Donna has worked her way through the ranks to Managing Partner at Haines Watts North East, having joined the firm as a graduate over 20 years ago. Being a a strong advocate of social mobility and diversity in the workplace, has helped her build an organisation that reflects her person-centred style of management.
WHAT WERE YOUR CAREER AMBITIONS GROWING UP?
As I was going through the education system, there seemed to be very set roles for certain skills. I remember being very proficient at touch-typing and so being encouraged to become a typist. In fact, it’s turned out to be one of a variety of transferrable skills that comes in handy to this day. I think the opportunities now are a lot more diverse for those starting in their careers, and as employers we should be looking at the range of skills people can bring to a role, not necessarily just the educational qualifications they possess.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENT?
Being invited to join the board of Haines Watts was a huge accomplishment and it makes me incredibly proud. It was a real honour to be identified nationally, out of over 1,000 staff and 150 partners, based on the strong growth achieved in the North East offices. Our company is going through an exciting period of change and it’s great to have a strong role in influencing its future direction.
HOW HAS YOUR INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE LAST DECADE?
As is the case with most industries, technology has played a huge role in how accountancy has changed. I think search engines are something of a double-edged sword they can provide a wealth of answers but, in many cases, a lack of experience or understanding means people are asking the wrong questions and so aren’t getting the full picture that they would working with a trusted advisor.
The flipside of this is that a lot of process have become digitised and, as a company that specialises in working with SMEs and owner-managed businesses, it’s the strong relationships we develop with our clients that that makes us stand out.
Our recruitment process places a far bigger emphasis on people skills than possibly it did ten years ago there is a perception that accountancy is all about number-crunching and is not often thought of as a service industry’. In reality, approachability, interaction, and teamwork are what make the difference to our clients.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF BUSINESS ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
The best advice I was ever given was to forget about the barriers you may think stand in the way of your goals, because you can wind up being the one creating your own limitations.
It’s advice I’m very keen to pass on to schoolleavers. Whether it’s feeling you don’t have the right connections, the right exam results, the right background even. There are a lot of opportunities for people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and have the ambition to grow and drive their careers forward. I think the drive around apprenticeships in recent years has had a significant impact on inspiring people into roles they may not have thought possible in the past.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN THE NORTH EAST?
Undoubtedly, it’s the atmosphere you can find in the North East. Given the size of the region there is still a strong feeling of community and friendliness. The work-life balance here is also difficult to find elsewhere, particularly living only three miles away from work and only three hours away from London by train.
The other aspect I think is unique to this area is the variety of landscapes we’re surrounded by beaches, countryside, buzzing towns, excellent sports facilities, spas, famous landmarks, the list goes on. There’s little wonder Newcastle won the Rough Guide award for 2018 best place to visit’.
HOW DO YOU LIKE TO UNWIND?
I like spending time with my family and exercise is really important to me, it helps me to relax and focus. My typical day starts with a PT session and ends with quality family time, and a glass of wine with the occasional trip to Ramside Hall spa for some indulgence.