Leaders on the Rise: Shona Bell, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Beyond Accounting & Tax
February 19, 2021
Each quarter, we feature a past participant of the Rising Leaders program in a section we call "Leaders on the Rise." For this installment, we spoke with Shona Bell the dynamic Co-founder and Managing Director of Beyond Accounting & Tax. It’s Black History Month and we are proud to celebrate a trailblazing Rising Leader who has some savvy advice for up-and-coming leaders making their own history today.
As Managing Director of Operations at Beyond Accounting & Tax you are helping small business owners grow profits and build legacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses across industries to find new ways to manage their finances. What are some of the financial insights you have for newer business and non-profit leaders today?
This pandemic season has brought new realizations for business owners and nonprofit leaders on so many levels. From the financial and business ownership perspective, the need to have financials in order to take advantage of the CARES Act taught many business owners that they need to put the time in on the front end or hire a professional.
There are so many ways to start and sustain successful businesses and nonprofits; however, challenges arise or opportunities are limited when the financial house is not in order. I believe this is what we saw play out during this pandemic.
For a lot of newer business owners, the pandemic created opportunity. When the pandemic began, I expected to see a lot of new businesses, since people were being laid off and there was a need for innovation. The best way to ensure success would be to have the right professionals involved upfront.
Your career runs the gamut. Out of college you performed audits for federal government agencies, you then worked for Deloitte before founding your own business. Prior to your current role at Beyond Accounting & Tax you were Controller for the United Way of the National Capital Area. What has motivated you to be so agile in your career? What advice do you have for others seeking to continually evolve and elevate their game?
For me personally, I have always been open. Life is short. There are no limitations on what you can do in life. Coming from a very structured environment at a Big 4 where there is a very structured way to climb the ladder made me who I am today. It gave me a good foundation and financial background.
I am very open to thinking that the sky is the limit. Everyone should have the inkling that they can go as far as their mind can dream. You should always believe that because it keeps you motivated. Coming into the United Way and even before that I was always thinking I wanted more, and I stayed true to the more. I was never scared to dream. I wanted to be a business owner and I thought about how I could do that. I dreamed of creating products and becoming an entrepreneurial force. I always listened to my inner voice.
When I was at Deloitte and before that KPMG, any time there was a chance to join a panel or do a program to help elevate me, I did it. If I had to do it again, I would have taken advantage of the international programs they offer.
The advice I would give is, don’t let anything be a barrier, especially your mind. But pay your dues first! Don’t think things are going to happen overnight. I paid some dues at the Big 4 accounting firms and the other companies I worked for. Stay true -- but pay your dues.
How did the Rising Leaders program help you in the journey as you ascended to your current position?
I would say it was the exposure. Not only are you exposed to people in the program, but you are exposed to the guests, speakers and LGW members. I am thinking of Mary Abbajay. Her energy, the trainings and the DiSC® personality and behavior assessment were outstanding.
I was exposed to many people that were in the places that I wanted to go. There were many heavy hitters, and those people encouraged me to reach out, and most of them followed up with me.
I was looking at the LGW guest speakers who were CEOs and business owners, and I was thinking, “I can do that too.’’ The speakers, guests, coaches, and mentors are amazing.
The life of a business owner in the financial services space is notoriously fast-paced and demanding. How have you been able to find balance during the pandemic?
So, I have three kids. A six-year-old, an almost-four-year-old, and a nineteen-month-old. Balance? It is almost a mind game. In your mind, you have to speak life and positivity. Before this call, I had another call and was muting myself, trying to get my little ones settled.
It’s nice to be a business owner and set my own schedule. Being highly effective with the time I do have is important. I know I need to be mentally strong and understand that in the season things are not always going to happen in the time frame I want them to happen in.
I set the expectations in my mind for what balance means at this moment. Last night I was up until 11 pm and it’s not always that way but I know I need to be mommy during the day and work at night. It is what it is and I stay positive about it.
Do you keep in touch with anyone from your Rising Leaders class?
Yes! We did several meetups at restaurants and they even had a house party. We have an email list and I added everyone in the class on LinkedIn. Since the pandemic, we haven’t been able to meet as much. There was a big section on networking in the program and how it's more about building relationships vs. it being a “job." I knew that one day we would be the ones in those leadership positions, so I try to keep in touch.
Working with Rosie Allen-Herring, I saw the power of networking. She is close with so many people in LGW. Kelly Veney Darnell, Timothy Johnson, and Sheila Somashekhar (Rising Leader) are also LGW and United Way alumni and I keep in touch with them as well.
Learn more about Shona and Beyond Accounting & Tax here.
To learn more about the Rising Leaders program or register for the Class of 2021 before the Friday, February 26 deadline click here.