‘Toyin Olufon is a chartered accountant, founder of The Techy Accountant and Principal Partner/CEO at Lefort Consulting Limited. Part of her work involves helping SMEs and Start-ups stay in business, building capacity for graduate accountants, and supporting women and children in life and business. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks of her work, her inspiration to become an Accountant, challenges of and recommendations for SMEs and start-ups, among others.
DID you always want to be an accountant? And, what was your experience studying Accounting at the university?
Yes, I desired resolutely to become an accountant very early in life. I was inspired by my uncle who is a very successful accountant and lives a professionally accomplished life. My university days was a graceful experience. Studying came naturally to me and I was an exemplary student. I focused, gave it my best and finished well.
You are the founder of ‘The Techy Accountant’ and the Chief Executive Officer/Principal Consultant at Lefort Consulting Limited. What inspired the establishment of these outfits, and, how are you using them to better lives and businesses?
I am privileged to be the CEO and Principal Consultant at Lefort Consulting Limited which is a front-line accounting, financial advisory and tax consulting firm in Nigeria. We provide a lot of business support for SMEs in the course of our service delivery and in conjunction with the Federal Government of Nigeria on various projects and initiatives. It is out of our passion for improving lives and building businesses (which is a core principle of our organisation) that the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of our Company, The Lefort Foundation, has among several life-advancement project it promotes, set-up ‘The Techy Accountant’ initiative.
The Techy Accountant is set-up into three major developmental structures which are the (i) The Techy Accountant Academy, (ii) The Techy Accountant Community, and (iii) The Techy Accountant Summit. We discovered sadly that there is a growing skill gap in the finance-accounting industry, and majority of the graduates from our tertiary institutions are not fit for the engagement of the business place. Both accounting firms and business organisations would ordinarily not be able to run their daily businesses without the skill of an in-house accountant, coupled with how technology has transformed our service delivery as finance professionals. Hence, the bedrock objective for ‘The Techy Accountant’ is to raise a new generation of premium and tech-savvy finance professionals to bridge the employability gap and to empower SMEs.
It is estimated that many businesses in Nigeria liquidate in their first year of business. What do you think is the major reasons for this? And, how could these problems be solved?
I think that entrepreneurs are very passionate people, and they start-up businesses with that passion. But, they forget that passion alone cannot sustain the business. They require professional advice in raising capital, cash-flow management, book-keeping, tax, and legal affairs etc. I recommend that start-ups should collaborate with these professionals essential for their ventures to succeed, thereby creating a win-win situation also as the professionals build a client-base of start-ups willing to do business right.
Nigeria is seemingly a harsh space for business start-ups, even at the small and medium enterprise (SME) level. What can people in this business level do to grow and sustain their business?
Business is not easy anywhere in the world. It is important to understand the business environment and structure the business to meet the peculiar demands of that environment whilst tackling the challenges that arise daily. Foreigner Entrepreneurs in the UAE can only own 49 per cent of the business; but they still thrive. SMEs should focus, leverage on technology to grow their client base, ensure excellent service delivery, recruit the best hands possible, focus on creating a good business reputation rather than putting up an appearance of a successful business, and very importantly, take one step at a time. SME is like a baby in cradle, it must learn to crawl before walking, and walking before running.
Do you think the current tax regime and economic policies of the federal government are for the best interest of small businesses and those of Nigerians at large?
Yes, yes and yes. The new tax regime is favourable to small businesses in Nigeria; the government should be highly commended, and SMEs should take advantage of it with proper guidance.
These days, women are increasingly becoming interested in all types of businesses, yet they find it difficult to access loans and other forms of funding like their male counterparts. How can this challenge be handled?
Women have always been in business and have excelled. I think now, more than ever before, women are now challenging the status quo and several business-funding opportunities and are also opening both locally and internationally. Seeking professional guidance will aid women in accessing funding opportunities to grow their businesses in leap and bounds.
You are into STEM education for young girls. What are the major problems people like you in this space face? And, if you were the president of Nigeria how would be handle the problems?
The major issues we face are funding and cultural acceptance. If there is improved and devoted financial support from the government and from the corporate world, and the stakeholders lend a strong hand to educate and enlighten our cultural communities where the girl child is still undermined and not allowed to explore education and the tech space like their male counterparts.
Tell us more about The Techy Accountant
Firstly, with ‘The Techy Accountant Academy’ we have trained over three thousand (3,000) business owners and completed three seasons of The Techy Accountant Training. The Academy has also served as a veritable platform that blue-chip companies have been hiring from.
Secondly, with ‘The Techy Accountant Community’, as the name implies, we are building a world-wide web-based community of accounting and finance professionals thereby destroying the barrier that has before now inhibited professional and educational exchange in the industry. It will provide unrivalled access across student groups, young professional groups, advanced professional groups and the veteran groups across the world, creating unprecedented professional mentorship and mentee experience.
Thirdly, with ‘The Techy Accountant Summit’ we will be holding physical, periodic, regional and international convergences of accounting and finance professionals to further the course of the movement. The Techy Accountant is the biggest thing happening in the human resource Finance-Tech space.
Because of the structure which is designed to grow and enhance individual professionals and revolutionise the industry by the merger of cutting-edge professional competence and technology, we are taking the finance world by storm and we here to stay for a very long time.
What are the major challenges you face in your line of work? And, what do you like doing at your leisure?
I provide very technical and cerebral accounting and financial advisory solutions to our clients and it is very demanding. Clients are only interested in results; so how you stay motivated and inspired to continually provide cutting-edge solutions is strictly your business. This is the challenging part of a finance professional’s life that no one gets to think or care about. I let off steam by conversing with and engaging my husband on different issues of life and interests.
If you were to go on a tour in a foreign country, which country would that be, and why?
Monaco, because it is a destination for very wealthy people whose problem is how to enjoy their wealth because of the tax lenient environment created by their exemplary government. I would love to offer them my peculiar financial advisory solutions on investments and perpetuating their wealth once I get the opportunity.
What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones, who are aspiring to be like you?
It is your responsibility to succeed in life. Nobody owes you anything. This world answers to value; if you have value relative to your environment, you will be needed and become relevant by solving real problems. Everything in life has a price. If you can pay the price, you will have anything you want, and it would never matter that you are a woman or not.