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Home-town return added up for engineer turned accountant

Karyn Starmer 17 February 2020
Thomas Skeffington

RSM Goulburn’s Director of Business Advisory, Thomas Skeffington. Photo: Supplied.

If the days of a straight career path, moving from school to uni to work, seem long gone, RSM’s Thomas Skeffington’s career path is best described as full circle.

Growing up in a country town, Thomas went to university in the city and travelled the world but then returned to university and ended up back where he came from. And he loves it.

Born and raised in Goulburn, Thomas completed an engineering degree at the University of Sydney and headed off to work at an engineering company in Germany. He returned to Australia well-travelled and landed a job at a large engineering firm in Sydney.

But Thomas discovered the daily commute and the city lifestyle were not for him, so he headed back to university. With a Masters of Commerce and an Accounting major under his arm, Thomas returned to Goulburn, and the accounting firm his family’s building business had used all his life.

Still located in the building which his father had built, Thomas has happy childhood memories of visiting the accountants.

“We would go in every Thursday and the accountant would give us Minties,” he said. “We would leave carrying bags of money because it was pay day. We would go back to my parents’ home, where they would sit all afternoon with the doors locked and blinds drawn putting cash into envelopes for the 40 employees of their building business.”

The family’s accountants, John McCulloch and Jamie O’Rourke from RSM Goulburn, interviewed Thomas and he has been with the firm ever since.

“It has been a good journey in that regard. RSM is a great firm with good traditions,” he said. “I find it a very collegiate firm, much like being part of a big family.”

Now a partner and Director of Business Advisory at RSM, Thomas says most of his clients, whether in construction, real estate, medicine or engineering, rely on RSM for online electronic lodgement of everything from business activity statements to payroll.

The ATO’s latest reporting system for business, Single Touch Payroll, began in July 2019 and Thomas says that while there are numerous cloud-based solutions available to streamline compliance, smaller businesses who may not have the computer skills to communicate with the ATO can find all this confronting, so RSM acts as the conduit between the ATO and their clients.

“This is where we are making great contributions to our clients’ businesses. We assist them with their compliance work and the IT side of their business,” Thomas said.

One of Thomas’ largest clients is an engineering firm outside Goulburn. Drawing on his previous career as an engineer, Thomas understands the intricacies of factories and manufacturing processes.

“My engineering background has helped enormously. The logic of engineering helps me explain the logic of accounting dilemmas. They know that I understand their business and, having similar thought processes, I can help them steer their business,” Thomas said.

Goulburn’s growth is creating more demand for RSM’s services, and a fresh challenge for Thomas to find qualified staff in a highly competitive jobs market. The scarcity of qualified accountants has led him to look for people who have similar backgrounds to his own.

“We are looking for people who have a previous degree, perhaps in IT, agriculture, science or engineering, who want a tree change and career change. You don’t always have to be a pure accountant, or economics-type of student to make a contribution in this profession. As long as we get a culturally fit person we can teach them the accounting and tax side of things with on-the-job training,” he said.

“Here at RSM it is all about relationships, forming close personal ties builds business, because it is all built on trust.”

Find out more about Thomas and the tax audit and consulting services at RSM Goulburn.


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