How Confidence Drove Me From Part-Time Employee To CEO
In time for Fearless, we spoke to the amazingly talented Amanda Ward – mother of three, owner and CEO of Award Accounting, a non-executive director on four boards, a chief financial controller of a client company, a She Business member and a proud sponsor of Fearless. We wanted to find out how you go from being a part time employee until the age of 36 to business leader. Here is what we learnt.
Amanda, tell us how do you go from being employee of the company to the owner in 10 years and what were your sliding door moments?
Sliding door number one was putting a face on my dream: I know this sounds strange, because who wants to be an accountant, but when I left school I wanted to become an accountant. Regardless of not having the high marks, I persevered. During my education at TAFE and then onto University, I made a pact with a friend that “I would own my own business one day”. I wanted to challenge myself and make a difference in the world and I knew accounting was my vehicle.
I should add that I grew up with a father who was always encouraging us to do better. I didn’t think about it that much when I was younger, but this has definitely instilled a sense of confidence in my ability.
Sliding door number two was the moment I decided to back myself. This happened in 2009, I had been working for an accounting firm part time for 10 years when the old partners asked me if I would like to buy the business. It was a huge leap for me. My third child was seven at the time, I was 36, my husband was about to leave to Afghanistan and I had only ever worked part time. How was I going to convince the clients that I was just as good as the “old boys” but I knew this was my chance to live the dream I had set out for myself.
The third moment is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had a client who was too big for our company, they needed services I couldn’t provide but he said, “I want you, so go get the expertise in-house that you’re missing”. This client single handedly funded a mentor for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think someone would say “I want you anyway” having outlined my weaknesses. My honesty, which I thought would be to my detriment, became my strength. When you tell people your weaknesses and show a determination to help them any way, it instills a confidence in you like nothing else.
What are the lessons you have learnt in being fearless in your career?
Fearless for me, was defined by the moment when I was asked to buy the business. I had to ask myself, as a woman will I be able to inspire enough confidence in clients and will I be able to entice the male clients to stay on with the business?
Showing my vulnerability and being honest with every single client worked wonders. It was refreshing for them. Every single client found my enthusiasm inspiring and my honesty invigorating.
What is the one piece of advice you have for community of business owners?
Confidence is everything.
Being self-assured is the most admired skill you can have. Not because confidence is about being the best in the room, but because people see confidence as competence.
As Apple has always said – “We challenge the status quo. Oh and by the way we sell computers” I want to challenge the status quo too. If you are confident, people don’t care what you sell, they want to be part of your team. Confidence is in your verbal and non-verbal behavior; it is in your honesty. Confidence turns all your thoughts into action.
When my husband was about to go to Afghanistan, it was the self-confidence and the confidence others had in me that had me say yes. My advice to others, is to have confidence and have the belief in your own ability and you will succeed.
Why do you feel so passionate about helping other women?
I am so aware of the gender imbalance in the corporate world, I see it all the time in the mining industry. I really want to fix it – but that is not why I am so passionate about women. I am passionate about helping women make the right decisions and I love surrounding myself with women who are courageous, successful in their own right, passionate and go-getters.
I get a kick out of explaining checks and balances to people, others find it a mind-field, but I love being able to explain it in easy terms.
What kind of impact did Fearless have on you last year to make you want to be a sponsor this year?
Last year I was surrounded by so many inspiring and talented women, it was infectious, they were all high-achieving in what they do. It’s why I like going to She Business forums every month, because I love being around women who put themselves out there.
What are you bringing to Fearless this year?
Besides an open mind and heart, I would love all Fearless participants to come talk to me so I can help them to identify the questions they need to ask. We are all successful in our own rights, it is not about the size of your bank account, but about the goals you set yourself. Fearless for me is about helping women realize their vision for themselves using all the skills and experience I have.