Date posted: 05/05/2022 5 min read

Know music, know life

Lawrence Lu CA stepped out on his own during the pandemic. Now he taps his musical side, and CA Catalyst, for skills that help build his practice.

In Brief

  • Lawrence Lu CA is an accomplished pianist who links his love of music to better communication and more creative thinking.
  • It was thinking outside the box that saw Lu set up his own accounting practice in May 2020, just as the global pandemic was disrupting commerce.
  • Lu also took up a mentoring role at not-for-profit innovation hub Fishburners, arranged through Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand’s CA Catalyst program.

By Stephen Corby
Photos Graham Jepson

When you say “creative accountant” it brings to mind someone who would help former US president Donald Trump attempt to hide his tax records. So perhaps it’s better to refer to Lawrence Lu CA, director at WL Advisory in Sydney, as “an accountant who is creative”.

“You can’t be ‘a creative accountant’ as that could get you into trouble,” says Lu with a laugh.

But Lu, an accomplished pianist, considers ivory-tinkling entirely complementary to his day job. He links his love of piano with improved relationships with his clients. He says it enables better communication and provides a switch-off from work. That improves his mental health and that, in turn, leads to better business outcomes.

“I was accepted into a university to do a bachelor’s degree in piano and often introduce myself as a musician,” explains Lu, who started piano at age six and now plays contemporary music in a band at his church. “It’s something I’d definitely like to go back to one day, even though I dropped out as I was pursuing this accounting career.

“It’s a very interesting combination. Being a musician makes you very creative, and it really enables you to think outside the box. On the other hand, accounting helps me to be disciplined because there are rules you have to follow.”

Lawrence Lu CAPicture: Lawrence Lu CA.

Thinking outside the box

It was thinking outside the box that saw Lu set up his own accounting practice in May 2020, just as the global pandemic was seriously disrupting commerce worldwide.

“There are always risks but because of JobKeeper [COVID support] I thought it was actually the best time for me to start my business,” he explains. “Because of JobKeeper, I knew the government would be paying me for six months. I figured if it didn’t work out after six months, I could just look for another job.”

Lu’s gambit was a success and WL Advisory now services hundreds of individuals, companies, trusts, sole traders and strata plans. It’s also given him scope to concentrate on building his communication and other skills.

“When I worked for various accounting firms I developed technical skills, which grow over time,” he says. “What really captured my interest was how to communicate with clients, how to convert clients, how to get leads, how to service clients.

“I just couldn’t see myself working for other accounting firms for another 10 years, just doing tax work in front of a computer. That really motivated me to start my own practice.”

Mentoring offers two-way benefits

Lu also took up a mentoring role at not-for-profit innovation hub Fishburners in Sydney. The opportunity was arranged through Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand’s CA Catalyst program, which aims to provide CAs with new tools, skills and connections.

“The startups at Fishburners were looking for cash-flow forecasting and financial modelling to put all the financials together for investors,” says Lu. “It gave me lots of opportunities to fully use my technical skills and industrial knowledge, and to work on assignments that I wouldn’t usually get in my everyday work.”

It also broadened his horizons. “It really opened my eyes to thinking big,” he says. “If I wanted to work with one of those guys and find a pain point in the accounting industry, have my own fintech startup or develop an app, I could do that.”

How a CA minimises a startup’s risks

One of the people Lu assisted was Walta Kazzi. The entrepreneur founded non-bank lender Quest Finance which specialises in loans to small businesses for vehicles and other equipment.

“Lawrence helped us get a better understanding of our numbers and make sure that the numbers at a high level were aligned with our vision and our business goals,” says Kazzi. “He prepared us for various scenarios, like what happens if you don’t hit your numbers? Or what happens if your costs go up? Creating those kinds of buffers for us.”

Kazzi says connecting with Lu early on was a way to minimise risk for the startup.

“In a startup, you’re wearing multiple hats and things are really, really busy. Things are moving really, really quick,” he says. “The last thing you want is the added pressure of having to raise money because you’ve only got 30 days to go before you run out.

“Engaging an accountant gives you a bit of a head start and allows you to be proactive by understanding where the red flags are going to pop up – and prepare for them before they do.”

Lawrence Lu CAPicture: Quest Finance founder Walta Kazzi says working with Lu helped minimise risks for his startup.

Giving back is as important as moving forward

Given Lu’s mentoring role with the CA Catalyst program, it’s no surprise to learn that he has an active desire to give back.

“As a Christian, my primary goal is to support my friends who work as missionaries,” he says. “Every November, I figure out how many missionaries need my help and I make a big donation to them. I also catch up with them monthly to understand their personal stories.

“It’s not just about sending money: I want to be part of their story as well, and to understand what their needs are. That’s the exact same attitude I like to take with my clients.”

As for his other passion, piano, he continues to use it as an outlet to balance the accounting side of his brain.

“I can see how the combination really helps me. As an entrepreneur, the musician side pushes me to think about what more I can do for my business and for my clients. What are other ways of doing things I can try with the business to make it stand out in the market?

“It’s the perfect mix of being emotional and expressive. Music makes me more personable and approachable, but I’m also logical to make the right business and life decisions.”

Lawrence Lu CA’s tips for startups

1. Have a vision and stick to it. Keep reminding yourself of that vision during the times you think about giving up.

2. Be resilient, and don’t give up too soon.

3. Work on the business, as opposed to work for the business. Your role is to set the business in the right direction to achieve your goals and vision. Don’t become a slave to your business.

Read more:

From CA Library: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking: Eight secrets to transform fear and supercharge your career

“Mastering the Art of Public Speaking: Eight secrets to transform fear and supercharge your career” by Michael Gelb outlines ways to convey your message in a memorable, effective and creative way.

Download the ebook here

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