From a young age, Alex Nicolaidis knew she wanted to work with numbers when she grew up and that’s exactly what she did. A trained Accountant working as an employee, Alex was inspired by her parents’ hard work and dedication to their family. Following her life motto, your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there, she decided change was required.
Now the Managing Director of Booksmart Accounting Solutions, Alex is a dedicated business woman with a wealth of knowledge in the accounting industry. Booksmart originated in May 2014 as her second job. Alex, the Bookkeeper, traded at night and on weekends until the balance tipped and Booksmart Accounting Solutions was registered in October of the same year.
- What career path led you to where you are now?
I was quite young when I first became interested in money. I started a little paper run and got my whole family involved. I always wanted to do something within commerce. I didn’t know what I wanted to do throughout high school so I thought I’d go to university and do a commerce degree; it’s sort of money related. I got into accountancy and tried working in that area for four-and-a-half years, and then sort of got a bit disillusioned by being an employee, as people do. I had itchy feet, so decided to start my own business. It’s a lot of hard work, but I definitely don’t look back.
- What has been your biggest learning curve in your career?
I always need to stay challenged. When I was working as an employee, I would always sink into one task, master that and go onto a new task. I wasn’t satisfied if I didn’t have a new challenge in front of me. That’s one of the biggest things that I suppose led me to the entrepreneurial path; it allowed me to find my own challenges. There’s an awful lot of them when you are an entrepreneur because you’ve got a thousand things happening at once and you need to balance everything. You need to manage people, money and clients; keep everyone else happy and keep yourself happy; and have a personal life. The challenges are small and big, and they’re every single day.
My second learning is to stay motivated. The early stages of the entrepreneur journey were a struggle because it was just myself within the business. I had to be everything. That’s when a lot of the business could have unraveled, but I stuck to my guns and reassessed what was happening in my life and why I was working a thousand hours a week. I was living the dream essentially and I wasn’t actually happy. After I reassessed, I actually made some time for myself and let myself be okay with that. I started focusing on the gym and fitness and now I do that six days a week; I’m absolutely loving it. I start every day through fitness and I’m active from 4:45am until I want to switch off at night. It keeps my body and brain active, and, as a result, I’m a better business woman and person because of it.
- What advice do you have for other young professionals considering entrepreneurship?
You really need to love what you do, because at the end of the day, every decision and every choice that you make does come back to you in some way, shape or form. There’s a big difference between actually loving what you do and saying that you love what you do. If you don’t love what you do then when it comes to a deadline that requires you to pull an all-nighter to get it done, you’re going to think stop, future Alex can worry about that. In reality, it can’t work that way. If you love your work than it won’t be such a chore.
Also, the way I feel a lot of people perceive business ownership and being in business is not actually how it is. It’s stressful, it’s frustrating and there’s a thousand challenges. If you’re not up for all of those things, don’t take that step. Some of my friends have seen me on a Wednesday shopping or something and think it’s always like that. Yes, I do that sometimes, but I don’t do it every day and they don’t see me up at night between 10pm-midnight doing the work because I had those three hours off during the day. It’s an awful lot of long hours and hard work. I feel that people in the community who aren’t business owners or don’t have people like that in their networks see business owners out during the day or on weekends just having fun and think “wow, I’d love to be a business owner because they just have so much free time”. It’s totally the opposite. You just have no free time or, if you do choose to have free time during the day when people see you, it’s because you’re up really late that night.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I’m going to put this into two parts. In the next five years I want to continue to focus on the business and grow it. When people ask me that question, I don’t really have a great answer for them because in the industry that I’m in at the moment – the accounting industry and, more specifically, the bookkeeping industry – there’s been a lot of chatter about automation and technology coming in that could change how things work. So the business, Booksmart as it is today might not actually look like that in five years’ time, especially in 10 years’ time. I’m going to focus on the business and how it is structured today and keep on going with that for the next five years. Then, hopefully, it’s at a stage where I can step back a little bit and actually take some me time and have some family time.
After that I’d love to spend time over the next 10 years talking to people within the community and connecting with females and people who want to get into business. I’d like to spread my story, inspire them and give them little tips and tricks to succeed. I guess I’d like to be a mentor in the community to other business owners and share a message around.
- What Hunter-based business people have inspired you during your career?
My first accounting role was at DFK Crosbie and I started there as a Trainee. My Manager there, Kate Campbell, was fantastic. She really took me under her wing and I was her little sidekick. Just seeing her throughout my time there on her own journey of pushing through some boundaries and being female in such a male-dominated accounting industry and even the firm, really inspired me to have that whole philosophy of if she can, I can. If she can make the goals she had, then why can’t I do what I want to do?
With thanks to Hunter Young Professionals who Hunter Headline collaborated with to source this interviewee.