Creating a company culture: Lessons form Consolid8

Consolid8 is an accounting firm that was originally built on the experience Managing Director Tanya Titman developed providing management accounting solutions. From that basis, Tanya realised there was a significant need for greater financial literacy among business owners, a focus she believes is a great differentiator for the business. There’s also been a focus on cloud accounting solutions, a fact that has seen the company recognised by Xero for its contribution to the industry.

However, Consolid8 hasn’t just made a name for itself in the way it serves its clients. The company is in the unique position of offering subsidised onsite childcare for its staff – a model that other businesses have expressed their desire to replicate. The childcare facility has provided challenges to the firm over the years, but it is well-established as a key part of Consolid8’s culture. The ongoing benefits it provides Tanya and her team have been well worth the effort.

The challenge: Balancing business ownership with a young family

In the last practice Tanya worked in before starting Consolid8, trying to look after two children (there are now four in her family) meant she experienced challenges often associated with being a working parent.

“[When] having a baby and running a business, you don’t get to take six months off or 12 months off and just enjoy motherhood. It’s like business, it never stops,” Tanya began. “I went through the challenges of trying to look after a baby while balancing that with work, and it was really, really hard.”

“At the end of it I thought ‘no woman should have to go through this’, so when I went out on my own from day one I set up the on-site childcare.”

Tanya approached the inclusion of the childcare facility with no real strategy, but a desire to make it happen so other women could avoid the stress of what she went through. This resolve was put to the test even before the facility’s doors opened. It was originally meant to be a joint venture, but the day the centre was to open was the day the GFC hit, so the other business pulled out.

The solution: Creating a family-friendly working environment

Tanya’s experience in an industry that wasn’t able to offer the flexibility working parents desired was a key catalyst for the on-site child care centre. Women across the accounting sector were being discouraged from coming back into the workforce after having children, leaving them to make the tough decision between their children and their career. At Consolid8, that’s not a choice they have to make.

“Amongst my peers and people I’ve gone through uni with, there’s some amazing talent and I’ve seen them rise really quickly through various firms and do amazing things and then they’ve had a child and it’s all come to a grinding halt because they weren’t offered any sort of flexibility,” Tanya explained.

“If I can present these amazing women with an opportunity to bring their kids to work or have their baby with them and be able to be breastfeeding and not have any of the barriers to being in the workforce… no one has to make the choice between work or family”.

Unfortunately, the process of setting up a child care centre wasn’t as simple as it sounds, especially as Tanya was essentially a pioneer for this model of creating an on-site variant. One of the core decisions concerned whether the centre could be government-funded without incurring significant amounts of red tape.

“If we were to become a fully licensed childcare facility, we could access government funding but to do that essentially we’re becoming a commercial childcare centre, and there’s a whole lot of regulation and a whole lot of requirements for that that made it cost-prohibitive,” Tanya says.

The results: An engaged workforce and a defining culture

The effects of the on-site child care centre have been wide-reaching, and influence more than just the working parents that bring their children into Consolid8 each day.

“A graduate can come on to our team and know they’ve got a lifelong career here if they want it, and they’ll never have to make that choice,” Tanya says. “I’ve had some of my male team members come on board and be able to bring their children to work so that their wives can go back to work.”

Most importantly, the centre is shaping Consolid8’s culture and changing the way staff engage with each other, while also attracting the next generation of employees.

“The parents that are on the team are very connected because their children are growing up together in child care.”

“The talent we get is incredible and we have a lineup of people wanting to come on board,” Tanya notes. “In an industry that is really quite competitive for great staff, it means that we have the edge over many of the larger firms because they can’t match what we can offer in terms of that work/life balance.”

Tanya’s desire to challenge herself while developing Consolid8 led her to TEC, where she finds she is able to be influenced by people from business outside the accounting industry. Importantly for Tanya, the group isn’t just there to congratulate her on what went well but rather exists to question and challenge her – and each other – for the purposes of improving the business and her role within it.