E12 - Leverage the Power of Team - Melissa Healy, DFK Everalls

Melissa Healy claims her team is 'not your usual accountants'. As experts in small business, they focus on 'having fun doing it'! They have a unique approach to giving and see it in broad terms:

  • Giving to charities through time, funds and expertise
  • Giving to community, by sponsoring community cultural events like the Canberra Comedy Festival
  • Giving to industry by supporting and sponsoring events like the ACT Exporter Awards.

Giving is part of team development, and a great way to amplify and leverage the giving experience for all involved.

Melissa will be a Table Host at our upcoming event, The Edge of Leadership. Join us here now!


Zoë Routh:    Hi, this is Zoe Routh and I'm here today with Melissa Healy who is going to be a table host at our upcoming event, The Edge of Leadership in March 2017. Very excited she's going to be doing that role because she's got a lot to offer and a lot to share in her experience as a business owner, as a professional working with small businesses, as well as what her firm does for the community sector in Canberra. So Melissa, welcome.

Melissa Healy:    Thank you very much Zoe. It's a pleasure to talk to you today.

Zoë Routh:    Cool. So, if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about your background and what your role is at DFK Everalls.

Melissa Healy:    I'm a chartered accountant and a fully licensed financial planner now that the rules have changed. I've been with DFK Everalls since 2000, so, yeah, it's been awhile. But basically I help proactive business owners and investors with all their financial needs. We try and be a one-stop shop for them here so we can help them with everything from starting a business, their bookkeeping, annual accounts and tax returns, business development advice, and then financial planning to protect the wealth that they've made and make it grow so that they can retire gracefully in due course.

Zoë Routh:    Retire gracefully in due course. That just sounds lovely, planned, and easy. So it's amazing that you can do that.

Melissa Healy:    We certainly try.

Zoë Routh:    Awesome. Tell us a little more about DFK Everalls and you're focus on community.

Melissa Healy:    At DFK Everalls, I suppose we look at it from a couple of different angles.  The first is obviously the most common one is just charity and straight out donations and sponsorship of things. Ronald McDonald House is the DFK Australia/New Zealand main charity. We chose them because they're non-political or religious. They're a national organisation, so each DFK firm in each capital city has their own house that they can sponsor and assist. We know quite a few people who've had children who've had to use their services before or who've had family or friends who've had to use the Macca's house services before, so it's certainly one that's close to our heart. And last but not least, every dollar raised for Ronald McDonald House actually goes into running the houses because all of the administration behind the scenes is all paid for by the McDonald's franchisees.

Zoë Routh:    That's amazing.

Melissa Healy:    It's nice to know that all your money works, goes to work for them.

Zoë Routh:    Just to clarify, because if people haven't come across Ronald McDonald House before. It's a residential place nearby, a hospital that parents and families can go to while they've got a family member going through treatment.

Melissa Healy:    Yes. Particularly for regional Australia, that if you're miles from the nearest hospital, then one of the biggest problems in the past is your child is admitted into hospital and yet you're traveling backwards and forwards, or spending a fortune on motel/hotel bills.  So the Ronald McDonald Houses have rooms in them where you can stay while your child is in hospital, and quite often that can be for months, and therefore saves you a fortune. It keeps you very close to the hospital so that you can go back, have a rest, and then not waste hours in traffic and getting lots of parking fines and things like that. So, yeah, it's a great facility.

Zoë Routh:    Absolutely. Because there's nothing worse than going through it yourself, and then as a supporter, as a family member it can be awful… it's just one less headache to think about. 

Melissa Healy:    Well, that's right. And quite often for families that have small additional children who aren't sick, that means you can even take those kids with you if they're too young to be at school or whatever, you can take them with you and you can all stay in the house together so your family doesn't get split up, and things like that.  So it's a fantastic charity.

Zoë Routh:    It is a great charity. You guys contribute financially to Ronald McDonald House. What else?

Melissa Healy:    Since the Canberra house started, probably about five years ago, we've been a bronze sponsor from day one for the ball that happens each year. Then we're also ... We take the team in to the house at least twice a year and run the Meals for the Heart program which involves basically cooking dinner for the members of ... for the people who are in the house at the time which in Canberra is usually about 40-odd people including the staff members. So that's quite a fun team event. Take a dozen members of the team with us. They'll have organised a menu plan, two or three different dishes to cater for different tastes. They organise all the shopping for that, then they rock up, they organise a roster for who's doing prep, who's doing the cooking and who's doing the washing up afterwards. And the team has a fantastic time. It's a bit like a team-building experience, but one that has a great community contribution to it.

Zoë Routh:    So, when you talk to your staff after doing an event like that, what do they say about what was meaningful to them about that experience?

Melissa Healy:    I think they ... first of all really appreciate the opportunity to make a contribution to the community. It's very hard for one person on their own to either be brave enough to rock up somewhere and say "can I help?", but also the difference that one person makes on their own obviously isn't as big as if a whole team of people get together and do something useful as a team.  So they appreciate that opportunity. And then they also basically come out of it having learned something, whether it's about how to organise a function, and all the behind the scenes work that's involved in that. And it usually ends up teaching them something about their team members, who's good at what and it doesn't matter what level accountant you are, you've got the opportunity to be a leader in organising this particular function. It's a great learning experience for them as well.

Zoë Routh:    That's great. Ronald McDonald House, for some reason I have trouble pronouncing that.  Ronald McDonald House is one of your key charities. What else do you support?

Melissa Healy:    We have a little bit of fun in terms of our contribution to the community per se without actually being a charity.  About five years ago, we were the inaugural gold sponsor of the Comedy Club Festival in Canberra so we helped bring that to town to help the community have a few extra laughs. So that's been great.  So this will be the fifth year running we've been doing that. Not the sort of average event that your ... I'm sorry, not the event that your average accountant sponsors. But we've had a lot of fun and a lot of good feedback from that, and we usually book a whole stack of tickets to one of the events and use that as a thank you present for our clients.

Zoë Routh:    It's great that you bring the stereotypes around accountants having no sense of humour, so well done on that.

Melissa Healy:    One of our mottos has always been have fun doing it. So we're very keen to make sure that the life of a traditional accountant is not what you experience around here.

Zoë Routh:    That's awesome. So, Ronald McDonald House, and the Canberra Comedy Festival, and there was a few more, wasn't there? What else do you have on your list?

Melissa Healy:    I suppose there's a variety of things that the team participate in, in terms of various Fun Runs and things like that around town. The team also have their personal contributions that they do whether it's Rotary Scouts, school PMCs and things like that. But DFK International sponsors Movember.  Last financial year for example, all the DFK firms around the world raised over $88,000 for that good cause.  

Zoë Routh:    That's a lot of moustaches.  

Melissa Healy:    It is indeed. But the other thing that we do here at Everalls is try and do a bit of a contribution to the industry per se. So we've been sponsoring the ACT Chief Ministers' Export Awards, which showcases all the firms in Canberra that are getting out there. It can be any size business, but ones that are getting out there and actually exporting their services to the world. So that's a great opportunity for us to help showcase local businesses.  And various team members here have been members on the Institute of Chartered Accountants on committees trying to promote best practice within the industry. And one of the things the public practice panel for example, has been working on the last year has been liaising with the local universities to create programs to make their students more work ready, almost developing an internship program and things like that.

    And we've also sat on various ATO panels to make sure that the ATO hasn't come up with any bright ideas that might not work in practice. So we try and keep an eye on things and provide feedback as to what will actually work in real life and what won't, and we don't want too much red tape and them creating legislation that doesn't actually work in practice.  We also view some of our community contribution as doing activities like that.

Zoë Routh:    I love how you've expanded the idea of giving not only to charity, but to community organisations like the Canberra Comedy Festival and to industry, because I think that's often not taken into account when we talk about successful businesses, about this whole giving principle and giving ethos. And it's not just about money. It's also about time, it's also about talent, and it's also about as you suggested, looking beyond just charities to other aspects of what makes up a robust community, whether it's business or whether it's fun social/arts events as well as the support services, et cetera.  So I think that's an awesome paradigm to keep in mind is that giving can be across a number of different things.

    I know that most of your clients are small businesses,  and we were speaking before the podcast started about, I was curious about what is the percentage or a portion of small businesses that actually do contributions to charities and so forth? What's your understanding or what's your experience of small business contributing to charity?  And community and industry I should say.

Melissa Healy:    We do have definitely a lot of clients who take their social contribution pretty seriously, and therefore might not necessarily be a formal program. But most of our clients are definitely, whether it's donating to charity or sponsoring various events they're definitely contributing to their community in one way or another. One of my longest term clients impressed me on day one when I met them by saying that one of their missions of their business was to contribute 10% of their profit each year to charity in one form or another, so it's been fun watching them over the years put that into place and definitely making sure it happens, keeping them accountable. But yeah, same as us, it's a range of activities and a range of charities that they're supporting. Some financially, and some just with time and effort, so it doesn't necessarily show on the books per se.

Zoë Routh:    And it's something that doesn't often get spoken about a lot in business, this whole giving nature of business, in Canberra in particular, and I think it's a beautiful story to showcase how much business owners actually do want to make a difference to where they live and to the people they live next to. And it's beautiful that we can start sharing those stories a bit more, and see how much a difference it does make.

Melissa Healy:    I think business owners shouldn't shy away from it and shouldn't view it just as a necessary cost, for example, that we have to make a contribution to the ... be it a charity or an organisation.  I think it's definitely possible to create win win relationships between businesses and organisations, be them charitable or just a local charity group such that, yes, the business is probably providing some cash if not some time and energy. But by supporting the community, there's nothing wrong with the business being able to share that, showcase their social agenda as part of that, and therefore, encourage other businesses to do the same. If we can show everybody that, promote the fact that it is a way to run your business well, and that there are other things that you can get out of it in terms of personal satisfaction and a sense of purpose contributing to the community, you can do that in a win win situation with your business.

Zoë Routh:    Absolutely, and I think the more we tell the story the better it is. It's been surprising as I've been inviting people to be table hosts to my event, so many people are shy about talking about it. Do I do enough? Some people say, is my story really worth telling and I think the more you tell the stories, the more it encourages others to do the same and to see what's possible.

Melissa Healy:    Well that's right. Anything's better than nothing.

Zoë Routh:    Exactly. And I think, I was talking to Peter Gordon of Hands Across Canberra about this. There's a lot of powerful intentions out there amongst individuals and business owners about I want to do something good. How do you go from I want to do something good, to actually doing something good? The tipping point of taking action. And I think one of the things I think can help us, move us to do that, is to see what other people are doing, to see how easy and how satisfying it is to make a difference. So I think that's why I encourage every business owner to put up on their websites and in their marketing material about what their causes are that they're contributing to and encourage others to do the same.

Melissa Healy:    I think you're right.  Certainly in terms of when we first spoke it was like, I don't think we do enough to qualify for this role. But when you actually draw down into how much we actually do do, it's sort of like, oh yeah, okay, well maybe we should promote that better.

Zoë Routh:    Absolutely. So Melissa was one of the people who was shy and reluctant to actually talk about what her company and she does for charity and community and industry. I'm so glad that she agreed or that you've agreed, I'm referring to you in the third person!

Melissa Healy:    That's alright.

Zoë Routh:    I was talking to the listeners that you've agreed to come on and do this role and share the story. I think it will make an enormous difference to other people making similar decisions in the future.

Melissa Healy:    It's certainly not hard and there is definitely ways of going about it that can generate that win win solution.

Zoë Routh:    Melissa, I just want to say thank you so much for coming on the podcast to share your story. The transcript will be available at the show notes at zoerouth.com/podcast/Melissa, with one "l" and two "s", so if you want to have a read through the transcript that would be awesome.  In the meantime, thanks so much, and I'm so looking forward to having this table host at the event. And if you want to come along and meet Melissa in person go to zoerouth.com and click on Events and there the Edge of Leadership Un-Conference should be listed there and you can see who else is going to be there as a case study as well as table hosts, and you can see Melissa's profile in greater detail.

    So thank you. Thank you so much.

Melissa Healy:    You're very welcome. My pleasure.