It’s my hope that every Wednesday I’ll have a fresh interview for you with someone who loves their career. Whether it’s the first job that they have started out all shiny-eyed with; the one they’ve come to after one or a few career transitions or the one that they have built over time after years of experience honing their skills. So far we have had a lot of career changers – like Carla Rizzo who was in Banking and Finance for a decade before she threw it in to found her own fashion label. But who said that you have to quit the career that you started with order to have the life that you want?
Melissa Browne is a prime example of someone who “always felt a little bit different” to other people in her industry but has successfully married those differences (her personal interests and individual flair) with her accounting practice to create her own vibrant career.
Melissa Browne has authored two books, More Money for Shoes and Fabulous but Broke which are both innovative, illustrated business books which you will actually want to read. She also writes fortnightly for the Money Section in the Sydney Morning Herald, is a monthly contributor to Gloss Magazine and is a regular media commentator on money, business and finance including regular appearances on the Today Show. Mel has also been featured in Latte Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Renegade Collective and in 2013 was featured as one of Australia’s 100 most inspiring women in Madison Magazine.
BusinessChic caught up with Mel to find out she took control to create her own brilliant career.
What kind of advice do you have for the person who feels uninspired by their life as an accountant? How have you been able to use your accounting “day job skills” in your more creative/passion pursuits?
It’s funny because if I could go back in time and tell my 16 year old self that one day I would be an accountant, I’m sure my younger self would either burst out crying or laughing. I was always going to be a lawyer and didn’t even study maths in year 12! However through accounting I’m now able to couple my three passions – business, writing and fashion – and create a unique experience that I absolutely love. So now I speak, I advise businesses, I write for both newspapers as well as business magazines and fashion magazines and I also write books. How I’ve done that is through finding a way to be myself through what I do and how I write. There’s not many other people that speak, look and act the way that I do in my space and so I’ve been able to have a significant reach and influence as a result of simply embracing who I am.
What advice do you have for choosing what projects to take on?
Of course, choosing what projects to take on is important because they have to fit my brand, allow me to speak in my voice and reach an audience I want access too but if they fit that criteria I’m generally happy to at least have a conversation about whether it will work. With clients, we’re also being choosier about who we work with because not everyone is the right fit for our business and we know through experience that if we’re not courageous enough to walk away from those clients it won’t end well anyway.
You do lots of things and seem to have a lot on your plate. What inspired your new book and most importantly how did you make the time to write your new book?
I’m busy but I’m also incredibly organised and have a great team. To make the time for my book amongst everything I’m already doing I set aside time most days and every weekend for about nine months and took a few weeks off work as well to finally complete it.
The inspiration for my new book, Fabulous but Broke came from a conversation with my next door neighbour. His daughter had just moved back home and after I asked how she was going he said words to the effect of, ‘of course, now she won’t be able to buy a house and move out until she meets a man.’ That made me wonder whether this was a message she was carrying around in her head and what would happen if she didn’t meet someone. Would she try to be financially independent or would she just passively wait for Mr Right. It started me thinking about the friends and clients that I met with who were also carrying around money messages that were really unhelpful and in many cases were holding them back so I decided to write a book to address them. Of course, I wanted it to be something people actually read and to start a dialogue about money so I made it pretty, full-coloured, illustrated and created thirteen financial fairy tales that describe thirteen money mindsets.
How do you relax, energise and recharge yourself?
I try to have four weeks off work every year (essentially from Christmas to Australia Day) and close the office for three of those weeks so it is genuinely time off because everyone is away. The last of week of those four weeks is my ‘think week’ which is an idea I stole from Bill Gates. During that week I read books I’ve wanted to read, watch podcasts and videos, create lists, write down ideas and it’s often the time where my most innovative ideas emerge because I’ve given myself space for them.
During the year I escape by reading books, exercising, watching really bad reality TV shows and organising weekends away during the year so I can switch off and recharge.
What has inspired you recently?
So much inspires me I think because I try to constantly put myself in situations where I can be challenged and inspired. Most recently I was inspired by large events – I attended an EO Conference in New York, I attended Tedx at Sydney but I have also been inspired by people I’ve met who are doing interesting things or articles I read where people inspire me to keep going and to push harder.
Fabulous But Broke
Fabulous but Broke is Mel’s latest book and I’d recommend it for anyone who uses money. The book is a collection of fairytales for men and women where the stories many of us grew up with have been used to demonstrate thirteen money mindsets and their financial implications for old age – or every wannabe prince or princess it’s incredibly illuminating to identify which story is for you or that you can recognise in your own friends and family! Most usefully, the tools and strategies on how to take control to turn these potential financial nightmares around into the equivalent of a happily-ever-after. Humorous, easy to read and stylishly illustrated by the artist known as Mekel, this is one finance book that looks chic enough to leave on the coffee table, making it the perfect gift for oneself, colleagues and friends!
More of Mel Brown on the Internets: