- Jodie Silvester CA moved 3000km from Sydney to Kununurra in late 2004 so her husband could become a commercial pilot.
- In November 2007, she bought a local bookkeeping business, which she built into KAS Accounting Solutions, a CA practice for clients in remote areas.
- In 2019, Silvester opened another office in Darwin, and won the national Small Business Award in the 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
In 2004, Jodie Silvester CA transplanted her life from the western suburbs of Sydney to Kununurra, population 5000, in the remote East Kimberley Region of Western Australia. She made the 3000km shift so her husband could pursue his dream of being a commercial pilot.
She had no inkling it would put her on course to building her own practice, KAS Accounting Solutions, and winning the national Small Business Award at the 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, announced in May
Silvester admits she struggled for her first couple of years in WA. Before her move across the continent, she had worked in mid-tier accounting firms in the Newcastle region of New South Wales, and eventually had a position as a senior accountant at PwC. The East Kimberley was was a big change.
“For my first two years in Kununurra I worked for a not-for-profit organisation, but then there was a little bookkeeping business for sale and I decided to buy that,” says Silvester.
“After I bought the bookkeeping business I tried to let the town know what a chartered accountant was and how that was different from bookkeeping.
“No-one had much of an idea what a CA meant, and I didn’t push it that much, but I think they know about the difference now.”
Indeed, it’s the way her practice has provided the best possible financial guidance to businesses, not-for-profits and individuals in such a remote area for the past 11 years that helped gain Silvester the Telstra award.
Picture: Jodie Silvester CA.
What makes a Kununurra practice different?
About half of Silvester’s clients at KAS Accounting Solutions are local small-to-medium businesses and many of the rest come from the not-for-profit sector.
The nature of her clientele and WA’s large distances have helped shape Silvester’s practice. Instead of asking clients to make a 600km round trip to sign documents, she was quick to bring in technology such as Receipt Bank and electronic signatures, and has embraced process automation.
And rather than compete with fly-in, fly-out accountants, KAS cooperates with them and often makes its facilities available.
Despite the distances, KAS retains strong connections with its clients. Silvester explains that she and her staff sit in on more client board meetings than most big city accountants, and in some cases former clients have become employees. She gives the example of a former local chief executive who now mentors other local CEOs as part of the firm’s service.
The Kimberley community is very diverse. KAS has a strong component of Indigenous clients and many others are from different cultural backgrounds, as are the KAS staff.
“A place like this challenges everything that you have grown up with and you learn so much about different cultures. It has changed me as a person,” says Silvester. “The population is very diverse and also very transient.”
“A place like this challenges everything that you have grown up with and you learn so much about different cultures.”
How to solve a skills shortage
The transience of Kununurra’s population is an issue for the business, as it has made retaining and attracting staff difficult, says Silvester. It was one of the reasons behind her decision to open a Darwin office this year. The other was that her husband was transferred to an airline job in the city.
“We weren’t able to get enough people to service our growing clientele in Western Australia, so it was a resourcing issue for us as well,” Silvester explains.
Today, the headcount in the Kununurra office is eight, although there is room for more (and Silvester is looking for CA partners). The Darwin office has another eight staff.
For the moment, all the work in both locations is focused on the WA clients. However, Silvester says her long-term plan is to grow the firm to include Darwin customers.
“The Darwin office has just moved us to the next level,” she says. “It’s made the business more sustainable and has shown a path for further growth. But I didn’t make the move to Darwin for my business – although that was the right decision – I made it for my personal and family life.
“Life is always throwing different scenarios at you, but I think if you get the personal and family aspects right then success in business will follow on.”
“Life is always throwing different scenarios at you…”