Bryan Zhao | Harvest Accounting

As a young child, Bryan dreamt of working in the shining glass towers of Raffles Place, wearing a suit and tie. He never thought he'd be an accounting firm owner wearing shorts to work. We hear about what Bryan loves doing each day and the Harvest Accounting journey so far.

1. What's your story?

As a kid growing up in Singapore, I remember watching the news on television and seeing “business people” dressed in their long-sleeved shirts and ties walking along Raffles Place. I pointed at that scene and told my parents that I was going to be just like those people, working a professional job, probably in a bank. To my five year old mind, that looked like success. 

I worked really hard in school and strived to be that all-rounded model student with exemplary grades. I did end up turning my vision into reality - working at Raffles Place as an aspiring corporate banker, equipped with a degree in Accountancy. However, I constantly felt restless that I was not living out a purpose and was daunted about climbing the corporate ladder, wondering if there was something more than a safe career path. 

I also recognised that I had an enterprising streak within me. I was excited about hunting for value (and good deals and bargains), as well as creating value and sharing with people about them. 

In August 2018, a conversation with my co-founder Matthew's wife, Estella, gave me the revelation that there was something out there that could integrate my skill sets, strengths and also weaknesses. That something turned out to be the most nerve-wrecking leap of faith that I had to take - starting an accounting business at 28 years old. For the first time in my life,

I told myself to trust my gut, relinquish control, stop playing it safe, and trust that God had opened this door for me and that I simply had to walk through it. 

Now, Harvest Accounting is an ever-growing Xero Platinum Partner firm with passionate team members that are helping many small businesses with digital and effortless accounting. I am so thankful that this endeavor turned out to be the best decision and chance that I gave to myself to learn and grow to become a better leader, professional and person every single day. 

2. What’s the most satisfying part about what you do?

Over the years of building Harvest Accounting, I came to realize that our business’ purpose is to grow with clients and our employees. The name “Harvest” is synonymous with sowing seeds for a good foundation and witnessing the growth journey of the humans (of Harvest). That is exactly what I find most satisfying about what I do. 

I really enjoy talking through a set of management accounts with our clients and discussing what went well, what did not and what actions can be taken. Hearing the perspectives of other business owners and how they think or strategise really inspires me. It is through these conversations that I feel we are bringing value to the table and helping small businesses win and grow. Timely data can only be produced through streamlined operational finance processes. I am glad that we have been able to set in place effective checklists and workflows to lead our clients to achieve timely reporting.

Seeing the faces of our clients light up when we show them how easy it is to email-forward or take photos of bills and receipts to record expenses still makes my day. 

Harvest Accounting has also expanded into a sizable team over the years and I enjoy people development and seeing our team members grow professionally and personally. Our fresh graduate hires have honed their technical accounting skills and also improved greatly in their communication and presentation skills. They are well on their way to be the next generation of business-savvy, data-driven accountants of tomorrow. It is very heartening to see our employees becoming more and more effective in their roles, managerial skills and well-deserved promotions!

3. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you move forward? 

As a business owner just starting out, you will have to wear multiple hats, whether it be dealing with client management, sales, suppliers, hiring, strategy, service recovery, chasing for payments and team development. Furthermore, it is difficult to take off these hats and the business is always at the back of your mind. We run a service-based business and ensuring good customer service and satisfaction is top priority. There is also often a time crunch element, as we assist our clients to meet filing deadlines for financial statements, GST and tax reporting. All these responsibilities were initially very overwhelming and it led to me experiencing multiple burnouts. 

It took me many hard knocks to learn to distinguish and break down the day-to-day tasks that strengthen and weaken me. Tasks that strengthen and energize me come easy to me and make work enjoyable. I slowly delegated tasks that did not come natural to me, to other team members that enjoyed it and will take far less time to complete. This helped me greatly to better cope with daily pressures and now I have more mind space to chart the growth of our business. 

4. What's the best piece of business advice you would like to share?

I will advise to run a business together with a co-founder that complements you. While it is possible to start a business on your own, there are really too many things and too many blind spots to cover.

On bad days, a co-founder can pick up the slack while you pick yourself up. On good days, you both can celebrate the wins and joys together.

I am thankful to have found an amazing co-founder in Matt. He takes care of how information flows within our company, builds reporting dashboards, data visualisations, knowledge management, marketing content and templates, which are areas that I do not thrive in.

On the other hand, we complement each other with my skill sets in building government and supplier partnerships, sales conversions, internal finance and administration, which are things that are less suited for him. We always bounce ideas off each other, implement and iterate initiatives and encourage one another. 

5. How has Harvest Accounting and using Xero impacted your business / life?

Harvest Accounting provides all our team members a hybrid working arrangement with most of our team members working-from-anywhere. With Xero and all our systems on the cloud, 100% of the work can be done remotely and we have been able to support our staff through different life seasons. For example, one of our team members has moved her family overseas but continues to work for us!

Xero is a best-in-class accounting solution that continues to innovate and it has truly helped us to achieve daily bank reconciliations and real-time accounting. Harvest Accounting truly walks the talk and we are so excited to share this effortless accounting experience with our clients. 

6. Shameless plug for your business

Come work with us, Xero Partner of the Year for 2023, to experience what it is like to achieve effortless accounting with Xero! We have a team of dedicated accountants and client success managers that will give you a good customer experience and journey. Let us take away the things that you do not enjoy doing, so that you can focus on doing what you do best!