an extended vacation to Italy with her husband and adopted a four-day work week. 

If you’re unhappy where you are, take a leap. That’s what Natalie Lennon did when she started Two Sides Accounting.

But Natalie came into accounting in a less traditional way. Though her mom was a bookkeeper and her grandmother was an accountant, she didn’t want to take on a mountain of student debt right after high school. So she opted to go straight into the workforce, taking an accounts receivable job for a small software company. 

Making collections phone calls was Natalie’s first foray into accounting. Though it wasn’t fun initially, she eventually got the hang of it and saw other facets of the bookkeeping and accounting world through it. And what she learned about accounting from this humble first job led her to a career as an accountant.

After working a few more years for a public accounting firm while finishing up her Chartered Accounting graduate diploma, Natalie jumped over to the commercial land and moved up the ranks rather quickly. But as she grew within the company, she soon realized that its particular environment wasn’t suitable.

“Often the director would refer to me as, ‘This is our young, female, attractive finance manager.’ Not ‘This is Natalie. She's our finance manager. She's a Chartered Accountant,’” Natalie says of the work environment. 

The repetitiveness of focusing on just one business was also becoming dull and demotivating.

“When you're in public practice, you're dealing with many different businesses, many different clients where you can make a difference.” 

She soon found a small firm where the founding partner retired within six months of her arrival. And at age 28, Natalie became a partner.

“​​Looking back, I definitely wasn't ready at that stage to become a partner at 28. I didn't know the firm well enough. It was established back in the ‘80s. So there were a lot of paper-based clients and an older client base,” she explains.

After some time and toil, Natalie eventually took the leap and struck out on her own. Two Sides Accounting was born. Natalie shares her journey with host Stuart McLeod on episode 64 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, including her thoughts on working with small businesses, getting by in today’s labor market, and carving out time for herself.

Magnifying the small

Natalie made small business the focus for Two Sides Accounting.

“​​I felt like I could make more of a difference with the smaller clients, the mom and dads, the startups. With my commercial background, I’d been in their shoes and understood the mechanics of it all,” she explains. 

Natalie often plays a crucial role in ensuring her clients weather storms and are appropriately prepared for change.

“The biggest problem we see is people living beyond their means and using money that's not theirs,” Natalie tells Stuart on the podcast. “It's the tax officers’ money. We try to educate our clients to put money aside for tax.”

To that end, Natalie tries to engage each client at least once a quarter. She calls them to explain their numbers and make sure they’re making informed decisions with their money. 

Managing the talent

Two Sides Accounting maintains a small team—and for good reason. 

“I don't really want to have a really big team where I don't deal with the clients. That's the whole point of why people come to work with us. They're going to get face time with me. They’re going to get looked after and get that small firm feel,” Natalie explains.

Stuart, who has experience with an organization growing too big for what he would like to manage, agrees. “Every business has different stages. Some of us are better at running large organizations. Some of us are better off enjoying the fruits of your labor. The value creation, scraping something from nothing, is no mean feat.” 

Still, there are gaps that Natalie would like to fill but is struggling to find good candidates for. She’s tried outsourcing overseas before, but has run into roadblocks. For example, when outsourcing to the Philippines, Natalie struggled to maintain a smooth workflow since holidays for Australians differ from those celebrated in the Philippines.

With outsourcing ruled out, Natalie is considering offering remote work to her newest hires. There aren’t many accountants in her area, so creativity and flexibility are a must to attract talent. 

Recommended reading: How to break up the monotony of work when every day feels the same

Changing times

Two Sides Accounting is no stranger to growth in recent years, though this wasn’t always the case. Plateauing business in the second year of COVID gave Natalie a chance to look at her client base more critically. During that time, she let go of some clients that were no longer working for Two Sides Accounting’s business model. 

While letting clients go can be scary, it ended up paying off.

We disengaged from quite a few clients that we didn't want to work with anymore. [Now we are] more profitable than we were before. And we've culled some of the turnover, which is fantastic.

Natalie Lennon, Two Sides Accounting

This move has also allowed Two Sides Accounting to consider letting go of the company’s office space. Most employees are hybrid. And with more and more new hiring candidates asking for remote work, a physical office is no longer necessary.

Besides bad-fit clients and office space, there was another, even more important issue that needed to be addressed in the wake of the pandemic: burnout.

“Due to COVID, I had fallen out of love with what I did,” Natalie tells Stuart on the podcast.

Realizing her need to step back and prioritize work-life balance, Natalie decided to transition to a four-day work week.

“I've told our clients that I'm working four days a week. I'm having Fridays off which is really, really nice so I can have that work-life balance back.”

Leaping ahead

Part of Natalie’s strategy for combating the doldrums in her work was to break out of her rut. For her and her husband, that meant taking an extended trip to Italy and Switzerland after COVID settled.

While Natalie has adjusted her work schedule to create a more enjoyable lifestyle, she doesn’t have any regrets in starting Two Sides Accounting. She still encourages accountants to go for their goals. 

“For people who are not happy with what they're doing, you've got to just take the leap sometimes and give it a go,” she says. “Otherwise, you'll always wonder.”