Beer and tax pay off for Brenton Ellis CPA

All in good cheer

Transferring his sharp advisory skills from tax to the world of local pubs is paying off for Melbourne-based Brenton Ellis.

He was a rising star in public practice who became a tax manager and was set on a career trajectory to partnership. But along the way, Brenton Ellis grew more and more curious about corporate accounting and last year life changed dramatically when he took a leap into the unknown – to manage the books of 12 pubs in Victoria for the start-up PubCo Group.

“Where I will be long-term I don’t know, but at this stage in the corporate world I can’t see myself going back to public practice,” the group accountant declares. “Eventually, I probably see myself going from here to take up a CFO role.”

Developing his business advisory skills led to Ellis, now 29, being wooed away from his steady tax job of nine years at small business specialists The Practice, where PubCo was one of his clients.

“I felt I could really broaden my skill set and apply my advisory skills in the corporate world, to specialise in one industry,” says Ellis. “For years I was always running into colleagues at different network functions and wondering how they’d gotten into their industries. I was always curious about what was on the other side.”

PubCo was only 15 months old and “very much in start-up phase” when Ellis joined in April last year. Most of his clients at The Practice were companies, some of them listed. As tax manager he handled firms with turnovers of A$10 million-plus, which he says prepared him well for his new role in running a medium-sized enterprise.

He admits he’s been on a steep learning curve finding out about the hospitality industry, but there have been benefits on all sides. 

Ellis has already modernised the technology. “All of our head chefs now have an iPad, which helps them with costing and menus and ordering systems, whereas it was all previously done on phone and email.” As a result, PubCo’s team has cut the cost of produce used in its pub bistros by 6 per cent in the past six months. 

At The Practice, Ellis managed a team of accountants who understood accounting, and now he deals with 12 venue managers who know how to run hotels, but don’t know how to read profit and loss statements. So Ellis has had to adapt how he talks about figures. 

“Working for PubCo is fantastic. We are a small team and all work together well. I really enjoy how broad my role is now, handling cash flow, budgets, audit and tax, as well as traditional accounting functions,” he says.

It’s fair to say that business is in Ellis’s DNA, as his parents had run a local sports store in country Victoria where he grew up. 

“I guess that’s essentially where my passion for business came from,” says Ellis, who was the first in the family to go to university.

When Ellis was still in Year 11 at high school, a teacher – who was a former accountant – had identified his talent with numbers and signed him up to do a first-year accounting course.
“I was lucky. She enrolled me in a Melbourne University program for high-achieving students,” Ellis recalls. “It really went on from there. To be honest, without her, none of it would have happened.”

One piece of advice

Networking has been key for me. I put myself out there and attend lots of events. Last year I chaired the CPA Australia Emerging Leaders’ Network in Victoria and met a lot of people who really helped me. I keep in touch, because you never know where they will move to in five to 10 years.

This article is from the August issue of INTHEBLACK

August 2015
August 2015

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